Atractive because of its exuberant colors, and for imitating sounds, the Macaws usually fascinate people.

MacawThis bird, when raised in captivity from birth, and fed in the hand, is very docile with people it knows, and gets specially attached to the person who takes care of it. With strangers, though, it is shy, and sometimes even aggressive. It can learn to dance, and to imitate barking, whistling and even the human voice.

In nature, it emits only peculiar sounds and screams. It lives in small groups, except during mating, when they regroup in pairs. It loves to bathe in the rain, and makes its nests inside a hollow tree trunks, or in holes it digs in banks, or even in rock cavities. It can fly up to a hundred kilometers in search of food: flowers and tree sprouts, larvae, seeds, fruit and tender parts of trunks and tree roots. It munches wood to keep beak muscles in shape.

There are 7 large sized species, which are prefered for domestic breeding (they vary, in size, from 70 to 90cm), and can be found in Central and South America. Most of them are almost extinct, therefore, the breeding should aim at reproduction. Four species are found in Brazil, two of which, Canindé (Ara Ararauna), and Red Arara (Ara Chloroptera), are not considered in danger of extinction. All species are currently bred in captivity, which enhances the chances of perpetuation. The biggest breeders are in the United States and in Europe, where an individual is worth 1,200 to 15 thousand dollars. In Brazil, importing is allowed if authorized by IBAMA, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources. The authorization is given if foreign breeder presents a license issued by his own country, usually for birds born at registered breederies.

Also in Brazil, IBAMA is giving authorizations for commercial breeding of the Canindé and Red Macaws, and, in this case, the first couples can be obtained at the IBAMA office, if breeder fulfills legislation requirements for commercial breeding, that is, adequate housing, in an adequate environment, and veterinarian assistance.


Housing: Several species can be put together, provided that they get along, and have the same size. Spacious aviaries, which allow them to fly, made of resistant canvas and metal structure. Three fourths of the roof should be made of asbestos roofing tiles or clay tiles, under which there will be perches made of branches (several sizes, but all allowing birds to close their fingers), some near the food trough; the nest, a wood cube with a hole big enough for Macaw to go in and out measuring 55(height), 60(width) and 80(length), one meter from the ground, supported by 4 concrete columns ou suspended; concrete food trough 80cm above ground, supported by 2 concrete columns and with 6 shallow holes; one for water, and the others for food. In the other 1/4 of the roof, solarium, with more perches. Cemented floor, with a 5% inclination, for water draining. Back and lateral concrete walls, to protect from drafts. For a couple, 2,2m high x 2,5 wide x 8m long aviary. To breed it loose, cut wings since very young, and leave it like that for about a year. After that, when the wing grows, it flies, but comes back because it has already gotten used to the place. It needs a shelter: an umbrella or small roof next to a short and isolated tree, which will serve as a perch and nest similar to the one described for the aviary.
Feeding in captivity: Feed fruit, sunflower seeds daily, and 7 pieces of dog food per bird, three times a week; cream crackers once a week. Besides that, alternate in the week 3 of the following items: sugar cane in pieces, cooked rice, ripe coconut, green or dried corn, bread, green vegetables with thick stems, such as kale and cabbage. Cut in 2cm squares - it's easier for bird to grab, and avoids wasting. Test quantity by observing if there are leftovers. Leave a brick soaked in water and salt available (1 cup salt for 11 cups of water) for a whole day, so birds chew it completely. Water should be changed daily.
Breeding: Easy in captivity. From 3 years old on. From September through March. Couple should be identified by bird veterinarian (male feeds female on the beak, specially during this time). From 2 to 3 eggs, hatched during 28 days, approximately. Conditions for breeding: a quiet place, good food, one couple (which doesn't fight) per aviary.
Health: Sensitive to verminosis, specially the Capilariosis, transmitted by bird excrements. Aviary must be kept clean, and it's necessary to control this with periodic lab fezes exams.
Life span in captivity: More than 40 years.
Breeders: 1) Raintree Macaws, Joanne Abramson, California, USA, tel: (001707) 964-4380/fax: 964-1868; 2) Dale Thompson, California, USA, tel: (001805) 252-48471/fax: 297-5498); 3) Gill du Venago, South Africa, tel: (00271211) 31340/ Fax: 22192.

We would like to thank breeders Reginaldo Leone, Nelson Kawall, Luís G. Maluf and Lolita Bampi (head of the Wild Life department in the Brasilia branch of IBAMA). Consulting for Information: Werner C. A. Okermann, biologist, responsible for bird section of the São Paulo Zoo, and Luíz G. Maluf.
Text: Carmen Olivieri Text editor: Marcos Pennacchi

Picture: Fernando Torres de Andrade
Owner: São Paulo ZOO

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