BREEDING REPORT: FINALLY, SUCCESSFUL BREEDING OF RED-BELLIED MACAW (ORTHOPSITTACA MANILATUS) ... AND EVEN TWICE AT THE SAME TIME BY TWO UNRELATED PAIRS

Photo 01:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: A beautiful, but very different Macaw species, both in appearance and in its behavior. This species has a very upright sitting position compared to all the other Mini-Macaw species, hence its scientific genus name, “Orthopsittaca”. However, some believe the term is a reference to the anterior lateral outline of the bird’s cere, which is straight.

 

INTRODUCTION

The Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilatus, formerly known as Ara manilata) is an approximately 50 cm long, mostly green South American parrot species, which is a member of a group of large Neotropical parrots known as Macaws. Actually, it belongs to the “Mini-Macaws” which is a loosely defined group of small-to-medium-sized Macaws. The term “Mini-Macaws” is not based on scientific taxonomy, but is mainly used among aviculturists to describe a small Macaw belonging to one of a number of different genera, with overall length being the sole criterion for inclusion.

It is considered to be among the two largest species in the group of "Mini-Macaws" together with the Chestnut-fronted Macaw (Ara severus) - also called Severe Macaw. The Chestnut-fronted Macaw weighs more than the Red-bellied Macaw. However, the Red-bellied Macaw seems to be longer than the Chestnut-fronted Macaw according to scientific data. In his impressive work, “Parrots of the World” (1st edition, 1973), Joseph M. Forshaw states the length of the Chestnut-fronted Macaw to 46 cm and the length of the Red-bellied Macaw to 50 cm.

In 2016, I bought two pairs of mutually unrelated parent-reared birds aged 3 - 5 years from four different breeding pairs. Many years ago, I generally stopped buying well-established "guaranteed breeding pairs" of parrots, as there is no sportsmanship in breeding birds that have already given birth to chicks with another breeder. In addition, I have unfortunately more than once been cheated by unscrupulous breeders, who have sold me "guaranteed breeding pairs", where it later turned out that they had never ever given the seller any chicks. At the same time, when buying a breeding pair, it is not uncommon that you must settle with the second-best quality (including birds with defects). As a starting point, I therefore prefer to select the best birds among unrelated younger birds and then try to put together the best birds for an optimal breeding material; this is a far more exciting and satisfying challenge for me.

This is exactly what I also chose to do when I bought four flawless, big specimens of this species in absolute top quality. Of course, this is a more long-term strategy than buying breeding pairs, and it requires a lot of patience, but in the end, one can occasionally be rewarded for having patience.

None of my Red-bellied Macaws are hand-reared, so I have fully experienced the natural, characteristic very shy and fearful nature of this species for better or worse.

Photo 02:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: This marvelous picture shows a juvenile bird, which is clearly seen by the eye-catching white mid-line stripe running along the length of the culmen (top of the upper mandible) which eventually becomes more and more narrow and completely dark by the age of 6 - 8 months. Its closest relative, the Spix's Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), is the only other Macaw species in which juveniles have a similar white culmen. (Photo from the internet: Taken by Henrique Moreira on 20.03.2015 and afterwards published on www.birdier.com).

 

DESCRIPTION

The plumage is mostly green tinged with olive on neck, back, rump, upper tail-coverts and lower underparts, crown greenish-blue, lower cheeks bluish-green - giving the forehead a turquoise-bluish appearance, feathers of chin, throat and upper breast grey edged with green, vent and middle of lower abdomen ("belly") has a large maroon patch, feathers of thighs green edged with brownish-red, under tail coverts bluish-green, upper wing-coverts green with yellowish margins, primaries, primary-coverts and outermost greater wing-coverts dull blue edged with green, under wing-coverts yellowish-green, more olive on greater wing-coverts, tail above green, undersides of tail and flight feathers olive-yellow. The cere and much of the face are covered with bare bright mustard-yellow skin, and the irises are dark brown. Adults have black beaks. The legs and feet are dark grey. The gradated tail is long and wedge-shaped, and the wings seems long compared to the body.

Based on the above description, at first glance the Red-bellied Macaw may not appear very colorful, as its plumage is predominantly green in various tones. However, if you observe this species in the sunlight, the many turquoise-blue markings on the feathers around the head, neck area, upper throat and breast clearly sparkles and appear as a beautiful contrast to the otherwise olive-green upper side of the bird. It is the same blue color as its - according to science - closest relative, the Spix Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), has as the primary feather color in its plumage. Add to that the fact that Red-bellied Macaws also have a large maroon-colored triangular spot on the lower part of the abdomen (hence the species name), which also forms a beautiful contrast to the otherwise beautiful green lower side of the bird.

Healthy specimens appear with a very conspicuous mustard-yellow naked face. If it is pale white, it may indicate that the bird is not in top condition, perhaps because it is kept indoors all year round or it may be due to malnutrition.

Males and females have identical plumage, but males are usually bulkier and have larger heads.

Juvenile birds look like the adult birds, but are duller in color, have less blue on the head and a cream-colored facial area. They have a grey beak with an eye-catching white mid-line stripe running along the length of the culmen (top of the upper mandible) which eventually becomes more and more narrow and completely dark by the age of 6 - 8 months. Its closest relative, the Spix's Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), is the only other Macaw species in which juveniles have a similar white culmen.

If you see the naked facial skin of a chick in the nest box, it may already appear completely mustard-yellow like the parent birds' face masks, but this is because you see them down in a dark nest box.

Red-bellied Macaws typically weigh about 275 - 450 grams.

Photo 03:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: There are no immediate differences in the color of the plumage of the two sexes. On the other hand, one often knows that males are usually larger and bulkier built than female birds. The photo shows one of my breeding pairs with the female on the left and the male on the right. This species is basically peaceful towards fellow species and is also a social bird species that moves in flocks outside and during the breeding season. However, I have chosen to keep my pairs separate from each other, but in close proximity to each other, so that they can both hear and see each other. My theory is that it helps to provide the birds peace of mind and dampen their shy nature.

 

DISTRIBUTION

The Red-bellied Macaw is endemic to the tropical Amazonas area of ​​South America, including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and central Brazil as far as the northwestern Cerrado (a.k.a. “The Brasilian Savannah”), which is a vast tropical savanna region of Brazil. There are even a smaller population on Trinidad and Tobago, a South American country consisting of an archipelago located in the southern Caribbean Sea, 11 km off the coast of Venezuela.

