Red-Bellied Macaw 

Ara manilata (or Orthopsittaca manilata) South America

Red-bellied macaws are small green “mini” macaws. Red-bellied macaws are different from all other macaws in having yellow facial skin without feathered facial lines. The belly has a large maroon patch. The tail is long and tapered, and is maroon below and green above. The beak is small. Red- bellied macaws have a annoying high-pitched call that is unlike other macaws. Because of these unique characteristics and differences from Ara macaws they have been proposed to be a monotypic genus – Orthopsittaca.

Red-bellied macaws have a large range extending throughout the Amazon Basin and North to the Guyana and Surinam. They are dependent of wet, swampy palm forests and closely linked to the swamp palm – Mauritia flexuosa which is their primary source of food.

Length 17-19 inches. Weight approximately 250-350 grams.
Life Span – Unknown but probably up to 30-40 years. They typically don’t adapt well to captivity and are not long lived in captivity. Age at maturity – 2-3 years.

Personality - Red-bellied macaws are very rarely bred in captivity and the young birds have not had good survival rate. A high percentage die of kidney disease at a young age. Their pet quality is questionable.

Activities - Macaws should always be provided with toys, especially wooden blocks that can be chewed, and branches from non-toxic trees.

Dietary needs - All macaws need plenty of energy for good health. Many of their natural foods, especially palm nuts are rich in oils, and calories.
Macaws should be fed a formulated (pelleted or extruded diet) as a basis for good nutrition. Red-bellies can be difficult to convert to formulated diets and may require a predominately seed diet. The diet should be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables daily to add variety and psychological enrichment. Feed approximately ¼ cup Kaytee Exact. Also offer ¼ cup of fresh fruits and vegetables. Give 1-2 small such as almonds nuts as treats.
Red-bellied macaws readily eat peanuts but the nuts should be shelled and inspected for mold prior to feeding. Seed may required. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet but are needed for a seed diet.

Red-bellied macaws are difficult to hand feed from a very early age. We don’t really understand their nutritional requirements but believe they require a diet high in fat and protein. Specific nutrients may be required due to their relatively limited diet in the wild.

Identification - All companion and breeding birds should be individually identified to assist in recovery if lost and assist in maintenance of medical and genealogical records. Many breeders apply closed legs bands when chicks are young. While they present a slight risk of entrapment closed bands are preferable to no identification, especially for breeding birds.
Microchips, which can be implanted into the muscle or under the skin, are a reliable means of identification but require electronic readers to verify identification. Tattoos may be used but often fade or become illegible with time. Footprints may have some application in identification.

Grooming - Routine bathing or showering is vital to maintaining good plumage and skin condition. Birds can be misted and allowed to dry in a warm room or in the sun, or dried with a blow drier. An ideal way to bathe macaws is to put them in a cage outside, sprinkle them with the hose, and allow them to dry in the sun. Macaws are strong fliers. Most of the primary flight feathers (10 feathers closest to the tip of the wing) should be clipped to prevent flight. Clip only enough so the bird will glide to the floor.

Sexing - Macaw species show no obvious sexual dimorphism (visual difference between the species) therefore endoscopic examination (Surgical sexing) or laboratory sexing techniques are needed for accurate sex determination. Males are usually larger and have larger heads.

Housing - Macaws are very active and should be provided the largest cage that space and budget allows. Must have adequate space to move between 2 perches. Ideally pet macaws can also have a large cage outdoors for bathing and exercise. Red-bellied macaws are shy and should be provided with a retreat.

Breeding – Red-bellied macaws do not breed well in captivity. Clutch size is usually 2-4 eggs but sometimes more. Incubation period is approximately 23-26 days. Some additional high fats seeds, like sunflower seed, should be added to the diet during the breeding season to stimulate reproduction.
Inexperienced hand feeders should allow the parents to feed for the first few weeks.

Nest Box – Red-bellied macaws like vertical wooden box (approx. 12” x 12” x 24”). Macaws should be provided with plentiful chewing material. Pine shavings make excellent nest box bedding. They often soil their nest boxes and may require frequent cleaning, especially if they have a perch inside the box.

Cage size - Macaws should have adequate space to move freely between 2 perches. Example of appropriate suspended cage size for Red-bellied macaws is 3’ x 3’ x 6’. Cages should be suspended 3-4 feet above the ground.

Cages for Red-bellied macaws should be constructed of 14 gauge welded wire, 1” x 1” or 1” x ½”works well. Red-bellied macaws are not as loud as large macaws however proximity to neighbors must be considered as their call is particularly shrill.

Mate aggression is uncommon in macaws. Pair bonds are strong but not necessarily life long.

Common diseases and disorders

  • Proventricular Dilatation Disease (Macaw wasting disease)
  • Feather picking
  • Psittacosis (chlamydophila infection)
  • Bacterial, viral and fungal infections
  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney Disease - gout
  • Toxicity, heavy metal poisoning
  • Malnutrition, picky eaters

Many common health problems of macaws can be prevented by good diet, nutrition and routine health care. Routine veterinary examination (annually) can help you to keep your pet in excellent health and enhance your relationship with your bird.

Conservation status – Stable, common– Red-bellied macaws are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Fauna and Flora but only because of the listing of almost all parrot species. Red- bellied macaws are uncommon in captivity. They don’t adapt or breed well.