Military macaws are one of the oldest known macaw species.
They got their name from European military men who would bring the birds home from their explorations in the New World.
It is also fitting that their green body and red forehead look similar to a military uniform. They were an appealing pet back then, and they continue to be today.
Is a military macaw a good pet? Military macaws can be excellent pets and will form a close bond with owners, but they do require a commitment of time and money. They are highly intelligent and typically easy to train, and they are capable of learning to speak, though not as clearly as other macaws.
Even with their desirable disposition, military macaws are not kept as pets as frequently as some other macaw species, like blue-and-gold macaws or green-winged macaws.
However, they can be a delight to own, as you’ll discover below.
Military Macaw Facts
Before getting any new pet, it’s important to fully understand what exactly you’re getting into.
Those fully prepared for the long-term responsibilities and those with realistic expectations typically enjoy an easy transition to life with a military macaw and go on to develop a deep bond with their bird.
Military Macaw Appearance & Size
These large parrots average 30 inches long from beak to tip of the tail and can have a wingspan over 40 inches wide. They weigh around 2 pounds when fully grown.
Most of their body is covered in olive green feathers with a contrasting bright red forehead.
Some yellow and blue can be seen on their wings and some yellow, red, and blue feathers are found in their tails.
Male and female military macaws are indistinguishable. DNA sexing is required to determine the gender.
Military Macaw Temperament & Personality
Whereas all macaws are known for being capable of loud outbursts, military macaws tend to be more even keeled than the other species.
They are not considered overly affectionate, but with proper socialization, they will enjoy spending time with their family.
In the wild, military macaws are usually paired off with a mate and found in small flocks of 10-20 birds.
Since they are used to mating for life, it is not uncommon for a military macaw in captivity to bond with a single caretaker.
This is why socialization early and often is so important for this species.
Native Region & Habitat
Military macaws are found in Central and South America, specifically from Mexico down to Argentina. Their populations are scattered due to habitat destruction and deforestation.
They can be found in a variety of ecosystems, including humid forests and arid lands. Military macaws show a preference for higher altitudes.
However, they are also seen along waterways, the habitat of many different macaw species.
As long as an area has tall trees for them to roost and nest in, military macaws can be found in almost any environment.
Military Macaw Intelligence & Trainability
Military macaws are extremely intelligent animals. They are a popular bird for shows and zoos because of their ability to learn many behaviors and vocalizations.
These birds are easy to train and motivated to learn.
In the home, their smarts are quite obvious as they learn the routine of the family.
Military macaws can even act as a watchdog and let you know when something is different in the home or when someone is approaching outside.
Sounds & Vocalizations
All macaws, regardless of species, are capable of ear-piercing screams. It is their signature vocalization.
Military macaws are considered to be one of the quieter species though. They tend to call out more at dawn and dusk, like they would in the wild.
Military macaws are not known for being exceptional talkers.
While they are capable of learning to repeat words and phrases, they do not have the crisp, clear voice that some other species do.
Military Macaw Price
The price of a military macaw will vary based on your location, the breeder, the age of the bird, the extend of training, and if the bird was hand-reared as a chick or not.
Typically, the price range for a military macaw is $1,000-$3,000.
Military Macaw Lifespan
With proper care, military macaws can live to be over 50 years old.
However, their average lifespan is only 30 years, which is why education on macaw nutrition and care is so important.
Military Macaw Care
In order to keep a happy and healthy bird, appropriate care, including correct housing and a balanced diet, is a necessity.
I recently spoke with the care team at Texas Avian and Exotic Hospital about the importance of proper macaw care.
In addition to agreeing with the information given below, they felt it important to remind new or prospective owners about the benefits of UV light.
Here’s what they shared:
The benefits of UV light warrant that all companion birds should receive some exposure. UV light can help maintain good bone density and can help stimulate exercise.
Most windows filter out the beneficial UVB rays that help birds produce vitamin D.
Natural sun exposure (i.e. taking your bird outside) for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times a week in the warmer months is ideal.
During the winter, UVB bulbs are recommended. UVB enables birds to produce vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” which is essential for calcium metabolism and immune function.
- The goal is to mimic mid-morning sun (UV index of 2 to 4).
- Generally, the bulb should be on for a minimum of 3-4 hours a day.
- Always mount the bulb above (not to the side of) the cage.
- Always provide a UV gradient so the bird can move away from the light if it wants to.
- In general, high output bulbs should be no closer than 6 inches, and low output bulbs should be no further than 12 inches from the top of the bird’s head at its highest perching location.
Ideal Military Macaw Diet
Outdated information recommends an all-seed or high-seed diet for macaws.
While that recommendation is based on wild macaw diets, it is not suitable for macaws in captivity.
Wild macaws are much more active and require more energy than macaws in captivity.
A pet macaw should enjoy a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, pellets, and some nuts and seeds.
Military macaws enjoy being able to join their family for dinner and can benefit from some small amounts of healthy “human” food, even a couple bites of meat.
You’ll find our article “What Do Parrots Eat?” to be extremely helpful when planning your macaw’s daily diet.
At minimum, a military macaw should be housed in a cage that is 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The bird should have plenty of space to spread its wings and move around.
The cage should always have food and water available as well as perching and toys.
Some owners will create bird safe rooms that allow their military macaw to explore freely without the risk of injury.
Things like wires, toxic plants, and wood furniture are removed to prevent the macaw from getting into anything they shouldn’t.