BirdLife International estimates the total range of occurrence of the Red-bellied Macaw to be extremely large that means 8.860.000 km2.

The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as “fairly common” in its vast range.

HABITAT

The Red-bellied Macaw is more or less completely dependent on the Moriche palm (Mauritia flexuosa), also called Mauritia palm, Buriti palm (and several other names), which are found in swampy or seasonally flooded areas. Hence it is found in dense moist forest, gallery forest (a forest restricted to the banks of a river or stream) and different kind of wetlands, such as open wet, sandy savannahs and grasslands, typically on the edge of rivers scattered with groves of Moriche palms.

Red-bellied Macaws are highly arboreal i.e., they pretty much exclusively live their lives in trees, and are in general found in habitats up to 500 m above sea level.

Red-bellied Macaws are critically dependent on the Moriche palm for roosting, feeding and nesting. They prefer Moriche palm fruit that is not fully developed or ripe, like most other parrot species, and they move around seeking for food that is on the preferred development stage.

Occasionally the Red-bellied Macaws are also found in cultivated areas like plantations and fields with crops, such as corn.

Photo 04:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: In this photo of a female bird, you can see the extraordinarily large feet that this particular species is endowed with by nature. Both legs and feet are large and very powerful and enable the bird to easily climb vertically up a wire mesh wall without the use of its beak, just as it - even without the use of its beak - elegantly can crawl around the aviary wire ceiling.

 

IN THE WILD

Red-bellied Macaws can be hard to see at a distance in wooden areas, but if the field of view is good the species is easy to identify due to its dull olive-yellow underwings, mustard-yellow facial skin and dark eyes. Their flight is direct with rapid, rhythmic wingbeats, and looks like the Spix’s Macaw flying. The long-pointed tail and slightly backward curved wings give them a sort of streamlined appearance in the air.

They are highly sociable birds living in flocks all year long, but they are breeding in loose groups. They occur in small groups and are also often seen in flocks of up to 100 individuals. During breeding season, flocks are smaller as pairs leave the groups for nesting and communal roosts are less frequented.

Red-bellied Macaws make high-pitched - but not directly annoying – screams, but they sound like “cries of complaint”. They are not as noisy as the other “Mini-Macaw” species, their voice seems softer. They are heard in the morning and around sunset.

They roost jointly in the Moriche palms and large numbers can be seen at the roost sites at dawn and dusk. Actually, these Macaws live in, sleep in, nest in and eat from these trees. They are even traveling from one group of these trees to another in order to find food at the right stage of maturation.

They prefer the large ones of these palms that have an overabundance of woodpecker holes as roosting sites. They sleep together in these groups of hollows. Depending on the size of the hollow, between five and 10 birds sleep together. As dusk approaches, they all pile into these sleeping holes and sleep close next to each other. You can often see them roosting in the top of dead Moriche palms without any top.

From early age they are open to any partner, but they seem to stick together once they are paired, and from then off the pair hold unbreakably together. The pair becomes more closely bonded through mutual care and preening of their feathers.

Photo 05:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: In this “classical” photo of Red-bellied Macaws from the nature you see some birds sitting in the top of a dead Moriche palm which is the absolute center of the daily life and survival of the Red-bellied Macaw in the nature. (Photo from the internet: Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository).

 

Their breeding season is between February and May until June, depending on the country in which they live.

All other New World parrots split up at the beginning of the breeding season and fly away to find a private place to breed. At the end of the - often only few months long - breeding season, they form flocks and migrate to other parts of the country, depending on what food are naturally available. However, this is not how the Red-bellied Macaws behave: They do not migrate and their breeding season lasts for about six months. If you include those that happen to breed exceptionally early, as well as those that breed very late, you might have a breeding season that can be as long as eight months. When they feel the urge to breed, they will break off from the flock. They look for a hollow that has no other residents in close proximity. They will start laying eggs, and when the chicks fledge the nest, they rejoin the flock and bring their chicks along (even though they are not yet weaned), and so the flock will finally consist of numerous family groups.

Red-bellied Macaws are usually nesting in the cavities of trees with their primary choice being - not very surprisingly - the Moriche palm. They often prefer to nest in holes in dead trees in swamp-like biotopes, often over water, providing the breeding birds good protection against predators. The average clutch consists of 2 - 4 white eggs, which are incubated by the female for about 26 days. The young birds fledge the nest, when they are about 11 weeks old according to normally trustworthy sources, but I do not find this information valid, cf. my own breeding experiences later in the article.

The breeding behavior of this species has not yet been further explored by science, but it will be interesting once it has been clarified. Some local observations have stated that there always are three birds at each nesting site: One bird in the nest laying on the eggs and two birds in the tree. Apparently, no one seems to be familiar with the sex of the third bird, but it will be interesting to find out the natural breeding behavior of this species in more detail.

It is assumed that young birds reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 - 3 years.

Photo 06:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: This species is by nature very shy, so the first years I owned the birds, I hardly saw them. When I approached their aviaries, they flew into the birdhouse, and when I went into the birdhouse, the birds flew out into the aviaries or into the nest boxes. Earlier this year I therefore made some mugs with photos of some of my own Red-bellied Macaws, so I at least am able to see my birds once in a while after all. These mugs have fallen into really good soil with both family and friends, who think that both the coffee and the tea simply taste better in these mugs. However, after approximately 4 years, the birds have become somewhat calmer after all, but they still seek refuge in the nest boxes when you get too close to their aviaries.

 

FOOD ITEMS IN NATURE

In the wild, the Red-bellied Macaws almost exclusively eat the oily fruit of Moriche Palms (Mauritia flexuosa) sitting on the 2 - 3 m long fruit flasks, which consist of 100 % carbohydrate, a lower fat content and are very high in beta-carotene. However, berries and other fruits to an apparent minimal extent are also part of the diet.

The fruits of Moriche palms are about the size of a large plum. Between the brown skin and the cherry-sized nut in the center is a yellow-orange flesh that has a consistency of a raw potato.

Former nutritional analysis of the Red-bellied Macaws’ natural diet revealed a uniform diet that consisted of high beta-carotene, high carbohydrates and a lower fat content. This explained the bird’s tendency to obesity in human care. Virtually all the usual parrot diets were much too high in fat content for these birds. Continued vitamin A supplementation in the form of beta-carotene was a must. Deficiencies in vitamin A usually hit very rapidly and result in numerous serious disorders that can be fatal. Beta-carotene is the only form of vitamin A that does not require fat to be absorbed.

