Great Green Macaw Care Sheet

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Scientific Facts

Common Name:Great Green Macaw, Buffon’s Macaw, Grand Miltary Macaw, Grand Green Macaw, Guayaquil Green Macaw
Scientific Name:Ara ambiguus
Life Span:Up to 60 years
Weight:1,300 grams
Length:30 to 33 inches
Habitat:Tropical rainforests
Country of Origin:Central America

Physical Description

The Great Green macaws got their names as descriptions of how they look. These birds are very large in terms of size and are considered one of the largest parrots. They also have an overall coloration of green, which turns to blue around their lower back, rump, and under tail feathers. These birds also have a forehead that is colored red, while their tails are a subdued reddish-brown with blue tips. This is one of the heftier of the large macaws, reaching 33 inches to 36 inches in length and weighing up to 2.9 pounds or 1.3 kilograms.

The Great Green macaws look very similar to the Military macaw, and people often confuse one from the other, especially when Military macaws are much more available. However, a distinct difference is that the Buffon’s Macaw does a differ somewhat by being noticeably larger, and the green coloration is much lighter overall.


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The Great Green Macaw has two main subspecies: the Ara ambiguus ambiguus and the Ara ambiguus guayaquilensis. These two subspecies are believed to be allopatric, meaning they are isolated from each other geographically. This is something fascinating because when individuals of a species get separated like this, they can separate from their original form and result in different mutations. They can also undergo genetic drift.

Over a long period of time, the separated species begin to evolve with distinctly different characteristics. Sometimes, the species even reach a point of different characteristics.

Conservation Status

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The Great Green Macaws are rare in the wild, and they are on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species with an endangered classification. Even in captivity, it is rare to find these birds being kept. But because they have proven to be great breeders, the Great Green Macaws are starting to become much more available, and other experts have also chosen to introduce some captive birds back to their homes in the wild.

Availability and Natural Habitat

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The Great Green Macaws are found in Central America, specifically in Southeastern Honduras, Western Colombia, and Western Ecuador. The first subspecies are found in the northern regions, towards Honduras through Colombia. The second subspecies are found in the southern regions, towards Ecuador and Colombia.

Because these birds are quite reserved in nature, they usually disappear completely from areas where humans inhabit. They live high on the treetops of remote forests in tropical and subtropical areas as their green colors easily blend with the surroundings and afford them their desired privacy. It is only their droppings and their loud sounds that give their locations away.

Behavior, Exercise, and Training

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Great green macaws are truly a force to be reckoned with. They are the true definition of big – not just their voice, but their attitude. They can be raucous, and they are also very colorful, which calls much more attention to them. To the unfamiliar, great green macaws can seem daunting, but those who have shared their lives with these creatures know that these birds are sensitive creatures with surprisingly loving hearts.

Great green macaws are very playful, and they love being provided with toys that they can chew up, especially those that are made of wood. A pet great green macaw will need a consistent supply of appropriate toys and other items they can play around with and destroy. The cost of a stable supply of toys should be a significant part of your budget.

Great green macaws are also very intelligent birds. They also thrive on activities that can be challenging and are designed to puzzle them. You can design foraging activities, like searching for food before enjoying them. Some great green macaws take time to spook people out by lunging toward them and leaning forward. This is not an action that shows aggression; rather, they enjoy the reaction that it causes people.

Great green macaws have equally large vocalizations, and the sounds that they make can be loud and ear piercing with screeches and squawks. If you would want to take care of a great green macaw as a pet, consider the large sounds into consideration, especially if you live in an apartment and their nearby neighbors. Great green macaws are also able to talk, mimic human words, and mimic sounds that they hear inside and outside their homes.

Generally, macaws are great in socialization and are gentle pets.

When in the wild, great green macaws are usually observed to live in pairs or in small groups of four to eight birds. In Costa Rica, these birds breed in the lowlands; then, they transfer to higher elevations in groups to hunt for their food. These birds love resting and foraging in the upper areas of the canopy.

