Second in size only to the hyacinth macaw, which is the largest parrot species, the green-wing macaw is often known as a gentle giant, due to its calm disposition. Its brilliant color and temperament make it a favorite family pet for those who have space and time to care for such a large bird.
COMMON NAMES: Green-wing macaw, red and green macaw
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ara chloroptera
ADULT SIZE: 40 inches long with a 49-inch wingspan, weighing 3 3/4 pounds
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 50 years; however, there have been reports of green-wing macaws living well into their 80s
Origin and History
The green-wing macaw is native to many of the tropical lowland forests of Central and South America, including Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Brazil, Peru, Suriname, French Guiana, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia. It lives in virtually the same territory as the blue-and-gold macaw.
Green-wing macaws have been kept in captivity as far back as the 17th century. Captive breeding programs took off during the 19th century and were quite successful. Today, it is relatively easy to find green-wing macaws bred in captivity. Like many other tropical birds, this macaw’s natural habitat has been badly depleted, and many are still captured for the black market parrot trade.
Green-wing macaws are tame and affectionate with a usually even, easy-going disposition. They are friendly and require a couple of hours of interaction with you every day. These birds are brilliant; they can learn to speak words and do tricks.
As one of the largest species of parrot, they have incredibly powerful beaks. Although they are among the most gentle parrots, a green-wing macaw with behavior problems can be a biting hazard for families with little children (and little fingers). Most species of parrots will develop behavioral issues if they do not get sufficient attention from you or their human flock.
Speech and Vocalizations
The green-wing macaw can be taught to speak about 15 words but is not known for its talking ability. This bird will screech and scream, for example, when it gets excited, feels threatened, or wants attention. This bird can get loud. This species is an unsuitable companion for those who live in an apartment or other close quarters.
The green-wing macaw is one of the most recognizable of all the parrot species. These bright birds are a deep vibrant red on the head, shoulders, and breast with a greenish band below the shoulders and wings. The green band transitions to dark blue on the wings, and there is light blue on the rump and on the tail feathers.
The long tail feathers are red, tipped in blue. The legs and feet are a deep gray, and the beak is horn-colored with a black lower mandible. The bird has eye patches on the face. Males and females are indistinguishable, except that males are slightly larger. To figure out the sex of the bird, it will need DNA testing or surgical sexing.
In the wild, green-wing macaws live in flocks of six to eight birds; they are very social. Green-wing macaws are highly responsive to training and must be given adequate attention and bonding time due to their social natures. A bored macaw is a destructive macaw.
Plan to spend plenty of time socializing with your bird. When you take a green-wing macaw into your home, you effectively become its “flock” and must include it in family activities.
A large macaw like a green-wing needs a roomy cage: 2 1/2 feet by 3 feet at a minimum. The green-wing is a somewhat quieter bird than some of the other large macaws, but it is still a loud species.
Mount a sturdy perch in the cage, and be prepared to replace it occasionally as it gets damaged. Food, water, and treat dishes should be mounted above the perch on the side of the cage. Branches within the enclosure will offer the bird climbing exercise. Provide a variety of toys for chewing and playing. A playpen structure at the top of the cage is a good idea.
The green-wing macaw will also do well if kept in an outdoor aviary during warm weather. It can also adapt well to an entire room dedicated as an indoor “bird room.”
Owning a huge green-wing macaw is an expensive endeavor that requires a lot of constant attention. Before bringing this bird home, be prepared to spend much in terms of time, feed, equipment, veterinary bills, and possibly home repair costs.
Common Health Problems
Green-wing macaws, like other macaw species, are susceptible to some diseases, including:
- Pro ventricular dilation disease (also called macaw wasting disease): This viral disease causes intestinal problems as well as neurological symptoms. It is usually fatal, and the best preventive measures are to keep the birds isolated from other birds that might carry the virus.
- Psittacine beak-and-feather disease: A disease caused by a circovirus, it kills the cells of the feather and beak and also compromises the immune system. It is usually fatal and is best prevented by making sure your bird has been properly quarantined before you buy it.
- Psittacosis: This bacterial disease causes respiratory symptoms and eye discharge. Stressed birds are most susceptible, and prompt treatment with antibiotics can often cure the disease.
Other problems that are less serious include allergies and behavior problems, such as feather plucking, which usually occurs in parrots that are bored or frustrated.
Diet and Nutrition
In the wild, green-wing macaws eat fruit, seeds, berries, and nuts. They also congregate at clay cliffs. Clay contains minerals and salts that the birds consume to neutralize toxins.
Pet green-wing macaws, like all parrots, should consume a high-quality commercial seed and pellet mix in addition to daily servings of bird-safe fruits and vegetables. Most green-wings enjoy being hand-fed at the same time as family mealtime. Green-wing macaws are known to eat some protein in the wild, and in captivity, they will eat bits of cooked chicken.
Each macaw, depending on its size, will eat about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of parrot mix and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruit and vegetables every day. You can feed it once in the morning upon waking and at dusk before it goes to sleep. Remove all uneaten food before bedtime.
As with all parrots, avocado, chocolate, rhubarb, and coffee beans are toxic.
Although they are not as active as other large parrots, green-wing macaws still need plenty of exercise for both mental and physical stimulation. You will need to provide 2 to 3 hours of supervised out-of-cage playtime daily. Provide a separate playpen structure away from the cage for exercise periods.
Make sure that you keep a close on your birds while they are out of the cage. Green-wing macaws are known for being voracious chewers and can chew through a door frame or expensive molding with lightning speed. You should invest in some good-quality chew toys and be ready to keep resupplying them, as these are disposable items where macaws are concerned.
- Friendly, affectionate, tame disposition
- Intelligent, can learn to speak up to 15 words and trained to perform tricks
- Long-lived species
- Can be loud, so not well-suited for apartments
- One of the largest parrots, requires a large cage
- Strong, powerful beak is a biting hazard around young children
Where to Adopt or Buy a Green-Wing Macaw
This bird is not commonly sold in pet stores, so you’ll need to seek out a breeder to purchase a green-wing macaw. If you decide to buy a green-wing macaw, make sure you deal with a reputable breeder who can verify the bird’s status. This bird can cost from $1,000 to $3,000 when buying from an extortionate pet store.