Breeding of the Red-bellied Macaw by David T. Longo. PART II

April 28th, 2015 | by LubosTomiska
Breeding of the Red-bellied Macaw by David T. Longo. PART II

Read also the first part of this article:

Breeding of the Red-bellied Macaw by David T. Longo. PART I


They love water for both bathing and consuming; they do not necessarily like the cold but will bathe even on the coolest of days. Similarly to their life revolving around the palm commonly associated with the manilatas, they too associate much around water. Both in their origin and in man’s care, they drink more water in ratio vs. weight than any other species of macaw. In their natural conditions, their nesting sites are in hollowed out palms but also tend to prefer nesting trees which rise from wetlands or swampy water sources. This is a perfect location when trying to avoid nest predators like arboreal snakes and to avoid areas with heavy mammalian traffic near the tree base. At our breeding centre, we provide all our manilatas with large water bowls or 2 water bowls for this reason. When offered shallow bowls of water, even the young unweaned birds eagerly dive in and bathe like they have been practicing this technique for years. This behaviour gives the expression of being that they are able to swim just as soon as they can learn to fly; as it is indeed an essential part of their element. Their chewing habits can be incomparable to any other macaw, I keep a supply of pine cones for them to manipulate and chew from our trees on premise. Additionally, they are also offered plenty of natural branches and browse to destroy, mainly to decrease or deter this behavior from destroying their nest cavities.



We based our nutritional facts on the newly arrived wild caught birds on what little literature is available on them. The birds were fed mainly peanuts which were initially the main answer to keeping the wild caught specimens or founder stock alive. During the first few years starting in 1999, we fed the chicks 4-5 times a day, we combined a commercial handfeeding formula, with one teaspoon of peanut butter per cup and every second day we would add Lactobacillus acidophilus (probiotics) from choice of two different manufacturers. The last three clutches of 2005 and 2006, we ceased to supplement with peanut butter and the chicks developed with no obvious differences in weight gains or differences in hydration. When comparing the weight gains in our charts and plotted graphs; we found no more reason to continue using this ingredient. Their faeces are normally more watery and almost polyuric, I have made the same observations in the Tucuman Amazon (Amazona tucumana) when compared to the rest of the amazons. One segment I must add to this is the personalities the young develop. Never have I been so magnetically attached to their playful and rambunctious antics; their calls of interest sound like soft pleasant honks, one characteristic that is somewhat audibly addictive. I like to associate them as miniature Hyacinthine macaws; playful, gentle and loveable troublemakers all in one sweet package. They have obsessively aroused my love for this species, they are positively amazing birds with incredible personalities.

The skin colouration of the facial patch is of the most striking deep mustard yellow and brings the most attention to the red-bellied macaw. Captive birds do not retain the colour as well as the originating specimens when kept indoors. A colleague and friend, Mr. Rob Boyle of ‘African Lion Safari’ in Cambridge, Ontario and I were initially skeptical that it was dietary. He and I both experimented with breads dipped in imported palm oils to see if this would enhance the colour in our birds and did not see much progression with this after 2 – 3 seasons of experimentation. We theorized that it could be sunlight that synthesized the colour in the skin and until recently I thought it made complete sense. Human skin carries the pigments of melanin in different levels of races according to the geographic climates they originate from. When we brought the shipment of 12 birds in, the intensity of mustard slowly decreased. In the flight they were in, the back of the aviary was very dark and the front was lit as sub-adequate conditions with fluorescent lights which read at approximately 10-15 foot candles. Our breeding pair resides right in front of a glass wall to outside where they get copious amounts of natural light and photoperiods. This offers their exposed skin the capacity to develop these natural yellow pigments; they do retain most of the mustard yellow but could still be more rich and intense. Hyacinthine (A.hyacinthinus) macaws as juveniles have little or no yellow on their periopthalmic ring or mouth skin patch, as they get older, the yellow develops to a more intense rich colour. I have seen 3 year old Hyacinthines kept indoors where there is barely any yellow apparent. After the owners taking my advice, that same bird a year later retained the lemon yellow eyering it should have had. Based on this theory, one can argue that if A. hyacinthinus or O. manilata are not given adequate to no light to synthesize the skin pigmentations, these colours will either be delayed or possibly not develop entirely.


red bellied

(c) David T. Longo


In the course of this paper’s writing, my alpha male from my first founder stock pair succumbed on October 12 2006 at approximately 17:00 hrs. This was the first day of snow this year, two hours north of Toronto where my red-billed toucans (R. tucanus) were still enjoying the crisp, fresh air and learning about the strange white flakes falling from the skies above them by their choice with indoor/outdoor access. This male manilata was a wild caught male which has sired young with us for 7 years now. We are certain the bird died of old age and the bitter cold may have brought up some underlying problems on that day.

During a conversation, Matthias Reinschmidt, of LoroParque in Tenerife, and I both assimilated notes that there is one major similarity with the manilatas and Spix’s macaws (Cyanopsitta spixii) of one characteristic no other species of macaw shares. Juvenile birds will keep the white stripe on theculmen of the upper maxillae from their development as young chick to approximately 6-8 months of age. This white stripe gets thinner as the bird gets older on the upper beak or maxillae. Over the years of correspondence with other aviculturists who work with manilatas in their care, their global status in aviculture has indeed proven to be the most difficult of the 17 species of macaws to reproduce. The challenges we have encountered caring for them have left us with nothing but ample motivation to learn more and more about these peculiar macaws.


Author: David T. Longo

Title photo: (c) Mike Allen. This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.


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  1. Pingback: Breeding of the Red-bellied Macaw by David T. Longo. PART I | Parrots Daily News

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