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Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao): A Guide to Care and Understanding

Mackenzie Gary

Bird cages Guide


The Scarlet Macaw, known scientifically as Ara macao, hails from Central and South America and is often referred to as the red & yellow macaw.

These birds are celebrated for their stunning appearance and unique personalities.

Appearance and Behavior

Scarlet Macaws are notable for their size, being one of the largest parrot species, with tails often matching their body length.

They display vibrant red plumage with yellow wing coverts and dark blue flight feathers.

Unlike the larger green-winged macaw, Scarlet Macaws have white facial skin without feather lines and a distinctive white eye-ring.

Their tails are long and tapered, with blue under tail coverts and rump patch.

Habitat and Range

Inhabiting mostly the Amazon basin, the South American variety is characterized by green-tipped yellow wing coverts.

A separate population in Central America extends from southern Mexico to Panama, with the Nicaraguan subspecies being particularly striking due to minimal green on their wing coverts.

These birds typically reside in lowland tropical forests and woodlands, feeding on local fruits, nuts, and buds.

They are known to nest in large softwood trees, often in pairs or small family groups, but sometimes in larger flocks.

Size and Lifespan

The Scarlet Macaw ranges in length from 32-38 inches and weighs between 900-1200 gm.

They have a lifespan of up to 50 years, reaching maturity between 3-6 years. Young birds have dark eyes that lighten with age, a trait used to estimate their age.

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Personality and Care

These macaws are known for their adaptability and sociability when hand-raised, though they require early socialization to prevent fearfulness.

They can be loud and destructive, with limited mimicry skills but are intelligent and trainable.

They enjoy playing and need toys, particularly wooden blocks for chewing.

Their diet should be rich in energy, with a formulated diet supplemented by fresh fruits, vegetables, and occasional nuts and seeds.

Breeding and Housing

Scarlet Macaws are prolific breeders, typically during spring and early summer.

They prefer large wooden nesting boxes and require a spacious, durable cage due to their size and chewing habits.

The cage should be escape-proof and, ideally, allow outdoor access for exercise and bathing.

Grooming and Health

Regular bathing is essential for maintaining their plumage and skin. Wing clipping is recommended to prevent escape.

Sexing often requires endoscopic examination or lab techniques as there’s no visual sexual dimorphism.

The Scarlet Macaw is a vibrant and engaging bird, suitable for those who can provide ample space, enrichment, and a commitment to their complex needs.

Their care requires dedication, but the reward is a colorful and charismatic companion.