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9 Largest Pet Parrot Breeds: Pictures, Facts & History

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Parrot Pet

Parrots are incredibly impressive birds, both in the wild and as pets. The larger species are even more awe-inspiring due to their long lives, coloring, and intelligence. While there are several large parrot breeds that you can’t legally keep as pets, many breeds have been kept as companions for centuries.

The large parrots on this list are all affectionate and dedicated companions. They adore their owners, and their size is just as impressive as their eye-catching plumage.

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How Are Large Pet Parrots Classified?

There are many bird species that you can keep as pets, but not all of them are parrots. Parrots are among the most common pet birds due to their bright plumage, ability to speak, and social natures. There are over 350 species belonging to the parrot family, and they all fall under the order Psittaciformes.1

While many of them do have brightly colored feathers, their colorful plumage isn’t the only factor that makes them a parrot. These birds are recognized by their curved beaks and zygodactyl feet. They also range in size from small cockatiels to large macaws.

The 9 Largest Pet Parrot Breeds

1. African Grey

african grey parrot
Image Credit: manfredrichter, Pixabay
Origin: Central and West Africa
Lifespan: 20–50 years
Size: 12–16 inches
Temperament: Charming, intelligent, talkative

Alongside the bright plumage, a parrot’s ability to mimic human speech is one of the reasons that these birds are so popular. The African Grey Parrot, or the Grey Parrot, might not be as vibrant as some other large parrot breeds, but they are considered the most intelligent. They’re so well known for their smarts, in fact, they are frequently compared to 3–4-year-old children.

With their ability to build an extensive vocabulary, you can expect them to be incredibly talkative. They’re also prone to boredom and are known for making frequent loud, obnoxious, or unwanted noises in a bid for attention. While they’re not the best suited for apartments, they are affectionate pets and will seek out head scratches when they’re not playing or climbing.

2. Blue-and-Gold Macaw

macaw parrot holds a piece of bread in its clawed paw and eats it
Image Credit: Dmitrii Kash, Shutterstock
Origin: South America
Lifespan: 50–60 years
Size: 29–33 inches
Temperament: Social, loud, sometimes destructive

When you think of parrots, the Blue-and-Gold Macaw is likely to be one of the first that comes to mind. They’re incredibly easy to recognize as a parrot due to their blue-and-yellow plumage. They’re also one of the parrot breeds that are widely available in the pet market. However, they are often subject to illegal trading, so make sure the breeder you visit is a reputable one.

Blue-and-Gold Macaws aren’t the most beginner-friendly parrots. Not only can their size be difficult to manage, but they’re also too loud for apartment life and frequently destructive. They can live between 50 and 60 years or more if cared for properly. Since they form lifelong bonds, they are not a commitment to take lightly.

Along with their vibrant colors, their facial markings are among their most prominent features. These are similar to our fingerprints and are unique to each bird.

3. Eclectus Parrot

male Eclectus parrot bird in flight
Image Credit: sompreaw, Shutterstock
Origin: New Guinea, Indonesia, and Australia
Lifespan: 30–40 years
Size: 14 inches
Temperament: Timid, social, talkative

One of the most colorful and talkative parrot breeds kept as pets is the Eclectus Parrot. There are several subspecies, but the most common in the wild and as a pet is the New Guinea Red-Sided Eclectus Parrot. Although they’re known to live longer in the wild than as pets, they still have a lifespan of up to 40 years, and they’re popular for their bright plumage and ability to mimic human voices.

They’re one of the few bird species with vastly different appearances between sexes. Males and females look so different that when the birds were first documented, they were believed to belong to different breeds.

While the males are predominantly green to blend in with vegetation, the females are mostly bright red, so they can be almost invisible when they’re in their nest. Together, they make a striking couple and are social, talkative, and affectionate.

4. Double Yellow-Headed Amazon Parrot

double yellow headed amazon parrot
Image Credit: Fine Art Photos, Shutterstock
Origin: Mexico and Central America
Lifespan: 35–50 years
Size: 14–16 inches
Temperament: Boisterous, active, talkative

A striking large parrot breed commonly kept as a pet is the Double Yellow-Headed Amazon Parrot. Like other parrot breeds, they’re adored for their speaking ability and have been kept as pets for centuries. They’re recognized by their yellow face and head, green plumage, and red shoulders. It takes 3–5 years for them to develop their adult coloring.

Despite being one of the most popular pet birds and easily found in captivity, their population is rapidly declining in the wild. Make sure you choose a reputable breeder who doesn’t support smuggling to help protect wild birds.

While they’re mostly friendly and incredibly social, these birds are not recommended for beginners. They need a large amount of space to fly in and explore and many toys to engage with. If they get bored, they’re known to scream or become aggressive to amuse themselves.

5. Hyacinth Macaw

Hyacinth Macaw
Image Credit: Erika Kirkpatrick, Shutterstock
Origin: Brazil
Lifespan: 30–60 years
Size: 35–40 inches
Temperament: Inquisitive, social, talkative

The largest macaw breed is the Hyacinth Macaw, and they’re quite a popular pet. Recognized by their deep blue plumage, the Hyacinth Macaw is incredibly social and often travels in groups of 30–40 birds in the wild. They do best with a friend and plenty of interaction with you.

Their care needs aren’t the only factor that makes these parrots unsuited for beginners. They’re also incredibly expensive due to how difficult it is to breed them in captivity and the fact that it’s illegal to trap wild specimens and sell them internationally.

