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Large Macaw Parrots
Types of Large Macaws, Large Macaws as PetsScarlet MacawPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Cheryl Galloway
The magnificent Large Macaws are impressive birds, once you've seen one of these incredible beauties you'll never forget it!
The Large Macaws are some of the most striking members of the parrot family (psittacidae). Macaw parrots have long tails, slim bodies and broad heads. Most people can instantly recognize the Large Macaws because of their imposing size and vivid coloration. They have also earned a degree respect with their formidable beaks.
Thes elegant large parrots are very social, intelligent, and full of charisma. Macaws in the wild are seen with a mate, and often are seen as pairs within small flocks. They eat together, roost together, and when relaxing they spend their time preening their mates as well as other members of the flock.
Large Macaw is synonymous with the terms exquisite, gorgeous, and "drop-dead" beautiful. But appearances aside, each of these fabulous birds has individual qualities that make them outstanding pet birds for the right keeper.
Arguably the most popular Macaw is the Blue and Gold Macaw. Its has good all around qualities, a friendly demeanor with people and easily trained, which make it a wonderful family pet. A real attention getter is the fiery Scarlet Macaw. It can be a real charmer but it can also be as feisty as it looks. It takes a firmer hand, making it great for an owner with a strong personality. The largest Macaw is the Hyacinth Macaw with a wingspan of up to 42". This is a big macaw, yet it is considered the gentle giant of the Large Macaws. The Hyacinth is less available however, as it has a more specialized diet and care requirements, and it requires an owner able to provide for its unique needs.
Each of the Large Macaws is unique and many have been kept as pet birds for a very long time. The Green-winged Macaw is suggested to have been a pet since the 17th century. But it was in the early 1900's when several Large Macaw species became widely available. During this early time, Macaws were primarily obtained and kept singly as pets. There were some recorded breeding's in these early days, but for the most part there was not a lot of breeding going on. This was because most Large Macaws were kept by themselves. Breeding also was simply not an early priority and it was difficult to determine their sex.
Popular Large Macaws that are commonly bred in captivity are readily available as pets. Others that have been a bit more rare, like the Blue-throated Macaw and Red-fronted Macaw, may become more available with successfully breeding in captivity. Those Large Macaws that are highly endangered, or possibly extinct in the wild simply are not available.
For Information on other types of Macaws, see:
Mini Macaws and Hybrid Macaws
- Types of Macaws
Today there are many Macaw breeders producing all types of Macaws. Finding a pet Large Macaw is easy due to a number being bred. Aviculturists dedicated to breeding Macaw parrots provide a number of baby Macaws that are readily available as pets. This is true as well as for many of the Mini Macaw species.
- Large Macaw Hybrids
Hybrid Macaws have also been gaining favor and today there are over 35 hybrid crosses. Almost all Macaw hybrids were developed from the Large Macaws. Mini Macaw hybrids are quite rare, though there have been reports of crosses between two small Macaw species of the Diopsittaca genus, the Hahn's Macaw Diopsittaca n. nobilis and the Noble Macaw Diopsittaca n. cumanensis.
Hybrid Macaws do occasionally occur in the wild. For many birds species, when hybridization occurs the offspring are sterile, but this is not so with first and second generation hybrids of Large Macaws. In captivity, the hybridization of Macaws was often the result of accident where two species of Macaw kept in the same environment, bonded and produced offspring.
Macaw breeding to produce hybrids for the pet trade has resulted due to the current interest and popularity of these birds. These hybrids are often very beautiful birds with distinct coloration. Some varieties of hybrid Macaw are second or third generation birds, or even more. First generation F1 hybrids are some of the most familiar and popular hybrid types of Macaws. These are crosses between natural Large Macaw species, like the Blue and Gold Macaw, Military Macaw, Scarlet Macaw, Green wing Macaw, and the Buffon's Macaw. See the section on hybrid Macaws to learn more about these birds.
Macaws as Endangered Birds Due to the increasing pressures on their native habitats and reduced populations, Macaws are at risk in the wild. Deforestation of natural habitats, as well as early and ongoing collection of different bird species, has critically reduced many wild bird populations. Macaws are no exception. All Macaw species are now listed as endangered birds, with some severely threatened with extinction. With the diminishing of their natural habitats causing clustering of previously separated species, it has been suggested that future hybridization of Macaws in the wild may increase.
- Care, Breeding, and Conservation of Large Macaws
Conservation of Large Macaws has become vastly important in the fight to preserve endangered birds. Captive breeding, care, and good management of captive birds are part of this. It is only because of dedicated aviculturists that a strong, self-sustaining population of the endangered birds are available in captivity. It is also through the efforts of these people that some of the Macaws, Large Macaws included, will survive extinction, and/or be available for re-introduction into their natural habitats. Though still quite experimental, some Macaw species have already been re-introduced to their native homes.
- Macaws in the Wild
Today there are eleven living species, as well as few subspecies, of Large Macaw, but not all are available in the pet trade. All Macaw species have diminished populations in the wild, and all are included in the IUNC Red List of Threatened Species to be of least concern (9 species), vulnerable (2 species), near threatened (1 species), endangered (3 species), or critically endangered birds (2 species).
