Macaws are among the largest pet parrots, with a powerful bite force and loud vocalizations when excited or agitated. Thankfully, most macaws are gentle giants with a loving and friendly dispositions.
Hyacinth macaws are the friendliest macaw species, despite also being the largest parrots. However, their endangered status, complex care needs, and price tag make them hard to find and look after as pets.
Families seeking an affable pet bird should consider a Hahn’s, Illiger’s, harlequin, or blue-and-gold macaw. Think carefully before taking on military, Catalina, severe, or scarlet macaws.
Are Macaws Friendly to Humans?
Macaws can become loving, friendly, and affectionate pet birds.
You must spend sufficient time winning a macaw’s trust to achieve a deep bond. Despite their size, macaws (like all parrots) are neophobes, so they’re shy and skittish in a new home.
The most effective way to ensure a macaw becomes a friendly family pet is to spend as much time with them as possible. Macaws are social animals, living in flocks of up to 30 in the wild.
Even the friendliest and most affectionate macaw can be noisy and destructive if their care needs aren’t met, so ensure you’re ready to take on this considerable responsibility.
Do Macaws Like to be Touched?
Macaws can be dubious about physical contact with strangers, so it’s rare to find a bird that’s happy to be petted by a house guest or unfamiliar person.
However, macaws can learn to enjoy petting from people they love and trust. Once you’re confident that a macaw won’t consider your approach an invasion of its territory, you can make a fuss of them.
The safest areas to pet a macaw are the beak, head, and cheeks. Avoid touching a macaw on the wings, back, or tail, as your affection could be mistaken for a courtship ritual.
What Is The Most Friendly Macaw?
While most macaws will show affection toward humans once tamed and a bond is formed, some species are friendlier than others. The question “How affectionate are macaws?” has no simple answer.
Read on for a discussion of potential pet macaws, ranked from most to least friendly:
Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus Hyacinthinus)
The hyacinth macaw, also known as the blue parrot due to its strikingly-colored feathers of pure cobalt, is the largest parrot in the world. This bird grows up to 40 inches. Thankfully it’s a gentle giant, widely regarded as the calmest and friendliest of all macaw species.
The hyacinth macaw is intelligent and will respond well to training, bonding strongly with human owners. Be warned that this parrot can enjoy roughhouse play, so the risk of an accidental bite from this bird’s large, powerful beak is always present.
The hyacinth macaw doesn’t have scope for an extensive vocabulary but can learn some words and phrases and repeat them. This bird’s scream, coupled with its size, makes it unsuitable for apartments.
Another consideration is the rarity of the hyacinth macaw. It’s endangered, with Biodiversity and Conservation explaining that deforestation and poaching in the bird’s native Brazil are rife.
The hyacinth macaw is more commonly found in conservation sites, with the opportunity to own this parrot very unlikely. A hyacinth macaw will cost at least $5,000-$10,000.
Hahn’s Macaw (Diopsittaca Nobilis)
Hahn’s macaws are classed as mini-macaws because they’re under 20 inches.
These macaws rarely grow bigger than 12-14 inches long, although their lifespan is usually shorter than a larger macaw, usually capped at around 30 years.
The Hahn’s macaw is ideal if you seek a parrot for a family with small children. This is a very affectionate bird with a sweet disposition once trained, provided all boundaries are respected.
Hahn’s macaws are quite active, regularly amusing owners with their hijinks, and are among the more skilled talkers in the macaw family. Unfortunately, the dialogue will be accompanied by screaming.
Illiger’s Macaw, aka Blue-Winged Macaw (Primolius Maracana)
The Illiger’s macaw is another smaller member of this species, typically reaching about 17 inches. This parrot has a personality comparable to the Hahn’s macaw but can live twice as long.
The Illiger’s macaw can be extremely loving toward owners. It’ll always expect to be involved as part of the family, frequently following humans around the home and mirroring an owner’s emotions.
If the occupants of your home are calm and even-tempered, expect the same from an Illiger’s macaw. Be prepared to spend significant time with this parrot to avoid separation anxiety.
Harlequin Macaw (Ara Chloropterus x Ara Ararauna)
Exclusively bred in captivity, the harlequin macaw is a hybrid of the blue-and-gold and green-winged macaws. This parrot enjoys the best of both worlds, taking on their playful and friendly characteristics and attractive and unique appearance.
Harlequin macaws are usually socialized from birth, meaning they’ll always welcome the company of humans and form close bonds with owners.
Like all macaws, the harlequin can have moments of frustration, but it’s usually laid back.
Overall, the harlequin macaw is ideal for owners seeking a larger parrot, as it can reach 35 inches, coupled with the docile and affable persona of the mini-macaws.
Blue-and-Gold Macaw (Ara Ararauna)
While the blue-and-gold macaw is common in the wild, it’s also a popular captive parrot in the U.S., with numerous reputable breeders nationwide.
The blue-and-gold macaw bonds well with multiple household members, including children, and loves to learn new tricks and language.
Due to this parrot’s intelligence, many birds feature blue-and-gold macaws as headline acts.
While blue-and-gold macaws love to please their owners, they can be very demanding when it comes to attention, so ensure you can spend sufficient time with this parrot.
If left alone or excluded from family activities, expect ear-piercing screams.
Green-Wing Macaw (Ara Chloropterus)
Green-wing macaws are another large but gentle addition, usually second only in size to the hyacinth macaw. This bird is also famed for its calm and loving disposition once tamed and trained.
