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Home > Birds > Red-Bellied Macaw: Traits, History, Food & Care (with Pictures)

Red-Bellied Macaw: Traits, History, Food & Care (with Pictures)

Red-Bellied Macaw

The Red-Bellied Macaw is a larger breed of parrot that is native to Amazonian South America. They are commonly referred to as “mini Macaws” because of their smaller size. Their name refers to the large red patch on their stomach, one of their most prominent features.

This parrot lives in palm swamp forests and sandy savannahs. They rely almost exclusively on the Moriche palm for feeding and nesting.

Although they are not considered endangered, the clearing of these palms has damaged their population. They are also captured for the pet trade, lowering their wild population substantially.


Species Overview

Image Credit: Vaclav Sebek, Shutterstock
Common Name: Red-Bellied Macaw
Scientific Name: Orthopsittaca manilatus
Adult Size: 18 inches
Life Expectancy:  Unknown in captivity

Origin and History

The Red-Bellied Macaw has an extensive range throughout the Amazon Basin, which protects them from endangerment. They rely on a specific tree for nearly all their needs, but it is common enough that they often don’t have any problems.

However, they may become endangered in the future as deforestation takes more of their habitat. The Red-Bellied Macaw’s main threat is the pet trade, with many wild birds being captured to be sold as pets. Their population in the wild has not been estimated, but it appears to be declining.

These birds are challenging to keep in captivity. They are needy birds and require a specific diet. Many wild-caught birds do not survive and transition into captivity, and even captive-born chicks have low survival rates.


Image By: Vaclav Sebek, Shutterstock

Not much is known about these bird’s temperaments in captivity. They become stressed relatively quickly and must be handled with caution. Most do not adapt well to captivity or new situations.

When they do get stressed, they often exhibit stress-induced behaviors, like feather plucking. Often, these behaviors are so severe that they affect the health of the bird. Many Red-Bellied Macaws live shortened lifespans in captivity due to their susceptibility to stress.

These birds are often not considered good pets due to this personality trait. They are tough to maintain in captivity.

Like many Macaws, they are highly social. However, this social behavior is often not met by their owners. You should expect to dedicate hours each day to these birds if you want them to stay healthy and happy. Otherwise, they can become highly stressed.

  • Quiet
  • Smaller than regular Macaws
  • Social
  • Require a great deal of exercise and mental stimulation
  • Socialization required
  • Easily stressed
  • Short-lived in captivity

Speech & Vocalizations

Red-Bellied Macaws make deafening screaming calls. They do this in captivity and the wild. This makes them unsuitable for apartment living or anyone looking for a quieter bird. Be sure you’re ready for plenty of noise when you adopt these parrots.

Not much is known about their mimicry behavior. Many birds do not survive long enough to pick up on words, even if they could. These likely aren’t the best birds at mimicking, especially since they spend much of their time in captivity stressed out.

Their screaming call is unsettling to many new owners, but most report that you do get used to it after a while. This is not a bird that you purchase because of their pretty song.


Red-Bellied Macaw Colors and Markings

The Red-Bellied Macaw is often called the mini Macaw because they are smaller than most similar species. However, they are technically “medium-sized.” Most adults weigh about 11 ounces and measure about 18 inches in adulthood.

Their feathers are mostly green. However, their face is a mustard-green color. Usually, their eyes are a dark blue, as well as their forehead.

Their belly has a sizeable maroon patch, which gives them their name. Their underwings and undertail are a dull yellow, though this feature is more apparent in some birds than others. Their legs and feet are dark grey.

Males and females are nearly identical. However, males are slightly larger with broader heads. You typically can’t sex these birds off of sight alone, though. Genetic testing is required.

This species has not been bred enough in captivity to develop any distinctive variants. All these birds currently have the same green coloration.

Caring for the Red-Bellied Macaw

Taking care of these birds is somewhat tricky. In many cases, they are easily stressed and do not adapt to captivity well. Many birds don’t live more than a few months or years. Therefore, we have little information about their long-term care.

