Harlequin Macaw Species Guide: Care, Cage Setups & Easy Tricks To Teach Harlequins
If you are thinking of adopting a bird, the harlequin macaw is a great choice. As well as being recognized for their beautiful plumage, they are known for being laid back and affectionate.
The stereotypical parrot-like color patterns make them hard to differentiate from other macaw species but once you get to know one, you’ll see that they are incredibly unique.
The word harlequin literally means clown which is quite fitting for this cheeky and cheerful species.
Their scientific name is the ara ararauna × ara chloroptera as they are a mix of the blue and gold macaw and the green-winged macaw. Both parents have vibrant colorings which blend to create the unique look of the harlequin parrot.
Origin And History
The harlequin macaw is very rare in the wild so the vast majority are bred in captivity. The blue and gold macaw is native to Bolivia and found across Central and South America including Brazil, Colombia, and Panama. This vast region encompasses a range of habitats from lowland riverside forests to open Savannah lands.
The green-winged macaw’s natural habitat is slightly less vast spanning from eastern Panama to northern countries in South America in tropical rainforests and lowlands.
This makes it possible for the two to meet and breed in the wild but generally, the harlequin macaw is bred in captivity and more endangered than their parents’ species. The harlequin macaw is a very popular pet, however, so you can find one bred in captivity to adopt quite easily.
There are a range of other macaw species that come from crossing the harlequin macaw with other breeds. The most common ones include fiesta macaws, harligold macaws, and jubilee macaws.
With beautiful plumage and fun personalities, there are a lot of characteristics that make harlequin macaws preferential pets but also a few things you need to seriously consider before adopting.
As mentioned, harlequin macaws are a very unique species. When fully grown, they weigh about 2 lbs and measure 34-40 inches in length. Their wingspan can reach around 40 inches. Their coloring can depend on their dominant parent which is the male.
They often feature striking green and blue colors on their back similar to that of the blue and gold macaw and warmer gold on their breast.
They might be beautiful looking birds but if you are thinking about adopting a harlequin parrot, the most important thing is their temperament. This is a very intelligent species that is easy to train to do tricks like waving and talking.
They can learn around 15 words or expressions. Everyone knows that parrots in general are chatty and harlequin macaws are known to be pretty loud in the morning. As well as chattiness, you can expect some pretty regular screeching to get you out of bed!
Depending on their genetics, the birds will take on personality traits from each parent. The green-winged macaw is more known for being docile whereas the blue and gold macaw has a cheeky nature which gives the harlequin parrot it’s clownish traits.
One thing to remember is that they need to socialize with different people so they don’t develop preferences for individuals and continue to be friendly with all of your house visitors. The biggest thing to consider when adopting a harlequin parrot is their lifespan. Adopting any pet is a big commitment but even more so with harlequin macaws who can live for 50-80 years.
Raising A Harlequin Macaw As A Pet
Now that we know a little bit more about the harlequin macaw let’s take a look at what you can expect from this species as a pet. As mentioned, they are rarely seen in the wild so being bred in captivity means they are easily domesticated.
Temperament & Personality
Being able to learn several words and phrases, they are eager to communicate with their owners and you can teach them how to say anything from ‘Good morning’ to ‘I love you!’.
Nevertheless, these highly intelligent birds are prone to be cranky at times just like the best of us. Socializing them well from an early age encourages friendliness towards everyone which is especially important if they will be near children.
Harlequin macaws need quite a lot of physical and mental stimulation so make sure you fill their cage with a range of toys. They will need to spend a few hours a day out of their cage to fly around and need plenty of room to stretch their wings. They are very playful which makes them entertaining pets but they might throw a tantrum and even become aggressive if they don’t get all the attention they expect so beware...
They also love to chew so a range of squeaky toys is a good idea if you want to deter them from biting. Something to think about, if you live in a small apartment, is that their calls can reach 105 decibels. They are definitely more suited to a house where they can’t irritate the neighbors and have a bit more room to roam.
Training And Experience Level Required
Although suitable for beginner bird owners, it is recommended you implement a strict training program for harlequin macaws from a young age to weed out any aggressive behaviors. You can train them out of most bad behaviors including biting but don’t expect to train them to be quiet!
Once you’ve set your mind on adopting a harlequin macaw and know that you can care for it properly, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
Cage Size And Set Up
As a large bird, the harlequin macaw needs plenty of room to move around and a cage that can contain numerous toys for stimulation. The perfect macaw cage should have bar spacing of 1 inch to 1.5 inches and should be at least 36 inches wide, 48 inches deep and 60 inches tall.
There are plenty of cage options in this size but they take up a decent amount of space so it is important to have enough space in your house to properly accommodate them.
Harlequin macaws are known for eating a range of foods including seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Giving them a bit of variation in their diets will keep them happy and they need foods that are rich in oils and high in calories to preserve their energy.
A combination of a high-quality seed and pellet mix and bird-safe fruit and vegetables is the best daily diet. Safe fruits include apples, mangoes and peaches, and safe vegetables are varied including asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, butternut, carrots, corn on the cob, dandelion greens, collard greens, hot peppers, mushrooms, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini.
Depending on their size they will eat ½ - ¾ of a cup of each every day.
If well looked after, your harlequin parrot isn’t likely to become ill but there are several health problems that you should look out for.
Possible issues include Proventricular Dilatation disease (Macaw wasting disease), Psittacosis (chlamydiosis or parrot fever), bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, feather picking, allergies, beak malformations in chicks, kidney disease (gout), heavy metal poisoning and lipomas in older birds.
Diseases can be identified by lack of appetite, looking ungroomed, breathlessness, and watery eyes or swelling around the eyes. If you notice anything off about your parrot’s appearance or behavior, take them to an avian vet immediately.
If you want to breed your harlequin macaw you first need to identify its sex which can only be done with a surgical probe. They choose their own mates and the breeding season is spring so it is important to find them a mate they are able to bond with in the winter. The ideal breeding age is 4-8 years.
If your macaws do bond successfully you will need to add a nest box to your cage which is 100 inches in height and 40 inches in width and depth to accommodate the size of the harlequin parrot. Also, make sure it is placed somewhere that provides enough privacy and security, a quiet corner with plenty of coverage works well.
Although you’ll have a nice big cage for your harlequin macaw to play in, they need at least three to four hours out of their cage a day for mental and physical stimulation. This prevents boredom and aggressive behavior and gives them a chance to stretch those vast wings properly.
Being only bred in captivity and therefore slightly rarer than other macaws, you can expect to spend a bit more on a harlequin macaw. They usually sell for 1200-3500 USD. The price will depend on the reputation of the breeder and whether or not they have been hand-reared.
Macaws are bred to create a range of species. Similar ones include the Catalina macaw and Scarlet macaw. Check out these birds if you like the sound of a harlequin macaw but are interested in a slightly different look and personality.
Let's watch Rocky being loud and proud in this short video clip below:
So, should you get a harlequin macaw?
If you know you’ll be a dedicated owner and tolerate all your new pet’s quirks, from clowning around to screeching wake up calls, you’ll make an excellent owner.
Remember that a harlequin macaw is for life so make sure you are 100% sure you know how to take care of one properly before you adopt.