Illiger’s or Blue-Winged Macaws as Pets

First of all – these birds are in danger of extinction and any suitable bird should best be placed into a well-managed breeding program to ensure that future generations will get to enjoy these amazing creatures.

This being said, some Macaws are not suitable for breeding programs and being placed as pets allows them to hopefully enjoy a carefree existence with an owner who will adequately provide for them and ensure both their physical (food and housing) as well as psychological needs (entertainment and companionship) are being met.

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    Blue-winged Macaws aka Illiger’s Macaws (Primolius maracana)

    Illiger's Macaw

    Blue-winged / Illiger’s Macaw Species Page

    Illigers are easier to keep than larger macaws because of their small size. Pet owners enjoy them for their intelligence and clowny personality.

    Like many parrots, they are very inquisitive and have to investigate everything they see. They are heavy chewers and they are not particularly choosy about what they chew — your furniture, electric wiring – anything is fair game.

    For this reason, training is very important, as well as understanding that your home needs to be bird-proofed.

    Electric wiring needs to be hidden or protected (as even trained parrots occasionally “forget their manners” and you need to protect them from getting hurt, as well protect your home from electric fires caused by damaged cables). Aside from this habit and their harsh macaw calls, they make sweet and friendly pets.

    Hand-raised Illigers are usually quite tame and very social. They usually get along very well with other birds. A lone Illiger is quite a sorry sight for those who understand its social personality.

    It is best not to keep them singly to avoid depression and loneliness. Ideally they should be kept in a multi-bird household, or they should be kept in pairs. They enjoy a constant companion and playful friend.

    If you don’t want to get into breeding, get a couple of birds of the same sex (make sure they have been reliably sexed, either DNA or surgically). DNA sexing is pretty inexpensive and easy to do.

    If you do have true male / female combination, you are likely to end up with chicks, and since Illiger’s Macaws have become so endangered, captive breeding is encouraged, provided one is capable of meeting the requirements and demands of such endeavors.

    They are very capable flyers and outside the confines of a cage, you might watch their soaring, diving and dropping.

    To prevent boredom it is important that they be given plenty of toys to play with and chew. Wooden chew toys are usually a hit with this species as this will satisfy their need to chew.

    You have to understand that in the wild, they spend a good time of the day chewing on branches, as a way of “customizing” their environment or they may chew on a tree trunk hole to make it a suitable nesting site.

    These parrots are usually considered medium-noisy. They sentinel / alarm call is quite shrill and loud. They enthusiastically greet their owners and visitors with a raucous croak.

    They reach sexual maturity at 2 to 4 years and can live up to 50 to 60 years.

    Training and Behavioral Guidance / Macaw Behavior

    Diet / Feeding

    Their diet should include a variety of seeds, nuts, green foods, fruits and vegetables. I

    Like all parrots, they pick up food in their claws and eat it from there. Captive birds are quite finicky and have a reputation of will not eat food they are bored with.

    Calls / Vocalizations / Sounds

    These parrots can be very noisy … especially in the early mornings or late afternoons / evenings.

    If you are considering one of these magnificent parrots as pets, please visit the following websites for information:

    Blue-winged Macaws (Primolius maracana) aka Illiger’s Mini Macaws


    Blue-winged or Illiger’s Macaw

    The Blue-winged Macaws (Primolius maracana) – in captivity better known as the Illiger’s Mini Macaws – are members of the mini-macaw family.

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      They occur naturally in central and eastern South America.

      Illigers are closely related to the Yellow-collared Mini Macaws (Primolius auricollis) and Blue-headed Mini Macaw (Primolius couloni), and some consider them conspecific (one and the same species) with the latter.

      Blue-winged Macaws aka Illiger’s Macaws (Primolius maracana)
      Blue-winged or Illiger’s Macaw

      These parrots are endangered in the wild as their habitat is destroyed by deforestation. To preserve this species for future generations, every effort should be made to place any wild-caught Illigers into well-managed breeding programs to allow them to contribute to the gene pool of captive populations.

