Animal-World > Birds > Macaws > Green-winged Macaw

Green-winged Macaw

Green Wing Macaw, Red and Green Macaw

Family: Psittacidae Green-winged Macaw, Ara chloroptera, Green Wing Macaw. Red and Green Macaw, Red and Blue Macaw, CrimsonAra chloropteraPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Cheryl Galloway
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I live in Milton, Florida and have 3 macaws, a greenwing only about 4 months old that I am hand feeding. I also have an 7 month old blue and gold. We started... (more)  Trish Elliott

The large Green-winged Macaw is one of the sweetest tempered of all the large Macaws!

The Green-winged Macaw Ara chloroptera is one of the largest of the Macaw parrots. It is quite beautiful in color and very distinguished its own right. It is considered to be one of the most docile Macaws and often referred to as the 'gentle giant'. This pet bird it is appreciated for both its coloration and its temperament. It tends to be gentler, quieter, and a more affectionate Macaw than many of its relatives, making it a superb companion and family pet.

This large Macaw has been kept in captivity as far back as the 17th century. In these early times there was not a lot of emphasis placed on breeding. As with most parrots at that time, the Green-winged Macaws were usually kept singly and it was not possible to determine their gender visually. Breeding parrots began in more earnest around the turn of the 19th century and breeding the Green Wing was highly successful. Today this large Macaw is well established in aviculture and readily available as a pet.

The Green Wing is colored in a rich, deep red from its head down through the upper mantle of the back and wings, the underparts, and the tail. Below the red, running across the middle of its back and wings, is a band of green and thus its common name "Green-winged". The green then yields to a light blue on its rump, the upper and lower tail coverts, and tip of the tail, and to a dark blue on the wings.

It is second in size only to the Hyacinth Macaw Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus which is the largest Macaw and is itself the second largest parrot in the world. Both of these Macaws are big birds. The Green Wing averages a length of about 35 1/2" (90 cm), compared to the Hyacinth at 37" (95 cm), and a weight of about 2.7 pounds (1.2 kg) compared to about 3.7 lb (1.7 kg).

The naming of this bird has a rather twisted history, its been called a variety of names that reflect both its size and color. Both this Macaw and the Hyacinth Macaw have been referred to as a 'gentle giant' because of their large size yet very pleasant personalities. In color, this bird is often confused with the Scarlet Macaw Ara macao because of the large amount of red in its feathering. However the Scarlet has a broad band of yellow feathers across the back rather than green ones like this bird has.

Common names were flurried about to depict this bird as well as its red cousin with the yellow band of feathers. This Macaw was referred to as the Green-winged Macaw, Green Wing Macaw, Red and Green Macaw, Red and Blue Macaw, Crimson Macaw, and Maroon Macaw. At the same time names to depict the smaller Macaw with the yellow band ranged from Red Macaw, Red and Gold Macaw, Red and Yellow Macaw, Red, Yellow and Blue Macaw, and Scarlet Macaw. It was in 1949, when a Dr. Osmond Hill, after careful researched of all available materials on these species, suggested that everything be simplified. He suggested that Ara macao simply be called the "Scarlet Macaw", and Ara chloroptera simply be called the "Green-winged Macaw". And these are the two common names primarily used for each of these Macaw species today.

Despite its overall red appearance, the personality Green-winged Macaws is just about the opposite of the Scarlet Macaw. The Green-winged Macaws are very sweet tempered birds that are affectionate, inquisitive, and intelligent. They make them a great companion not only for a single person, but when well socialized, they are friendly with everyone, even other birds. This is quite the opposite of the brilliant red Scarlet, which can be quite a fiery bird and needs a firm hand.

For more information about Macaw parrots, see:
Macaw Care Guide: All about Macaws


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Psittaciformes
  • Family: Psittacidae
  • Genus: Ara
  • Species: chloroptera

Scientific nameAra chloroptera

Distribution The Green-winged Macaw Ara chloroptera was first described by Gray in 1859. Its natural habitat runs from eastern Panama in Central America south across northern South America, east of the Andes to Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, with a rare occurrence in northern Argentina. It is found living in tropical rainforests along lowlands and the lower foothills of interior regions rather than in coastal zones. It lives in pairs or small groups rather than flocks. A true forest bird, it spends it day feeding in the treetops. Its food consists of seed, nuts, fruits, and green vegetation.

