Macaws are among the most striking birds of the parrots family. They come from Central and South America and have been widely kept as pets since the beginning of the 20th century. The macaw group of parrots consists of 17 living species:

  • Glaucous macaw (Anodorhynchus glaucus)
  • Hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)
  • Lear's macaw or indigo macaw (Anodorhynchus leari)
  • Spix's macaw or little blue macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)
  • Great green macaw or Buffon's macaw (Ara ambiguus)
  • Blue-and-yellow macaw or blue-and-gold macaw (Ara ararauna)
  • Green-winged macaw or red-and-green macaw (Ara chloroptera)
  • Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis)
  • Scarlet macaw (Ara macao)
  • Military macaw (Ara militaris)
  • Red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys)
  • Chestnut-fronted macaw or severe macaw (Ara severa)
  • Red-bellied macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata)
  • Blue-headed macaw or Coulon's macaw (Primolius couloni)
  • Blue-winged macaw or Illiger's macaw (Primolius maracana)
  • Golden-collared macaw or yellow-collared macaw (Primolius auricollis)
  • Red-shouldered macaw or Hahn's macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis)

Blue and Gold macaws are the most recognizable macaw species in captivity. Their beauty, imposing size and their gentle nature and intelligence have given them a special place among pet lovers. Their success as pets has been aided by the development in artificial incubation and hand-rearing techniques, which have produced generations of captive-bred birds that are adaptable and affectionate.

In the wild, the numbers of some macaw species are dwindling as habitat destruction increases across Central and South America. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the macaw owner to purchase a pet macaw that is captive-bred by a reputable breeder. In the United States wild macaws are no longer imported (Wild Bird Conservation Act, 1992).

A second act of the U.S. law governs the movement of endangered animals between different states (the Endangered Species Act, or ESA). If the species of macaw is listed in the ESA, then a permit is required if the bird is being moved to another state. If the bird is being purchased within the same state as the new owner, then no ESA permit is required for the transfer of the bird in its new home.

Photo of Blue-winged Macaw
Blue-winged Macaw

In nature, macaws live and bahave differently than they do in captivity. In their wild state, macaws are great flying birds. In captivity macaws are great climbers. They often climb upside down across the interior roof surface of their enclosure and perform acrobatics.

Hand-reared macaws are highly intelligent and, when kept as pets, can be extremely affectionate companions. On the other hand, they also can be very destructive and noisy, so the decision to keep a macaw as a pet in your home should be carefully thought out.

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