harlequin macaw

Harlequin Macaw Species Guide: Care, Cage Setups & Easy Tricks To Teach Harlequins

Harlequin macaw considering a feathered friend? Look no further than the harlequin macaw. Renowned for their stunning plumage, these birds are also cherished for their laid-back demeanor and affectionate nature.

At first glance, their parrot-like color patterns may blend in with other macaw species, but spend some time with a harlequin macaw, and you’ll discover their distinct personality shines through, making each one truly one-of-a-kind.

Species Overview

The term “harlequin” carries a playful connotation, fitting perfectly with the demeanor of this species—cheeky and cheerful by nature.

Scientifically labeled as ara ararauna × ara chloroptera, harlequin macaws are a delightful blend of the blue and gold macaw and the green-winged macaw. Both parents boast vibrant hues, resulting in the distinctive appearance of these charming parrots.

harlequin macaw

Origin And History

While the harlequin macaw is a rare sight in the wild, the majority are bred in captivity. The blue and gold macaw, native to Bolivia and spanning across Central and South America, inhabits diverse landscapes from riverside forests to open Savannah lands. Similarly, the green-winged macaw occupies tropical rainforests and lowlands, ranging from eastern Panama to northern South America.

While the natural habitats of these parent species overlap, wild breeding of harlequin macaws is uncommon. Consequently, captive breeding is essential for their conservation, as they’re more endangered than their progenitors. Despite their rarity, harlequin macaws are popular pets, readily available through captive breeding programs.

Moreover, crossing harlequin macaws with other macaw breeds has produced a variety of hybrid species, such as fiesta macaws, harligold macaws, and jubilee macaws, adding to the diversity of the macaw family.


Harlequin macaws, with their striking plumage and playful dispositions, certainly make appealing pets. However, before considering adoption, it’s crucial to weigh a few important factors.


As previously mentioned, harlequin macaws are truly distinctive creatures. Upon reaching maturity, they typically weigh around 2 lbs and measure between 34 to 40 inches in length, with a wingspan spanning about 40 inches. Their coloring is often influenced by their dominant parent, typically the male.

These magnificent birds often showcase a stunning blend of green and blue hues on their back, reminiscent of the blue and gold macaw, coupled with a warm gold tone on their breast.


While harlequin macaws are undeniably stunning, their temperament should be your foremost consideration if you’re contemplating adoption. Renowned for their intelligence, these birds are easily trainable, capable of learning tricks like waving and even speaking up to 15 words or expressions.

Like their parrot relatives, harlequin macaws are quite vocal, particularly in the morning, with regular bouts of screeching to rouse you from slumber. Their personality traits, inherited from both parent species, vary based on genetics. The docile nature of the green-winged macaw balances the cheeky disposition of the blue and gold macaw, resulting in the harlequin parrot’s playful and clownish traits.

Socialization is key to maintaining their friendly demeanor, ensuring they interact with a variety of people to prevent developing preferences for specific individuals. However, the most significant consideration when adopting a harlequin macaw is their lifespan. These birds are a long-term commitment, with lifespans ranging from 50 to 80 years, emphasizing the importance of careful consideration before bringing one into your home.

harlequin macaw

Raising A Harlequin Macaw As A Pet

With the unique characteristics of the harlequin macaw in mind, let’s delve into what you can anticipate when welcoming one into your home as a pet. Given their rarity in the wild, captive breeding ensures they are easily domesticated, making them well-suited for life as companion animals.

Temperament & Personality

Harlequin macaws, with their impressive cognitive abilities, eagerly engage in communication with their owners, readily learning a repertoire of words and phrases. From cheerful greetings like ‘Good morning’ to heartfelt expressions of affection such as ‘I love you,’ these avian companions are eager conversationalists.

However, like any intelligent being, they can have their moments of crankiness. Proper socialization from a young age fosters friendliness toward everyone, a crucial aspect to consider, especially if they will be around children.