Hence it has over the earlier years been extremely difficult to keep these birds alive in human care, partly because of their special, nervous behavior, partly due to a diet that requires low fat and high carbohydrate intake. Apart from import of these birds in the early days often resulted in nearly 100 % mortality, those aviculturists that finally succeeded with breeding them experienced that captive-bred chicks had a low survival rate.

Nowadays, we also have a better understanding of this species nutritional needs and successful breeding in human care has over the years been achieved by adjusting their diet accordingly.

 

CONSERVATION STATUS

Red-bellied Macaws are not rare in wildlife, according to BirdLife International their current conservation status is “LC”, which means of “Least Concern”. According to BirdLife International the population in the wild is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Back in 2007 these birds were listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); however, as of 2009, this species has been downgraded to the status of “Least Concern”, mainly because they appear to be more common in the wild than previously assumed. However, due to their very specialized habitat requirement and the risk of continued harvesting of their favored palm trees and destruction of their habitat, these birds may still remain at risk of extinction.

All in all, the population currently is considered to be stable, except in Colombia, Guyana and Venezuela where it is threatened by habitat loss. Their deeply dependence on Mauritia palm fruits make them vulnerable, since these palms are heavily used in confectionary manufacture and in addition, the trunks of palms are intensively used for construction, and these circumstances may have fatal consequences for the future.

Although the Red-bellied Macaw is locally common, in some places it has been adversely affected by clearing of palms to allow cattle ranching, establishment of fields with crops, etc. Very unfortunately, this species is also still affected by capture for the pet trade.

Since 1997 only two countries, Guyana, and the smallest country in South America, Suriname, have exported this species alive. The most recent export took place in 2020 from Guyana and included 1.650 live birds. The last time Suriname exported the species was in 2017 and included 470 live birds.

Photo 07:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: Here you can see one of my breeding pairs crawling around in the aviary's wire mesh ceiling, which often happens completely without the use of the beak. This species is quite eminent for climbing in all positions without the use of its beak, and it likes to hang on a vertical wall, wire mesh wall or rock, where it can sit and rest for hours provided it is not disturbed.

 

IN HUMAN CARE

Although Red-bellied Macaws not are rare in the wild, they are rare in human care both alive and as dead, skinned specimens. Thus, there are reportedly very few skinned specimens of Red-bellied Macaws in the Natural History Museums around the world.

Among aviculturists, the species has always been rare, in the first many years due to the fact that countless imported birds died after a short time because of lack of knowledge about this species' very specialized food items, but also because they lack the ability to adapt to captivity given their significant shy and fearful nature.

The Red-bellied Macaws have over the years had a reputation for being difficult to keep alive and also difficult to breed. In its time it actually led to a decision by some responsible importers in the USA and in Europe to stop importing them. How to keep them alive and make them thrive was not only a challenge, it was a mystery for years. At the time when it in general was allowed to import these birds the first problem that aroused was the majority of the Red-bellied Macaws would not eat, as was also the case with imported Eclectus Parrots (genus Eclectus) many years ago. Secondly, at the same time, this species appeared to be extremely nervous and completely unsuitable for sitting in small quarantine cages even for a short period of time. The birds would gather to one of the upper rear corners of the quarantine cages trying to hide under each other, and whenever anyone would enter the room, the birds continued screaming. During the quarantine period, they continually died and the birds who survived later died among aviculturists.

From the nature the birds had nearly exclusively been used to eat fruits from Moriche palms, so in human care the first thing that had to be accomplished was to wean them onto something other than palm fruits. It is a food item that is difficult to obtain in the USA and completely impossible to obtain in Europe, at least in Denmark. Attempts to get the birds to accept boiled corn or rice failed. However, eventually the birds started to eat shelled peanuts as a replacement for the palm fruits. Supplementary vitamins were given in their drinking water to avoid any deficiencies. Unfortunately, there were still unexplained deaths among the rest of the living birds that suddenly could drop dead or become sick from being fed incorrect. Nowadays, many veterinary experts strongly advise against feeding parrots with shelled peanuts that could cause the danger of catching Aspergillosis.

When the surviving birds finally were released into aviaries among the aviculturists, they instantly tried to find hiding places, typically a nest box. These birds need a large comfort zone to be able to feel reasonably safe with their very nervous nature. Optimally, it requires a very large aviary with good hiding places, which most bird keepers often do not have the opportunity to offer.

If you have more than one pair, among some of these you will be able to experience a great mutual sympathy and interaction between the sexes i.e., in the form of mutual preening. Not least when the birds rest in the nests or when the female cares for eggs or chicks in the nest, you will - using video surveillance - be able to experience the birds' touching and caring behavior towards each other.

Unless hand-reared individuals are used for breeding, Red-bellied Macaws are considered one of the most difficult parrot species to breed in human care due to their lack of ability to adapt to captive conditions. One must therefore have patience when working with this very shy and fearful parrot species. It is of great importance that the aviculturists try to understand the special needs that this species require in order to survive and make them thrive.

According to a very experienced European breeder, the Red-bellied Macaw can be very difficult to hand-rear from only few days old, and it is therefore rare to encounter hand-reared pet birds of this species.

Hand-reared individuals (kept as pet birds or not) seems much calmer, but do not exhibit the true and natural behavior of this species, which is characterized by an extremely shy and fearful nature. If a hand-reared bird is kept together with a parent-reared bird, the hand-reared bird can help to encourage greater familiarity with its parent-reared mate.

The Red-bellied Macaw seems not as noisy as most of the other smaller "Mini-Macaws" e.g., its voice is softer and even significantly less bothering than the very sharp voice of the smaller Red-shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis spp.), which also uses its voice for longer periods of time.

Photo 08:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: The Red-bellied Macaw may not be the most colorful parrot species, but in return it is so much more exciting in a number of other areas. With a closer look at the colors of the plumage, the different green and greenish colors are neatly matched in relation to each other. In addition, the feathers behind the face and around the neck are "decorated" with fine turquoise-blue markings that become very prominent and beautiful when you see the birds in sunlight.

 

SOME SPECIAL FEATURES OF RED-BELLIED MACAWS

Red-bellied Macaws differ markedly from the other "Mini-Macaw"-species on two different points, partly because of their rather different anatomy, partly because they show a significantly different behavior. Both of these aspects will be discussed in more detail in this paragraph.

