Last Updated on November 29, 2022 by Ali Shahid
Red Bellied Macaws (Orthopsittaca manilatus) is the largest of the mini macaw series, and they have the loudest vocalizations of all parrots.
These medium-sized macaws are mostly green in color and are endemic to tropical Amazonian South America from Columbia to Peru and Central Brazil. The reason they are referred to as red-bellied is due to the maroon patch found on their bellies.
The species is found in sand savannahs with palm groves and morich palm swamp forests. The Morich Palm is their favorite because they roost, nest, and feed on it. This is why these macaws can only live in their natural habitat.
Many people have tried to raise them in captivity, but the survival rate is really low. Even though the bird is local, it’s been adversely affected by clearing palms for posts or ranching, as well as by being captured as pets.
Do not confuse this parrot with the African red-bellied parrot (Poicephalus rufiventris), a smaller parrot of a similar name.
Origin and History of Red-Bellied Macaw
Georges-Louis Leclerc first described the red-bellied macaw in 1780. In addition, François-Nicolas Martinet illustrated the bird in a hand-colored engraving.
Robert Ridgway introduced the red-bellied macaw in 1912, the only species in the genus Orthopsittaca. It lives mainly in extensive forest and savanna habitats, palm forests with swampy wetlands interspersed with Mauritia flexuosa trees.
The species is found mostly in Amazonian South America, including Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Bolivia, Amazonian Peru, Brazil, and Trinidad. Nesting holes are found in dead palms near water or surrounding them.
Food availability may dictate seasonal movement, but they don’t migrate otherwise. The species is widespread in low-lying areas and has a large population, so conservation is not an issue.
Palm trees are being chopped down to make hammocks and baskets, resulting in habitat destruction. The deforestation of land for agricultural and human use is also widespread. The red-bellied macaw’s lifespan is between 15 and 30 years.
Red-bellied macaws are medium-sized birds, weighing 300 grams and measuring approximately 46 cm (18 inches) in length. Most of the bird’s plumage is green, along with bare mustard-yellow skin on the cere and most of the face.
Irises of this species are dark brown in color. There is a bluish tint to the forehead (crown). A greyish color is present on the chin, throat, and upper chest area, along with some green scalloping.
Generally, the lower abdomen (“belly”) has a large maroon patch that is characteristic of this species. There is a long, tapered tail. It has dull olive-yellow underwings and a dull olive-yellow undertail.
The beaks of adults are dark grey in color. A dark grey color is present on the legs and feet. They have zygodactyl feet, which means two toes point forward and two toes point backward.
Despite having identical plumage, males typically have larger heads and larger bodies.
The juveniles have a duller color and a gray beak with a prominent white stripe running along the upper part of their culmen (beak). A similar white culumen is only found in juvenile Spix’s macaws.
Temperament or Personality
This species of macaw is quite active, playful, and intelligent. The formation of flocks in the wild is an important behavior for detecting and avoiding predators, socializing, territorializing, and improving foraging efficiency.
A combination of unstable food resources and predation risks contributes to this phenomenon. Flocking reduces the risk of predation for an individual. Additionally, flocking increases the likelihood that an individual will be able to locate food.
It is evident that dominant relationships and individual rankings are used to allocate food resources and maintain social order. The position of males in society is generally higher than that of females.
The temperament of these birds in captivity is unknown. However, it has been reported that they are prone to becoming stressed relatively quickly, so they should be handled carefully.
Generally, captive animals do not adapt well to new situations or captivity. If they become stressed, they will often engage in stressful behavior, such as plucking their feathers.
This type of behavior is often so severe that it adversely affects the health of the bird. Red-bellied macaws are susceptible to stress, which leads to shortened lifespans in captivity.
It is often considered that these birds would not make good pets due to their personality traits. In captivity, they are difficult to maintain. As with many Macaws, they are highly social animals.
It is unfortunate, however, that their owners do not always respond to this social behavior. For your birds to stay healthy and happy, you will need to devote several hours each day to them. Otherwise, they’ll get stressed out.
Speech & Vocalizations
The red-bellied macaw makes deafening screams. They do this both in captivity and in the wild. Consequently, they are not suitable for apartment living or those seeking a quieter bird.
If you decide to adopt one of these parrots, be prepared for plenty of noise. There is little information available regarding their mimicry behavior. Even if they could, many birds do not survive long enough to acquire the ability to understand words.
It is likely that these birds are not best suited to mimicking, especially given the fact that they spend most of their time in captivity stressed out.
Most owners report that they get used to their screaming call after a while, but some find it unsettling at first. It is not a bird you purchase for its attractive song.
Captive breeding of red-bellied macaws is challenging. The breeding season begins in February and ends in May or June. A clutch consists of two to six eggs, which are incubated for approximately 27 days.
A young bird begins to fledge in the eleventh week of its life. In general, they mature over a period of 2-3 years and are particularly close to their parents.
