What is the Difference Between Parrot and Macaw

The main difference between parrot and macaw is that macaws usually have larger bodies, longer tails, and bigger beaks than parrots.

Both parrot and macaw are attractive Psittaciformes, a large family of brightly coloured birds. Therefore, parrots and macaws share similar behaviours. Although macaws are, in fact, a type of parrots, they differ considerably from parrots in their biology, morphology, and distribution.

Key Areas Covered

1. Parrot 
   – Appearance, Facts, Characteristics, and Behavior
2. Macaw
     – Appearance, Facts, Characteristics, and Behavior
3. Similarities Between Parrot and Macaw
     – Outline of Common Characteristics
4. Difference Between Parrot and Macaw
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Parrot, MacawDifference Between Parrot and Macaw - Comparison Summary

Parrot – Appearance, Characteristics, and Behavior

Parrots are a highly diverse group of birds that vary significantly in size and shade. There are about 370 species of parrots identified so far all around the world. Parrots live in almost every region in the world except in Antarctica. However, the largest parrot population is in landscapes with tropical and subtropical climates: Australia and South America.

In comparison to macaws, parrots have shorter bodies and tails. They help parrots to steer through narrow and tight spaces during their flight. Their feather colouration is attractive. Similar to macaws, parrots also have a strong, curved bill and a foot with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backwards. This structure of the toes enables them to grasp well.

Parrot and Macaw - Difference

Parrots are known for their intelligence. Their brain capacity is compared to that of a toddler. Furthermore, unlike macaws, parrots are a species of extremely talkative birds. They have the ability to mimic sounds and words. This helps them to ‘talk’ to strangers. The African grey parrot is the most talkative bird so far identified in the world. They also have the ability to perform less complex tasks, including identifying shapes and objects, counting and using equipment such as skates and bicycles.

Macaw – Appearance, Characteristics, and Behavior

There are 18 species of macaws discovered so far in the world. Macaws belong to the same bird family as parrots. Similar to parrots, they are very colourful and intelligent. However, this bird species is native to rain forests, woodlands, and Savannahs in the Americas. Therefore, they are considered tropical or sub-tropical birds.

Parrot vs Macaw

Macaws usually have larger beaks and bodies compared to parrots. Most significantly, in contrast to parrots, macaws have a distinctive light-coloured facial patch. The largest species of parrots is found among macaws. It is called the Hyacinth Macaw. The body length of the Hyacinth Macaw is over one meter, and it has a wingspan of 1.2 meters. However, there are relatively smaller macaw species like the Parakeet Macaw.

Similarities Between Parrot and Macaw

  • Parrot and macaw belong to the bird family of Psittaciformes, a large group of brightly coloured birds.
  • Therefore, parrot and macaw share a similar behavioural pattern.
  • Both parrots and macaws live in familiar flocks and feed on seeds and nuts. They crack the nuts open with their strong
  • They have a flexible and muscular tongue, zygodactyl claws and a thick hooked beak.
  • Both parrots and macaws are monogamous.

Difference Between Parrot and Macaw


A parrot is a tropical bird with a curved beak and bright colour or grey plumage, while a macaw is a large long-tailed parrot with brightly coloured plumage


Parrots, in general, inhabit a wider geographical range. They are not limited to the tropical regions and can be found all around the world except in the polar regions. In contrast, macaws are restricted to the tropical rainforests or woodland areas from central Mexico down to South America.


There are 370 species of parrots identified in the world, while only 18 species of macaws have been discovered so far.


Colouration in parrots can range from dull to colourful, but macaws are usually very colourful.


The tail of parrots is proportionate to its body shape, but macaws have distinctly longer tails.


Parrots feed on seeds, fruits, nuts, fruit, insects, and nectar, while the diet of macaws consists of flowers, leaves, stems and palm fruits. 


Parrots often nest in burrows while macaws nest in tree hollows and sometimes even in riverbank holes.


Macaws reproduce at a slower rate compared to parrots.


The main difference between parrot and macaw is that the macaws have larger beaks and longer feathers than parrots. Moreover,  parrots are comparatively smaller in their body and beak size. If you are a bird lover, whether parrots or macaws, to see a group of these colourful birds in flight would be a breathtaking sight. However, the loss of habitat and the illegal pet trade have unfortunately influenced natural life, making us deprived of experiencing such wonderful sights.


1. “Macaws on the Endangered Species List.” Beauty of Birds.
2. “Study Identifies Parrots as Most-Threatened Bird Group.” BirdLife.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Eclectus roratus-20030511” By Doug Janson – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “The beauty of two macaws colored and free in nature.” (CC0) via Pxhere

About the Author: Anuradha

Anuradha has a BA degree in English, French, and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Master's degree in Teaching English Literature in a Second Language Context. Her areas of interests include Arts and Literature, Language and Education, Nature and Animals, Cultures and Civilizations, Food, and Fashion.

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