Regardless of whether the bird is housed in a room or a cage, everything should be cleaned regularly with a bird-safe product to prevent disease and infection.
A military macaw will require time outside of the cage to stay healthy.
It is recommended that the bird spends at least 2-4 hours per day outside of their cage during supervised play time.
Exploring and interacting with their surroundings, allows them to move and stay in shape. Macaws are prone to obesity, so exercise is a must.
A great activity for a military macaw is chewing wood toys. The activity engages the bird’s body and maintains a strong jaw and sharp beak.
New and different toys, like swings and ladders, can create a fun environment for your macaw to stay healthy.
Mental stimulation is important for an animal of higher intelligence, like a military macaw.
The easiest way to keep their mind engaged is to allow the macaw to socialize with their family and visitors.
This socialization and stimulation will help prevent boredom and unwanted behaviors, like screaming, biting, and destroying items around the house.
Interactive toys and puzzles can also be used as enrichment to encourage your macaw to use their brain.
Hiding treats in these items can keep your bird busy for hours.
Destruction of toys is inevitable, so make sure that all play items are safe and don’t have any small pieces that could accidentally be ingested.
Military Macaw Fun Facts
- Military macaws were first named by explorers in the New World in the 1500s.
- In a behavior known as “blushing,” the skin on their cheeks will turn pink when they are excited.
- Military macaws are monogamous and typically mate for life.
Types of Military Macaws
There are two subspecies of military macaw:
- The Mexican military macaw is larger and is found primarily in Mexico.
- The Bolivian military macaw is found from Bolivia down to Argentina.
Are Military Macaws Rare? Are They Endangered?
Military macaws are a protected species that are considered vulnerable by the IUCN and endangered by Mexico and the US Endangered Species Act.
Therefore, it is illegal to collect them from the wild and to import them into the United States.
There is no official count for how many military macaws are left in the wild, but estimates place the population between 3,000 and 10,000 individuals.
Trends show the population continues to decline each year due to poaching for the illegal pet trade and deforestation.
What Do Military Macaws Eat in the Wild?
To keep up with their active lives, military macaws will eat a high-fat diet with lots of nuts and seeds.
They will also eat plant material, such as fruit, berries, and vegetables.
Remember that pet macaws will require a different diet than their wild counterparts as they do not burn nearly as many calories on a day-to-day basis.
What Is the Difference Between a Military Macaw and a Great Green Macaw?
Great green macaws are also known as Buffon’s macaws.
They were originally thought to be a subspecies of military macaw because the two species are capable of interbreeding.
Great green macaws are found in southern Central America and a small portion of South America.
Great green macaws are larger than military macaws. Their green feathers are a lighter shade than the olive-green feathers of the military macaws.
Are Military Macaws Loud?
All macaws are capable of being loud, but military macaws are known for being a quieter macaw species.
They tend to be loudest at dawn and dusk or when they are upset.
Are Military Macaws Nippy?
Everyone can have bad days, and that includes military macaws. If the bird is upset, it can become nippy and cranky.
If a macaw has not been properly socialized, it could become nippy permanently.
Also, military macaws are known for being territorial of their cages and can regularly bite hands that enter their space.
To prevent biting, military macaws should be socialized from birth. Hand-rearing also allows them to be comfortable around humans.
By keeping the macaw active and mentally stimulated with toys, puzzles, and human interactions, you can prevent cranky outbursts.
Are Military Macaws Good for Beginners?
As a generally well-tempered macaw, a military macaw can be a good first bird for beginners, though a smaller parrot, such as a parakeet (learn more here), is usually recommended for those with no avian experience.
The new owner should do their research to make sure they can provide all the proper care for their new macaw, including plenty of socialization and excellent veterinary care.
Is It Legal To Own a Military Macaw?
Yes, it is legal to own a captive-bred military macaw.
Since they are protected under the US Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to import them from other countries or sell them across state lines.
How Much Does It Cost To Own a Military Macaw?
Macaws cost more than just their initial purchase price. There are ongoing food, toy, and veterinary expenses.
This table outlines some of the major costs associated with owning a military macaw.
Training a Military Macaw
Utilize positive reinforcement training when working with a military macaw. This means you will reward correct behavior and ignore incorrect behaviors.
The rewards should be high value food items that are in pieces small enough to be eaten quickly.
Keep training sessions short and conduct them frequently, up to 2-3 times per day. Only work on one behavior per training session to avoid confusion.
If your macaw is easily distracted, try moving to an area with less stimulation to help them focus.
Always follow your macaw’s lead; don’t try to push them or they might stop training all together.
Do Military Macaws Talk?
Yes, military macaws are capable of learning multiple words and phrases.
Their voice is not as clear as some other macaw species, so they are not thought of as one of the best “talking” parrots.
If you have your heart set on a parrot skilled in talking ability, check out our list: Top 8 Most Talented Talking Parrots.
Where Can I Find a Military Macaw for Sale?
Since military macaws are considered endangered by the US Endangered Species Act and therefore cannot be sold across state lines, you should look for a breeder in your state.
Websites like birdbreeders.com can help you find a local breeder.
Adopting a military macaw is another great option. Not only will the price be cheaper, but you will be providing a home to a bird in need.
Petfinder.com and other rescue websites will have a database of adoptable birds.
Keep in mind that an older bird might need more work and training, depending on how they were cared for previously.
That’s a Wrap!
If someone is looking for a companion bird that is smart and interactive, the vibrant military macaw is an excellent option.
These even-tempered parrots will live a long and healthy life when given the right environment and care.