It is recommended to supplement the diet during the breeding season with some additional high-fat seeds, such as sunflower seeds, to enhance reproduction.
An effective pair bond occurs when males and females who are sexually mature form a mutually beneficial relationship.
This behavior is evident in the cooperative nurturing of the young, which is characterized by assisted feeding, pair participation in agnostic behavior, and close spatial association, almost always involving contact.
Social hierarchy is likely to be altered during the breeding season. As a result of the pair bond, an individual has more successful aggressive encounters when their mate is nearby. However, there is no evidence of agnosticism between the pair.
As long as the female is in the flock, the males do not show affiliative behaviors. However, pair bonding is not exclusive. In addition to incubating and feeding the hatchlings, males guard the nest and provide assisted feeding to their mates.
Males, however, have the chance to have a secondary female as the female nests with her young. Infants are generally cared for by their parents throughout their infancy.
Diet and Nutrition
Palm nuts are the main source of food for these birds in the wild. The oil content and carbohydrate content are high, but the fat content is relatively low. The availability of these nuts on a commercial basis is limited.
Unless you live in an area with palm trees, it is difficult to provide these birds with a diet similar to what they would consume in the wild.
There is a likelihood that many Red-Bellied Macaws will not survive long if they are not provided with a suitable diet in captivity.
The birds should never be fed commercial food mixtures. These foods are far too high in fat and do not provide these birds with the nutrients they need.
There is no way you can expect the bird to last long if it is fed nothing but junk food. The most common food they are fed is peanuts, which are readily available and resemble what they would eat naturally.
In the present situation, this appears to be the best course of action for these birds. It may be appropriate to feed some pelleted diets. However, you should avoid feeding them a diet that is high in fat. Ideally, pelleted diets should consist almost entirely of carbohydrates.
Caring for the Red-Bellied Macaw
There are some challenges associated with the care of these birds. In most cases, they do not adapt well to captivity and are easily stressed. Many birds live for only a few months or years.
It is therefore difficult for us to provide information regarding their long-term care. The majority of people do not own birds for long enough to become familiar with their care requirements.
The best way to keep these macaws alive is to create an environment that mimics their natural environment. Ideally, they should be kept in a large aviary where they will be able to fly around freely.
Since they typically roost in dead trees in the wild, you should provide them with a covered area where they can roost. These birds require companionship to thrive. There are often five to ten birds sleeping together each night in large family groups.
It is unlikely that most people will be able to accommodate that many birds. However, at least one companion must be provided for them. If not, they may experience high levels of stress.
The aviary should be kept free of drafts that may cause sudden changes in temperature. They are accustomed to living in relatively warm climates as tropical birds. It is unlikely that they will survive in colder temperatures.
Allow your birds to spend at least a few hours outside each day. The time spent with these brilliant birds should be supervised as they are capable of getting into just about anything.
Ensure that they are well-stimulated mentally and socially. The process of socializing your birds will be simplified if you house more than one bird. However, if you only own one bird, you will need to spend a lot of time socializing with it every day.
We recommend these birds only for advanced bird owners due to their commitment requirements. Typically, they are not suitable for new owners since they are easily stressed. As far as their care is concerned, they are not forgiving.
Common Health Problems of Red Bellied Macaws
The Red Bellied Macaw is generally a healthy bird, but it is susceptible to the following illnesses:
- Macaw wasting disease
- Feather picking
- Kidney Disease
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
Please consult your veterinarian if you suspect any problem with your birds.
Why Red-Bellied Macaws are Not Captive Birds?
The high-stress personality of these birds, as well as their low-fat and high-carbohydrate diet, make keeping them alive in captivity extremely difficult. In the pet trade, exports and imports often result in a 100% mortality rate.
There is a low survival rate for captive-bred chicks. In recent years, these birds have only been exported from Guyana.
In the absence of commercially available moriche palm nuts, shelled unsalted peanuts are commonly consumed by captive birds. If you find a captive red-bellied macaw, be prepared to pay between 5,000 and 15000 dollars.
You should not feed them commercial bird seed, particularly sunflower seed. In Guyana, Howard Voren observed red-bellied macaw’s wild behaviors and devised a feeding and housing method that would keep them alive in captivity.
However, he kept it secret for many years because he didn’t want to revive the wild-caught macaw trade, which had already been significantly reduced due to mortality rates.
It is generally not recommended to own a Red-Bellied Macaw. There are certain situations in which they may make a good pet. However, they are not well adapted to captivity.
Generally, captive animals do not survive longer than a few months, particularly if they are rescued from the wild. Chicks, even those raised in captivity, do not survive for very long.
This may explain why these birds are not as popular as other macaw species. It is imperative that you understand what you are getting into if you intend to purchase one of these birds.
They require plenty of exercise space, a special diet, and mental stimulation. It is highly recommended that you purchase more than one bird (if you are lucky enough to get one) to provide them with the company.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.