Harlequin Macaw

This hybrid bird is one of the bigger and louder parrots

Pair of red-and-green macaws interacting together.

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

The harlequin macaw is a beautiful hybrid parrot that makes an excellent pet for the right person. This full-sized macaw tends to do well with families because the birds thrive on socialization. They are also very good talkers, friendly, and have rather amusing personalities.

Breed Overview

Common Name: Harlequin macaw

Scientific Name: Hybrid Ara chloropterus x Ara ararauna

Adult Size: 35 and 40 inches long, weighing 2 to 3 1/2 pounds

Life Expectancy: 50 years, some may reach up to 80

Origin and History

The word harlequin has two meanings that are very appropriate for this bird. In one sense, it refers to a joker or clown and the birds do have a comical personality. In the other sense, it means variations of color and pattern, a perfect fit for this beautiful, rainbow-colored bird.

Harlequin macaws are only produced in captivity. This bird is known as a first-generation hybrid because it is bred from two "true" species of macaw, the blue and gold macaw as well as the greenwing macaw. The result is a bird with the coloring and characteristics of both parent birds.

The harlequin is also crossed with other true and hybrid macaws to produce second-generation hybrids. Among the most common that have the harlequin's genes are:

  • Fiesta macaw: Bred with the Camelot macaw
  • Harligold macaw: Bred with the blue and gold macaw
  • Harlequin x shamrock macaw: Bred with the shamrock macaw (hybrid)
  • Jubilee macaw: Bred with the greenwing macaw
  • Maui sunrise macaw: Bred with the Catalina macaw (hybrid)
  • Quatro macaw: Bred with the ruby macaw (hybrid)
  • Tropicana macaw: Bred with the scarlet macaw


People who own hybrid birds such as the harlequin macaw claim to have the "best of both worlds." That's because the parents of the harlequin are known for having laid-back and affectionate personalities with good speech abilities and high intelligence.

While each bird will have its own personality, they're generally described as fun, friendly, and rather comical. If they get a lot of socialization with people as a young bird, these macaws will enjoy the company of many different people throughout its life. Without that, they can become one-person birds or develop a preference for either men or women, whichever they're around most often.

A harlequin macaw will have moments of frustration and become cranky, just like any other parrot. Yet, it is a good choice for those who would like a large bird that normally has an even temper and calm demeanor. This is not a bird for everyone because it does pose some unique challenges for an owner.

All parrots tend to be loud, but macaws are the poster-birds for ear-shattering vocalizations. Simply put, if you don't want your parrot to awaken you early every morning by screaming at the top of its lungs, you should consider something other than a macaw as a pet. On the upside, you'll never miss an early morning flight if you have one of these birds as an alarm clock.

Harlequin Macaw Colors and Markings

Harlequin macaws can have a wide variation in their colors and patterns. They are often mistaken for Catalina macaws, which are another hybrid.

Breeders say that a harlequin's coloring depends largely on whether a blue and gold or a greenwing was the male parent because males have the dominant gene. This difference is most prevalent in the color of a harlequin's breast and belly. With a blue and gold father, the breast will be red-orange. If the father is a greenwing, the breast feathers will be a lighter orange.

Most harlequins have striking tones of green and blue on their backs. They also tend to have gold feathers on the underside of their tail feathers. Males and females look the same and without DNA sexing, it's difficult to know the sex of harlequins.

Caring for a Harlequin Macaw

The requirements for providing a good home for a harlequin macaw are the same as other large macaws. They require a lot of socialization and handling, so owners need to be prepared to spend time with the bird daily. A macaw that becomes bored or feels neglected can act out by biting, destroying things around the house, or resort to self-mutilation and feather plucking.

Birds of this size need a large cage that is at least 5-foot square and 8-foot high placed in a draft-free location. It should include a perch and plenty of stimulating toys to keep him occupied while confined. The cage needs to be cleaned at least every two months or more often if needed. Water and food should be provided daily and your bird will be much happier with water to bathe in as well as a mister.

Before rushing out to buy a harlequin macaw, think seriously about the commitment involved in keeping such a bird. Not only can these birds live for five decades or more, but the costs of veterinary bills, high-quality feed, toys, and cages add up quickly. If you feel that you wouldn't be able to provide a bird with the best of everything, consider holding off on adopting one until you can.

Feeding a Harlequin Macaw

Like any large parrot, a harlequin macaw should be fed a diet that includes a high-quality seed and pellet mix. It's also important to include daily servings of fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables.


Pet parrots are prone to obesity, so harlequin macaws need plenty of exercise. This will not only help maintain their physical health but provides much-needed mental stimulation as well. Prepare to set aside a minimum of two to four hours per day for the bird to play outside of its cage. In addition to preventing weight gain, adequate exercise helps stave off boredom.

With a bird this large, you don't want it to get restless and resort to chewing on furniture or other destructive behaviors. Keep your harlequin macaw occupied by handling it daily and providing it with plenty of toys to play with. They can be taught tricks and many individual birds will develop a vocabulary of 15 or so words with training.

Outside of the cage, a sturdy play stand can become your bird's favorite place to hang out. It may take a few times of reminding it that this is where it needs to be, but the birds are smart and can pick up on it quickly. It will enjoy the view and be able to feel part of the family.

Harlequin macaws need plenty of human interaction and mental stimulation to remain healthy, happy and well-adjusted pets. They thrive on being part of a flock, so even though it might take some getting used to, it's a good idea to try to include your bird in as many family activities as possible.

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.