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How Long Do Macaw Parrots Live? Average Lifespan, Data, & Care

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

Portrait of a Blue Yellow Macaw Parrot on at night city colorful bokeh background

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As pets, macaws are among the most popular avian species. However, they can also present many challenges, and are not recommended for inexperienced bird owners. One of the major obstacles owners need to prepare for is how long macaws live. In this article, you’ll learn the average lifespan of macaws and how to properly care for one to allow it to live a long and healthy life.

On average, pet macaws live 35–50 years. There are 17 separate macaw species, and their lifespans vary slightly. Macaws are divided into two groups: large and mini. Reportedly, the oldest pet macaw lived a mind-blowing 112 years.1

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How Long Do Macaw Parrots Live in the Wild?

On average, wild macaws live about 60 years, depending on the species. Wild birds are threatened by habitat loss, natural predators, and the illegal pet trade. However, they also get more exercise and fresh air and consume a proper diet compared to captive macaws, which may extend their lifespan.

Pet macaws are at risk of accidents and predators in their homes. Ceiling fans, other pets, windows, toxic fumes, and electrical wires can harm or kill captive macaws.

It is vital when looking to adopt a bird such as the macaw, that you ensure that you are not inadvertently contributing to the removal of wild birds from their habitat, a crime recognized internationally by the  Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Blue and Gold Macaw
Image Credit: khairicherus, Pixabay

How to Care for Your Macaw Parrots for a Long Lifespan?

Feeding & Diet

Without the proper diet, macaws can become overweight, which leads to health issues that shorten their lifespan. Most of the bird’s diet (about 75%) should consist of a pellet diet formulated specifically for macaws; there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to parrot diets.

Quality pellet diets contain the right blend of nutrients to keep your bird healthy and prevent them from picking out only tasty, less nutritious morsels. You can supplement the pellets with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains with guidance from your avian specialist. Nuts and seeds can be served in limited quantities as treats.

Environment

The fumes from candles, aerosol sprays, plug-in air fresheners, and non-stick cookware can cause respiratory problems in a macaw parrot. Because the birds love to chew, they can harm themselves by gnawing on live wires, tobacco products, jewelry that contains zinc, or lead paint.

Macaws can also get hurt flying into ceiling fans or glass windows and mirrors. And, of course, other pets, including dogs, cats, and other birds, could attack and injure your macaw, or worse.

Macaw playing with toy
Image Credit: Tracy Starr, Shutterstock

Care

Pet macaws need a lot of space to exercise and stretch their wings. Typically, they do best with access to an outdoor aviary. A cage is not appropriate for a macaw unless it is being used to transport them or house them temporarily. If you cannot provide your macaw with open space to fly, then this is not the pet for you. The macaw parrot can get bored, destructive, and overweight without proper exercise and mental stimulation.

Macaws need a variety of perches and toys for daily enrichment. Check the toys daily and replace them as needed because the macaw will chew them to bits if given the chance. Providing them with rough tree branches and tough toys should eliminate the need for beak or claw trimming. They should be given mist baths three to five times a week.

Cleaning

Macaw parrots that live in dirty environments are susceptible to several health problems, and an unclean bird aviary poses health risks to us as well. Large birds make a large mess, so keep this in mind when planning their habitat.

Behavior

Macaw parrots are, to put it bluntly, needy birds. They bond closely with their human owners, often viewing them as monogamous mates. Because they are so social, macaws can become lonely and bored if they don’t get enough attention. In the wild, they will gather in groups of around 10-30 birds, so it is understandable that a solitary bird can become lonely, bored, and frustrated.

Like human teenagers, macaws can have a challenging adolescent stage of life. Young macaws are usually very loving, but as they approach sexual maturity, they can become aggressive, hard to handle, and generally difficult to live with.

Unfortunately, inexperienced bird owners may not realize the behavior is usually temporary and decide they don’t want the macaw anymore. Rehoming a macaw can be challenging due to their long lifespan, so the bird’s behavior may contribute to a shortened lifespan if a suitable new home can’t be found.

macaw parrot holds a piece of bread in its clawed paw and eats it
Image Credit: Dmitrii Kash, Shutterstock

Healthcare

Macaws are vulnerable to several infectious diseases, including the following:

  • Macaw wasting disease (Proventricular dilatation syndrome)
  • Parrot fever (chlamydiosis)
  • Avian polyomavirus

They can also suffer from a yeast infection called candidiasis if housed in unclean conditions and are prone to feather picking, which can indicate a medical or behavioral issue. To keep your macaw healthy, get them tested for infectious diseases before you bring them home.

It’s best to maintain a relationship with a local avian veterinarian and take your bird for annual physical exams. During the visits, the vet can assess your pet’s health with fecal exams and bloodwork and discuss their diet, exercise, and any behavioral concerns you may have.

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The Life Stages of a Macaw Parrot

Like all birds, macaws hatch without feathers. This life stage is known as nestlings and lasts until about 3–7 months old when the bird begins to learn to fly. At that point, they are known as fledglings.

Once the adult feathers develop, macaws are considered juveniles until they reach sexual maturity, which may occur at 2–10 years of age, depending on the species.

How to Tell Your Macaw Parrot’s Age

Once a macaw parrot reaches sexual maturity, there’s no easy way to determine their age. Most people buy young macaws when they are 1–2 years old, after they have all their adult feathers. At that point, behavior is the best clue to their age since they are usually quite loving and affectionate.

“Teenage” macaws, or those reaching sexual maturity, will act like cranky human adolescents, which is also a good clue to their age. Blue-and-yellow macaws reach sexual maturity at 3–4 years, for example, so if they’re acting aggressive, loud, and moody, you can probably estimate their age.

Once fully mature, macaws usually calm down again. You probably won’t know how old an adult macaw is until they start developing age-related health problems, and even then, you’ll know they are geriatric but not their exact age.

Macaw bird
Image Credit: Paul Brennan, Pixabay

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Conclusion

It’s tough to assess how old an adult macaw parrot is accurately, and you could buy or adopt a bird who will be with you for 30 years or more. That kind of time and financial commitment is not something to enter without a lot of research, thought, and planning. No matter how old you are, it’s best to develop a plan for your macaw parrot to continue receiving care if they outlive you.


Featured Image Credit: Tanu4869, Shutterstock

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