Food and Eating Habits

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Great green macaws have been recorded to feed on a wide variety of food in the wild like fruits, nuts, seeds, bulbs, flowers, roots, and barks. In Costa Rica, it has been studies that at least 38 plants are used for food, of which the most important are the seeds and nuts of Dipteryx oleifera, Lecythis ampla, Sacoglottis trichogyna, and Vochysia ferruginea. Great green macaws are also able to crack open larger nuts than other macaw species. This is because of their larger beaks.

In Costa Rica specifically, a major source of food during their breeding time is Dipteryx olifera, which amounts to 80 percent of all consumed foods, especially since this is the most common tree in the area. These birds can fly large distances to feed on these trees, and this type of vegetation is found in semi-open areas and pastures.

The birds feed during September, while the fruits are still immature, and they continue their feeding sessions until April. Sacoglottis trichogyna is the second most important food in the breeding period, especially if the D. olifera is not readily available. The S. trichogyna is the species that these birds feed on from April to August.

For great green macaws in captivity, you should feed your birds with pelleted parrot feed. This type of food mix is designed to come with all types of nutrition that a great green macaw needs to survive, unlike just getting muesli mixes or seeds. About 80 percent of your pet bird diet must consist of these healthy pellets, while the other 20 percent can be made up of fruits and vegetables.

In addition to parrot food, great green macaws enjoy being fed with fruits and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables must make up at least 20 percent of the total diet so that your pet bird will get additional nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. To feed your pet with fruits or vegetables, you should wash them and cut them into small bite-sized pieces. For fruits, you can give apples, berries, cherries, bananas, grapes, mangoes, oranges, pears, papayas, and plums. For vegetables, you can give them carrots, cucumbers, zucchinis, sweet potatoes, and green leafy vegetables.

You should also provide additional treats to your great green macaws like meat and nuts. Provide your pet with almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pecans. As a treat, these birds would also appreciate a few bites of turkey meat or chicken meat. But, make sure that these meats are only given in very small amounts and not as a major part of their diets.

On the other hand, you should never give your great green macaws food with avocados, chocolates, and caffeine contents. These foods are toxic to these birds, and eating them can lead to several medical issues. You should also be careful to stay away from your pet when you are eating these foods so that you can ensure that your pet bird will not make a mistake and eat them.


A keeper of a great green macaw must provide these birds access to fresh drinking water every day. Always ensure that they are supplied with fresh, clean, and chlorine-free water that is available for drinking. In terms of maintenance, their water dishes must be cleaned every day.


The great green macaw begins their breeding season begins every December and ends during June for the Northern subspecies, while they last from August to October in the Southern subspecies. They do their nesting in the largest areas. They also usually nest in the cavities of dead trees, and their average clutch normally consists of two to three white eggs, which are incubated by the female for about 26 days until they hatch.

The hatchlings are born blind, naked, and completely dependent on the care of their parents. They weigh about 0.8 ounces or 23 grams while they are still hatchlings. These chicks of the great green macaw are fed by both of their parents until they are strong enough to leave the nest when they reach 12 to 13 weeks old. By the time they become fledglings, they usually weigh between 32.5 to 34.5 ounces.

For captive breeding, this task is only recommended for breeders and handlers who have gained relevant experience. Breeding pairs usually require large flights that are at least 15 meters or 50 feet long. They also require fresh and strong branches of eucalyptus or pine, as well as large nest boxes that are at least the size of a whiskey barrel.

Common Health Problems

To monitor the health of your great green macaw, you should watch out for signs of physical illness. Some common signs of an ill great green macaw are:

  1. Eye discharge
  2. Nasal discharge
  3. Fluffed, pucked, or soiled feathers
  4. Favoring one foot
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Coughing and wheezing
  7. Runny or discolored feces
  8. Sitting on the ground of the cage
  9. Red and swollen eyes

You should also watch out for behavioral problems, such as biting, feather plucking, and screaming. These symptoms usually develop as a sign of boredom. These behavioral issues can also be brought about by a lack of trust, a lack of interaction with other birds, and a lack of interaction with other people.

