What Does the Scarlet Macaw Eat?

Scarlet macaws are one of the largest and most beautiful parrot species in the world. They can grow to over two and a half feet in length, and their brightly coloured plumage makes them a favourite as pets. Like other parrots, the scarlet macaw has a specific diet to follow in captivity if they are to remain healthy.

Grains and Seeds

In any supermarket selling bird food, the shopper will notice the main ingredient in any parrot food (parakeet, parrot, cockatiel, an so on) is seed. This is because parrots and their kin, including the macaws, are seed-eaters. Their beaks are shaped for eating them. Scarlet macaws also need sprouted grains such as lentils, lima beans, alfalfa and buckwheat, to name a few. In the wild, a macaw will forage for these items and much more in the tropical rainforests.

Fats and Oils

Unlike smaller species, the much larger macaws need a lot of fats and oils. In fact, their beaks are made to help them break into nuts to get at the inner meat, giving them the fats and oils they require for their diet. A macaw's beak is strong enough to crush a man's knuckle, so a Brazil nut is no problem for them. Some nuts owners commonly feed macaws as pets include Brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and macadamias -- all in the shell and all unsalted.

Vegetables and Fruits

Another big part of a scarlet macaw's diet, in the wild or as a pet, is fruits and vegetables. A macaw's beak is strong enough to crack open shelled nuts, but it is also shaped just right to help eat softer plants. Broccoli, cucumber, celery, peas and corn on the cob are great foods -- and macaws even like hot peppers. Berries, figs, strawberries, cactus fruits and apples are only some of the recommended fruits to feed a macaw. A macaw will also enjoy a lot of dark leafy greens such as kale, beet and turnip tops and dandelions.


Wild macaws, including the scarlet macaw, have been observed eating clay from riverbanks in the wild. Scientists and naturalists believe it may have to do with neutralising toxins that the bird ingests while eating throughout the day. Some of the items that may cause problems for the bird include unripe fruits, various toxic seeds and even some berries. By binding the clay with these unwanted chemicals, macaws reduce the risk of poisoning or just stomachache.

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About the Author

Dondi Ratliff is a certified secondary English teacher in Texas. Her articles typically cover topics regarding animals both wild and domesticated. Ratliff holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Tarleton State University, a Master of Arts in teaching from Texas Woman's University, and a Master of Arts in English from Tarleton State University.