Status The Green-winged Macaw Ara chloroptera is on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species as Least Concern (LC).

Description Green-winged Macaws are very colorful parrots. The head, shoulders, and breast are a rich deep red. There is a greenish band below the shoulders and wings, yielding to a dark blue on the wing, and a light blue on the rump and the upper and lower tail coverts. It has very long tapering red tail feathers that are tipped in blue as well. Its legs are dark gray and the iris of the eye is yellow. The upper beak is horn colored with a dark gray on the lower sides, and the lower beak is also a dark gray.

Green-winged Macaws are a full sized Macaws. They have an average length of about 35 1/2" (90 cm), and a weight of up to about 2.7 pounds (1.2 kg), and a lifespan of up to 60 years. A younger bird will be similar to the adult in color, but with a shorter tail. The lower part of its beak is a be paler gray and they have a brown iris.

Harlequin Macaw - with a Green-winged Macaw father
'Banjo' - Green-winged Macaw (male)
Photo © Animal-World:
Courtesy David Brough

The Greenwing differs in appearance from the similar Scarlet Macaw by the band of green feathers across its back. On the Scarlet there will be a broad band of yellow feathers across the back.

"Banjo", seen in the picture to the right, is a surgically sexed Green-winged Macaw. He is a male, and after sexing, a tattoo was placed under his wing as a record.

Care and FeedingIn the wild the Green Wing Macaw eats a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetation in the treetops. There are name brand commercially prepared seed or pellet mixes for the Macaw. They can also eat anything nutritious that you eat and these foods should be offered. Most parrots enjoy eating with their family. They eat some protein in the wild and they do like chicken. Avocado and chocolate are toxic to parrots.

See Macaw Care and Feeding for more information.

HousingLarge Macaws require a roomy cage, at least 2 1/2 by 3 feet. The Green Wing Macaw is quieter than other large Macaws, but it is a still a good idea to place the cage is in a room where the amount of noise the neighbors hear is a minimal as possible.

A large sturdy perch needs to be mounted in the cage. Fresh fruit tree branches work great because they can chew on them as well, but then they will have to be replaced occasionally. Food and water dishes, along with a treat dish work best mounted above the perch at the side of the cage. A variety of toys for playing and chewing should also be provided. As alternatives to a cage, they can be kept in an outdoor aviary where the weather permits, and some people like to provide their bird with its own "bird room".

A large Macaws needs 2 - 3 hours a day outside their cage. The Macaw's cage is their territory and a play pen top is great, but it is still their territory. It is better to interact with a Macaw on top of a sturdy perch away from the cage. A separate, free-standing playpen works great for this. Many birds can spend most of their time on a playpen or parrot perch. .

See Macaw Housing or more information.

Maintenance The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Weekly you should wash all the perches and dirty toys, and the floor should be washed about every other week. A total hosing down and disinfecting of an aviary should be done yearly, replacing anything that needs to be freshened, such as old dishes, toys and perches.

Social Behaviors Green-winged Macaws are lovable, friendly, and intelligent. Macaws can be quite loud, being especially loud when anticipating interaction with you. They will also mirror your moods, so if you are agitated, they can become agitated. If you are happy and loving, well so is your pet.

In the wild the Green-winged Macaws are usually seen in pairs or small groups, but never in flocks. They are a very gentle bird that will get along with more than one person. But they are a typical Macaw and can be cranky at times and may prefer only one person or only one gender. To have a well rounded bird that enjoys more than one person, make sure it is well socialized with lots of folks

See Macaws Social Behaviors for information on developing a well rounded friendly Macaw

Handling/Training The Green Wing Macaw is intelligent and eager for attention and play. It has a good disposition and responds well to handling and training. This Macaw adapts quickly. Once it becomes accustomed to a new environment and its keeper it is then ready to start bird training. Generally though, you should give a new arrival a few days to get use to you, your voice and its cage before trying to handle it. A hand fed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, as it is use to human attention.