Purely anatomically, Red-bellied Macaws are characterized by having relatively small heads and very prominent nostrils. Furthermore, the mustard-yellow color of bare facial skin is very characteristic of this species and it is the only Macaw species that has this very different and deep complexion. In addition, it seems like the feathers on the head sit very close to the skin, which gives the head a very "tight and slim" appearance. However, when the female is frightened - this applies to e.g., when you check the nest box - she can turn on her back in the nest box and inflate the feathers behind the whole head, so she looks bigger and more intimidating, and it almost looks like she has a small "collar".

At the same time, the species has some distinctive large, powerful legs and big long toes. The Red-bellied Macaw is one of the few parrot species that very easily is able to climb up a vertical wire mesh wall without the use of its beak, just as it elegantly - again without the use of its beak - quickly and smoothly is able to climb around the wire ceiling in the aviary.

One typically sees Red-bellied Macaws resting on vertical surfaces whether it is on a wire mesh wall in an aviary, on the inside of a video-surveilled nest box or if one sees photos from nature where they like to sit on a rock wall or on the edge of the top of an extinct Moriche palm.

They are further more characterized by an often very upright sitting position.

A further anatomical feature is that the Red-bellied Macaw in relation to its size is a surprisingly powerful and strong bird, which can be very difficult to hold in the hand when you, for example, must examine the bird further. You have to make sure that you keep your hand all the way around the bird, as it is constantly trying to wriggle free. Therefore, never stand with this species in your hand in the open air, as there may be a risk of the bird escaping. Conversely, of course, do not harm the bird by holding it too tightly.

Behaviorally, Red-bellied Macaws are primarily characterized by their extraordinarily shy and fearful nature, which is a common feature when reading the few breeding stories from serious bird keepers that exist about this bird, cf. for example an article by the Canadian aviculturist, David T. Longo, in the reputable German magazine, “PAPAGEIEN”, volume 06/2017, pages 188 - 193. This article also emphasizes that this species is “extremely shy” by nature, which is also supported by the author's own observations of the species in its natural habitats of Suriname. In the same article, David Longo further states, that “the droppings of the juvenile birds, but also of the adult birds, are usually relatively watery and give an almost sickly impression”, as it also is known among certain other parrot species.

The species generally finds it very difficult to adapt to the conditions of human care. Therefore, I only keep Red-bellied Macaws in aviaries with three solid walls (partly the back wall towards the birdhouse, partly the two sides). If the aviaries are planted at the same time, it provides additional safety for the birds. They will in my opinion not be able to thrive at all in completely open aviaries unless these are shielded by hedges on three of the four sides.

Parent-reared birds can be several years about to calm down, compared to my pairs, a changed - slightly calmer - behavior only began to occur after approximately 4 years of ownership, and after another year the development has gradually continued. Now a days, I can approach the aviary at a distance of approximately 5 meters before the male bird, which keeps watch outside the nest box, flees towards the nest box.

The birds like to spend the night in nest boxes both outside and during the breeding season; on the whole, the nest box is considered to be the birds' favorite place when they feel unsafe or threatened. In the first years, I experienced that when the birds felt frightened and fled into their nest boxes, they could lie inside the nest box for a shorter or longer time and keep on screaming anxiously.

Another obvious behavioral trait that makes it difficult to keep Red-bellied Macaws in human care is that it has highly peculiar toilet habits and creates a lot of dirt. This species makes large - quite watery - droppings (both the adults and the juveniles), unfortunately also in the nest box, and in addition, it typically likes to defecate sitting up against vertical walls, including wire mesh walls. With certain exceptions, both sexes like to spend the night in the nest box both outside the breeding season and during the breeding season, with the latter for very long periods. Whether it is outside or during the breeding season, the birds defecate in the nest box, which is why it is important for the health as well as hygienic reasons to change the nest material at regular intervals. During the breeding season, it is not possible to make a complete replacement without the risk that the female bird will leave eggs or chicks, so you must instead lay new layers of clean bottom material. If you do not add new, clean bottom material to the nest box when the chicks are about 14 days old, there is - according to a very experienced European breeder - a high risk that the chicks will die, as all the droppings at the bottom of the nest box poses a great health risk to them.

When the birds outside the breeding season have to spend the night, you can instead use a so-called "toilet box" i.e., a nest box without a bottom, which on the inside is simultaneously provided with a horizontal perch across the nest box. In this way, the birds can defecate directly down on the bottom of the aviary, making it much easier to clean up after the birds.

Photo 09:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: The face of a Red-bellied Macaw can be very expressive and can also be an indicator for its mood. An adult Red-bellied Macaw must have a - for the Macaw species completely unique - bright mustard-yellow naked face, which is an expression of the fact that it is a healthy and fit bird.

 

FEEDING

Feeding Red-bellied Macaws is a chapter in itself, which will not be discussed in depth here, but it should be emphasized that it should be fed a very versatile and balanced diet. It is very important that this species gets vitamin A-rich food with plenty of carbohydrates and low-fat seeds outside the breeding season.

The feed composition may consist of:

  • A mixture of small seeds: Canary seeds, oats, safflower, millet spray, and limited sunflower.
  • Sprouted mung beans, cooked butterbeans and lentils must also be provided, just like cob corns (especially during the breeding season), green leaves of spinach, lettuce, dandelion and chickweed.
  • Vegetables, especially carrots, and some fresh fruit on a daily basis, in tropical areas of course palm fruits if available.
  • Nuts, like hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans are highly appreciated - but very fatty - food items.
  • A complete Macaw pellet menu.

It is important that the feed is added red palm oil on a regular basis e.g., "Amanprana's Red Palm Oil" which is a high quality - and certified organic - oil rich in carotenes and contains 7 kinds of vitamin E, etc. Certain other types of quality oils can also be used.

Because of lack of commercial availability of Moriche palm fruits, unsalted shelled peanuts have earlier been used by some breeders as part of an adaptation to diet of captive birds, but it can be risky due to the danger of Aspergillosis.

 

STIMULI

Red-bellied Macaws are eager chewers, so in order to make your birds thrive and keep them mentally healthy, you must always provide fresh - non-polluted - natural branches and twigs (fir, pine, willow and elder) for them to chew. Heat sterilized pine cones, can also be provided.

Especially the female bird enjoys bathing, particularly during breeding season, so you must provide shallow water bowls. The female lies in a dirty nest box and bathing is her way of getting cleaned up. The winter in Denmark can be rather cold, and even when it is freezing, I have seen the birds bathing in just given fresh water, they simply love to get soaked. It shows that this species actually is hardy when it has been acclimatized properly.

