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Red-bellied Macaw

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Is the Red-bellied Macaw right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Guacamaya Manilata

Scientific name: Orthopsittaca manilatus

The basics:
Either the smallest "real" macaw or the largest mini-macaw, the Red-bellied Macaw looks like a good choice for people seeking the macaw spirit in a smaller package. Unfortunately, because of its specialized diet, this species can be a real challenge. Most parrots live longer in captivity than in the wild, but for this species, the reverse may be the case. As a result, at this time we can only recommend this species to serious experts.

This widespread South American species was once classed in the same genus as the larger macaws, so you may find older experiences and information on this bird under the name Ara manilata. However, it is beyond any doubt a different genus. Be aware that, in the bad old days, Red-bellies given the same diet as the larger Ara macaws frequently died within months.

Appearance:
The Red-bellied Macaw is a mid-sized green macaw with a red belly and a noticeable bare yellow face that puts the emphasis on its intelligent-looking dark eyes.

Weight:
300 grams (10.5 oz.)

Average size:
46 centimeters (18 in.)

Lifespan:
20 - 40 years

Behavior / temperament:
Red-bellied Macaws are sometimes described as shy or nervous. However, they are a pair-bond species, and there are reports of individuals becoming tightly bonded to their owner. Keep in mind that these flock birds would never be alone in the wild. If you have a single pet, the bird will expect to spend lots of time with you every day. It is possible for them to learn to talk if you start young, but if your primary desire is to own a talking parrot, you may want to consider one of the many other talking species that don't require such a tricky diet.

Housing:
A good minimum sized primary cage for the Red-bellied 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 though they're a smallish macaw, they're known for their chewing.

They may also benefit from a roostbox to sleep or hide inside when they're feeling bashful.

It is very important to provide a large playpen area that is away from the cage -- NOT on top of the cage. 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:
According to the World Parrot Trust, the Red-bellied Macaw is heavily dependent on consuming the diet of wild Mauritia palm fruits. Parrot expert Howard Voren visited Guyana to study the problem, where he concluded that this bird's life cycle revolves around these swamp palm trees-- not just for food but for communal night roosts and nest cavities too. According to his report, the palm nuts in question were very high in carbohydrate and very low in fat. Captive birds, fed fatty seed like sunflower, were at extremely high risk of obesity and its associated diseases.

The current Red-bellied Macaw diet recommended by the World Parrot Trust focuses on small, lower fat seeds including canary, millet spray, and green sprouts. Oil seeds like sunflower should be limited. If at all possible, palm fruit and nut should be supplied, in addition to plenty of healthy fruit and greens that provide a natural source of beta carotene. (Voren suggested beta carotene supplements as well.) Because this species still represents challenges, you should always be consulting expert breeders and/or your avian vet to make sure you have the very latest recommended diet.

Written by Elaine Radford

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