With all parrots, taming and training takes trust and patience. Macaws are very intelligent making them easy to tame. They are also very adept at learning and quick to train. They excel best at learning tricks and small tasks. They are not as inclined to talk and mimic as some of the other parrots, notably the Amazon Parrots, but they can learn a few words or phrases.

For information about handling and training your Macaw see Macaw Training

ActivitiesFor the physical well being and psychological health of a Macaw Parrot, they must have plenty of opportunity to exercise and play. Providing regular interaction and lots of playtime. Having plenty of space and a large selection of toys and activities will help deter distress in your pet Macaw.

These are lovable pets and activities include interactive time with its keeper. Everything from petting, cuddling, and preening is appreciated, as well as performing and learning new tricks. But these are also very large, rambunctious pets that need a good sized space to play and climb around. Both climbing around inside a large cage, and providing a outside playpen offers them interest and variety.

Macaws are avid chewers, munching intently on anything they can get a hold of. When they are on a playpen, make sure they can't reach trim or any household items you don't want destroyed. Provide lots of toys and activities in the form of large link chains, bird ladders, parrot swings, ropes, and wood toys for gnawing and chewing. Rotate in new bird toys on a regular basis.

Sexing - Sexual DifferencesNo visible differences. There is no for certain way to distinguish a male Green Wing Macaw from a female. In order to know whether you have a male or female, the bird must be sexed. DNA / Feather or surgical sexing is recommended.

Breeding/Reproduction The Green-winged Macaw is well established in aviculture, especially in the United States, and is commonly bred in captivity. The usual clutch consists of two or three eggs which incubate for about 28 days. The babies will fledge after about 3 months in the nest. Feed the parents additional high-fat seeds, like sunflower seed, during the breeding season. Also feed the parents plenty of green stuffs, corn-on-the-cob, carrots, protein, and fruit laced with food supplement while they are rearing the youngsters.

See Macaw Breeding for more information.

The Green-winged Macaw has also been crossed with other large macaw species to develop a number of hybrid Macaws. These include first generation (F1) hybrids like the Buffwing Macaw, Calico Macaw, Harlequin Macaw, and Ruby Macaw, and second generation (F2) and later generations hybirds such as the Cameo Macaw, Flame Macaw, and Jubilee Macaw. It has not been hybridized with Mini Macaws.

Potential Problems It is definitely true that a Macaw parrot can make noise, but it is not often, and not without some provocation. Usually, if they make a loud squawking noise if they perceive something to be wrong or different. Maybe a car they don't recognize is coming to the home or the dog is loose. They are also known to make a large noise for about 10 minutes as the sun is setting. This is an alert to their flock to settle in for the evening.

A pet Macaw when well cared for will seldom become ill. Yet they can contract some diseases, and there some also things in the environmental that can cause illness. Behavior problems can also occur, resulting in feather plucking, biting, and loud screeching. Though it is often difficult to determine illness, some visible signs of illness to be aware of are:

  • Ruffled plumage
  • Listlessness
  • Drooping wings
  • Sagging body
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Having no appetite
  • Bulges in feathering
  • Partially closed or watery eyes
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Rasping
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive saliva
  • Dirty vent
  • Any change in the feces not apparently diet related

Some of the more common illnesses are:

  • Proventricular Dilation disease (Macaw wasting disease)
  • Psittacosis (chlamydiosis or parrot fever)
  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
  • Feather picking - results of boredom, poor diet, sexual frustration, and lack of bathing
  • Allergies
  • Chewing flight and tail feathers by juveniles
  • Beak malformations in chicks
  • Papillomas
  • Kidney disease (gout)
  • Toxicity - heavy metal poisoning
  • Lipomas in older birds

If you notice any of these bird illnesses in your Greenwing Macaw immediately provide a warm, draft free, secure environment kept at about 86°F (30°C). Place food and water close to the perch where it is easily accessible. An ailing parrot should be taken to an avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Behavior problems in a pet Macaw usually stem from something that is missing in the bird's environment. Some of the most common are lack of trust, becoming bored, or lack of interaction with people or other birds. When these things are missing that can lead to problems resulting in undesirable behavior. Try to develop a bond of trust and spend time with your bird to help avoid these problems. We have also had good success with Chet Womach's Parrot Training Course. He offers free 3-day introductory course so you can try it out before you buy anything.