Juvenile birds also love bathing, and I think it also may have to do with the conditions (dirt) that they grew up with in the nest box.

In order to make the birds thrive optimal, the aviary must have a minimum length of 3 - 4 meters for breeding and - if possible - with access to a larger flight for the rest of the year.

An absolutely indispensable thing for Red-bellied Macaws is access to mineral blocks / iodine blocks, which they also love to gnaw in, and these provide the birds with many necessary trace elements. When you see film footage from nature of this species, you will often see that they visit large rock walls in the jungle together with other large Macaw species; it is typically clay walls they are visiting and which are ingested to neutralize toxins from other food items in the organism.

Photo 10:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: You can use different types of nest boxes for Red-bellied Macaws. Personally, I have had good experiences with using a traditional vertical nest box made of thick waterproof plywood, which at the same time can withstand the birds’ persistent gnawing.

 

GENERAL ABOUT BREEDING IN HUMAN CARE

Before acquiring the Red-bellied Macaws, I had from the start decided to buy a minimum of two pairs, as the bird by nature is highly sociable and in the wild is a flock bird. At the same time, it was my guess that it would ensure that the birds better could settle down and feel safe by socializing with fellow species.

As already stated, it is rare to see breeding of the Red-bellied Macaw in human care. If you are so privileged to own this species, and the pair start to breed, then you may even be lucky enough to see its rather special mating act, which it has in common with certain other parrot species e.g., Patagonian Parakeet (Cyanoliseus patagonus ssp). The mating between the sexes takes place with the birds, sitting next to each other on a horizontal branch or perch, approaching each other and turning their tails up wards with their lower bumps rubbing against each other, an act that can take some minutes.

It is not advisable to carry out a nest box check within the first 14 days after the hatching of the first egg, as there is a great risk that the female bird will leave the nest permanently. Even if it is difficult, one should leave the birds alone and let the female bond closer to her chicks during the first two weeks.

The species can lay 2 - 4 pure white oval eggs, which are incubated for approximately 26 days. On those several occasions I have had eggs from my two pairs, I have in all cases - except in one case where 4 eggs were laid - experienced "only" 3 eggs were laid, and they were laid every 2nd day.

Already a few days old, the chicks are characterized by their first down suit with long ultra-thin white downs, which subsequently are replaced by a shorter, but significantly denser greyish down suit. Approximately 14 days old, you will be able to see the first tiny feathers across the back of the chicks begin to show.

This species should be ringed with closed solid metal rings (“year rings”) that are either 9,5 or 10,0 mm in diameter. If you use 9,5 mm closed “year rings” the birds can be ringed 14 days old, but if you use 10,0 mm closed “year rings”, you should wait to ring the chicks until they reach the age of 20 days. If you ring the birds earlier, you might risk doing the job again, as the closed “year ring” constantly will fall off the chick's legs, since the chicks can be very lively. The first time you ring a clutch of chicks, you will - if you have video surveillance of the nest box - be able to experience that the parent birds very curiously examine and bite in the ring. Thank God I have not experienced that any parent birds have bitten the chicks in the leg in order to remove the closed rings.

Photo 11:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: Camcorder surveillance of the Red-bellied Macaws' nest boxes has proven to be indispensable. Hours of observations have shown me the mutual care and tenderness that the pair shows towards each other and - not least - to their chicks. The parent birds, especially the female, show such persistent and great care for their chicks which includes preening as well as cuddling in a way that no human being will ever be able to replace. The camcorder surveillance has also shown that there are differences in the behavioral patterns between my two pairs, as the male bird in one pair is allowed to enter the nest box all day long to rest with the female and chicks taking active part in the family life besides contributing to the feeding of the female and/or the chicks. It is very unlike the male in the other pair, he is not allowed to rest in the nest box with the female during the morning and afternoon hours, exclusively in the night, but he is only allowed to come into the nest box during the day to feed the female and/or the chick.

 

MY OWN EXPERIENCES WITH RED-BELLIED MACAWS

Although Red-bellied Macaws in the wild are very social towards their mate and are found in small groups (or flocks) both inside and outside the breeding season, I have chosen to keep my two pairs in their own aviaries each with access to their own isolated interior aviary in an adjacent birdhouse that can be heated during the winter season. I keep the two pairs in close proximity to each other to make them feel safer and at the same time enabling them to socialize with fellow species. However, I have wanted to keep them in separate aviaries to avoid any potential aggressions towards each other, although this species does not initially seem particularly aggressive towards fellow species.

As already mentioned, this species is by nature very shy and fearful, so the first years I owned the birds, I hardly saw them. When I approached their aviaries, they flew into the birdhouse, and when I went into the birdhouse, the birds flew out into the aviaries or into the nest boxes.

Only the female incubates the eggs, but unless the male forages or sits and keeps watch outside the nest box, in some pairs he likes to lie next to the female in the nest box. According to my video observations the male can also take part in warming the chicks when they reach a certain size. A pair can have a very close relationship with each other, and both outside the breeding season and during the breeding season (typically inside the nest box itself) the pair spends a lot of time on mutual preening and cuddling.

I have never had problems getting the birds to go into nest boxes - on the contrary. The nest boxes that I use are made of approximately 2,5 cm thick waterproof plywood and are of a vertical design. The nest boxes have a base area of ​​35 cm x 35 cm and a height of 65 cm. The actual entrance hole for the nest box has a diameter of 11 cm. All nest boxes are cleaned and disinfected very thoroughly both before commissioning and - not least - after the end of the breeding season. Heat-treated, dust-free beech chips (“broken beech wood”) are used as nesting material. In addition, the nest boxes at the start of the breeding season are completely filled with fresh - non-polluted - natural branches, which the female bird loves to bite into small chips. This actually helps to stimulate the birds' breeding instinct, and it can also help to activate the female bird so that she does not become a feather picker during the breeding process.

The birds are closely attached to their nest box, and the female is typically the last to leave the nest box during nest box checks. Here, as with a number of other Macaw and parrot species, the female can turn on its back at the bottom of the nest box and literally defend its chicks with "beak and claws".

In addition to using actual nest boxes during the breeding season, I also use so-called “toilet boxes” of the same dimensions outside the breeding season, cf. further under the next paragraph. If the birds were allowed to have nest boxes all the time, they would use them all year round - also for rest and accommodation - whereby, even if a high level of hygiene is maintained in the nesting boxes, there may be a substantial risk that the birds contract Aspergillosis.