None of the Macaw populations are currently stable enough to not be considered at risk or endangered. However a number of the Large Macaw species are very popular pet birds. Fortunately there are many devoted breeders of the favored Large Macaw species, so they will likely continue to be regularly bred and available.
- Captive Bred Large Macaws
Of the Large Macaws available in the pet trade, the popular Blue and Gold Macaw is one of the most well rounded in temperament, and most readily available. Other readily available popular Large Macaws include the Green-winged Macaw that is also very amiable, and the Scarlet Macaw which can be a more demanding pet parrot. Large Macaws that are a bit less showy tend to be bred less, so are a bit less available. These include the Buffon's Macaw that also has a sweet disposition and is a well-rounded family-type Macaw. Also the highly trainable Military Macaw is also less showy in looks, but is a good-tempered bird. This bird is an excellent performer, highly prized by birds trainers, and the species you will often see in bird shows.
Large Macaws as PetsGetting a pet Macaw is a big lifestyle commitment and shouldn't be taken lightly. Just considering how long Large Macaws live, you will quickly realize they can match our own life span. The length of their lives, along with their necessary bird care, means keeping a pet Macaw requires a substantial investment of time, money, and space.
- Large Macaws Lifespan
It is often mistakenly thought that Macaws will live 75 years or more, and though a rare Macaw may live this long, this is basically inaccurate. Their actual lifespan is between 35 - 60 years. Cockatoos, not Macaws, are actually the longest living parrots, with one species recorded at 125 years. Macaws are simply not as long lived as the cockatoos. A 40 year old Large Macaw will start showing the signs of aging and a 50 year old Macaw is a very old bird.
- Choosing a Large Macaw
Large Macaws can make great pets, but living be up to fifty is a good number of years. These will be a lifelong companion, so first think about this when choosing to obtain a Large Macaw species. It helps to find the right Large Macaw that fits you. Bird traits, characteristics of birds, and bird behavior vary somewhat for the different types of Macaws and each Large Macaw species has its own special traits. So before committing to any particular bird, we strongly recommend that you take the time to learn about each type of Macaw. When you're choosing a pet bird, these basics will help start you on the path in finding the right Macaw for you.
- Keeping a Large Macaw
When you become 'owned' by a Large Macaw you have an affectionate, playful companion. Yet Large Macaws are some of the most demanding birds to be kept as pets. A pet Macaw needs a large amount of space and quality bird care to keep them happy and healthy.
Large Macaws are big, active parrots. Because they are highly intelligent, they need proper housing and activities to prevent boredom and to keep them from developing undesirable bad habits like screaming or plucking. A Large Macaw needs a large aviary if kept outdoors, or a large cage when kept indoors. A playpen for regular playtime and exercise outside of the cage is also important.
Large Macaws are very intelligent and playful. They are also very avid chewers. Macaws love attention, physical interaction, and they enjoy being petted. They like to clown around and will attempt to mimic your moves and sounds. These behaviors are not only fun, but are helpful in teaching these intelligent birds tricks as well as a few words. Macaws need personal attention and activities, provided through regular interaction and lots of destructible toys.
There are a few challenges with their demeanor to be dealt with. Macaw calls can be loud, and sometimes these birds can be cranky. It can be likened to dealing with a small child, and you can be prepared for such occasions. Give them the space they need when they need it, and give them the attention or playthings they need when they need them.
See more bird care for Large Macaws: Macaw Care Guide
- Readily available Large Macaws for sale
These three Macaw species have long been the most popular, are commonly bred in captivity, and are the most readily available Large Macaws for sale:
- Generally Available Large Macaws
A couple of the Large Macaws are a bit more rare in the pet trade. There are several reasons for this. Though these species make great pets they simply aren't as flashy as other Large Macaws, so they haven't been as popular. Macaw breeders will sometimes just keep these birds as breeders, making only a small number available as pets. Consequently these two are generally available, but it may take a bit more searching:
- Occasionally Available Large Macaws
A few Large Macaws have primarily being reserved for breeding stock to preserve the species. There are several reasons - these Macaws in the wild are highly endangered birds, they take an increased amount of care compared to the other popular Macaws, or they haven't a history of being successfully bred in captivity so are more in development, Today these are becoming increasingly more available:
- Large Macaws Not Available
Large Macaws that are critically endangered birds, or possibly extinct in nature, are simply not available as pets. These include:
- Glaucous Macaw
- Lear's Macaw
- Spix's Macaw.
- Animal-World References: Pet Birds - Exotic Birds
- Joseph M. Forshaw, Parrots of the World, Hancock House Pub Ltd. 2000
- J. Abramson, B.L. Speer, J.B. Thompson, The Large Macaws: Their Care, Breeding, and Conservation, Raintree Publications, 1996
- Dr. David Alderton, The Atlas of Parrots of the World, T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1991.
- David Alderton,, A Bird Keeper's Guide to Parrots and Macaws, Salamander Books, 1989
- Roger G. Sweeney, Macaws a Complete Owners Manual, Barron's, 1992
- Arthur Freud, All About The Parrots, Howell Book House, 1986
- Werner Lantermann, Encyclopedia of Macaws, T.F.H Publications, Inc.