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Severe Macaw

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Is the Severe Macaw right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Chestnut-fronted Macaw

Scientific name: Ara severus

The basics:
Like the other mini macaws, Severe Macaws are admired for having the intelligent, social macaw personality in a smaller, easier-to-handle package. A well-socialized pet can be self-confident and able to approach anyone, and these vocal mini macaws do have the potential to learn a few words.

This mini macaw has a wide range from the Darien in Panama throughout much of northern South America up to 1,500 meters, although it may be absent from much of the actual Amazon River basin in that area. This highly adaptable, highly gregarious species is easily located in many areas near forest edge or clearing -- just follow your ear -- and they may actually benefit some from selected logging or clearing in some areas, since they are tolerant of human activities. Severe Macaws flying in to a nighttime roost are a sight worth seeing, especially from underneath, where you can appreciate the rich color on the underwings.

Appearance:
The Severe Macaw is not the best name for this good-looking mini macaw. The alternate name, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, better captures the wonderful blend of green and chestnut that you see when this bird takes flight or perches in the right light.

Weight:
307 - 387 grams (11 - 13.5 oz.)

Average size:
46 centimeters (18 in.)

Lifespan:
30 - 40 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Severe Macaw does not have a stern or severe personality. A properly socialized bird is a true charmer, small enough to be cute and endearing, yet large enough to give you the full force of the macaw personality. They are extremely social by nature and they form strong bonds with their humans. Severe Macaws enjoy playing with ropes to swing on, toys, and lots of wood to chew, which prevents them from becoming destructive when bored. They are intelligent, silly, and active. They can be great comics as they love to climb, explore, and hang upside down, chatting and squawking often.

A quick tip: If a hormonal, tightly bonded Severe Macaw starts to bite its favorite person during the breeding season, be aware that some macaws have a natural instinct to bite a mate to drive it out of sight when a rival appears. If someone else is about to enter the room when you're playing with your macaw, distract the bird with something chewy to keep its beak busy. The more you study your bird's behavior, the better you can prevent problems like screaming or biting before they ever arise.

Housing:
A good minimum sized primary cage for the Severe 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 a Severe 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 Severe 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. They are highly social parrots that have a pair bond, flying with their mate or in small flocks by day, yet returning to a busy communal roost at night, so do not expect this bird to be happy if forced to spend long hours alone.

Diet:
Like the other South American macaws, the Severe 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. 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 Severe 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 Severe 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, including the Severe Macaw, 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 Severe 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

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