Photo 12:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: According to various scientific records and literature, the Red-bellied Macaw lays 2 - 4 eggs. Through the years my two pairs have constantly laid 3 eggs EVERY time except for once back in 2019 where one of the pair laid 4 eggs on the ground in their aviary. Here is a photo from the nest box, where the female bird, for a rare occasion, is about to leave the nest box.

 

BREEDING HISTORY - THE FIRST 5 YEARS EXPERIENCES

In the wild, this species gathers in smaller or larger flocks and therefore the starting point for my breeding activities has always been that the two pairs of Red-bellied Macaw’s physical should be very close to each other and at least should be able to hear each other, but as far as possible also see each other.

In what follows, I will first year by year describe my common experiences with the two pairs and especially pair no. 1, and finally there is a paragraph that summarizes my special experiences with pair no. 2 on where they differ in behavior from pair no. 1.

The years with my Red-bellied Macaws have gone like this:

2016

The two pairs were bought in the middle of the summer, and they did not get a nest box and thus opportunities to breed, as the primary goal with the birds in the short run just was to try to keep them alive and make them thrive. In addition, it was important for me to try to "connect" to the birds, in other words to make them calm down and win their trust, as I always try to do with newly purchased birds. It is a process that is already starting in connection with a mandatory 8-week long quarantine stay in a physically separated location. During the quarantine stay, the birds sat completely isolated, where they underwent a systematic examination by a veterinarian specializing in bird diseases. At the same time blood, feathers and cloacal swabs were sampled by the vet for a series of clinical disease tests (both via PCR and serological) at a foreign laboratory. Furthermore, the birds' droppings were analyzed for possible parasites and coccidiosis.

It was already during the quarantine stay that I learned that the Red-bellied Macaw is something very special, as it - unless it is a hand-reared bird - is an incredibly shy and fearful species. I had already read relevant professional literature and realized that this species can be extremely shy, but I had not imagined that it was that bad. Compared to other shy parrot species that I have kept over the years, it has always been possible for me - at least to a minimal extent - to win the birds' trust during the quarantine stay by seeing them frequently, but quietly and carefully, so that the birds could learn who is giving them fresh water and food on a daily basis. During the entire quarantine stay, the birds continued to sit up in the wire mesh wall in one corner of each of their cages and kept screaming.

All tests and examinations went well. After the quarantine stay, the birds were placed in their respective smaller aviaries without any nest box, but both were aviaries filled with lots of fresh - non-polluted - natural branches with lots of leaves that could provide the birds natural protection.

Also, a part of the story is that in the late summer of 2016 - after four years of searching - my wife and me finally found and bought a house in the country, which should give me significantly better opportunities to keep noisy parrots. When you live in a densely populated residential area in a town, the neighbors certainly do not appreciate that one is keeping birds such as Red-bellied Macaws. However, I got a “once in a life time”-opportunity to buy just the right birds, so I said yes and bought them. I knew it was only a matter of time before we would find a property in the countryside, and thus could give these birds the optimal conditions.

Photo 13:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: Photo of a few days old, dead chicks from the summer of 2020, which were the first chicks I bred. Unfortunately, at this point, the parent birds could not figure out how to feed the chicks, so they died. In the photo you can see that their crops are completely empty of food. For ethical and animal welfare reasons, I do not want to hand-rear birds to a life with an unnatural human behavior. It is striking that newly hatched chicks of this species even have very long white down.

 

2017

A new combined birdhouse and aviary facility, which was planned to be completed in the spring of 2017, on our new country estate, was unfortunately severely delayed by the construction company. During the summer I therefore chose to move the two pairs of Red-bellied Macaws out into a couple of temporary aviaries on our new country estate. This happened without any expectations that it would yield any results, as noisy construction activities would take place over several months during the summer around the construction of the new birdhouse and aviary facility.

Both pairs were installed in each of their temporary aviaries and nesting boxes were set up in each aviary. At the same time, "toilet boxes" were also set up in each aviary to let the birds get used to them. During the summer, 3 unfertilized eggs were laid in each of the two nest boxes.

In November 2017, the new birdhouse with associated aviary facility, in which two specially designed aviaries were made for the Red-bellied Macaws, was completed. The special design consists of outdoor aviaries that only have wire mesh in the ceiling as well as in the front, and the rest of the aviaries consist of solid walls of metal plates that can be easily washed off. The interior aviaries in the birdhouse, which the birds themselves are free to enter, also have solid walls in the ceilings and on all walls, which makes cleaning easier. In addition, the front part of the two interior aviaries is not covered with wire mesh, but with acrylic glass, which also is easy to keep clean.

The birds were then moved from the temporary aviaries to the new birdhouse with associated aviary facility.

2018

In early 2018, I set up a nest box in each of the interior aviaries in the birdhouse, which further contributed to the fact that I virtually never saw the birds. As I approached their outdoor aviaries, the birds fled into the birdhouse. Conversely, if the birds were in the interior aviaries and I got close to them, then they either disappeared into the nest boxes or out through the flight hole into the outdoor aviaries.

The summer of 2018 was marked by a completely unexpected and historically long heat wave and drought in Denmark, which meant that the entire breeding season was lost. Although the two pairs of Red-bellied Macaws now resided in each of their new specially designed aviaries, they once again only laid unfertilized eggs, 3 eggs per pair.

At the same time, I also had a theory that it might have been too much for these shy birds to have their nest boxes hanging inside a birdhouse with a number of other, very noisy and large parrot species.

2019

At the beginning of the year, I therefore chose to move the Red-bellied Macaws’ nest boxes out of the birdhouse's interior aviaries and instead hang them at the back wall of each of the adjacent outdoor aviaries. In that way, the birds would not be affected in the same intense way by the other, large and noisy parrot species that inhabit the birdhouse.

The result for 2019 was that only one pair laid eggs and again all were unfertilized. For some reason, a total of 4 eggs were laid on the bottom of the aviary under the nest box and not inside the nest box itself.

So, neither did this season yield any results. I therefore decided that some further changes should be made in the efforts to breed this difficult species. I would like to give the birds even more peace compared to the other parrot species, which also inhabit the birdhouse and the neighboring aviaries, and at the same time the birds should feel even more safe in the new surroundings.

