Yellow-Collared Macaw: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Yellow-Collared Macaws

Pat McGrath/Wikimedia Commons / CC By 2.0 

Charming, crafty, and comical, yellow-collared macaws offer all the personality of a large macaw in a smaller, more affordable, and easier-to-care-for mini macaw package. They make great pets. They are brilliant, which makes training easy, and most of these birds learn to talk quite well. These parrots love attention and enjoy being part of a family. The yellow-collared macaw is a lively, engaging bird that can make an extraordinary companion for the right owner.

Species Overview

Common Names: Yellow-collared macaw, golden-collared macaw, yellow-naped macaw, Cassin's macaw

Scientific Name: Ara auricollis or Primolius auricollis

Adult Size: 15 to 17 inches, weighing between 8 and 10 ounces

Life Expectancy: Upwards of 50 years

Origin and History

Yellow-collared macaws are native to central South America. Their range includes parts of Bolivia and Brazil as well as northern Paraguay and Argentina. In the wild, yellow-collared macaws form tight bonds with their mate and are rarely apart, even when in a flock. They nest in tree cavities within tropical forests and low woodlands. These birds are threatened and are verging on endangered.

The taxonomy of this species is in dispute. Some classify this bird in the Ara genus as a small parrot similar to severe macaws. Others place this bird in the Primolius genus with other mini macaws like the Illiger's macaw, which is one of the yellow-collared's closest relations. The yellow-collared was formerly named something unrelated to both—Propyrrhura auricollis—which confuses matters even more.


Affectionate, but somewhat mischievous, the yellow-collared macaw has a reputation for being an intelligent and resourceful little parrot. It thrives on attention from its owner and will seek that attention by any means necessary. Expect a greeting when you get home and lots of love and affection, whether you want it or not.

Although some are one-person birds, most yellow-collared macaws make extraordinary family pets. It helps when a bird is socialized young. They are generally friendly by nature. These traits are extensions from their pairing and flocking instincts, which they will gladly extend to their human flock.

Given the right amount of training, discipline, and love, these birds can become loyal and affectionate pets that form deep and long-lasting bonds with their owners. However, if this bird does not get consistent training from a young age, then it can be a territorial, nippy bird.

While yellow-collared macaws are generally not as noisy as larger macaws, they are more than capable of being quite loud when the mood strikes. Some people even compare their call to a gull. This noise level makes them not suitable for apartment or condominium living.

Speech and Vocalizations

Many yellow-collareds are gifted talkers. They are capable of saying several words and phrases. Some owners have noted that the yellow-collared macaw can speak with more clarity than larger species. Even so, no parrot is ever guaranteed to talk. Do not buy a bird for its talking ability alone.

Yellow-Collared Macaw Colors and Markings

Yellow-collared macaws have primarily green bodies in various shades. The green can be a little darker than some parrots, though they are shades of olive and lime green. They get their common name from striking yellow bands around the back of their necks (the nape). The birds' long maroon tails have a bright blue hue on the tips. When in flight, you'll also notice yellow under its wings.

The forehead on this bird is a bluish-black color, which is a stark contrast to the large white eye patches that surround an orange iris. The beaks are mostly black, fading into a white point at the end of the upper mandible, and their feet are flesh-colored.

The males and females look alike because this is a monomorphic species of bird. DNA sexing or a surgical sexing procedure are the only ways to tell the sexes apart. Also, the color of this bird's plumage lacks luster as a young bird; its colors will become more vivid with age.

Caring for a Yellow-Collared Macaw

Yellow-collared macaws, like many other mini macaw species, have a reputation for attaching themselves to the person who cares for them most. They crave attention and interaction, and because of this, they're not the right choice if you don't have several hours a day to devote them.

These mini macaws are little escape artists, which stems from their curious and sometimes naughty personality. Make sure you provide a cage that is safe and secure. Though these are smaller parrots, they still need a large cage to explore and stretch their legs and wings. At the minimum, the cage should be 3 feet long by 3 feet wide and 6 feet tall.

Parrots tend to do better with positive reinforcement, so remember to ignore bad behavior and reward good. When your macaw gets a little unruly out of the cage, sometimes all it takes to correct the behavior is to place it back on its perch. With a bit of patience, it will learn what will keep you happy, which is all it wants.

Another essential is a dish of water for a birdbath. These macaws are delighted with water and will splash around to their heart's content if given a chance.

Common Health Problems

Yellow-collared macaws are relatively healthy, long-lived birds but are susceptible to some common pet bird ailments:

  • Proventricular Dilatation Disease (Macaw wasting disease caused by a virus)
  • Feather picking
  • Psittacosis (parrot fever, chlamydiosis bacterial infection)
  • Other bacterial, viral, and fungal infections

Diet and Nutrition

Although the range of wild yellow-collared macaws is relatively small, it spans several countries. The bird eats a great variety of local fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetation. A pet yellow-collared should eat a diet that is just as varied.

Macaws, depending on their 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 per day. Provide fresh drinking water every day. Supplement that with seeds and nuts to keep the bird healthy and happy.

Never feed these birds avocados, chocolate, rhubarb, coffee beans, or alcoholic beverages as they can be toxic.


Yellow-collared macaws live to play. This macaw needs a minimum of 1 to 2 hours of playtime outside of the cage each day to let it stretch and exercise his legs, beak, and wings. This time is also an opportune moment for training, whether it be teaching the bird to talk or fun bird tricks. They love to clown around, and you'll have lots of fun bringing out this part of their personality.

When outside the cage, a sturdy play stand with a place for treats and toys is essential for these playful little acrobats. Good parrot toys should be tough and plentiful in and out of the cage. The yellow-collared macaw needs to stay busy, so the more bird-safe toys you can give your bird, the happier it will be. Wood, leather, and rope are excellent materials, and be sure to have backups available so you can replace worn toys.

  • Social, affectionate, loyal

  • Intelligent, can learn how to talk and perform tricks

  • Quieter than other parrots

  • May not be as noisy, but can still get loud when it wants to

  • Tends to form one-person bond and may shun others

Where to Adopt or Buy a Yellow-Collared Macaw

If you are interested in a macaw or any type of parrot, don't overlook this species in favor of a larger or more colorful bird. They're readily available in the pet trade and should be pretty easy to find. Visit a few birds and, once you interact with a yellow-collared macaw, you will see that these little beauties can be larger than life.

Before purchasing a mini macaw from a bird store or breeder, check animal shelters and rescue organizations. They can cost from $1,500 to $2,500. Online resources can point you in the right direction of breeders or rescues:

The Beauty of Birds is an organization that maintains a directory of reputable parrot breeders in the U.S. If considering a bird breeder, make sure you interview the breeder, look at the general health of their birds, check out their living conditions, and talk to past customers. Signs you should avoid the breeder include cramped living conditions, inactive birds, and breeders who avoid your questions or do not seem to have much information on their birds.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you are interested in similar species, check out:

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