Availability: The Green-winged Macaw is fairly common, moderately priced, and generally available. It is easy to find a Green-winged Macaw for sale.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CAS
Lastest Animal Stories on Green-winged Macaw

Trish Elliott - 2005-06-03
I live in Milton, Florida and have 3 macaws, a greenwing only about 4 months old that I am hand feeding. I also have an 7 month old blue and gold. We started feeding her also when she was 4 months old. But my favorite is my harlequin, he is and will always be my 1st love. I got him when he was 6 and 1/2 months old..no hand feeding for him. I haven't had any of the birds sexed but just by the behavior I guess the sexes, my b&g acts like a girl..she is sweet and cuddly and dainty, loves being on her back and cuddles with my husband when he comes home from work, My harlequin is a mama's boy and let's everyone know it. The greenwing is so sweet and playful already. I also have adopted a caught in the wild 22 year old blue fronted amazon. My husband is trying to train him in the evenings. But he is the type of bird that is almost a hands off, but with love and patience I think he will come around. We love our birds. They are a constant part of our lives and a definite part of the family.

  • Hallie - 2013-12-17
    Hello Trish, I live in pensacola and have a big bay green wing that just turned 6 months today. I have had her since she was 4 weeks old. Problem now is she won't stop with the handfeeding. She now gets her handfeeding meal in the mornings and early evenings, but she also eats her regular bowl of food I give her throughout the day. I think she is a female cause of her size. What a sweet wonderful bird I have! I soo love this girl, MANGO. Please give me your advice.
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john - 2008-10-26
I have a 16 month old fella (DNA sexed)named Bama that is just the greatest. He and I started out back July of 2007 when he was all beak and feet with just a few feathers on his head. I am a first time GWM owner and had lots of doubts in the beginning. After spending everyday for several hours visiting him in July and August and half way through September I realized he was the perfect bird for me. At the pet shop where I got him there were lots of other birds and none of them were nearly as wonderful. I have always been an animal lover and at 59 and retired I felt that I would have the time to spend with him. Bama is just the best pal in the world and I am so lucky to have found him. I have two chocolate labs and we all get along just great. Bama does require a lot attention. He is out of his cages most of the day. He wants to be with me and follows me around the house. Helps me with what ever task I am trying, ha ha, to accomplish whether I like or not. He says several words like "come back" when I leave the room or "hi there Bama", "Roll Tide", and "hi Bama", plus lots of other sounds that I am not able to decipher just yet. He loves to chew everything and is always trying to get into everything he can reach. I have him clipped so he climbs down his stand and runs across the floor to follow me. He is getting better socialized with others and will let others interact with me most of the time. He has been weened onto a pellet diet from the beginning. I also feed lots of fruits and veggies and nuts for treats. He wants to eat whatever I am eating so dinner time he gets a small sample of my food. He loves to chew up ice from my glass (plastic). He has lots of toys to keep him busy and forage in. I live in New England and the sun light during the winter is not the greatest so I got some natural lite bulbs for his cage so he gets enough. I decided early on to have a roosting (sleeping cage) in another room away from the daily hustle and bustle of the rest of my house and a cage in my family room so if I have to put him up during the day he has a place to go. That has worked out very well he does not fuss at all at night when its bed time. Both he and the dogs have their sleeping cage/crates in the back bedroom. They all go in together and come out together. Less jealousy that way. I am very glad that I have the opportunity to share my life with such a wonderful bird. I will be getting into more training of tricks so he has more things to concentrate on. He steps up regularly with out prompting and even tells me by saying "up up" and putting his foot up when he wants to come to me. He loves to roll over and have his tummy and feet played with and does his throaty macaw style laugh "ha ha ha". Foot toys are also some of his favorite things, usually broken bits of the toys he has chewed to death already. He loves to take a bath in the kitchen sink, it is a divided sink with a center section that he stands on and lets the water run over him. Yes the water goes every where and he has a great time playing in it. Afterwards we go into my bedroom and he has his fun with being blown dry with my hair drier, squaking and laughing and fluffing and shaking the water off. I would only recommend a GWM for someone with lots of time and patience. I have a grown son and Bama is like a new child in the family that will never grow up. If you like having a feathered 3 year old around with a large powerful beak for the rest of your life then have at it. I am sure glad I did.

