Scarlet Macaw
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. scarlet macaw
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  • Scientific Name: Ara macao
  • Sub Species in country / area of origin: No, but possibly has some race variations within its natural range.
  • Origin / Distribution:  South Mexico and northern South America.
  • Habitat In Wild:  Forested tropical areas and savannah.  Often close to rivers.  Will forage in cultivated areas.
  • Status In Wild: Declining in many areas and extinct in some once prolific areas.  Decline is mostly blamed on habitat loss and trapping.  Has a CITES appendix 1 listing as an endangered species.
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity: Rare and very expensive.
  • Age To Sexual Maturity: About 4 - 5 years
  • Adult plumage: attained at about 36 - 48  months.
  • Best breeding years (estimate): 6th year onwards. Have been known to breed for up to 50 years.
  • Lifespan (estimate): Very long lived birds, 30 plus years should be expected.
  • Sexing: Monomorphic / Dimorphic
  • Colour mutations: None in Australia, but at least one mutation overseas.
  • Availability: Specialist breeders. Probably less than 200 in Australia.
  • Temperament: Generally breed well in captivity. Make good pets when hand reared. Very large colourful bird.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx.) $17,500 but can vary widely.
  • Description Of Adults:
  1. Length: Approx. 850 - 900 mm (or approx. 34 - 36 inches)
  2. Colour ( "normal" colour ): Refer photo/s above if available.
  3. Weight: Approx. 1000 - 1100 gms (or approx. 36 - 39 ozs)

Aviary Notes:

Level Of Knowledge Required: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced / Specialist Breeders Only.

Government Regulations & By-Laws: Refer to " Government Laws " web page.

Housing Requirements: Refer to " Macaws " web page for general details on the housing of Macaws or read on for specific details for this parrot.

Needs a good supply of fresh branches to chew.  They are a large macaw and an aviary of about 8 metres long is desirable.  They have been bred in suspended cages only 1.5m x 1.5m x 1.5m with a breeding box externally attached, but this size cage is not recommended.  They can be housed and bred in a strong suspended cage if they have access to an aviary during the non-breeding season.

The preferred aviary or suspended cage should be up to 6 metres long (20 feet). If possible the aviary can be up to 2.5 metres wide and high.

Diet / Feeding: Refer to " Macaws " web page for general details on the feeding of Macaws or read on for specific details for this parrot.

In the wild these birds visit the clay banks to consume the mineral rich soil.  The clays are thought to neutralize some toxic compounds in their diet.  The clays may provide some minerals and trace elements necessary for good health.

The Scarlet Macaw's natural diet include a variety of fruits, berries, nuts, flowers, vegetable material and some insects.

Nesting: A basic overview only. Dimensions are typical / average and can vary widely, influenced by the owner's preferences and the birds preferences. Parent bird's preferences can also be influenced by the size and type of nest-box / log in which the bird was hatched and reared. If space allows, offering a choice of sizes and types of logs or nest-boxes, and placed in various locations within the aviary, can allow the parent birds to make their own choice. Once a pair has chosen a specific nest-box/log and been successful in it, offer that one to them each breeding season. Try and keep that one for their exclusive use. Once a pair has chosen its log or nest-box, the other ones can generally be removed. If the "spare" boxes are to be removed and moved to another flight, ensure the log / nest-box is cleaned to ensure the receptacle has the minimal contamination of mites, parasites and pathogens.

  • Nesting months: In outdoor aviaries - Spring and Summer. Indoors, the breeding season is less defined due to the modified indoor climate.
  • Log / Nest-box:
    • Length / depth 800 - 1000 mm (or approx. 32 - 40 inches)
    • Log internal diameter approx. 500 - 600 mm. (or approx. 20 - 24 inches)
    • Nest-box internal dimensions approx. 500 - 550 mm square (or approx. 20 - 22 inches square)
    • Diameter of entrance hole approx. 150 - 225 mm (or approx. 6 - 9 inches)
    • Inspection hole (square or round) 100 - 150 mm (or approx 4 - 6 inches)
    • A removable top / lid can be a useful access point for inspections and for cleaning.
    • Location and height of log / nest-box = Usually at mid height under the sheltered portion of the aviary, but may be higher but not too close to the roof to cause heat problems in the hotter months.
    • Angle of log or nest box = Usually vertical or near vertical but can be on any angle through to horizontal.
  • Nesting log / nest-box material: Decomposed non-toxic saw dust, wood shavings or other suitable material/s.
  • Who incubates the egg/s: Hen / cock / both share.

It is important to have a strong "chew proof" ladder (10 gauge wire mesh is often used ) on the inside of the nest box, below the entry hole to allow the birds to climb down to the floor of the nest instead of jumping.  The internal ladder is essential in nest boxes that are in a vertical or near vertical position.  The ladder also allows the birds to easily and safely exit the nest.  With nests placed in a horizontal or near horizontal position a ladder may not be required.
Nest boxes/logs should be placed middle height to high up in the aviary under cover.  Many prefer the nest box / log opening to be in a darker / shaded part of the aviary that provides a degree of privacy.  At least one perch should be at each end of the aviary and one perch should be close to the nest and be about the same height as the nest opening.  The perch closest to the nest opening is the perch most often used during the breeding season.  The cock bird will use the closest perch to the nest so he can protect the nest, the hen and their offspring.  The same perch configuration applies to suspended cages.
More details on parrot nestboxes/logs and a selection of parrot nestbox/log photos can be found on the
"nests", "parrot nests" and "parrot nestbox photos" web pages.  Click on "Up" then "Nests" then "parrot nests" and "parrot nestbox photos" in the navigation bars.

Breeding: Egg Colour White.  Clutch/s per year 1 or 2.  Eggs per nest 2 - 4.  Incubation approx. 26 - 28 days.  Fledge approx. 10 - 14 weeks.  Independent - varies widely from as little as one month, up to 6 months.

These bids can be very aggressive and territorial while breeding. Nest boxes are best positioned so the nest inspection can be carried out from outside the aviary. Nest inspection is best done when the adult birds are out of the nest.

The scarlet macaw will usually start to breed at about 4 - 5 years of age.

Hand rearing of one or more clutches can increase the number of young produced.

Artificial incubation and hand rearing or fostering will not be covered on this web site. It is too complex and diverse in nature to be attempted here.

Health Issues: Refer to "Avian Health Issues" web page for information and references.

  • Worming and parasite control and Quarantine requirements of new bird/s or sick bird/s are considered to require veterinary advice and therefore not covered on this web site. Refer "Avian Health Issues" web page option.
  • Avian medicine is advancing at a rapid pace. Keep updating your knowledge and skills.

General References: Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture
  • A/A Vol 32 No. 4 Apr 1978 Page 58-62
  • A/A Vol 11 No 11 Nov 1957 Page 169-170.
  • A/A Vol 2 No 2 Feb 1948 Page 13-15.
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 17 Issue 2. Apr-May 2004 Page 86-89.
  • ABK Vol 17 Issue 1. Feb-Mar 2004 Page 29-31.
  • ABK Vol  7 Issue 2. Apr-May 1994 Page 70-74
  • ABK Vol  7 Issue 2. Apr-May 1994 Page 76-77

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