Pair of Scarlet Macaw parrots sitting on tree trunk and holding a feather


Scientific Name: Ara macao

Other Common Names:  Red Macaw, Red and Yellow Macaw

Native Country: Mexico to Amazon rainforest of South America (including Trinidad, Brazil, Panama, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Venezuela)

Habitat:  Woodlands, Savannah and Rainforests

Height (Head to Tail): 80-85cm, Large Size

Lifespan: 50 – 75 years

Weight: 0.9 – 1.1 kilograms

Scarlet Macaw – Appearance:

Scarlet Macaw’s are covered in brightly colored feathers that are red, yellow and blue. (Fun fact – these are the 3 primary colors of paint) Their head, shoulders, abdomen and underlayer of tail feathers are red whereas the primaries and upper tail area is blue. These macaws look very similar to the green winged macaw. You can distinguish them from other macaws by the yellow secondary and median covert feathers.

Just like other macaws, Scarlet Macaws have white eye rings surrounded by bare white cheeks. Their beaks are two toned i.e. white upper bill vs. charcoal lower bill. Also, these magnificent birds have strong sturdy beaks to crack open nuts and coconuts.

Scarlet Macaw close up shot smiling whilst standing on branch

Scarlet Macaw – Diet:

60% Pellets – Specialized pellets formulated for large macaws. Popular brands include: Kaytee Fiesta Macaw Food, Lafeber Premium Daily Macaw, ZuPreem Smart Selects Food and Vetafarm Nutriblend Pellets Large

20% Fresh Fruit and Vegetables – Apples, Cantaloupe/Rockmelon, Pomegranate, Berries, Grapes, Watermelon, Oranges, Pears, Plums, Carrots, Broccoli, Peas, Corn, Mango

20% Nuts – Palm Nuts, Walnuts, Almonds, Macadamias, Coconut, Pistachios, Cashews, Pecans, Hazelnuts and Brazil Nuts

Tip: Hide nuts inside toys to keep your bird entertained for ages

lafeber nutriberries tropical fruit LAFEBER’S Tropical Fruit Nutri-Berries 3lb
Kaytee Complete Nutrition large parrot FoodKaytee Exact Rainbow Large Parrot 4lb
Vetafarm Nutriblend Large PelletsVetafarm Nutriblend Pellets Large 1.6kg

Scarlet Macaw – Essentials:

When bringing your little birdie home for the first time, you will need to ensure you have the basics sorted beforehand.

  • Bird Cage – Scarlet Macaw’s are one of the largest parrots so it’s best to buy the largest cage you can afford and fit within your space. As a guide, the cage size should be at least 200cm x 800cm x 300cm (W x L x H). It’s best to line the cage with newspaper to easily clean their droppings/mess.
  • Cage Cover – any cloth that covers 90% of the cage so the bird can sleep in darkness e.g. light blanket or sheet
  • Perch – at least 4 perches, preferably sturdy natural bark branches to keep their nails naturally trimmed. It’s a great idea to have an external perch i.e. on top of the cage so your bird can explore out of the cage.
  • Toys – at least 4 toys to begin with for mental stimulation/entertainment; highly recommend foraging toys or those that can be chewed e.g. large rope knots, wooden blocks or swings
  • Bowls – 3x bowls (one for pellets/nuts, one for fresh fruit/vegetables and the other for water)
  • Bath – your macaw will need keep clean, so spray bottle or outdoor hose spray will do. If your bird is comfortable with the idea, you can keep a perch in the shower.

Note: Do not keep the perch directly under the shower head, let the bird make its move towards the water first and adapt to the water pressure.

Still not sure? Click here to download our 100% FREE bird care checklist here.

Scarlet Macaw flying solo in the sky

Scarlet Macaw – Behavior:

  • Socialization: Scarlet Macaws are cheeky and intelligent parrots that enjoy human interaction. However you should be mindful, even you have bought a large cage, these birds need ample amounts of out-of-cage time. Failure to do so will result in your macaw self mutilating due to stress, lack of attention or entertainment. Just like any other parrot, if they feel threatened they will nip, so any potential owner must be willing to be patient and not fear a bird of this size or caliber. In the wild, these macaws are often seen flying alone or in pairs.

  • Vocalization: These parrots very loud so I definitely don’t recommend them for apartments or houses with close by neighbors. Their vocalization is an ear piercing screech that sounds a bit like “Kraaa”. The Scarlet Macaw can mimic a few words if trained well but in general they have a limited vocabulary.
Pair of Scarlet Macaws perched on branch and foraging in woodland

Scarlet Macaw – Breeding:

On average the Scarlet Macaw reaches sexual maturity at 3 – 5 years of age and are considered monomorphic breeds. Therefore if you plan to breed a pair, make sure you get a DNA test beforehand.

Breeding these macaws may be restricted due to the local rules and regulations of your country. Please check before breeding. Other requirements for breeding are mentioned below:


  • Horizontal rectangle shaped nest box made from strong untreated wood (min. dimensions 50x60x100cm – HxWxL) – these birds have strong beaks, so ensure the wood is thick so it cannot be chipped away in the first breeding season
  • Nest box filling – non-toxic wood shavings or saw dust
  • Mating Partner: monogamous – one partner for life
  • Breeding Season: Spring
  • Clutch Frequency: 1 clutch per year
  • Clutch Quantity: 2 – 4 eggs per clutch
  • Incubation Period: 24 – 26 days
  • Weaning: 7 months

Scarlet Macaw – Health:

Common IssueSymptoms Causes
Psittacosis Appetite loss, fluffed feathers, vomiting, nasal/ocular discharge, diarrhea or pale green feces, breathing difficulties, conjunctivitis, minimal physical movement, tremorsBacteria: Chlamydia psittaci contracted via infected dried saliva, feathers, mucous and feces
Proventricular Dilatation Syndrome “Macaw Wasting SyndromeLoss of appetite, vomiting, passing of undigested food in feces, weight loss, overall body weakness, head tremors seizuresAvian Bornavirus (ABV) contracted through feces, saliva and other bodily secretions from birds – causes nerve inflammation
Feather PluckingForm of self mutilation by plucking their own feathers, leaving bald patches of skinBoredom, lack of mental stimulation, poor diet, illness, stress
Psittacine Beak & Feather DiseaseSharp, clubbed or abnormally short feathers, pigment loss in colored feathers, bloody feather shafts Beak & Feather Disease Virus (BFDV) contracted from other infected birds e.g. oral – parent feeding young or ingestion of virus particles in dust feces
AspergillosisWeight loss, lethargy, constantly fluffed feathers, difficulty breathing, cloudy eyes, droopy wingsAspergillus fungus: exposure to spores found in dust, mold, soil – mainly affects malnourished or immunocompromised birds
MalnutritionNasal discharge, sneezing, wheezing conjunctivitis, poor feather quality, weakness, egg binding, embryonic death Vitamin A or Calcium deficiency
WormsDiarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, malnutrition or blood in fecesAscaris roundworm or flatworms – eggs passed in droppings

Did You Know?

1. The Scarlet Macaw is the national icon of Honduras

2. This species has been recognized as a threatened species by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) due to deforestation and illegal pet trade

3. There are 2 subspecies of the Scarlet Macaw: A. m. macao (found in South America) and A. m. cyanopterus (found in North Central America)

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