Extremely curious and intelligent, the Illiger’s Macaw can be an energetic little mischief-maker!

   The Illiger’s Macaw or Blue-winged Macaw makes for a good pet because of its small size and high intelligence. However they are lively boisterous birds and so will require a generous living space. This very active, inquisitive, and amusing little parrot will investigating and chew everything in sight.

   Young hand-raised Illiger’s Macaws make wonderful pets. They are very adaptable and relatively easy to take care of. A friendly and sweet little bird that is handleable by many people. But they must be socialized and exposed to a variety of experiences at a young age and will require regular interaction and constant stimulation.

   While they make good pets they are also great aviary prospects. This macaw is very active and needs room to stretch its wings. A flight area is very important energy outlet for these birds and they will prove to be quite artistic flyers. They are also very social and being kept with a companion will help avoid depression and loneliness.

For information about the care of Macaws see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Macaw

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

Scientific name:

   Illiger’s Macaw, also known as the Blue-winged Macaw and the Illiger’s Miniature Macaw – Ara maracana


   The range of the Illiger’s Macaw or Blue-winged Macaw extends from central and eastern Brazil, through Paraguay, and into northeast Argentina. Although they have a very large range, their populations are declining and they are seriously endangered.
   They inhabit a variety of forests and woodlands along waterways and in arid savannahs. Sometimes they are seen foraging in grain or maize fields as their own habitats are destroyed by deforestation.

Picture of "Bella", and 8 month old Illiger's Macaw or Blue-winged Macaw
‘Bella’ – Illiger’s Macaw (juvenile)
Photo © Animal-World:
Courtesy Kari Terhark


   The Illiger’s Macaw is a small macaw with a bright green plumage. Its crown is blue and there are greenish-blues on the the head, nape, and cheeks. The naked facial area is a pale yellow with fine feather lines. There is a red patch on the forehead, lower back, and the mid-belly.

   The wings have blue flight feathers and the undersides are an olive-green.The tail is reddish-brown and blue. Females are usually paler than males. The eye is orange-brown, the beak is black, and the legs are yellowish.

   “Bella” seen here is an 8 month old female juvenile. Juveniles have paler plumage than adults. They have less red on the forehead, dark eyes, and horn colored edges on the beak.

Size – Weight:

   Mature birds are about 17 inches (43 cm) long from the head to the tip of the tail.

Care and feeding:

    A roomy cage is required unless the bird is to be let out for extended periods. Many birds can spend most of their time on a play pen or parrot perch. To accommodate their love of flight, Illiger’s Macaw pairs do nicely in an outdoor aviary of 9 x 5 x 5 x 6 feet, with an indoor shelter.
   In the wild they feed on locally available fruits; especially palm nut fruits, seeds, nuts and blossoms in tree tops and bushes as well as foraging in grain or maize fields. In captivity they will eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits, and commercial pellets, as well as the same nutritional foods humans eat. lliger’s Macaws should be fed a wide variety of food, combined to offer a well balanced diet.
   When eating, they will pick up food in their claws and eat it. They can be quite finicky and sometimes will not eat food they are bored with.

   See About Macaws: Housing and About Macaws: Care and Feeding for more information.

Social Behaviors:

   Illiger’s Macaws are lovable, friendly, and intelligent. They will affectionately greet you with a crow-like call 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 they they are usually seen in pairs or small parties. The Illiger’s Macaw gets along very well with other birds. They are very social and enjoy the company of their flock or of a mate. Kept as a pair they will be much happier. Having a constant companion that can keep up with their quick minds and movements helps avoid depression and loneliness that a single bird without ongoing stimulation can develop. Together they can playfully chase each other from perch to perch across the aviary, trying to outwit each other with cleverness.

   See About Macaws: Social Behaviors for information on developing a well rounded friendly macaw.


    Loves to climb and play. Provide lots of toys. This macaw is very active and needs room to stretch its wings. In flight, Illiger’s Macaws are quite creative, soaring, diving, dropping, and flitting about the aviary. To prevent boredom it is important that they be given plenty of toys to play with and chew. Wooden chew toys are usually a hit with this species.


Picture of a breeding pair of Illiger's Macaws
Illiger’s Macaws – breeding pair
Photo © Animal-World:
Courtesy Peter van der Borst

   The Illiger’s Macaw breed well in captivity, usually in the spring and early summer. They can breed several times with some pairs breeding year round. They reach sexual maturity in 2 – 4 years. As they are very shy while breeding, preferring a dark quiet environment.
   Provide a vertical wooden nesting box about 12″ x 12″ x 24″ with a small opening of about 3″. Provide wood for chewing and pine shavings will make an excellent bedding. It is best to not disturb them while nesting as they can be easily frightened and may damage their eggs. Also during breeding provide additional high fat seeds, like sunflower seed, and calcium supplements.    The female will lay 1 to 4 eggs, which will incubate for 23 – 25 days. The young will fledge in about 10 – 12 weeks. Young birds should be removed from the parents as older pairs may severely pluck them.
   Baby Illiger’s Macaws are difficult to hand-feed from an early age, so if you are inexperienced it may be best to allow the parents to feed them for the first few weeks. When hand-feeding, the young will need a high fat diet and do well with additional protein added to the the hand-feeding formula. Peanut butter or ground sunflower seeds work well. Also, to keep them tame they must be frequently handled.

   Illiger’s Macaws are listed as highly endangered species, so every effort should be taken to breed them whenever pairing is possible. For more information on breeding, see About Macaws: Breeding/Reproduction.

Potential Problems:

Can be noisy (as can all macaws). However the Illiger’s Macaw is not as noisy as some, and can be described as ‘medium-noisy’.

   See About Macaws: Potential Problems for information on illnesses.


   This bird has been successfully bred in captivity and is occasionally available.