      Distribution / Habitat

      Illiger's Macaw

      The Illiger’s Macaws formerly occupied a large area in …

      • Central and southern Brazil, with a remnant population in north-east: They occur(ed) in the states of Pernambuco, Piauí, Maranhão, Pará (including Serra do Cachimbo and Marajó island), Tocantins, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Espírito Santo, São Paulo (in and around Caetetus Ecological Station), Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio de Janeiro (atlantic forest) and Rio Grande do Sul. Now believed extinct in the latter.
      • Eastern Paraguay: departments of Concepción, Canindeyú, Amambay, Alto Paraná and Caazapá; and
      • Northeastern Argentina: provinces of Misiones and northern parts of adjacent Corrientes in far north-eastern Argentina) .
        • There are no recent records of them in Misiones or other parts of Argentina. This species is to be believed to be virtually extinct in this country.

      Range of the Illiger's Macaw

      Preferred Habitat

      They are mostly found in forests (mangrove, deciduous, humid / evergreen) – with a preference for gallery forests (along water ways); as well as palm groves and cerrado regions (tropical savanna) up to 3,300 feet (~ 1,006 meters).

      They typically remain at the forest edge and close to bodies of water.


      Illiger’s Macaws are now difficult to find across much of their former vast range. Their numbers have declined to such an extent that this species is now classified as Vulnerable by Birdlife International. Less than 10,000 of these birds are still believed to exist in the wild due to a combination of deforestation (destruction of their favored habitat) and capturing for the pet trade. In Argentina, these birds were hunted by farmers who considered them pests as they foraged on their agricultural crops. They are now believed to be extinct in Misiones, Argentina and Rio Grande Del Sul in Brazil.

      Blue-winged or Illiger’s Macaw (Primolius maracana)


      These small macaws measure 14 to 17 inches (35.6 to 43.2 cm) in length – including the long tail; and weigh around 9.2 oz (265 grams).

      Their plumage is mostly green; except the forehead and sides of abdomen and lower back are orange-red to red. The crown is blue; the head, nape, and cheeks are greenish-blue.

      The flight feathers are blue with bluish-green edges. The undersides of the wings are pale yellow. The top of the tail is olive then turning reddish brown and then bluish towards the tip.

      Their typical Macaw naked facial patch is generally pale yellowish toned, but in captive birds the color may fade to whitish. Fine dark feather lines can be seen across these bare facial patches. The irises are orange-brown. The moderately-sized bill is black and the legs are flesh-colored.

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        Females have a duller plumage compared to the males.

        Juveniles have a paler plumage and less red coloration on the forehead. The red patches on the abdomen and back are tinged with yellow. There are horn-colored edges to their bills. The tail is shorter and the eyes brown.

        Blue-winged or Illiger’s Macaw (Primolius maracana)

        Similar Species:

        • The Illiger resembles the Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata), but the Illiger’s can most easily be identified by their orangey eyes (dark in the Red-bellied), orangey-red forehead and red rump.

        Diet / Feeding

        In the wild, they feed on a variety of food items, including seeds (mainly of the Cnidoscolus phyllacanthus, Jatropha, Guazuma ulmifolia and Melia azedarach plants), nuts, fruits, berries, flowers, green plant matter and some insects. They will also forage in grain and maize fields leading to their persecution by farmers.

        Like all parrots, they pick up food in their claws and eat it from there. Captive birds are quite finicky and have a reputation of will not eat food they are bored with.

        Calls / Vocalizations / Sounds

        They emit loud screeching and other raucous calls that are mostly heard in the early mornings or late afternoons / evenings, or when flying to and from their feeding places.

        Illiger Macaw by Robert01

        Alternate (Global) Names

        Chinese: ?????? … Czech: Ara marakana … Danish: Rødrygget Dværgara … Dutch: Illiger-ara, Illigers Ara … Estonian: roheaara … Finnish: Brasilianara … French: Ara d’Illiger, Ara maracana … German: Maracana, Marakana, Rotrückenara … Guarani: Marakana … Italian: Ara aliblu, Ara di Illiger … Japanese: akabitaihimekongouinko … Norwegian: Rødbukara, Rødrygget ara … Polish: (ara) marakana, ara marakana, marakana … Portuguese: ararinha, Maracanã, maracanã-do-buriti, Maracanã-verdadeira … Russian: ????????????? ??? … Slovak: ara marakana … Spanish: Guacamayo Maracaná, Maracaná afeitado, Maracaná de Dorso Rojo, Maracaná lomo rojo … Swedish: Blåvingad ara

        Breeding / Nesting (in the wild and captivity) … Illiger’s as Pets

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