Full Information, History, and Care for the Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw flying over grassy area

Scarlet macaws are among the most colorful birds and are sometimes recognized by bird enthusiasts as the most attractive parrot. They have thick patches of feathers that are solid red, blue, and yellow. This bold, brash bird is animated and has a strong personality. Every year, this huge parrot comfortably tops the list of the most well-liked birds.

Species Overview

Common Name: Scarlet macaw

Scientific Name(s): Ara macao with two subspecies: Ara macao cyanoptera (Central America) and Ara macao macao (South America)

Adult Size: 35 inches long, weighing 2 to 3 pounds

Life Expectancy: 80 years or more, though 40 to 50 years is more typical

Origin and History

The tropical rainforest regions of Central and South America are home to scarlet macaws. Humid evergreen woods between 1,000 and 3,000 feet in elevation are its favored environment. It mostly lives in the canopy and uppermost branches of trees in the wild.

This species has a wide geographic distribution in the wild, but because to deforestation and illicit capturing for the pet trade, it is endangered in many of these locations. The scarlet macaw is listed on CITES' Appendix 1 list (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). These wild birds cannot be used for commercial purposes, thus bringing them into the United States is against the law.


The scarlet's striking plumage may be what initially draws your attention, but its personality keeps you enthralled. Scarlet macaws are intelligent birds with an abundance of energy and character.

Scarlet macaws that have been hand-raised or hand-trained can be very affectionate. They make great companions with a sweet disposition.

Small groups of scarlet macaws coexist in the wild. This bird might develop attached to you as a flockmate if you maintain it as a solitary pet. You must pay close attention and communicate with the bird frequently if you want to retain it as a friendly companion. It can develop into an aggressive and destructive animal if not properly socialized and educated.

Scarlet macaws are idiosyncratic birds that may become fixated on one person. To avoid this behavior, train them from an early age to socialize with every family member.

This bird has a robust, imposingly huge beak. It is able to bite if provoked. Families with small children who are unable to comprehend the boundaries or warning signs displayed by birds might not be the best candidates for this species.

Like other macaws, scarlets may be boisterous at times. Although its blue and gold macaw relative is thought to be a more accomplished talker, they are able to learn how to communicate.

Speech and Vocalizations

Scarlets are often eager to pick up new skills and expand their vocabulary of 5 to 10 words. They are self-assured and amiable. Scarlets may be rather loud, so they might not be the best choice for people who live in flats or condominiums. Consider obtaining a different type of bird if you are sensitive to loud noises.

Scarlet Macaw Colors and Markings

Scarlets have wings that are mostly vibrant red with accents of bright yellow and blue. Where the yellow and blue merge on certain birds, there could be a strip of green. The bill has a black lower mandible and an upper mandible that is tinted like horn, and the huge eye patch is white. The bird needs genetic or surgical sexing to determine the genders because there is no evident method to differentiate the males from the females.

Caring for the Scarlet Macaw

The biggest parrots are macaws. A scarlet macaw will not flourish in a cage that is too tiny and is ideally suited for a spacious area. Purchase a cage that is no less than 2 1/2 feet by 3 feet. The bird needs a lot of time outside of its cage, and if it doesn't receive it, it might start acting out. It will turn to methods of self-mutilation like plucking feathers. Give them huge swings and toys since they grow bored soon.

Once a week, offer your macaw a bath or hose down your bird with lukewarm water using the fine-mist setting of your handheld shower sprayer.

To prevent your bird from flying through an open window or door, .

Common Health Problems

Scarlet macaws, like other large parrots, are prone to self-mutilation and feather plucking when they are bored or neglected.

These birds are prone to a number of dietary conditions and illnesses, including (psittacosis), psittacine beak and feather disease, macaw wasting syndrome, and proventricular dilatation disease (viral infection).

Overgrown beaks are also sometimes a problem; this can be prevented if you provide hard chewable toys and rough surfaces for the macaws to trim their beaks.

Diet and Nutrition

Nuts, leaves, berries, and seeds from the rainforest make up the bulk of the scarlet macaw's diet. Its strong, hooked beak is perfect for breaking nuts and seeds.

Starting with a specially prepared parrot mix that contains a range of seeds, dried fruits, and nuts, the optimal food for a macaw in captivity is established. Daily servings of a variety of fresh produce should include high-calcium greens like kale and spinach. For these birds, an all-seed diet is quite harmful. Never provide unhealthy foods like chocolate and avocado.

The typical healthy macaw will eat between 10 and 15 percent of its body weight each day. A bird typically weighs around two pounds. A bird should consume around 1/2 cup of food each day, or 100 pounds of food annually. When you wake up in the morning, feed them. After one hour, throw away any leftover chopped or newly cut fruits and vegetables.


Due to their size, macaws require a lot of room and time to play and stretch their muscles. These birds are energetic by nature. These birds require a way to expel their energy. At least two hours a day, and ideally five, should be spent letting a scarlet macaw out of its cage.

Rotate a varied supply of chew toys to help it exercise its powerful beak and jaws. Rugged toys that can take a beating help the jaw muscles while providing an outlet for the chewing instinct. 

A play gym or a parrot cargo net that allows your macaw to play and climb can be a great activity to help your bird meet its exercise requirements.

  • Beautiful and intelligent

  • Can talk and mimic human sounds

  • Long-lived

  • Tendency for loud squawks and screams

  • Requires at 2 to 5 hours of daily exercise, mental stimulation

Where to Adopt or Buy a Scarlet Macaw

Only avian specialist pet shops or often sell scarlet macaws. Costs range from $2,000 to $4,000. The breeder, whether it was reared by hand, and the animal's vibrancy all affect the price range.

Rescues or adoption agencies may get this bird given up by owners unable to care for them. Some online sources you can try include:

  • Bird Breeders
  • Free Flight
  • Adopt a Pet

Ask the breeder how long they have been breeding and working with the species if you decide to go that way. Visit their location. Look for indications of the flock's strong general health as you browse their collection. The birds should have bright eyes, clean feathers, and full crops, and they should be active and alert.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar species, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other .