2020

At the beginning of the year, the birds were therefore moved to a smaller, free-standing outdoor aviary facility with a few empty aviaries and without access to indoor space. These aviaries are also characterized by having only wire mesh in the ceiling and in the front, while the rear wall and the outer side walls are of solid materials. The ceiling is also covered with a clear thermal roof. In return, the two pairs of Red-bellied Macaws could see each other between the side wall, which for one half was covered with wire mesh and the other half with a solid wall. In this way, these shy birds could feel safer by being able to both hear and see each other, and they only had to deal with possible external dangers that they could see through the front. The nest boxes were mounted on the back wall inside each of the two outdoor aviaries. As something new for this species, I also had wireless, remote-controlled camcorders installed inside of each of the nest box lids, so I was better able to follow the breeding process.

There was also some planting in each of the aviaries to ensure their safety - especially in connection with foraging - as well as natural hiding places.

During the summer, 3 eggs were laid by each of the pairs again, and during the summer I even experienced one pair mating on two occasions - a rather somewhat special mating ritual - which is described elsewhere in this article.

The result of the 2020 breeding season was that one pair had again laid unfertilized eggs (the pair that I saw mate twice). The other pair had also laid 3 eggs, one of which was unfertilized, but the other two eggs were fertilized and actually two chicks came out of these eggs. Unfortunately, both of these chicks died in the nest box after a few days, as the parent birds, primarily the female, apparently could not figure out how to feed them. In the accompanying photo you can see the two dead chicks, and in particular you can see that their crops are completely empty of food.

Now I knew I was on the right track, so I just had to be patient and change a few other parameters, then maybe next year I would succeed in breeding. 

At the same time, I decided to use my wireless camcorder system even more offensively in the coming year, so I could get even closer to the breeding process.

Photo 14:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: This camcorder photo from one of my Red-bellied Macaw nests shows my first two living chicks 30 and 32 days old. Their state of health is extremely satisfactory. In addition, the parents are feeding the chicks in the best possible way so that you actually can watch them grow day by day. The parent birds also show an incredible care for the chicks through persistent preening and cuddling.

 

2021

The season started early with preparation as well as another cleaning and disinfection of the two nest boxes before hanging them on the back wall in the same aviaries that had been used the year before. Prior to the suspension, an approximately 5 cm thick new layer of dust-treated beech chips were put in the bottom of each nest box. In addition, both nest boxes were filled with portions of fresh - non-polluted - natural branches and finally, fully charged camcorders were mounted in the corner on the inside of each nest box lid.

The natural branches in the nest box contribute to the female being able to shape her own nest, as she chews these branches and makes her own wood chips. In addition, the female also likes to lie in the nest box throughout the entire breeding process and continue with shredding the beech chips that make up most of the bottom material. In fact, I have observed via camcorder that it is one of the female's main occupations during the incubation period, where she also can take a portion of wood chips in her beak and throw it around inside the nest. Moulted feathers from the adult birds are also used as part of the bottom material.

As a new initiative, the birds in each aviary were offered even larger water bowls where they better could bathe, which especially the females are very happy about in all kinds of weather. They like to bathe during the breeding process, but the female bird can also take a bath in completely clean water outside the breeding season even in freezing weather, so when this species is acclimatized in the right way, they appear very hardy. Bathing seems to increase the well-being of the birds and is therefore of great importance.

This year started with favorable weather, so the birds started laying eggs early, laying the first of a total of 3 eggs 22nd May. Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be anything, and after the incubation period was exceeded by more than 1 week, I found that one of the 3 eggs was unfertilized, while the other 2 eggs were fertilized, but contained 2 dead fetuses that were estimated to have died at the age of 2 - 3 days.

As the birds had started early this season, I decided - after renewing the bottom material in the nest box - to let the birds keep the nest box to see if it could turn into a second clutch. It took no more than a few minutes after I had hung the nest box up again inside the aviary before the female took it into use again.

On the 16th July I found that an egg had been laid again - in other words there was a second clutch on the way and the weather was with us in the sense that the weather was not unbearably hot or too cold.

The 11th August I found with great joy that an egg had hatched and a playful chick had arrived, which I via the camcorder's loud speaker could hear sounded vital. Already the day hereafter another egg hatched, and this chick also appeared vital. I then went through some very exciting days before I via the camcorder could see that this year was the year when the female was able to find out how to feed her young in a completely convincing way. This typically happened after the male had fed her in the nest box, as she herself only came out of the nest box twice a day to forage. A little later in the process, I found out via the camcorder that the male also feeds the young directly, so they receive food from both parents, which is a touching and breathtaking sight. In fact, as soon as the chicks had their down suit, and later small feathers, the female begins to lie and cuddle them on their wings, back and feet, and the male did the same later in the process. This is how parrot chicks need to start their lives by having their parents provide for their food and care for them 24 hours a day, something a human who hand-rear parrot chicks never will be able to.

In the coming days I was frequently checking up via video camera to see - and hear - if the chicks still were (and sounded) vital, in other words did the parents continue to care for the chicks properly, which they happily did.

The male in pair no. 1 preferred to keep a daily siesta inside the nest box and lay and slept side by side with the chicks together with the female from around late in the morning until out in the afternoon.

At the age of approximately 14 days the chicks opened their eyes.

I had been told that the birds should be ringed with a closed ring when they were 14 days old, but it depends on the ring size that is used, cf. elsewhere in this article. I therefore had to re-ring the two chicks 4 times (!), during which I also put new thin layers of beech chips in the bottom of the nest box. After the last ringing, I saw that the male inside the nest box tried to “examine” the ring from one of the chick's legs, happily without harming it in any way, so in the end the “year rings” remained on.

Not until the second chick was 20 days old, I actually heard small screams from it. At this time the second down suit was getting dense, and it was in connection with ringing the bird with a “year ring”. At the age of 21 days, I observed that the chicks already were testing their featherless wings in the nest box. From this point on, I frequently observed that the chicks tested their wings in the nest box.

As the chicks grew older, the male parent bird had to seek out the feeding bowls more and more often and for longer periods of time. In this connection, I found - after more than 5 years of ownership of the birds - that I could now get as close to the aviaries as 5 meters, if I went my usual route, without the male bird fleeing into the nest box, and at one point the male even stayed by the feeding bowls and continued to eat, while I was watching him from a distance of 5 meter; after all it had gone in the right direction with the familiarity of the birds. Fortunately, the birds have become more used to the presence of humans.

The closer to the time of fledging came, the more the female bird began to leave the nest for longer periods at a time. Typically, she sat resting in the aviary or took a bath and afterwards she began to tidy and clean her feathers. On these occasions I could follow the chicks in the nest box via the camcorder where they hung on the inside ladder just below the nest hole where they tested their wings preparing to leave the nest soon.

