Severe Macaw Facts | Info, Price, Care, Training & More

Also known as the chestnut-fronted macaw, severe macaws are eye-catching parrots with a bold personality to match, despite their small stature.

Their glorious green plumage provides excellent camouflage in the wild, but these birds aren’t afraid to make themselves known in captivity.

Are severe macaws good pets? Severe macaws can be great pets due to their intelligent, gregarious personalities. They love to interact and play, can learn to repeat words, and will bond closely to owners. These mini macaws can be loud and occasionally stubborn, so they may not be ideal for beginners or apartment living. 

There will certainly never be a dull moment in your home if you purchase a severe macaw, but before you commit to caring for one, make sure you consult the following care sheet.

You’ll learn the realities of caring for and training them, what it takes to keep them happy, and much more.

Severe Macaw Facts 

Learning some background info on the severe macaw can help you decide whether to take one on as a pet.

Here’s an overview of where they can be found, their basic needs, intelligence, and more.

Severe Appearance & Size

Adult severe macaws measure 15-20 inches (38-50 cm) and weigh between 350-400 grams (under 1 lb).

Their plumage is shimmering green with blue and red accents on their wing and long tail feathers.

Severe macaws also bear chestnut patches on their forehead and below their large dark-gray beaks and have a bare facial patch of white skin with fine, dark feathers encircling their golden eyes.

Severe Macaw Temperament & Personality

Severe’s are curious, comical parrots, but while sociable, they can often be grouchy when handled.

This is made worse by poor socialization and the fact that severe macaws are a relatively recent import, being bred in captivity for shorter periods compared to other well-domesticated macaws.

Severe Macaw Native Region & Habitat

Native to central and northernmost South America, severe macaws range from eastern Panama to as far as Bolivia.

Wild severe macaws are normally found in flooded forests, swamps, and humid woodland areas, preferring to roost in high tree cavities.

Severe Macaw Intelligence & Trainability

Like all other macaws, severe macaws are considered to be highly intelligent and are likely capable of more than is currently realized.

Even being “potty” trained in within their reach with dedicated effort from the owner.

You can find training tips and advice in our article here.

Are Severe Macaws Smart?

Yes, severe’s are very bright parrots who enjoy interaction, solving puzzles, and performing tricks.

Their eagerness for attention and communication with owners can also make some quite capable talkers.

Are Severe Macaws Easy To Train?

Severe macaws are typically easy to train, though young severe macaws that have been hand-reared (fed by humans) will respond better to training.

Early socialization is key with severe macaws since adolescents and older birds show more resistance to handling if under socialized.

Severe Macaw Sounds & Vocalizations

Severe macaws communicate in loud, squawking “contact calls” in their attempt to call their flock (you) back to them and tend to be most vocal in the morning and evening.

They also love to mimic words and sounds from their environment in loud high-pitched tones. (Screaming can be an issue too, which we’ll discuss later.)

Severe Macaw Care

A severe macaw perched on the very end of a branch.

Ideal Severe Macaw Diet

Formulated high-quality pellet mix should make up their base diet (around ½ a cup per day).

Lafeber’s brand comes highly recommended by experts. You can find it here on Amazon.

Pellets should be supplemented with chopped fresh fruit and dark, leafy green vegetables (approx ½ a cup) to provide a wide range of nutrients.

Energy-boosting treats such as almonds and seeds can be fed in moderation (not exceeding 1½ tablespoon servings).

Housing Requirements

Despite their small size, severe macaws require a cage suited to large macaws (5 feet tall x 2 feet long x 3 feet wide) to comfortably spread their wings.

You should also provide an outside-cage perch and play-stand (check out this table-top stand with toy hanger, bowls, and a ladder) as secondary spots for them to explore during the day.

Exercise

Wild severe macaws will fly long distances each day for food, so ensure your pet stays active by allowing them outside their cage for up to 4 hours for indoor play.

Also consider controlled flight outdoors. This guide shows you how to keep your macaw safe when outside.

Among their basic cage perches should also be ladders and rope swings to strengthen muscles.

Stimulation

As highly social parrots, severe macaws thrive on attention, which contributes to their overall mental well-being.

Engage with them for several hours each day and place a perch in several rooms in your home so they don’t become lonely while you’re working or enjoying leisure time.

They’ll also need stimulating toys to enrich their cage environment such as puzzles, foraging toys, and chewing material to keep their beaks, feet, and minds occupied.

Severe Macaw Price

Costs range from $600 up to $1,000 depending on whether they are hand-reared or are still being weaned from their parent.

Along with the cage, toys, and long-term food and vet bills, the annual costs of keeping a severe macaw can be around $350-$500.

Severe Macaw Lifespan

Severe macaws can live up to 30 years or more with proper nutrition and care.

