Popular Macaw Species That Make Excellent Pets

Macaws are beautiful long-tailed birds that are demanding and yet very rewarding as pets. They are native to North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Most of them are found in the rainforests, but some prefer Savannah-like habitats.

There are 17 macaw pet species, and all belong to the members of the parrot family and have vibrant plumage. However, only six are classified as "true" macaws – Primolius, Ara, Orthopsittaca, Diopsittaca, Cyanopsitta, and Anodorhynchus.

The largest of the macaw species are the Hyacinth, the Great Green, and the Green-winged macaw. They are well adapted for the rainforest with their colorful feathers, and large and powerful beaks that they use with finesse to crack open nuts and seeds with ease.

They also boast rough tongues that are useful in tapping fruits and gripping toes that allow them to hold, grab, and examine items. Macaws are highly intelligent and can interact with their owners on many levels and quickly learn new tricks. They are also strikingly beautiful with different color combinations and outgoing personalities that make them very social.


Types of Macaws Species

As a pet owner, you must understand the needs of your bird. Along with housing, care, and food, macaws are high-maintenance pets and need a lot of social interaction. When choosing a pet bird, you need to know which type is suitable for your lifestyle.

Due to their high demand, wild macaws are rare, highly endangered, and very expensive. When Hybrid macaws are bred in captivity, they are not endangered. When it comes to physical characteristics, the different species share close physical characteristics with long tails, slim bodies, and broad heads.

The only significant differences that can be noted in the different macaw species is the size of the body and the plumage. They can be grouped into three groups – the large macaw, the mini macaw, and the true macaw.

Here are the different types of macaw species that you can keep as a pet.

1. Blue and Gold Macaws

blue and gold macaw
Photo by Juliana Amorim on Unsplash

The blue and gold macaw can grow quite large measuring 34-36-inches from the beak to the tip of the tail with a wingspan that can reach up to 42-inches. They are also known as blue and yellow macaws and have blue wings, a black chin, yellow underparts, and a green forehead.


Since they tend to congregate in flocks while in the wild, they have loud calls and screams that include flock calls. They are brilliant and friendly and can even mimic human speech.

This bird is a high-maintenance pet with social needs and higher demands than that of a cat or a dog; therefore, it may not be a suitable pet option for novice pet owners. The blue and gold macaws are loving and can closely bond with a human, making them excellent companions.

2. Green Winged Macaws

green winged macaw
Photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash

The green-winged macaw is also known as the "gentle giant" and is very responsive and loving in nature. It features a plumage that is a bright shade of red with a whitish skin face mask, and green colored wings that turn bluer on the outside edge.

When it comes to temperament, the green-winged is steady and easy going. This macaw species is more talkative than other macaws but is not very good at imitating. They respond well to training and need a lot of social interaction; therefore, don't expect to leave them on their own for long periods.

As a youngster, a green-winged macaw can be overly sensitive, but this phase doesn't last for long if met with patience and persistence. Due to their size, they require more space, so confining them in a small cage is not ideal.


To help this bird to be more social and accept almost anyone, you need to introduce it to a variety of people one at a time. By using this approach, it will make an excellent family pet even in homes with little children as long as they are not too young.

3. Hybrid Macaws

hybrid macaw

There are more than 35 different types of hybrid macaws bred in captivity. Hybrids are typical macaws, and although they have different color mutations, they are a “pure” species of macaws.

Hybrid macaw pet species are bred for their color and pet quality. They are more beautiful, intelligent, less prone to diseases, and can be trained to perform tricks. The color of their plumage is highly influenced by the male gene. If you’re looking to purchase this type, make sure you have plenty of time to spend with your new bird.

Some hybrids like the Harlequin macaw (which has a green and blue plumage) has an even temper, and calm demeanor and people who keep them as pets claim them to have "the best of both worlds."

These are some of the hybrids you can keep as a pet: Verde macaw, Tropicana, Ruby, Miligold, Shamrock, Starlight, Jubilee, Flame, and the Capri macaw, among others. The possibilities of introducing new hybrids are virtually endless.

4. Hyacinth Macaw

hyacinth macaw

The Hyacinth Macaw is enormous in size with cobalt-blue plumage and a bright yellow ring around its eyes and at the base of the beak. It’s the largest of all macaw species. It's a sporadic and threatened bird that requires an exceptionally dedicated owner who has the time, financial resources, and patience to provide for its needs.

They are native to Central and Eastern South America and are found in open areas along major rivers. Though somewhat intimidating in appearance, with a powerful, sharp hooked beak, they are gentle by nature.

The Hyacinth Macaw enjoys human companionship, and when neglected, they can be destructive and exhibit self-mutilating behaviors such as feather plucking and screaming. However, they are docile and easygoing. You can keep lots of wooden toys and branches that they can chew to maintain a healthy beak and jaw.

5. Military Macaw

military macaw

This is a medium sized macaw that gets its name from its predominantly green plumage with a red patch at the front of the head that resembles a military uniform. It’s found in the forests of South America and Mexico with a well-rounded personality making it an excellent choice for novice pet bird lovers.

Military Macaw is 70cm in length. Besides being chatty and social, these birds are noisy and give loud creaking calls and shrieking cries. In their natural habitat, they live in flocks, pairs or in families.

If you're looking forward to owning a military macaw species as a pet, you'll need to devote a lot of your time to bond and forge a healthy relationship. Although they get cranky at times, they are very affectionate with the right owner.