Mid October at a 4 days interval the two chicks fledge the nest box (at the ages of 63 and respectively 67 days), and they seemed to be surprisingly calm and stationary. As newly hatched chicks they are so "terrified" that they stay seated (they "freeze", like e.g., chicks of the Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta)) when you get too close.  They are beautiful big birds, both perfect in every way. They look like the parent birds, though somewhat smaller and darker in the coloration of the plumage and with much shorter tails. Their bare facial skin is at this stage cream-colored and will turn mustard-yellow later on. If you see the naked facial skin of a chick in the nest box, it may already appear completely mustard-yellow like the parent birds' face masks, but this is because you see them down in a dark nest box.

After the chicks had left the nest, they have - with few exceptions - spent the night outside the nest box, unlike the parent birds, which continue to spend the night in the nest. On a single occasion, my wife observed that a few days after the oldest chick had fledged the nest box, it apparently was prevented from coming into the nest box towards the evening.

In various - usually trustworthy - literature on parrots one can read that the chicks of Red-bellied Macaws fledge the nest at the age of 11 weeks. However, this is not in line with the experience I have had, it’s simply not right as the chicks develop much faster. According to my experience the chicks leave the nest at the age of 8 - 9 weeks, fully developed and fully feathered. The erroneous statement of 11 weeks indicates to me that there are not many who have breeding experience in practice with this species and the misinformation must be due to ignorance of the facts of breeding this bird.

I am now looking forward to the juvenile birds settling down, and later I will get a gender determination test done using DNA technology.

According to a very experienced European breeder the chicks take a long time to become independent, just as long as seen among the large Macaw species. Before removing the chicks from the parent birds, you have to watch them eat on their own for a while in about 4 weeks.

It should be mentioned that the 3rd egg in the second clutch never hatched.

Film 01:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: This little film shows what is happening in the crowded nest box when the chicks are around 45 days old. The chicks sleep most of the time and in addition they regularly receive food from the parent birds, but when the chicks are awake, they can be quite lively. They are already testing their wings only a few weeks old, even though the wings have only just gotten the first tiny feathers. When you are a 45 days old Red-bellied Macaw, a lot happens.

Especially about pair no. 2 in 2021

The breeding cycles for this breeding pair started sometime later than pair no. 1, and once again three eggs were laid. This time 1 egg hatched and this pair has also taken really good care of their chick. They have a slightly different behavior compared to pair no. 1. The female in this pair doesn’t allow the male to come into the nest apart from when he brings new food or want to go to rest at night. If the male during the day - before the chick came - tried to enter the nest box while the female lay in it, she would attack him until he left the nest again, which would happen during loud screaming. She didn’t leave the nest as often as the female in pair no. 1. This female has often been laying in the nest box during the incubation period "chattering", while she "twitched" with her wings calling for the male to come and feed her.

This chick has also become a beautiful perfect bird, and I am looking very much forward to see all the chicks grow up to be healthy, big adult birds.

The chick in this pair was ringed some weeks later (age 19 days) with a 9,5 mm closed “year ring”. At the same time the camcorder was replaced with a new one that were fully charged. A new nice layer of beech chips mixed - this time mixed with fresh beech leaves - were put into the nest box, so that the bottom didn’t become too light and different as this female is even more shy and scared than the female in pair no. 1. Yet it took a little over an hour before the female went back into the nest box again, she was - together with the male - hanging outside on the nest box by the nest hole screaming. Finally, the female went into the nest box while the male was flying to his usual guard place on a perch in the front of the aviary. The male in pair no. 1 did not keep watch in the same way as the male in pair no. 2, he was more interested in being with the family inside the nest box.

Since I bought my two pairs of Red-bellied Macaws, I have been trying develop ideas of how to keep - and breed - this species since there are only a few serious breeding reports on this species. I have had no choice but to try out different housing, diets and accommodations, etc., in order to find out more about the needs of this species in captivity so it not only can survive, but also is able to thrive and want to breed. This mission has been a challenge and have demanded great patience and I have only been able to succeed through enthusiasm and commitment - and this time everything went well. I am especially proud that I myself have been able to put together two breeding pairs of completely unrelated big birds of the best possible quality.

Photo 15:
Cyanopsitta spixii: The picture shows 3 chicks of the Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), which is one of the Red-bellied Macaws nearest relatives. The Spix’s Macaw is one of the world’s rarest bird species and was declared extinct in the wild in year 2000, a status that is being changed by the organization ACTP in Germany. Please notice that these Spix’s Macaw chicks have a white culmen along the upper mandible similar to the one seen on the Red-bellied Macaw. This eye-catching white mid-line stripe running along the top of the upper mandible vanish before the age of 6 - 8 months after which the beak is completely black. (Photo from the internet: Taken by ACTP, Germany, published in MONGABAY - NEWS & INSPIRATION FROM NATURE’S FRONTLINE on 19th March 2020).

 

THE FUTURE

Red-bellied Macaws are difficult to keep and they are difficult to breed, so they have never been a common species among aviculturists around the world. It is my contention that it never will be due to their shy and fearful nature that make it difficult for them to adapt to conditions in human care.

Time will tell whether I am right in this assumption.

In any case, I hope that there in the future will be more aviculturists who seriously - purposefully and long-termed - will focus on this species, so that we can maintain the population in human care.

For my part, I am now able to put together completely unrelated pairs and keep on working for the survival of this species by trying to establish a self-supporting breeding strain.

It has especially been a great pleasure to be able to carry out natural breedings of this in many ways peculiar species, it shows that it can be done if you are goal-oriented, show patience and work long-term.

 

Jørgen Petersen

 

Conceived / Updated: 29.10.2021/29.10.2021

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Photo 16:
Orthopsittaca manilatus: Here is my pair no. 1 of Red-bellied Macaws with the female bird to the left and the male bird to the right and with the two newly fledged chicks between them. The youngest bird, that left the nest only two days ago, is sitting as no. 2 from the left just beside the mother. It is very difficult to photograph Red-bellied Macaws unless they are hand-fed individuals or newly hatched chicks, as they by nature are incredibly shy and fly away at the first opportunity. Newly hatched pups are so terrified that they stay seated (they "freeze") when you get too close. If I had to have the whole family together on one picture, I therefore had to shoot the photo at a distance of almost 25 m with a Canon EF 70 - 200 mm ultrasonic lens (f / 2.8L USM).