Macaw owners on the Avian Avenue parrot forum have known of individuals with “a longevity similar to larger macaws at 40 years plus.”

Severe Macaw Interesting Facts

  • They are androgynous or monomorphic parrots, meaning that males and females are identical to one another – only genetic testing can determine their sex.
  • Wild severe macaws often eat clay from eroded riverbanks in Central and South America to protect them against the toxins found in their favorite fruits and plants.
  • Their tail makes up half of their total size – around 8-10 inches long!

Is a Severe Macaw a Mini Macaw? 

A severe macaw using his beak to clean his right foot.

Severe macaws are part of the mini macaw family (a separate grouping of macaws measuring 20 inches and under) and are the largest of all the minis.

Since they share the large beaks, long tails, and attitude of their larger cousins, severes are essentially a compact version of the Amazonian giants thrice their size!

Are Severe Macaws Aggressive?

Severe macaws can be aggressive when they lack socialization from an early age and even then, they require ongoing social interaction to keep aggressive tendencies at bay.

Severe macaws are especially challenging once they reach sexual maturity or their “bluffing stage” at the age of 3-4 years as they tend to nip, bite, and lunge at anyone – even owners.

It’s for this reason that severe macaws have a reputation as “one-person” parrots.

Why Are Severe Macaws Called Severe? 

The moniker “Severe” is attributed to these mini macaws because of their difficult nature when they reach adolescence.

Their scientific name Ara severa derives from the Latin word severus meaning strict or severe.

Are Severe Macaws Loud? 

Yes, it is their nature to produce loud calls, and it is common for severe macaws to communicate in loud squawks to express excitement or fear in response to stimuli in their environment.

Often, the louder their surroundings, the louder they are.

As one long-time severe owner shared on the Parrot Musings blog community: “he’ll usually scream because the dogs are barking and then he tries to be louder than them.”

Bonding With a Severe Macaw

Aim to spend as much time with your severe macaw as they will allow, taking care not to scold them for bites or screams as this will only breed negative associations with being close to you.

The obstacles to bonding effectively with a severe macaw are a lack of human interaction and past trauma.

The former makes them lonely and irritable while the latter breaks trust, so find out about their past first.

Parrot trainer and co-founder of BirdTricks, Jamieliegh Womach recommends playing bond-building games once your macaw masters the training basics (discussed below) to establish trust and closeness with your bird.

Training a Severe Macaw: 4 Tips for Success 

Begin with a young, hand-reared bird for the best chance of success, and always keep the following tips in mind to get training sessions off to the right start:

1. Begin With Stick Training, Not Your Finger

The first and most basic command to teach your severe macaw will be to “step-up” onto your finger like a perch, but because they may lack trust and possibly bite, it is safest to begin with a stick.

This can be a dowel or perch they are already familiar with from their cage.

2. Train in Conjunction With Feeding

Multiple macaw owner on the Parrot Forum community “Birdman666” advises that you get the best results “if you work with them when they are hungry, as they are most responsive to food rewards.”

So each time you ask them to “step-up,” vocally praise them, and offer a small treat to reinforce desired behavior.

3. Remind Them Who’s in Charge

Try not to let your macaw perch above your head level, and refrain from letting them sit on your shoulder as this tells them they are “top bird” and head of the flock instead of equal to it.

If they do this, command a gentle but firm “No” or “Down,” coaxing them onto their training stick or your finger and rewarding them.

4. Socialize Them Early and Often

While some severe macaws may always be “one-person” birds, you can control how aggressive or mistrustful they are toward others by simply involving your household in their day.

This means having others speak to them regularly and be present during feeding or outside-cage play to make socializing, not singular attachment, part of their routine.

How Do You Train a Severe Macaw To Stop Screaming? 

Severe macaws scream because they are expecting a similar reply, so the first step towards discouraging screaming is to ignore them and walk away for several minutes.

For a while screaming may continue, which makes this harder to pursue, but you must for the next step to be effective.

In between screaming fits, reward them with vocal praise and treats when they are quiet to “positively reinforce quiet behavior” as avian specialist and author Dr. Laurie Hess suggests.

“When a bird sees that screaming does not accomplish this same response from you, he will ultimately stop screaming in favor of quiet behavior to get attention.”

How To Train a Severe Macaw Not To Bite

Remember that severe macaws become naturally nippy during their “bluffing” stage and illness can sometimes cause biting to occur, so if those two factors can be ruled out, biting could be caused by boredom, fear, or stress.

Whatever the root cause, observing the following tips should help reduce biting behavior:

NEVER Punish by Hitting

Physically reprimanding your macaw for biting is not a form of discipline they respond to and can lead to them becoming permanently fearful of your hand.

Ignoring their behavior and walking away for a brief period sends the right signal.