We have placed the green-wing macaw below the harlequin and blue-and-gold as it’s usually louder and more prone to biting when seeking attention or feeling frustrated.
While all macaws can produce screams, the green-wing macaw is likelier to use this sound than human language. Unfortunately, the green-wing macaw isn’t a skilled talker.
Yellow-Collared Macaw (Primolius Auricollis)
Yellow-collared macaws are another smaller species, typically growing to a maximum size of 17 inches and weighing around 10 ounces. Yellow-collared macaws can live for up to 50 years.
Yellow-collared macaws are among the most social of all parrots, living in large groups in the wild. While they commonly bond with one person more than others, they can make a good family pet if everybody spends time with the macaw.
The yellow-collared macaw is friendly but mischievous and prone to testing boundaries. If a yellow-collar macaw feels it is not getting enough attention, it’ll do whatever it considers necessary to change this.
This means that yellow-collared macaws require regular training to prevent them from nipping and biting, especially when young. This macaw can also be loud when the mood strikes.
On the other hand, this macaw also has a clear and distinctive speaking voice, with many owners claiming it’s easier to understand a yellow-collar macaw than a larger bird.
Military Macaw (Ara Militaris)
Growing up to 30 inches in size, the military macaw could be considered the watchdog of the parrot family. This bird will form loyal and deep bonds with an owner but is usually focused on one human and can become jealous and possessive of its favorite person.
The military macaw is not the greatest talker and is rarely interested in petting or cuddling. Remember this if you have young children, as this is one of the more naturally nippy parrot species.
Aggression becomes increasingly likely if the military macaw senses stress in a human, as this bird frequently mirrors the mood of its owners and considers itself a protector of a home.
Catalina Macaw, aka Rainbow Macaw (Ara Ararauna x Ara Macao)
The Catalina macaw is a cross-breed between the blue-and-gold and scarlet macaws. This parrot blends the laid-back, fun-loving persona of the blue-and-gold macaw with the feistiness of the scarlet macaw.
The Catalina macaw can be temperamental and may reject all humans except the one it has imprinted upon. This bird is as loud as a scarlet macaw but not as skilled in talking as others.
While the Catalina macaw can make a compelling and loyal companion, it needs lots of attention and may not be suitable for families.
Severe Macaw, aka Chestnut-Fronted Macaw (Ara Severa)
With a name like the severe macaw, you would be forgiven for expecting this bird to be moody and aloof. The severe macaw is popular among experienced owners due to its playful and curious personality.
Adopting a severe macaw when it’s young means it’s more likely to develop a strong bond with you and provide endless entertainment, but never expect them to be cuddly.
This parrot is typically averse to being touched, preferring to show affection from a distance.
It has not been domesticated as long as many other macaws and thus retains more wild instincts. This can make the severe macaw destructive if not constantly stimulated.
More than many parrots, the severe macaw is prone to lunging and biting because it’s attempting to play in the way it would with wild flockmates.
Scarlet Macaw (Ara Macao)
Among the largest macaws, reaching 35 inches long and weighing in at up to 3 lbs, the scarlet macaw also has the most unpredictable temperament.
Scarlet macaws have strong personalities and are good company, but having experience is essential to taming this parrot. The scarlet macaw can nip for attention or to assert dominance.
Perhaps more than other parrots, scarlet macaws may fixate on one human. This mirrors their behavior in the wild, who live in small groups. A scarlet macaw will consider a favored human a flockmate.
Training will be required to earn trust, which must be maintained to prevent a scarlet macaw from growing frustrated and destructive. This parrot is best reserved for experienced bird owners.
How Do You Know if a Macaw Likes You?
Macaws are expressive birds, so it should quickly become apparent when it has bonded with you. The absence of aggression alone is insufficient to determine affection, so look for these signs:
- Observing excitement when you return home after an absence, such as fluffing the feathers, wagging the tail, hopping from foot to foot, and head-bobbing.
- Mimicking your speech, even if you’re using everyday language.
- Actively nuzzling against you or preening your hair.
- Regurgitating food in an attempt to share their meal with you.
Once you’ve formed a bond with a macaw, you can’t rest on your laurels and cease socialization and training. Maintain the bond with a reliable routine and regular interaction.
Bonding with A Macaw
If you wish to care for a macaw and form a bond, follow these basic rules:
- Spend as much time with the macaw as your schedule allows. Macaws are social birds who intensely dislike being left alone for long periods.
- Talk to the macaw regularly, using a soft, gentle tone. Even if you’re not training the bird to speak, it’ll enjoy hearing your voice and being actively involved.
- Stimulate the macaw intellectually as well as physically. These intelligent birds learn to love new tricks and, in the case of skilled talkers, a range of words or phrases to repeat.
- The way to a macaw’s heart is through its stomach, so consider sharing parrot-friendly food.
- Wild macaws regularly preen each other to show respect and affection, and fulfilling the same role as a conspecific will strengthen your bond.
- Provide food, petting, exercise, and sleep based on a reliable schedule.
- Always meet the macaw’s basic needs without needing to be asked.
Set firm boundaries, clarifying what conduct is acceptable and what actions you deem undesirable.
Macaws are complex birds whose strong personalities can intimidate inexperienced owners. Many species are friendly, most notably the hyacinth, Hahn’s, Illiger’s, blue-and-gold, and harlequin macaws.
If you give a macaw a home, you’ll have a loyal and affectionate avian companion for several decades.