5 Fun Facts About Macaws

Scarlet Macaw
mlorenzphotography / Getty Images

Macaws are perhaps the most easily recognizable birds in the parrot family (Psittacidae). Colorful and entertaining, these birds have been kept as pets for hundreds of years. Unlike many other parrots, macaws typically have signature patches of bare skin on their faces that can range in size and color.

What is a macaw bird?

Macaws are a popular type of parrot that include 17 different species native to tropical North, Central, and South America. Identifiable by their large, curved beaks and long tail feathers, macaw parrots have vibrant colors and a friendly, extroverted temperament.

These birds are characters, each having different personalities, likes, and dislikes. Due to their size, macaws can be challenging to care for, but for the right owners, they are loyal companions who are worth the time commitment. Here are a few fun facts about these playful members of the parrot family.


7 Things to Know About Owning a Macaw

  • 01 of 05

    Macaws Are the Largest Parrots

    Blue hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) adult in a tree.

    Jürgen & Christine Sohns / Getty Images

    There are more than 400 different types of parrots (in the order Psittaciformes), and macaws are the largest. Macaws normally weigh between two and four pounds, which is fairly hefty for a bird. The largest of the macaws, the hyacinth macaw, can reach lengths of nearly three and a half feet long from the beak to the tip of the tail. Also, they boast an impressive wingspan of up to 60 inches.

  • 02 of 05

    There Are Many Macaw Varieties

    Face of a blue macaw.

    Digislides / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    While macaws are widely known as the largest parrots, it is worth noting that there are many different types of macaws that come in a variety of sizes.

    The smallest macaws, known affectionately as mini macaws, sometimes only grow to lengths of 12 inches, about the size of a medium-sized conure or large parakeet. No matter how big or small they are, all macaws (with the exception of the hyacinth macaw) share a few common attributes, the most prominent being the bare rings of skin around their eyes. For many people, this is the most recognizable trait among macaws.

  • 03 of 05

    Macaws Can Live More Than 80 Years

    Blue and gold macaw in flight.

    agustavop / Getty Images

    When properly taken care of, some macaw species, such as blue and gold macaws, can live for an average of 60 years, and many have been recorded to live for up to 80 years or even more.

    Those who are interested in adopting a macaw are strongly cautioned to make sure that they are willing to commit enough time to care for their pet. It is not at all uncommon for these birds to outlive their owners, so make the same provisions for their care as you would for any other dependent. Or consider adopting an older macaw to provide it with a forever home!

  • 04 of 05

    It Is Possible to Breed Hybrid Macaws

    Face of a macaw hybrid.

    J & C Sohns / Getty Images

    As many different varieties of macaws as there are naturally, breeders in the pet trade have also been able to make bold and colorful hybrid macaws.

    Examples of hybrid macaws include the Catalina macaw, the harlequin macaw, and the Camelot macaw. While these birds have been extraordinarily popular among pet owners, many oppose the breeding of hybrid macaws, since these birds do not occur naturally in the wild.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Some Macaws Are Strong Enough to Crack Coconut Shells

    Hyacinth macaw cracking open a shell with its beak.

    RafaPress / Getty Images

    Hyacinth macaws have enough strength in their massive beaks to crack a coconut shell.

    Despite their impressive strength, hyacinth macaws are known as the "gentle giants" of the macaw world due to their sweet and affectionate dispositions, especially when raised as hand-fed babies.

    Other types of macaws also have powerful and impressive beaks, making them a force to be reckoned with during acts of aggression or bouts of hormonal behavior. This is a major reason why macaws are generally recommended only for those who have experience keeping large parrots.

    And to reiterate, macaws, like all parrots, need social interaction and socialization so they don't grow bored. A bored macaw will vocalize often, perform feather destructive behavior, and will chew on any wood it can find, and with its powerful beaks, this can mean serious destruction.