DON’T Flinch After Being Bitten

As hard as it sounds, learn not to yank your hand back when bites occur as this feeds the thought “biting is a game with my owner.”

Saying a sharp, steady “No” should be your immediate response.

DO Use Positive Reinforcement When They Behave

Any time you can interact with them/feed them without being bitten, praise them well with a special treat they wouldn’t normally receive.

As with screaming training, your severe will come to recognize that nonviolent behavior earns a better response than biting.

STOP Attempting the “Step-up” Command

Veterinarian Dr. Rick Axelson suggests that asking your macaw to “step-up” while biting confuses things.

“You will have to regain their trust in a gentle, gradual fashion.”

Axelson also recommends offering a treat without asking to step-up, and once they do so without biting, “begin asking for one foot onto a perch and go from there.”

Can Severe Macaws Learn To Talk? 

Severe macaws are one of the best talkers in the mini-macaw family.

They are skilled mimics of sounds and words they frequently hear and can repeat them with clarity in their amusing high-pitched tone.

With daily positive reinforcement training (using a combo of treats and a ‘clicker’ device), severe macaws can build an extensive vocabulary over time.

This free e-book is full of helpful advice and tactics when teaching your severe macaw to talk.

You’ll also enjoy the video below for inspiration and to see a severe macaw’s impressive talking ability.

Severe Macaw Health Issues 

Severe macaws are very hardy and less prone to avian illness compared with other parrots, but poor hygiene and exposure to ill birds can make them susceptible to the following conditions.

Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)

This is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted by an infected bird but is commonly caused by unhygienic living conditions.

If parrot cages are not cleaned regularly, dried fecal matter and feather dander at the bottom of their cage can build up and send airborne particles into the atmosphere, which are then inhaled by your macaw – causing breathing difficulties, eye/nasal discharge, and more.

Proventricular Dilation Syndrome (Macaw Wasting Disease)

PDS is an inflammatory disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract of many bird species including macaws and is thought to be linked to the avian borna-virus.

According to veterinarian Dr. Rick Axelson, an estimated “20-35% of all birds are affected” and acquire the disease through an infected bird’s “feces, saliva, and nasal secretions.”

Learn more about PDS symptoms and treatment options here.

Severe Macaw vs. Hahn’s Macaw 

With predominantly green bodies and red coloring on the underside of their wings, the Hahn’s mini macaw appears quite similar to a severe, but at only 12 inches long, Hahn’s macaws are the smallest of all macaws in general so they won’t require a typically large macaw cage.

Hahn’s can be nippy and scream but have an overall gentler temperament compared to severe macaws.

Their ultra-compact size, docile nature, and similarly beautiful colors can make Hahn’s macaws the perfect beginner macaw for those new to the species.

Severe Macaw vs. Military Macaw 

Despite the same green body plumage, the military macaw has many notable differences from the severe macaw in its coloring, size, and facial features.

At 30 inches long, they are closer to the world’s largest macaw species, and they have a distinctive bright red band of feathers on their forehead.

Military macaws are named so due to their resemblance to traditional British military uniform, though when in flight, their wingspan also reveals a rainbow of blue and yellow feathers.

Like severe macaws, they aren’t considered cuddly parrots, but they are easily tamed and can even become “guard birds” to alert you to strangers.

You can read more about military macaws in our article here.

Where Can I Buy a Severe Macaw Parrot?

You can buy severe macaw parrots locally or online from adoption agencies or private breeders.

Whichever you opt for, be sure to ask about the macaw’s health history, temperament, vaccinations, etc.

A reputable macaw seller should be able to provide you with official documentation and answer your questions. Anything less is a red flag.

Conclusion

In summary, severe macaws are aptly-named due to their difficult hormonal stage and loud personalities.

However, under the patient and watchful care of the right trainer, severe macaws make affectionate and funny companions.

Early socialization and an enriching cage environment are key to dampening their worst instincts, and once these are in check, successful training and a lasting bond is possible with this diminutive, demanding parrot.

Sources:

http://www.parrotforums.com/macaws/24558-severe-macaw-price-good.html

https://kidadl.com/animal-facts/mini-macaw-facts

https://forums.avianavenue.com/index.php?threads/any-idea-how-long-a-severe-macaw-lives.51192/

https://parrotmusings.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-severe-macaw-got-its-name.html

https://forums.avianavenue.com/index.php?threads/severe-macaw-noise.122775/

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/biting-and-screaming-in-birds

https://parrotmusings.blogspot.com/2009/01/my-thoughts-on-severe-macaws.html

https://www.northernparrots.com/how-to-stop-or-reduce-screaming-in-parrots-blog108/

http://www.parrotforums.com/macaws/54426-severe-macaw-bonding.html

https://lbah.com/avian/proventricular-dilatation-syndrome-pds/

https://beakcraze.com/are-mini-macaws-good-pets/

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