  • macalynn - 2010-09-19
    Hi John

    My baby girl gw loves the blown dryer after a shower/bath also.
    I love her dearly and raised her up from nothing but fuzz and some pin feathers. She is just now exploring toys, new giant cage and running the roost around here. She is sitting on my shoulder right now watching me and making those throaty noises; not a question about gw but what is new england like?
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Gaz - 2009-03-06
In life, you get what you give. A green wing does take a lot of work, but the rewards are worth every minute of it. You get a companion like no other. A big red dinosour that loves nothing more than to cuddle up and have its feathers stroked, a friend who loves to play, loyalty like you'd never imagine and an intellegence that challenges yours!
Mine is called Dino because my friend who has two Blue & Yellow Macaws said he looked like a big dinosour standing next to them. Many ask about the cage size, well I couldn't afford one I personaly feel would be big enough for him, so he has his own room with branches jammed between the walls. During the day I take him out for hours at a time and plonk him on a chair next to me or let him run around the patio and even take him for walks around town, which he loves. But please, anyone thinking of getting one, they do take a big commitment in time. They do sometimes squalk extremely loud, which may well upset your neighbours, and until you teach them not to bite hard, they can do damage to you and you simply cannot leave them unattended outside of their cage. They bite through everything, including electric cables! Are you REALLY ready for that commitment?

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Raymond - 2008-05-11
Having read what others say about their Greenwing experiences, I'll regale you in a brief about Chester... He just turned 4 on 4/24. I'm a 50-something guy and ambivalent about pets in general... but not about my boy. I met a man with two new Greenwings here in Jacksonville, Florida, they were just 8 weeks old at the time. This "breeder" is more like a wonderful ambassador to hookbill owners and breeders - ANYWHERE. Chester came home at 12 weeks and was handfed until about 7 months. I was wondering how long his handfeeding ritual was going to last, but one day he just decided he didn't want any more and weaned to pellets and "Poppa food" without skipping a beat. He's absolutely brilliant, a serious troublemaker and the happiest guy you've ever seen. He has about 40 English words, 4-5 Italian words and now knows a couple Russian, and uses them all in context perfectly. He and I are absolutely bonded and spend at least 4 hours a day in close contact. He's becoming more and more socialized. He'd rather run to Poppa than bite anyone, but accidents do happen. I suggest consulting a book by Mattie Sue Athan for a wealth of good information about bird behavior, it really helped me. RESCUE A BIRD and bring the pride back to human-hood! Best of luck!

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john - 2003-11-21
I have kept Macaws for only a few years. I have had a Blue and Gold, A Harlequin (Hybird) and a Greenwing. Out of them all I would have to say that the Greenwing is about the most Loveable, intelligent and is truly a gentle giant. I would have to say that a Macaw of any kind is definitely not a first bird or a bird for the uninitiated. For those who do have a lot of bird experience a Greenwing is definitely the way to go.

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victoria - 2006-09-22
Love my Elvis! She, yes she, was thought to be a male, named and raised for the first half of her life as a male. Second owner, whom I bought her from, (at 5 yrs old)had her sexed after going through her first cycle on things. Originally, thought she was sick. She is beautiful, playful, friendly and outgoing. In my opinion, if you have ever been around a 2 yr old (human) and understand the psychology of that, you can handle a Macaw. Please understand, it is manditory they feel the love. Just as a 2 yr old demands your undivided attention & care. Out smart them, as an example, do not ever feed exactly the same thing at the same time to avoid unnecessary hurt feelings, if you don't keep their schedule. One example would be if you feed your pet 2 to 4 times a day, do not make them the same times each day. Vary your delivery and the food/toy/treat each time. They will become demanding if you allow it. We are suppose to be the smarter species. I question our knowledge of what defines a "greenwing" as mine is dominately green with blues, reds, oranges, yellows through out her feathers. Bright yellow under her blue and green wings, body is orange. Cone area above her mandible now red, was originally green with few feathers red, now about a full inch. 11yrs soon to be 12. Most people of "pure heart" can hold my macaw without threat, she is 28 to 30 in top to tip.

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