Most people don’t own the birds long enough to get a good idea of their care needs.

Your best bet to keeping one of these Macaws alive is to mirror their natural environment as much as possible. This means ensuring that they are in a large aviary that they can fly around in. You should preferably have a covered area in which they can roost, since they use dead trees in the wild.

Companionship is a must for these birds. They often live in large family groups, with five to 10 birds sleeping together every night.

Most people do not have enough room for that many birds. However, you must provide them with at least one companion. Otherwise, they can become highly stressed.

We recommend keeping their aviary away from drafts and sudden temperature changes. As tropical birds, they’re used to it being relatively warm. You should not expect them to survive in colder temperatures.

Let your birds out for at least a few hours each day. This time should be supervised because these brilliant birds can get into just about anything.

Be sure to provide them with plenty of mental and social stimulation. If you house more than one bird, some of this socialization will be taken off your hands. However, if you’re dealing with a single bird, you should expect to socialize with them for hours a day.

Due to the commitment that these birds require, we recommend them for advanced bird owners only. They are easily stressed and often aren’t suitable for new owners. They aren’t forgiving regarding their care.

Common Health Problems

  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Malnutrition

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, these birds live off of palm nuts. These are high in oils and carbohydrates but relatively low in fats. Commercially, these nuts are not widely available. It is nearly impossible to feed these birds a diet that comprises what they would eat in the wild, unless you happen to have palm trees in your backyard.

This lack of an appropriate diet in captivity is likely why many Red-Bellied Macaws don’t survive long.

You should never feed these birds a commercial food mixture. They are far too high in fat and do not have the nutrients that these birds need. It is akin to eating nothing but junk food — you can’t expect the bird to last long.

Many people feed them peanuts, which are widely available and similar to what they would naturally eat. At the moment, this seems to be the best option for these birds.

Some pelleted diets may be appropriate. However, you should be careful not to feed them a diet that is high in fat. Look for a pelleted diet that consists of almost nothing but carbohydrates.

Getting this bird’s diet right is essential for their health.

Image Credit: Agami Photo Agency, Shutterstock


This species is quite active. You should plan on letting them out of their cage for at least 2 hours of exercise a day. Their cage should also be relatively large to allow for plenty of climbing.

Even if you do purchase a large aviary, do not plan on leaving these birds inside for long periods.

Like nutrition, they are more likely to survive if you go a bit overboard on the exercise. It could be possible that most birds don’t survive because they aren’t allowed to exercise enough. Since we don’t exactly know why these birds are prone to perishing in captivity, we recommend erring on the side of more exercise.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Red-Bellied Macaw

These birds are scarce in captivity. For the most part, they are caught in the wild — most chicks do not survive in captivity long enough for captive breeding to supply most of the birds. However, wild-caught birds don’t survive long either.

Most birds caught in the wild do not adapt to captivity. They typically die within a few months. This early mortality is likely due to various factors. They may not be fed the appropriate diet, or they could not be socialized with enough. We don’t know what causes these birds to die so quickly, so how much you can do is unknown.

It could just be that these birds don’t adapt to captivity well.

We recommend choosing a breeder where possible. While breeders of this bird are rare, your odds are not better with a wild-caught bird. Therefore, we recommend captive-bred birds.

If they survive long enough to become adopted, they will likely be more adapted to captivity than nearly any other bird that you could purchase.



In general, we don’t recommend owning a Red-Bellied Macaw. They may make great pets in some situations. However, they don’t adapt well to captivity. Most of them don’t survive more than a few months in captivity, especially if they are captured from the wild.

Even captive-bred chicks don’t survive long. There is a reason that these birds aren’t among the more popular Macaw species.

If you are set on getting one of these birds, be sure that you understand what you’re getting into. They need a great deal of room to exercise, a specific diet, and plenty of mental stimulation and socialization. We highly recommend purchasing multiple birds so they can keep each other company.

Featured Image Credit: Danny Ye, Shutterstock

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