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Noble Macaw

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Is the Noble Macaw right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Red-shouldered Macaw (shared with Hahn's Macaw), Southern Red-shouldered Macaw

Scientific name: Diopsittaca cumanensis

The basics:
The Noble Macaw and its close relative, Hahn's Macaw, are the smallest of the mini-macaws and have now been moved out of the Ara (classic macaw) genus and into their own category, Diopsittaca. While they have the spark, personality, and instincts of the true macaws, they come in a smaller package that makes them seem especially cute. Don't assume that because they're small, they can't be noisy. They can be boisterous, and you'll want to give them plenty of toys and activities to keep their lively energies properly channeled.

Noble Macaws are a successful species found over a wide area of central South America. In the wild, with their graceful tapering bodies, they may seem halfway between the conures and the macaws. The fact that at least a few pairs of Noble's Macaws breed in termite mounds found in trees seems very conure-like. However, the bare white face doesn't let us forget their relationship to the larger macaws.

Appearance:
Hahn's and Noble Macaw are the smallest of the mini macaws. Both species look similar enough that they were only split into separate species in 2014 but you can easily separate them by eye. Hahn's Macaw has an all-dark bill, while the Noble Macaw has a horn-colored upper mandible. Nobles also tend to run slightly larger, with a slightly bulkier bill.

Weight:
130 - 170 grams (4.6 - 6 oz.)

Average size:
30 centimeters (12 in.)

Lifespan:
30 - 40 years

Behavior / temperament:
Noble Macaws can be a great choice for someone who wants the macaw personality in a smaller package. They have 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 Noble 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. They have a good reputation for being able to amuse themselves if provided with sufficient toys, and they can learn a few words.

Housing:
A good minimum sized primary cage for the Noble 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 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 pet 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.

Diet:
The Noble Macaw demands a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. There are several diets that work. A good pellet-based diet, with lots of chopped vegetables and fruits on the side, can be a good daily offering, 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. 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, Noble Macaws 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 Noble 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 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

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