Scarlet Macaw

Ara macao Order: Psittaciformes Family: Psitticidae Scarlet Macaw   

The class Aves comes from the Latin for both birds and flight.


Natural History Information 

Range and Habitat 

  • Scarlet macaws are native to Central and South America. They inhabit woodland areas and the humid lowland tropical rainforest (up to 3,000 feet). These macaws spend most of their time in the treetops.

Physical Description

  • Average two to three pounds
  • 30-37 inches long (tail is about 20 inches, making up 2/3 of its length)
  • Wingspan: 44-47 inches


  • In their native habitat: 20- 40 years
  • Under human care: up to 100 years (average 65-80)

Ecosystem Role 

  • Macaws are important seed dispersers

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

Diet Requirements

  • In their native habitat
    • hard shelled seeds, fruits, nuts, figs, berries, vegetable matter
    • insects and larva during breeding season
    • clay from the river beds (no one is sure why they do this but it is hypothesized that the clay helps them digest poisonous chemicals in unripe fruit they eat)
  • Akron Zoo: depending on her weight approximately 20g Harrison’s Course pellets, 20g fruits, 20g vegetables, and 10g seeds and nuts.

Weight Management

  • Akron Zoo: macaw is weighed daily

Veterinary Concerns



  • Behavioral Relevant Information 
    • Parents can be very aggressive if their nest is approached
    • At Akron Zoo, we are careful to not provide too much “nesty” enrichment (such as hide houses and nesting material) during our macaws hormonal periods
  • Behavioral Enrichment  
    • Akron Zoo: our macaw enjoys chewing up cardboard strips
  • Schedule  
    • Akron Zoo: since parrots are highly intelligent, our macaw is enriched daily, rotating through different categories such as rest, self- directed behaviors (such as preening), social (with either humans or other animals), forage/ item manipulate, or explore/ investigate.   
    • Other Enrichment Resources  


  • Behaviors Trained
    • Akron Zoo: step up (onto a hand or a wooden t perch), scale, kennel, target, wave, spin, shapes (can place shaped blocks into their corresponding holes), stack (can stack rings on a pole), basketball (can drop a ball in a cup), paint (holds a paintbrush)
  • Reinforcers used & schedule of reinforcement
    • Akron Zoo: regular diet is used for reinforcement (macaw prefers Harrison’s and seeds/ nuts)

Colony or Breeding Management

 Individual Identification

Programmatic Information

Messaging Themes 

  • Parrots as pets- loud, require a lot of attention, long lived, behavioral issues, etc.
  • Know where your parrot came from- wildlife trade vs captive bred

Threats and Conservation Status 

  • CITES appendix I endangered species
  • Decline due to habitat loss for logging and agricultural development as well as trapping for the pet trade
  • Preyed upon by harpy eagles and orange- breasted falcons

Interesting Natural History Information 

  • There are two types of scarlet macaw, one from Bolivia and one from Honduras. The Bolivian scarlet is larger and darker. The yellow band on the Honduran scarlet is wider and not tipped with green. Scarlets under human care are a combination of these two types.
  • There are 18 species of macaws.
  • Males and females mate early in life and stay together for their entire lives.

Did you know… 

  • Scarlet macaws are the national bird of Honduras.

Handling & Presentation Tips 

Use Guidelines

Public Contact and Interaction Guidelines 

  • Akron Zoo: no birds can be touched by guests. The macaw’s trainers are working on behaviors that allow her to interact with guests without them needing to be too close, such as target and stack.

Transportation Tips 

  • Akron Zoo: a kennel cover should be used when transporting to and from programs. Cover should be removed from the door and sides for ventilation while in the van.

Crating Techniques 

Temperature Guidelines

  • Macaw is approved for outdoor program use or enrichment between 65-85ºF

Acquisition Information

Comments from the Rating System




Contributors and Citations

  • Akron Zoo