The Hyacinth Macaw is friendly and talkative, with a keen ability to mimic human speech like many other parrot species. With a lifespan of 60 years or more, they’re a lifelong commitment for dedicated bird owners.

6. Red-and-Green Macaw

harlequin macaw close up
Image Credit: Super Prin, Shutterstock
Origin: Southern Central America and northern South America
Lifespan: 60–80 years
Size: 26–37 inches
Temperament: Gregarious, intelligent, talkative

Of the macaw species commonly kept as pets, the Red-and-Green Macaw (also known as the Green-Winged Macaw) is the second largest. Similar to the Blue-and-Gold Macaw, the Red-and-Green Macaw is easily recognized as a parrot due to their bright-red plumage and the blue-and-green coloring on their wings. Like many other parrots, they can live up to 80 years and build strong bonds with their owners.

As with all macaw breeds, they’re known for their intelligence and ability to talk. They are also messy, noisy, and destructive, making them unsuitable for apartments or owners who prefer peace and quiet. While they don’t live in large groups in the wild like some macaw species, the Red-and-Green Macaw does well in pairs or a small family group.

7. Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw
Image Credit: Angel DiBilio, Shutterstock
Origin: South and Central America
Lifespan: 40–75 years
Size: 30–35 inches
Temperament: Sassy, social, talkative

The Scarlet Macaw is a brightly colored parrot favored by bird lovers. They look similar to the Red-and-Green Macaw but can be distinguished by the yellow feathers on their wings and the lack of red markings around their eyes.

If you’re looking for a large parrot with a personality that matches the vibrancy of their plumage, the Scarlet Macaw is one of the best. They’re sassy and talkative, with plenty of energy to play, explore, and seek affection from you and their partner if they have one. Like most macaws, their talkativeness is also a common downside, and they’re not recommended for small apartments or quiet owners.

Don’t forget to give them plenty of attention and toys to play with. They can be destructive or noisier than usual if they get bored. With a lifespan of up to 75 years, you need to be prepared for a lifelong commitment.

8. Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo Bird
Image Credit: hartono subagio, Pixabay
Origin: East Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, and New Zealand
Lifespan: 60–80 years
Size: 15–20 inches
Temperament: Affectionate, intelligent, noisy

Distinguished from other white cockatoo species by their yellow crest, wing, and tail feathers, the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo has a more subtle coloring than other macaws, but they’re no less vibrant. Their white feathers also make them an easy parrot to spot, but their large size makes them difficult to care for.

Besides being incredibly long-lived, with a life expectancy of around 80 years, they’re also affectionate and intelligent. They’ll quickly learn to mimic speech and other household sounds and aren’t afraid to make noise. Their intelligence also helps them pick up tricks, such as opening their cage door if it’s not secured properly.

The Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo needs a large amount of space in their cage and out of it and is happiest with a companion or two. Unlike many other parrot breeds, they’re still widespread throughout Australia and are happy to live alongside humans both as pets and wildlife.

9. Umbrella Cockatoo

Umbrella Cockatoo
Image Credit: Nigel Dowsett, Shutterstock
Origin: Indonesia
Lifespan: 50–60 years
Size: 18 inches
Temperament: Affectionate, charming, even-tempered

Compared to many other parrot breeds, the Umbrella Cockatoo is favored more for their loyalty and companionship rather than their mimicking skills. However, they are still noisy and will scream for attention or just for fun, so they’re not the best for apartments. Noisiness aside, if you’re looking for an affectionate pet, the Umbrella Cockatoo is one of the most loving parrot breeds.

They are a charming, long-lived companion that can also be demanding of your time and attention. If they feel neglected, they’re prone to self-mutilation and other destructive behavior and need an experienced owner to manage their care needs. When paired with the right owner, though, they easily pick up tricks and love to cuddle.

Like the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, the Umbrella Cockatoo is completely white with yellow feathering on the underside of their wings. They’re recognized by their crest, which when raised, looks similar to an umbrella.

Are Large Parrots Recommended for Beginner Bird Owners?

While this list contains many popular large pet parrot breeds, it’s important to remember that not all parrots can be kept as pets. Unfortunately, birds of any size aren’t always the right choice for all pet owners.

Large parrots might be talkative, friendly, and lifelong companions, but their positive traits can also be downsides. They are noisy and require a dedicated owner who is prepared to look after their bird for most of their life or make arrangements for the parrot should they outlive their owner. For novice bird owners in particular, large parrots are a much bigger challenge than small species and can be difficult to care for due to their social needs, activity levels, and dietary requirements.

You also need to consider that parrots are not domesticated like cats or dogs. They still have close ties to their wild ancestors, and many are even subjects of illegal trading. Some of them are also endangered in their native habitats, so you need to be careful whom you purchase your parrot from.

two parrots perched on a tree
Image Credit: edmondlafoto, Pixabay

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For bird owners looking for a lifelong companion that turns heads, a parrot is one of the most eye-catching pets in the world. The large breeds are even more impressive, with their size, intelligence, lifespan, and coloring making them beautiful and dedicated companions.

Before you venture into the world of bird ownership, always make sure you’ve done your research into their care needs and costs. For the right owner, a large parrot is the perfect pet, but they also require a lifelong commitment, a great deal of attention, and plenty of activity.

Featured Image Credit: Suparat Sukpradit, Shutterstock

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