Severe (Chestnut-Fronted) Macaw: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Chestnut-fronted macaw
Glenn Bartley / Getty Images

Eye-catching and charmingly easy-going, severe macaws are the largest of the mini macaws. These birds pack a lot of personality into a smaller, easier-to-care-for package. They are also among the best talkers and enjoy socializing with their human flock.

Species Overview

Common Names: Severe macaw, chestnut-fronted macaw, Brazilian green macaw

Scientific Name: Ara severa severa

Adult Size: 15 to 20 inches, weighing just under 1 pound

Life Expectancy: Can be expected to live for up to 30 years, some even longer

Origin and History

The severe macaw is native to southern Central America and northern South America. It's particularly well-known in Panama and Bolivia. There are also populations in Brazil, where the bird is commonly known as the Brazilian green macaw. This species has been introduced to Florida as well. It gets the name "severe" for its aggressive stage of development at adolescence.

In the wild, the severe macaw enjoys forests and habitats of all kinds as long as trees are available. They generally prefer areas that are subject to river flooding. It can be challenging to see them because they enjoy roosting in cavities high up in the trees.

Farm fields offer plenty of food for these birds. It's not uncommon to find large, very loud flocks foraging the fields early in the morning. These birds can be a nuisance for farmers.

Severe macaws often congregate at clay licks with a variety of other birds. These clay hills usually caused by erosion along riverbanks are popular spots for many parrots. It's thought that the clay supplements their diet, protecting against toxins in their food and providing essential minerals.

Temperament

Not bred in captivity as long as other parrots, severe macaws have not been fully domesticated. They continue to exhibit many of their instincts like lunging and screeching. However, when socialized as a young bird, they can become ideal pets.

Friendly and comical, the severe macaw's larger-than-life personality makes it a favorite among bird lovers. With adequate socialization, severe macaws bond quickly with their owners, responding well to training, learning tricks, and boasting impressive speech abilities.

Severe macaws are also curious. They love puzzles and games and can become enamored by shiny things. Keep your jewelry out of reach; it may get unintentionally damaged.

One unique characteristic that seems out of place with this friendly species is that they generally don't like a lot of touching. Quite often, they're more content to be near their owner or on their shoulder, but in most cases, this parrot does not like cuddling or petting.

Like many parrots, severe macaws go through a bluffing stage as they reach maturity. This stage can last for two weeks or up to two years. If you plan on getting a young macaw, you will need to be patient and enforce its training during potential periods of lunging, nipping, biting, hissing, and general resistance to interaction. For this reason, pre-adolescent macaws may not be suitable for families with young children.

Speech and Vocalizations

Severe macaws are one of the best talking parrots. Many of these birds can speak with surprising clarity, and their high-pitched voice is quite fun to listen to. They can also develop an extensive vocabulary.

Their vocalizations can be fun and fabulous to display for guests, but this bird can become too much for some owners and their neighbors. It is a very loud bird for its size and is known to call out in the morning, midday, and sunset. It is best to ignore unwanted screams rather than scold the bird. They're smart birds, and they will eventually learn right from wrong.

Severe Macaw Colors and Markings

Severe macaws are mostly a shimmery green with dark, chestnut-colored patches on their foreheads and under their beaks. The crown of their head has a patch of iridescent blue feathers, and they bear distinctive red patches on the edges of their wings. The tail feathers are blue with red undersides, which shimmer when they're in flight.

This species exhibits the classic bare macaw facial patch. This bird also has fine, dark feather lines circling the eyes, which is unique among macaws.

The bird's beak and feet are gray, and the iris of their eyes is a beautiful yellow-gold. It's a monomorphic bird, meaning that the males and females are identical. To determine the sex, your bird would require genetic testing or a surgical sexing procedure.

Caring for a Severe Macaw

While severe macaws are known to be very social, all parrots require a certain amount of training to ensure that the bird remains tame. Make sure that you at least two hours to spend with your pet each day.

Without socialization and adequate mental stimulation, severe macaws can grow bored and depressed, which can lead to destructive behavior and stress-related illness.

Severe macaws can be fun pets, but they require time and specialized care that not everyone can provide. They thrive on family time because it replicates the feeling of a flock, and, unlike some other parrots, they don't tend to become strictly one-person birds.

Another consideration before you commit to this bird is the cost of ownership. In addition to the initial layout for the bird, think about the avian veterinarian bills, high-quality feed, and the accessory costs for a cage, play stand, and toys.

Even for a smaller macaw, this bird needs a cage sized for a large macaw that is at least 5-feet tall and 3-feet wide and 2-feet long. These birds need room to stretch out their wings fully and ample space to move about the cage without hindrance.

Common Health Problems

Severe macaws are a hardy species of macaw. They do not get ill frequently. However, if they were to be exposed to other ill birds, they are susceptible to proventricular dilation disease (macaw wasting disease) and psittacosis (chlamydiosis or parrot fever).

The key to a healthy bird is a well-balanced diet, a regular exercise regimen, sanitary housing conditions, uninterrupted sleep at night, and daily socialization with its human flock.

If the bird feels neglected or ignored, it may resort to unwanted behaviors like feather plucking or loud screeching.

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, their diet consists of seeds, nuts, fruits, green leafy matter, and flowers. Feed your severe macaw a varied diet consisting of high-quality seed and pellet mix and daily offerings of fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables.

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.

Fruits that are good to feed to macaws include apples, pears, plums, cherries, grapes, oranges, bananas, mangos, papayas, and berries. Healthy vegetables include carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and leafy greens. Never feed avocado, chocolate, or rhubarb; these foods are toxic to birds. As a treat, offer nuts like macadamias, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts.

Exercise

Severe macaws might be smaller macaws, but they are all muscle. In the wild, a severe macaw might fly several hundred miles a day looking for food. It is essential to provide sufficient exercise for your pet to maintain a healthy body.

Pet severe macaws should be given a minimum of two to four hours playtime outside of their cage each day. This out-of-cage time will enable the bird to stretch its muscles and exercise its wings and beak.

You should also provide your bird with many toys. They are intelligent birds and will thoroughly enjoy any puzzles or games you can give them. To keep your bird stimulated, rotate its toys often, so it always feels like it has a new toy.

Pros
  • Intelligent, can learn to speak and perform tricks

  • Smaller-sized macaw

  • Less prone to avian diseases

Cons
  • Can be noisy, not well-suited for apartments

  • Requires at least 2 to 4 hours of supervised out-of-cage time

  • More wild than other macaw species

Where to Adopt or Buy a Severe Macaw

Purchase a severe macaw from a reputable breeder or adoption agency. Contact breeders to see if you can spend some time with them and their birds. Talk to someone who has experience raising these birds before you decide if they are right for you. Also, be aware that these birds can cost about $1,500 to $2,500.

Some online sources where you can find severe macaw include:

Make sure that the bird you want to take home is alert, active, and exhibits all the signs of a healthy bird, such as bright eyes, clean feathers, and full crops.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

Parrots similar to the severe macaw include: 

Otherwise, check out other kinds of medium to large-sized pet birds.

Article Sources
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  1. Chestnut-fronted Macaw. Riverview Park & Zoo, 2020