Scarlet Macaws aka Red & Yellow Macaws

The very large and colorful Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) – also known as Red-and-yellow, Red-breasted or Red-yellow-and-blue Macaws – are endemic to the Central and South American rain forests.

They are usually observed flying in pairs or in family groups. Occasionally, larger groups are feeding high up in the canopy or other favored feeding sites.

They have very powerful beaks that can generate a pressure of 500 up to 2,000+ psi (pounds per square inch). Humans, for example, average a bite force of around 150 psi. These powerful birds are capable of crushing or opening even the hardest nuts and seeds.

FREE video course:
Stop Your Bird's Biting

    In flight, these birds can reach speeds of up to 35 miles / 56 km per hour.

    These birds are on the endangered species list due to loss of their natural habitat caused by deforestation, as well as illegal capturing of chicks and adults for the international pet trade.

    Locals also hunt them for their meat and decorative feathers.

    Scarlet Macaws
    Scarlet Macaw

    Distribution Map - Scarlet Macaw
    Red-and-green Macaws or Green-winged Macaws (Ara chloroptera)

    Red-and-green Macaw (Ara chloropterus), also known as the Green-winged Macaw

    Distribution / Habitat

    Their natural habitat extends from eastern Panama in Central America south across northern South America, east of the Andes, to Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay.

    These birds have also been introduced an in few urban areas in the United States, Europe and Latin America.

    They occur naturally at elevations from sea level up to 3,281 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level. In Costa Rica, they have been recorded as high up as 4,921 feet (1,500 meters).

    They are mostly found in tropical evergreen and riparian forests, near rivers and clearings with big trees.

    Seasonal movements in response to fruit availability have been noted.

    Subspecies, Ranges and Identification:

    • Ara macao macao – Linnaeus, 1758 – nominate form
      • Range: Central Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama in Central America, south through northern and eastern Colombia (recent record from Nariño), east through Venezuela and the Guianas to central Brazil, and south to eastern Ecuador, eastern Peru and northeastern Bolivia.
    • Ara macao cyanoptera – Wiedenfeld, 1995
      • Range: North Central America, from southeast Mexico to Nicaragua
      • ID: Larger than the nominate race. Has blue tips to the yellow wing feathers, with little or no green.
    Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)
    Scarlet Macaws


    They are among the largest birds. They measure 31.5 – 38.4 inches (80 – 96.5 cm) in length, half of it is comprised of the long, pointed tail. They weigh between 32 – 53 oz (900 – 1490 g).

    These parrots were named for the brilliant colors of their plumage, most of it is a vibrant red except for the blue black, rump and flight feathers, and the conspicuous yellow patches on the wings (on the upperwing coverts).

    The outer tail feathers are blue and the central tail feathers red. The undersides of the wings and tails are dark red with a glossy gold iridescence.

    The facial skin is whitish without any feather lines (distinguishing it from the Green-winged Macaws).

    The upper bill of its powerful beak is light tan in color with black at the tips and base, and the lower bill is black. The legs and feet are also black.

    FREE video course:
    Stop Your Bird's Biting

      Males / Gender ID

      Males and females look mostly alike; except the males may have longer feathers and slightly larger bills.


      Immature birds have shorter tails and the lower bills of their beaks are grey. Their bare facial skin is pinkish-white and their legs and feet dull grey. The color of their eyes changes over time from black to grey to white to the adult eye coloration of light yellow.

      Similar Species:

      They are often confused with the Green-winged Macaw. They are most easily distinguished by the following:

      • Upper Wing Feathers: The Green-winged has green upper-wing covert feathers – while the Scarlet Macaw has yellow, or yellow and green upper wing feathers.
      • Scarlet macaw in flight
      • Plumage: Lighter red plumage
      • Tail: Longer, red-tipped tail (blue-tipped in the Green-winged)
      • Face: The Green-winged Macaw has red feather stripes around their eyes on the otherwise bare white skin patch, which the Scarlet doesn’t have. Please prefer to the images below …
      • Size: The Scarlet Macaw is smaller than the Green-winged Macaw. This is most obvious when they are seen side-by-side.
      Scarlet-Macaw lacks the lines of red feathers around the eyes that can be seen in the Green-winged Macaw

      Diet / Feeding

      In their natural habitat, they feed on palmfruits, figs, berries, seeds, nuts and pods. They also take insects and their larvae – particularly during the breeding season, when their need for protein increases. They also supplement their diet with nectar, leaf shoots and flowers.

      Nuts, leaves, berries and seeds from the rainforest make up the bulk of its diet. It’s strong, hooked beak is perfect for breaking nuts and seeds. Interestingly, the scarlet macaw can eat fruits toxic enough to kill other animals.

      This could be because they also eat large amounts of clay found on the banks of rivers, which is thought to neutralize plant poisons.

      The locations of at least 120 known clay licks are known in the Amazon basin, where large flocks of them are found feeding. Some of the more accessible locations have become tourist attractions.

      Breeding / Nesting

      They reach reproductive maturity when they are about 3 to 4 years old and form monogamous pair bonds that last a lifetime.

      Pairs are usually seen together, except when one of them is incubating eggs or brooding / taking care of young chicks. Pairs show affection by feeding and preening each other, and licking each other’s faces.