Home Type

Harlequin macaws thrive on both physical and mental stimulation, so outfitting their cage with a variety of toys is essential. Additionally, they require several hours of daily exercise outside of their enclosure to spread their wings and fly freely. Their playful nature makes them delightful companions, but be prepared for the occasional tantrum or display of aggression if they feel neglected.

Given their penchant for chewing, providing a selection of squeaky toys can help redirect their biting tendencies. However, it’s worth noting that their vocalizations can reach up to 105 decibels, making them better suited for homes rather than small apartments, where they won’t disturb neighbors and have ample space to explore.

Training And Experience Level Required

Harlequin macaws, while a great choice for novice bird enthusiasts, thrive best with a structured training regimen from an early age to address any potential aggression issues. While it’s possible to curb behaviors like biting through training, don’t anticipate silencing these vibrant birds completely!

Proper Care

Adopting a harlequin macaw is a significant commitment, and once you’ve decided to welcome this vibrant bird into your home and are confident in your ability to care for it, there are a few essential considerations to keep in mind.

Cage Size And Set Up

Given its large size, a harlequin macaw requires ample space to move around, as well as a cage that can hold numerous toys for mental stimulation. An ideal cage for a macaw should feature bar spacing between 1 and 1.5 inches and have dimensions of at least 36 inches in width, 48 inches in depth, and 60 inches in height. While there are many cages available in this size, they do occupy a significant amount of room, so it’s crucial to ensure you have enough space in your home to accommodate one properly.


Harlequin macaws thrive on a diverse diet that includes seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Providing a variety of foods not only keeps them happy but also ensures they receive the oils and high-calorie content necessary for their energy levels.

The ideal daily diet consists of a high-quality seed and pellet mix, complemented by bird-safe fruits and vegetables. Safe fruit options include apples, mangoes, and peaches, while suitable vegetables range from asparagus and beets to bell peppers, broccoli, and butternut squash. Additional options include carrots, corn on the cob, dandelion greens, collard greens, hot peppers, mushrooms, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini.

Depending on their size, harlequin macaws typically consume ½ to ¾ of a cup of each type of food daily.


With proper care, your harlequin macaw is unlikely to fall ill, but there are several health issues to be aware of. These potential problems include Proventricular Dilatation Disease (Macaw Wasting Disease), Psittacosis (parrot fever), and various bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Other concerns include feather picking, allergies, beak malformations in chicks, kidney disease (gout), heavy metal poisoning, and lipomas in older birds.

Signs of disease can manifest as a lack of appetite, an ungroomed appearance, breathlessness, and watery or swollen eyes. If you observe any unusual changes in your macaw’s appearance or behavior, it’s crucial to consult an avian vet immediately.

harlequin macaw


If you’re interested in breeding your harlequin macaw, the first step is to determine its sex, which can only be accurately done with a surgical probe. These birds choose their own mates, so it’s crucial to find a compatible partner during the winter to prepare for the spring breeding season. The ideal breeding age for harlequin macaws is between 4 and 8 years.

Once a pair has successfully bonded, you’ll need to add a nest box to their cage. This nest box should be 100 inches tall and 40 inches wide and deep to comfortably accommodate the macaws. Place the nest box in a quiet, secure corner with plenty of coverage to ensure privacy and security for the breeding pair.


Even with a spacious cage for your harlequin macaw, it’s essential to let them out for at least three to four hours daily. This time outside the cage is crucial for their mental and physical stimulation, helping to prevent boredom and aggressive behavior. It also allows them to fully stretch their impressive wings and engage in natural activities.


Since harlequin macaws are exclusively bred in captivity and somewhat rarer than other macaw species, they tend to be more expensive. Typically, they are priced between $1,200 and $3,500, with the cost varying based on the breeder’s reputation and whether the bird has been hand-reared.

Similar Species

Macaws are bred to produce a variety of species, including the Catalina macaw and the Scarlet macaw. If you’re intrigued by the harlequin macaw but are interested in exploring different looks and personalities, these similar species are worth considering.

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