Great green macaws can be prone to having feather-destructive behaviors. If your pet exhibits this type of behavior, bring them to a complete veterinary exam to rule out the medical causes of boredom, feather plucking, and appropriate mental stimulation. Offer your macaw an enriched environment with lots of opportunities for play and exercise, such as climbing ropes and nets, in addition to toys.

Macaws are susceptible to getting proventricular dilatation disease (PDD), beak malocclusion, psittacosis, psittacine feather, aspergillosis, and beak disease. This can be prevented, diagnosed, and treated through regular checkups by an avian veterinarian.

Sneezing is something normal for great green macaws, and this can clear out dust or dander from their nares. These sneezes can be accompanied by a clear discharge. If the sneezing is very persistent or the discharge is not a clear color, contact your trusted avian veterinarian.


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The great green macaws are skilled birds that find it easy to adapt to changes quickly. Once they have begun getting used to their unfamiliar environments, these birds are ready to begin their bird training. Taming these birds come in several steps. First, the goal is to have the great green macaw willing to accept a treat from you. Then, this bird will allow you to touch its chest gently.

Next, you can also do hand taming, where the great green macaw will climb to your hands and allow you to carry them around. This can be done by using treats from outside the cage until it becomes comfortable with your hand. As the bird becomes even more comfortable, you can open the cage door and repeat the process until the macaw allows you to pet their heads.

Environment and Housing

The first thing to consider for a great green macaw’s housing is building it a large cage. A great green macaw needs a cage that is tall enough to prevent their tail feathers from hitting the bottom of the cage. This is because hitting the bottom of the cage can cause the feathers in the tail to bend and break. Great green macaws are some of the largest species of parrots, and they require the large size so that they can spread their wings and move around freely. Keepers can also opt to set up a large outdoor aviary or close off a room in their home, so the bird has a chance to spread their wings. For macaws as big as a great green macaw, their cage should not be smaller than 5 feet or 1.5 m wide, 6 feet or 1.8 m high, and 3.5 feet or 1.1 m deep.

The keepers should also ensure that the cage is durable. Great green macaws are strong and durable, so it is important that is it strong enough to withstand the bite of the macaw. The bars of the cage should be at least 3 inches or 8 cm thick. Another thing to secure is if the latch fastens correctly. The best option for great green macaws is a cage made of stainless steel.

After this has been settled, owners should also place perches inside the cage. Perches allow a great green macaw to exercise their feet, and this feature can also prevent them from developing arthritis. Perches should be installed inside the bird’s cages and also around your home and their flying area. Perches should also be about 12 inches or 30 cm long and at least 1.5 inches or 3.8 cm in diameter.

A great green macaw must also be provided with toys inside their cage. Toys help your birds deal with boredom, especially if you cannot give your birds enough attention during the day. You can provide your macaw with different kinds of toys like puzzle feeders, bells, swings, chains, climbing ropes, and others. Aside from being a way to spend time, toys prevent great green macaws from scratching furniture and other items inside the home.

The cage for the great green macaw must also be placed in a central location. Great green macaws can be loud, so it should not be placed near walls that are closer to neighbors. Central locations are also ideal because these birds are social, love being the center of attention, and enjoys being in the company of their family. The cage must be placed in a room that is frequently visited by members of the family. Most recommendations are keeping the cage inside the recreation room or the family room. You should also refrain from placing the cage near direct sunlight and keeping the cage in the kitchen.

The cage of the great green macaw must be cleaned regularly to keep your macaw healthy and to prevent them from ingesting allergens, bacteria, and other contaminants. These cleaning actions include washing water and food dishes daily, wiping down floors once a week, and removing fecal matter once you spot them.

Fun Facts about the Great Green Macaw

The great green macaw is one of the largest parrots in the area, with about 3 feet in length and 2.9 pounds mass.

