Illiger's Macaw

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TJ Lin

Is the Illiger's Macaw right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Blue-winged Macaw

Scientific name: Primolius maracana

The basics:
The Illiger's Macaw isn't as well-known as some of the other mini macaws, but it's well-regarded among the more knowledgeable as a sweet-natured, playful parrot with a lot of personal charm. They gained a small amount of publicity during the time when the last surviving wild Spix's Macaw, a male, chose to associate with a female Illiger's Macaw.

This mini macaw ranges through eastern Brazil and into Paraguay and northern Argentina, often traveling in pairs or small flocks, and taking care to fly along tree-lined areas rather than out in the open. Although there hasn't been legal trade in Brazilian birds since the 1960s, the Illiger's Macaw seems to have been affected by illegal trapping, and there are reports that it may be extirpated in some of its former sites in Argentina. Since they seem to feel more secure near trees, then deforestation may also be a problem for these birds.

A green mini-macaw with a bright red forehead and red belly.

265 grams (9.3 oz.)

Average size: 43 centimeters (17 in.)

40 - 50 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Illiger's Macaw can be a great choice for someone who wants the macaw personality in a smaller package. This adaptable mini macaw has the affectionate nature and the intuitive intelligence of the larger macaws, and your pet should easily learn to step up, perform tricks, and maybe even say a few words. Like many other macaws, a mature adult, especially in the breeding season, may have an instinctive drive to nip or bite its mate to drive the mate away from a potential rival. If you are tightly bonded to your Illiger's Macaw, and the bird bites when someone else enters the area, you may need to learn how to recognize what triggers the instinct to bite and how to distract your pet by quickly offering something chewy to occupy that busy beak. These birds do have a strong pair bond, heavily dependent on love and attention, so if you cannot devote the time to spend with your Illiger's Macaw every day, then you should probably consider a different pet.

A good minimum sized primary cage for the Illiger's Macaw would be 24"w x 24"d x 30"h with no more than 1-1/2" bar spacing. Many captive macaws rarely or never fly, so it's more important to have room to encourage them to climb than to worry about a long horizontal flight. The cage should be a professionally constructed, powder-coated metal. Cheap wooden fittings and perches will be chewed-up matchsticks in less than a day. You should employ stout manzanita perches in areas where you do not want to change the perches very often. You should also have plenty of macaw-safe perches and toys for the bird to chew at will. Do not punish the bird for chewing these items to destruction, since you want your pet to chew them for good healthy exercise. Yes, you'll go through a lot of toys. Even a mini macaw is not a cheap date.

It is very important with Illiger's Macaw to provide a large playpen area that is away from the cage -- NOT on top of the cage. At times, especially during hormonal surges, your Illiger's Macaw may become very territorial about its cage, and you will want to have plenty of practice moving the bird to neutral territory where the macaw can play without feeling obligated to defend the area. They may be smaller than many other macaws, but they still have a powerful bite, and you want to establish yourself as kind but in control of the relationship from the very beginning. If you allow yourself to be intimidated, even a smaller macaw can sometimes become aggressive. These birds go in pairs or, perhaps, small family groups in the wild, and it is not natural for them to spend a lot of time alone. Having play areas and perches in the places around the house where you normally go will allow your pet to satisfy its need to be near you as often as possible.

The Illiger's Macaw demands a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. There are several diets that work for this species. A good pellet-based diet, with lots of chopped vegetables and fruits on the side, can be a good daily diet, but take care that this intelligent bird does not get bored with the pellets. Soak-and-cook, either from a vet or a commercial supplier, can be the answer, although it's more work than pellets.

Many people like to create their own grain and legume based diet, which generally includes a mix of well-cooked beans and grains, including brown rice. As a practical matter, you will probably want to prepare the cooked diet in large batches, freezing what you're not using in a couple of days, and then defrosting it as you need it. Small, high carbohydrate seeds like millet can be included in the mix. Don't laugh. Mini macaws do have the patience to crack tiny millet seed, and these seeds are low in fat, so if you have an overweight bird, you can still allow them the pleasure of cracking seed, without loading them down with lots of fat. Unless the bird is very overweight, the Illiger's Macaw will benefit from up to 20% nuts in the diet, especially nuts in the shell that the bird can enjoy cracking for itself. A well-socialized Illiger's Macaw may want to help you eat your dinner, which is fine if you eat a healthy diet that's rich in vegetables and whole grain, but never allow a macaw to sample avocado, chocolate, or undercooked meat or poultry. While several species of macaws have been seen at the clay licks taking salt, today's modern diets already have plenty of salt. Don't salt the macaw's food or provide supplemental salt except on the advice of an avian vet.

Important Note: Since Mini Macaws like the Illiger's Macaw may be at risk for Conure Bleeding Syndrome, they do need vitamin K rich sources in the diet, such as turnip greens and other dark, leafy greens.

Written by Elaine Radford


socializing, good choice, new feathered friend




rarer minimacaws, bare facial patches

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