6. Illiger Macaw

illiger macaw

The Illiger macaw is also known as the blue-winged macaw, which has a smaller physique compared to the Hyacinth macaw. It's incredibly social and likes to be part of a family, making it a popular choice among many bird owners.

They are mostly green with a bright red glaze on the forehead and brownish red patches on their lower back, abdomen, and tail which is edged with a bright blue color. This macaw pet species likes a lot of mental stimulation, so it's important that you buy them sturdy wooden toys to keep them busy. It's not surprising to find them wandering around looking for something interesting.

They are curious and respond quickly to positive training techniques. Their calls can be compared to that of a crow and are moderate talkers with clown-like personalities. They can also surprise their owners with witty responses. The Illiger does well when paired in captivity to keep each other company.

7. Scarlet Macaws

scarlet macaws

This is a large red, yellow and blue colored macaw that measures 32-36-inches long with mostly a scarlet plumage but the tail-covert is blue. It’s native to the humid evergreen forests of South America and Central America including Amazonian Peru and Guatemala.

They have bare white skin around the eyes and make loud, low-pitched, throaty squawks and screams. Scarlet macaws love to live in groups or in pairs when in the wild. Therefore, it's crucial that you offer them the necessary attention they need in captivity.

Scarlet macaws have an abundance of energy and personality and can fly at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. If you’re looking into owning one, you may need to provide a large spacious walk-in aviary cage so that they’ll have sufficient space to fly. They are considered friendly and can talk quite well so they'll need daily socialization and stimulation.

8. Catalina Macaw

catalina macaw
Photo by D Coetzee on Flickr

The 1st generation Catalina macaw had more orange color on his feathers and on the back while the underside wings were orange and yellow. Today, the Catalina macaw hybrid is a rainbow-colored parrot popular among pet bird owners for its plumage.

It combines the traits of most macaws into one spectacularly beautiful package. This bird is attractive and has a comical personality that draws people to like it. It’s a hybrid macaw pet species bred in captivity for its color traits.

The Catalina macaw is primarily red or deep orange in color. It has a yellow-orange chest and a green patch at the top of the head and green-blue back and neck with shadings of orange that give it a rainbow look. It has a bone colored beak, and green-blue feathers running all the way to the tail.

Potential owners need to know that this bird can be quite loud. They are also known to be curious, feisty and extremely active, making them a perfect hybrid mix of the Scarlet Macaw and the Blue and Gold macaw. As with any macaw, playing and socialization is an essential factor that helps to develop their personality.

With a proper upbringing, your efforts can be rewarded with a lifetime friendship and companionship as the Catalina macaw tends to bond with members of their family.

9. Yellow-collared Macaw

yellow collared macaw
Photo by TJ Lin on Flickr

The Yellow-collared macaw falls in the mini-macaw category and measures 15-17-inches long. It's easier to care for, charming, crafty, and comical. It offers the personality of a large macaw but in a smaller package.

It’s famous for its intelligence, fondness and somewhat mischievous character. An adult Yellow-collared macaw has mostly green plumage with a black color on the crown and chin. It also has a yellow collar around the back of the neck and a blue tail with a brown-red color towards the base.

Males and females look alike, and like many other macaw species, they pair or live in groups. Therefore, they can attach to a human caregiver since they crave attention and attraction, making them an excellent choice if you have several hours to spend with them each day.

These birds can get quite loud with calls that are comparable to a gull. However, they are gifted talkers and speak with more clarity than the larger species.

10. Harlequin Macaw

harlequin macaw

The Harlequin macaw belongs to the large breed category and can be quite loud with his calls. It has a pleasant and friendly personality. This species of macaws thrives well in groups and are close, meaning that they would flourish better in a family or when paired up. Besides, this bird is intelligent and has excellent speech abilities.

The Harlequin macaw is bred in captivity with parents who are "true" species of macaws – the green-wing and the blue and gold macaws. The result is striking tones of green and blue in the Harlequin macaw with gold color on the feathers and the underside of the tail.

Just like any other macaw, the Harlequin should be fed on a diet that includes high-quality seeds, a fresh serving of fruits and vegetables. Besides, with such a large bird, you'll need to keep it busy with plenty of toys. They also need plenty of mental stimulation and human interaction to thrive as happy pets.


Macaws are touted as exceptional parrots because of their appearance. They have a long life span and can live up to 80 years. There are 17 species of macaws, some of which are trapped from their natural habitat for trade. The red-fronted and blue-fronted macaws are seriously at risk.

If you’re seriously interested in owning a macaw, you should learn as much as you can about macaw pet species before bringing one home. In the wild, different macaw species live in small flocks or pairs, and therefore, a pet owner must devote his time to become part of its flock in captivity.

Also, make sure you have factored the costs of keeping a macaw as a pet like high-quality feeds, veterinary bills, toys, and cages. They are highly intelligent, and trainable with a charming personality, making them the most popular pet birds of all time.

References and further reading:

  1. Wikipedia, List of macaws
  2. fws.gov, Scarlet Macaws
  3. National Geographic, Macaws
  4. Werner Lantermann, 1996, The Encyclopedia of Macaws (Buy book)
  5. Roger Rodendale, July 7, 2016, Hyacinth Macaw (Buy book)
  6. Rose Sullivan, September 29, 2013, Blue and Gold Macaws (Buy book)


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