Red-Fronted Macaw 

Ara rubrogeneys South America

Red-fronted macaws are medium sized green macaws. Red-fronted macaws are similar in color to Military macaws but have red-orange crown, forehead and ear patches. The naked facial skin is rather small, white and has rows of black feather forming lines. The large shoulder patch is orange-red. The tail is long and tapered, and is olive tipped in blue. Red fronted macaws are lively boisterous birds and require generous living space.

Red-fronted macaws have a tiny range on the eastern Andean slope of southern Bolivia. They inhabit arid forest and scrub land where food sources are limited. They feed on locally available fruits; especially palm nut fruits, seeds, nuts and buds as well as cacti. They often raid crops of corn or peanuts.

Length 24 inches. Weight 450-550 gm
Life Span – Unknown but probably up to 40 years. Age at maturity – 2-5 years. Immature birds have dark eyes, which change over time from black to the orange eyes of adults.

Personality - Young hand-raised macaws are very adaptable and typically easily handled by many people. They must be socialized and exposed to a variety of experiences (veterinary visits, other pets, visitors, wing and nail trims, car rides, etc.) at a young age to avoid fearful behavior. Macaws can make excellent pets, although some have a tendency to become nippy.
Macaws can be very loud as well as destructive. While some speak, most macaws have limited ability to mimic.

Red-fronted macaws are very inquisitive, mischievous and animated. While they don’t enjoy handling as much as a blue & gold, they are delightful pets and aviary subjects because of their outgoing personalities.

Activities - Macaws are playful and love to chew. They should always be provided with toys, especially wooden blocks that can be chewed, and branches from non-toxic trees. In order to ensure safety companion macaws should not be allowed unsupervised freedom in the home as they often encounter toxins or dangerous items. Young macaws should be socialized to many people and exposed to a variety of situations such as new cages, toys, visits to the veterinarian, handling by friends, wing and nail clips, etc. to avoid fear of novel situations.

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. 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 2-3 nuts as treats. Best nuts are walnuts, macadamia, pecans, almonds and filberts. If peanuts are fed they should be opened and checked for mold first. Small amounts of seed may also be given as treats especially as rewards for good behavior. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet.

Red-fronted macaws are somewhat difficult to hand feed from a very early age. They require a high fat diet and do well with additional protein as well especially at a very young age. Kaytee Exact is a good choice. A small amount of peanut butter or ground sunflower seeds may be added to increase protein and fat levels.

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. Macaws MUST be allowed space to fully extend their wings or muscle atrophy will occur rendering them unable to fly. As macaws are strong chewers, durable cage construction is very important. Many are also adept at opening cage latches. Locks or escape proof latches may be necessary on cages.

Ideally pet macaws can also have a large cage outdoors for bathing and exercise.

Breeding – Red-fronted macaws breed fairly well in captivity. Breeding season is usually in spring and early summer, although some pairs will breed almost year round. Clutch size is usually 2-4 eggs but sometimes more.
Incubation period is average 25 days (23-27 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-fronted macaws like vertical wooden box (approx. 12” x 12” x 24”) or 16” x 16” x 24. The box could also be horizontally. Macaws should be provided with plentiful chewing material. Pine shavings make excellent nest box bedding.

Cage size - Macaws should have adequate space to move freely between 2 perches. Example of appropriate suspended cage size for red-fronted macaws is 4’ x 4’ x 8’. Cages should be suspended 3-4 feet above the ground.

Cages for Red-fronted macaws must be constructed of strong wire, although they are not as able to chew cages as the large macaws. 14 gauge welded wire, 1” x 1” works well for most pairs. When breeding macaws, noise and proximity to neighbors must be considered.

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
  • Chewing flight and tail feathers by juveniles
  • Oral and cloacal papillomas
  • Psittacosis (chlamydophila infection)
  • Bacterial, viral and fungal infections
  • Aspergillosis
  • Constricted toe syndrome, chicks
  • Beak malformations - chicks
  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney Disease - gout
  • Toxicity, heavy metal poisoning
  • Clostridium infections

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 – Endangered– Red-fronted macaws are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Fauna and Flora due to their very limited range, habitat destruction and decline due to trade. International trade requires both import and export permits. Red- fronted macaws are uncommon in captivity but breed fairly well.