Catalina Macaws (Rainbow Macaw)

A Popular Rainbow-Colored Parrot to Keep as a Pet

Close-up of a Catalina macaw, also called Rainbow macaw, as seen in the Bahamas.
Instants / Getty Images

The Catalina macaw is a rainbow-colored parrot that is a very popular pet. In a way that few other birds can claim, the Catalina combines the traits of the most popular macaws into one spectacularly beautiful package. Many times, it's the Catalina's flashy colors that attract the people who adopt them. Yet, it's their comical personalities that really draw people in.

Common Names

Catalina Macaw, Rainbow Macaw (in Australia)

Scientific Name

Catalina Macaws are a hybrid macaw, so they don't have a true scientific name. The best way to represent these birds in taxonomy is by the expression Ara ararauna x Ara macao.

Origin and History

Catalina macaws are only produced in captivity. This breed was formed by crossing a blue and gold macaw with a scarlet macaw. Therefore, they originate in the homes of bird breeders around the world.

It's interesting to note that the Catalina has an appearance more similar to the scarlet. That is because in bird breeding, the father's genes are dominant. Since captive blue and gold females and scarlet males are the most common, the Catalina is almost always bred with a blue and gold mother and scarlet father.

The Catalina is considered a first-generation macaw hybrid. This means that it derived from two naturally occurring, or "true," birds. Since this is such a beautiful bird, some breeders use it to breed a number of second-generation hybrid macaws (those from at least one hybrid bird). It is also rather common to find second-generation Catalinas that are a cross between two Catalina parents.

Among the colorful macaws that the Catalina has contributed its genes to are:

  • Catablu Macaw: bred with the blue and gold macaw
  • Camelina Macaw: bred with the Camelot macaw (2nd-generation hybrid)
  • Camelot Macaw: bred with the scarlet macaw
  • Flame Macaw: bred with the green-wing macaw
  • Hyalina Macaw: bred with the hyacinth macaw
  • Maui Sunrise Macaw: bred with the harlequin macaw (hybrid)
  • Milicat Macaw: bred with the miligold macaw (hybrid)
  • Militalina Macaw: bred with the military macaw
  • Rubalina Macaw: bred with the ruby macaw (hybrid)
  • Shamalina Macaw: bred with the shamrock macaw (hybrid)

Size

Catalina macaws are a full-sized macaw. At maturity, they generally weigh 2 to 3 pounds and can reach up to 35 inches in length from the beak to the tip of the tail feathers.

Average Lifespan

With proper care, a healthy Catalina macaw can live between 50 and 60 years. It is definitely a long-term pet that requires a strong commitment.

Temperament

It's been said that owners of hybrid macaws get the best of both worlds from the parent species. Scarlet macaws are known to be curious, feisty, and extremely active. In contrast, blue and gold macaws have a reputation for being more laid-back and gentile, and they're great talkers. Catalina owners describe their birds as being a perfect mix between the two.

Each bird will have a unique personality. Some of that will be due to its environment when it's young as well as the home it ends up living in. A Catalina can get cranky and be very demanding on its social needs. Then again, it can be extremely affectionate and charming, offering a lot of fun for its family.

Some Catalina macaws will become one-person birds. They've even been known to prefer men or women exclusively, shunning people of the opposite sex.

If the bird is slowly introduced to a variety of people, it usually becomes rather social and will accept almost anyone. With this approach, they can make a good family pet as long as children are not too young. Both bird and kids should be taught to respect one another as well.

Catalina Macaw Colors and Markings

Hybrid birds are bred primarily for color traits, so the Catalina macaw has a wide range of colors and patterns. There are slight differences from one generation to the next as well.

Most of these birds are primarily red or deep orange on their chests and bellies. Some have brilliant red-orange heads while others have a gorgeous blue-green crown. They tend to have green and blue feathers running down their backs and long tails. Many of them have gold feathers edging their wings and in their tails.

The Catalina is similar to the harlequin macaw and the two hybrids are often mistaken for one another.

Caring for the Catalina Macaw

Highly intelligent, Catalina macaws respond well to training and can be taught to perform several tricks. Many can learn to talk and gain a vocabulary of around 15 words and phrases over their lifetime.

Being social birds, they must spend adequate time bonding with their owners to become happy, well-adjusted pets. If you are looking to adopt a Catalina macaw, make sure that you have plenty of free time to spend with your new bird. These parrots thrive on interaction and will become depressed and destructive if neglected or ignored.

As with all large parrots, these birds need a large cage that is no less the 4 feet wide and long by 5 feet high. The more space you can provide, the better off your bird will be. It should also be supplied with plenty of perches and toys to keep the bird occupied.

Potential owners should think seriously about macaw ownership. Are you willing to be awakened early every morning by a screaming parrot? Can you accommodate the many needs of such an intelligent, inquisitive pet? If you have any doubts, do plenty of research before rushing out to buy a Catalina or any other macaw.

It's also important to consider the costs of owning a pet macaw. Veterinary bills, high-quality feed, toys, and cages all add up very quickly. If you can't provide your bird with the best of everything, think about waiting to adopt one until you can. After all, spoiled rotten parrots make the very best pets.

Feeding the Catalina Macaw

Like any large parrot, a Catalina macaw should be fed a diet that includes a high-quality seed and pellet mix, along with fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables.

Exercise

Catalina macaws need plenty of exercise in order to maintain top mental and physical condition. Those interested in owning a Catalina macaw should set aside a minimum of two to four hours per day for the bird to play outside of its cage. This is crucial to prevent boredom and allow the bird to properly stretch its wings and other muscles.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

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

Otherwise, check out all of our other macaw species profiles.