      Nesting usually occurs once every one or two years, and the breeding season varies by their range, rainy seasons and availability of food. Those found in the southern parts of their range usually start breeding in December and those further north may get started in late December to January. If conditions are right, they breed year-round.

      These cavity nesters will usually raise their young in the holes of dead or live tall canopy trees (such as broken tree limps) or holes excavated by other birds, including large woodpeckers. Occasionally, they excavate their own cavities in soft snags.

      The average clutch size consists of one up to four white, rounded eggs (mostly one or two), Most of the incubation (brooding) of the eggs is undertaken by the female; while the male protects the nest and brings food.

      He will assist with the brooding, as needed. The eggs are incubated for 24 – 28 days to hatching. Depending on the age of the chicks, the parents will feed them 4 to 15 times each day.

      FREE video course:
      Stop Your Bird's Biting

        The younger ones have to be fed more often since their crops are smaller. As the chicks grow larger, their crops can hold more food and the number of feedings each day goes down.

        The chicks will fledge (leave the nest) when they are about 97 to 140 days old and are independent about one or two years later. The parents won’t get started on a new brood until their previous young have become independent.

        Calls / Vocalizations / Sounds

        They emit harsh, loud screeching calls, which are somewhat more drawn out than calls made by the Blue-and-gold Macaws. Their vocalizations include harsh screeches, guttural squawks and growls.

        Sound Recordings

        Scarlet Macaws as Pets

        Lifespan / Longevity

        They can expect to live 33 to 50 years. Captive birds that received quality care have lived to the ripe, old age of 80.

        Their shorter lifespan in the wild is mostly due to predation of the young (mostly), nesting or vulnerable adults by monkeys, toucans, snakes, and other large mammals.

        They reach reproductive maturity when they are about 3 to 4 years old.

        Further Macaw Information

        Scarlet Macaws as Pets


        Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)

        Scarlet Macaws as Pets:

        They are beautiful, yet high-maintenance pet birds that require an experienced bird owner, or someone who is committed to learning about them, and providing the appropriate environment and care for this magnificent parrot.

        In the wild, macaws are used to “customizing” their environment, chewing on branches, creating a nest to raise their young. In a home, they will continue to chew and explore with their beak anything that is in their environment.

        Training is important to integrate them into the family, and develop acceptable behavior. Providing them with a very large cage that allows for movements inside the cage, toys, several food dishes and branches is important.

        They can be cranky at times and may be a one person bird or sometimes develop a liking for only men or women.

        Red-and-green Macaws or Green-winged Macaws (Ara chloroptera)

        These large birds can be very noisy, as they make loud, low-pitched, throaty squawks and screams.

        They are popular cage birds for those who can pay both the high price of the bird and the price of the big cage needed, can stand their loud calls, and can give them considerable time outside their cages. They are considered sociable and affectionate, and some talk well.

        Daily care includes keeping the cage, playground(s) and food / water / bathing dishes clean, providing fresh food items, dry food as well as clean water for drinking and bathing; plus providing daily exercise and time out of the cage.

        They tend to be more aggressive than other macaws and generally do not tolerate other birds, pets or small children. They are only recommended for experienced bird owners, with some knowledge of bird training and handling.

        FREE video course:
        Stop Your Bird's Biting

          Scarlet Macaw


          They need a roomy cage and extended periods of out-of-cage activities. Providing them with a play pen or parrot perch will provide them with a safe-out-of-cage hang-out, and prevent them from sitting and destroying (chewing on) on your furniture.

          Macaws in Captivity / as Pets – Things to consider before adding a Macaw to your family

          Training and Behavioral Guidance:

          Macaw ownership generally presents multiple challenges, such as excessive chewing – especially at certain stages in their life. They do discover their beaks as method of “disciplining us” once they are out of the “baby stage” and they can generally be somewhat naughty, and it really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established. Undisciplined macaws will chew on electric wiring potentially causing house fires.

          They regard anything in your home as a “toy” that can be explored and chewed on; destroying items that you may hold dear or are simply valuable.

          Even a young bird that has not been neglected and abused requires proper guidance; this becomes even more challenging when it involves a rescued bird that may require rehabilitation.

          Not everybody can tolerate the natural loud call of a macaw and even though it can’t (or should not) be entirely eliminated, there are ways to discourage screaming / screeching in your pet macaw.

          Overall, it is important to guide parrot behavior, but even more so if your feathered family member is a magnificent and powerful macaw.

          • AvianWeb Resources: I put together web resources for you to help you understand your pet bird and properly direct him. Please visit the following website to learn more about parrot behavior and training.

          Scarlet macaw in flight

          Diet / Feeding

          They eat a variety of seeds (unfortified / organic), fruits, veggies, nuts and high quality pellets (Dr. Harvey’s, Lafebers, Harrisons, etc.), as well as nutritional food items, such as fruits and vegetables.

          *Please note: When feeding pellets to your pet, please be aware of the fact that overly feeding citrus fruits (including oranges) or vitamin-C-rich foods to your birds can lead to “Iron Overload Disease” as vitamin C increases the amount of iron absorbed from foods and supplements.

          Further Macaw Information

          Photo of author

          Team Beauty of Birds

's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

          You can meet our team here.
          Team Beauty of Birds is separate from the “Parrot Parent University” parrot training course and its instructors.