  1. The great green macaw reaches their sexual maturity from 2 to 4 years.
  2. The great green macaw is known to inhabit rock faces, ledges, cliffs, dry plateaus, forests, and deep canyons.
  3. The global population of the great green macaw is estimated at 1,000 to 2,500 individuals in the wild and 2,500 to 10,000 individuals in captivity.
  4. The great green macaws can be messy eaters because they enjoy breaking the hard shells of nuts on their own, and they tend to spread the shells around.
  5. Great green macaws are inquisitive, teachable, playful, and they can mimic the voices of humans very well.
  6. The great green macaws are monogamous beings, and they can remain bonded to one mate for the rest of their lives.
  7. When the great green macaws are surprised or disturbed, they express their fear in large screeches, and they fly in circles with their long tails streaming.
  8. Great green macaws are known to congregate at clay licks where they feed on the damp soil in order to obtain minerals, which helps neutralize toxins and ease their digestion.
  9. Great green macaws should not be fed with avocados, chocolates, and cherries, as their contents can poison them.

Where Can You Get a Pet Great Green Macaw?

Would a macaw be a great pet? That depends on how much you are willing and able to give. Consider if you have the room, the personality, the time, and other factors that make a macaw a great companion for you. Great green macaws require spacious accommodations, and they live for a long time. Because of these caring requirements, adding a great green macaw to your family is something that you should thoroughly think through.

Great green macaws are most likely to be sold by online bird breeders and bird specialty stores. Some are also available for adoption from avian rescue organizations.

How to Care for a Pet Great Green Macaw?

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To care for a great green macaw as a pet, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. In the wild, these birds are used to eating a variety of plants, fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts. When you care for them in captivity, these birds can be given name brand commercially prepared pellet mixes and seed mixes. You can also provide them with various foods that you eat, like chicken as a protein resource.
  2. Great green macaws are also used to living in a humid climate, so they should be misted regularly and bathed every few days so that their feathers will not dry out, and their skin will not feel itchy and result in them chewing on their skins. To do this, you should spray your birds with room temperature tap water or a commercial birdbath. Macaws can also join their keepers in the shower by making shower perches.
  3. You should give your pet great green macaw lots of attention. These birds are very social, and they benefit from regular interaction and attention with their owners. When these birds do not get enough attention, they can suffer from physical and mental suffering.
  4. Also, you should frequently let your pet great green macaw out of its cage. These birds are meant to roam freely, stretch their wings, and exercise.
  5. To keep you and your house safe, you should remove expensive furniture because great green macaws can scratch and destroy them with their sharp claws. You should also keep other pets away, cover all exposed wires, remove houseplants, and ensure all doors and windows are closed.
  6. If you want to keep your great green macaw from escaping or if you want to make it difficult for them to fly around the house, you can have their flight feathers clipped. Take this tip very seriously, consult with the vet first before making any final decision.
  7. Keep the claws of your great green macaw short to prevent the damages that can be caused by sharp claws.  Claw clipping must also be done through the help of an avian vet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the great green macaw endangered?

The great green macaws became endangered because of the extensive destruction of their habitat and an increasing number of cage-bird trade or illegal trafficking of birds.

Where do great green macaws live?

The Great Green Macaws live in the forests of Honduras, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.

What do great green macaws eat?

The great green macaws eat flowers, fruits, seeds, and hard-shelled nuts.

How long do great green macaws live?

Great Green Macaws can live to be 50 to 60 years old as long as they receive the proper care. In the wild, they usually live up to 30 years old.

Are great green macaws loud?

Great Green Macaws are extremely loud birds because they have social personalities, and they like talking to other birds and humans.

Are great green macaws dangerous?

Because great green macaws are not domestic animals, those from the wild can be dangerous. They can wound you, break a finger, bite you, or scoop an eye out if they have not been tamed or accustomed to humans.

Do great green macaws bite?

Great green macaws can bite when they feel threatened and agitated. The bites of the great green macaws can hurt with the bitten area feeling tender while it is still healing.

What species are the enemies of the great green macaws?

The common predators of great green macaws are snakes, toucans, monkeys, and humans.

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