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Home > Birds > Male or Female Macaw? How to Identify the Differences (Vet-Reviewed!)

Male or Female Macaw? How to Identify the Differences (Vet-Reviewed!)

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There is no easy way to tell the difference between a male and female macaw, as is the case for most parrot species. The task is not impossible, but certain tools, experts, and resources are required if you want to be sure of what sex your macaws happen to be. Knowing the sex of your macaws is important for breeding purposes, whether you want to breed your macaws or prevent them from breeding altogether. It may also be of interest if you have a gender specific name chosen for your pet.

Here is everything that you need to know about figuring out whether your macaws are male or female!

Basic Signs of a Macaw’s Sex

Red Macaw Side view_ Gaston Piccinetti_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Gaston Piccinetti, Shutterstock

While you cannot count on the visual signs of a macaw’s sex, they can still lend insight into which sex you might be dealing with. Before resorting to medical sexing options, you can keep an eye out for the following signs to make an educated guess as to what your macaw’s sex is.

Here is what to look for when trying to determine the sex of a macaw:
  • Head: Most macaw enthusiasts insist that a male’s head is a little larger and flatter than a female’s head.
  • Beak: It is thought that female macaws have narrower beaks than their male counterparts.
  • Size: It is said that male macaws are a little larger than female macaws are, although the difference is slight.

These are not foolproof methods for determining the sex of a macaw. They are simply anecdotal observations that have been made by breeders and owners over the years. A female may have a larger head than a male, and a male might have a narrower beak than a female. Some females are larger than males too, so none of these signs should be taken as proof of a macaw’s sex.

More reliable tips are observations of macaws during their breeding season. This would only happen if you happen to have a pair of macaws that decide to bond with each other. During the mating season, males often dance, vocalize excessively, and actively seek nesting sites. They also tend to become somewhat territorial to protect their nest site from perceived rivals.

Females, on the other hand, usually inspect the nest and either approve or disapprove of it. These mating rituals are difficult to identify for most pet owners. In addition, macaws are monogamous, and they would only perform these rituals once and not repeat them on future mating occasions. In addition, these birds take a very long time to reach sexual maturity. Waiting for these cues is sometimes quite impractical.

Observing the actual copulation process gives away a parrot’s gender too, as a male mounts a female. Laying is a trait unique to females (females can also lay eggs in the absence of a male). In some macaw species, females do most of the incubation, and males drop by to feed them while they’re incubating eggs. In other species, though, both the male and females take turns incubating the eggs; males often incubate during parts of the day and females incubate from late afternoon and through the night. Males also do most of the feeding for the chicks and, when not helping with the incubating process or looking for food, guard the nest.

With many of these methods of observation being unreliable, sexing macaws is best done by tests your veterinarian can perform for you.

Determining Sex Through DNA Testing

Lears macaw parrot
Image Credit: Sandro Riedmann Shutterstock

DNA testing is the most popular method of determining a macaw’s sex. The process is inexpensive, effective, and reliable. DNA testing companies claim that their results are 99.9% reliable, so the chance that your macaw ends up being the opposite sex than what the DNA results say is minimal. Feathers can be used for DNA testing. An alternative is the collection of a blood sample for sexing.

If you’re interested in having your bird sexed by your veterinarian, talk to them about which option they feel is better for your bird. Though feather tests are non-invasive when compared to a blood sample, a blood sample can also provide other useful diagnostic information to your veterinarian. Even if your bird isn’t ill, the blood work can be used to establish a baseline record for your pet’s blood parameters.

Does It Matter What Sex a Macaw Is?

The truth is that it does not matter what a macaw’s sex is unless they live with other macaws that they could possibly mate with. That being said, because some ailments are unique to each gender, it’s always beneficial to know your pet’s sex, even if you plan to house them alone. For example, females are prone to egg binding and laying issues, so it may be medically relevant to know your bird’s sex even if you plan to keep a female on her own.

If you do not know the sex of your macaws that are living together, chances are that you could end up with babies that you did not anticipate being born. However, from the perspective of companionship, both males and females are interactive, intelligent, sociable, and interactive with their human companions. So, unless breeding is a concern, both sexes make wonderful pets.



The macaw is a majestic, interesting animal that deserves love and respect no matter what sex they happen to be. There’s always merit to knowing your pet’s sex, even when housed alone, as some conditions are unique to each sex, and female macaws may have egg-laying issues even in the absence of a male. Sexing is of even more concern if you’re housing multiple macaws together and intend or don’t intend to have them breed.

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Featured Image Credit: TizzleBDizzle, Pixabay

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