Macaw Life Cycle

By Lee Parker

Like other parrots, macaws start out inside of an egg, usually in a clutch of two or three. It can take up to three weeks for the eggs to hatch, but that's just the beginning of a long life that is full of physical and mental changes.

Stark Naked

When a baby macaw is born, the little parrot is a neonate, also known as a hatchling. Completely featherless and blind, these tiny naked chicks are utterly dependent on their parents or human caretakers. While parent macaws regurgitate their own diet of seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetation into the mouths of their young, human feeders use a syringe and carefully prepared formula.

Once their eyes open, the neonates are now referred to as "nestlings" and will imprint on their caretakers. This is a thoroughly enriching time for the little macaws, as stimulation from their surroundings promotes healthy and proper mental and emotional development.

Macaws become fledglings when they begin to learn to fly. This can be as early as 3 months old but as late as 7 in differing varieties of macaw. These little guys still need mom and dad macaw -- or a human -- to feed them, but their focus turns more to trying to get their wings working properly, rather than eating. Most will slim down at this point in their growing stage.

The Ugly Phase

Not long after learning to fly, baby macaws will wean themselves onto their new adult diet. Once weaned, they are considered juveniles. In the wild they will leave the nest at this time, but at home they may or may not still be housed with other siblings or cage mates. Some juvenile macaws will have slightly different feather colors than the ones they'll sport as an adult; these feather changes will occur when the parrot reaches sexual maturity. At that point, junior is considered an adult.

Growing Up is Hard to Do

Like humans, macaws and other parrots will go through some personality changes as they reach adulthood. Some of these changes occur only during puberty, or the mating season, but they can have a negative impact. In the wild, these changes allow the young macaws to find and defend territory, but captive macaws may become a little aggressive.

A newly adult macaw without a potential partner may choose their human companion as their "mate." While this sounds sweet, it often results in friends and family visiting the house being attacked by a jealous or territorial parrot. They even may attempt to regurgitate food for their owner as a sign of affection.

Fortunately, macaws tend to calm down with age. Well-tamed and socialized parrots make excellent family pets. If they do have a feathered mate of their own, they may breed, beginning the cycle all over again. They will stay with their mates their entire lives, which in captivity, can be up to 50 to 65 years. When together, they will share food and groom each other.