What should you expect from your macaw?

Macaws require a great deal of attention and living space. Blue and Gold Macaws have a mischievous nature and are the most family oriented macaw species, even though they may be nervous around strangers. Although Scarlet Macaws tend to bond with an individual person, they can be untrustworthy and nippy with anyone. Green-winged Macaws are less intimidating and calmer but can be very loud. Macaws have limited ability to mimic words. Their vocalizations are expressed primarily as loud shrieks and squawks, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. Macaws are relatively difficult to breed (with the exception of Blue and Golds) but the offspring are easy to hand raise. Macaws become aggressive and protective of their nest box during the breeding season.

What do macaws do all day?

Macaws are playful and love to chew, but they can be very destructive. Any toys must be free of toxic metals, hooks, sharp objects and easily consumed components. Providing large diameter fresh-cut branches from non-toxic, pesticide-free trees is suggested for macaws. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations on locally available safe trees. Macaws are very curious and will investigate anything new in their environment.

Are macaws tame?

Young, hand-raised macaws adapt readily to new surroundings and handling procedures. They should be exposed early in life to novel situations (car travel, veterinarian visits, multiple visitors in the household, and other household pets) so that they are well adjusted to these events. However, behavior abnormalities are common. Imprinted hand-raised babies may scream for attention and frequently become feather pickers. Social regurgitation to family members may be pronounced. Discipline, leadership, patience, hooding (covering the head), a sense of ritual and the offering of rewards are necessary to modify the behavior of macaws.

Why should the wings be clipped?

Macaws that are allowed unrestricted access in the home can encounter numerous physical dangers or toxins (as well as cause significant destruction); therefore, wing clipping is recommended. The goal of clipping the wings is NOT to make the bird incapable of flight, but to prevent it from developing rapid and sustained flight and to prevent escape. Trimming the wings may keep the bird more dependent on its owner and less aggressive.

How can you keep your macaw healthy, happy and safe?

  • Give lots of attention.
  • Feed a fresh, high quality, toxin-free pelleted diet with daily supplementation of chopped vegetables and fruit.
  • Do not feed grit, as it is not necessary with modern captive diets.
  • Provide clean, fresh, uncontaminated water.
  • Remove and replace food and water containers twice daily to maximize activity in a healthy bird.
  • Provide an occasional opportunity for bath, shower, or misting (at least weekly).
  • Avoid spraying house with insecticides.

Housing for your macaw should:
  • Be as large as possible.
  • Be clean, secure, safe, and easy to service.
  • Be constructed of durable, nontoxic material.
  • Contain variable-sized perches made of clean, nontoxic, pesticide-free tree branches.
  • Have food and water containers placed at opposite ends of the enclosure.
  • Avoid having perches located directly over food containers.
  • Offer occasional opportunity for protected outdoor exposure to fresh air, sunlight, and exercise.

Things you must keep away from your macaw:

  • Ceiling fans
  • Hot cooking oil
  • Teflon coated items
  • Leg chains
  • Sandpaper-covered perches
  • Tobacco and cigarette smoke
  • Chocolate, avocado, salt, alcohol
  • Toxic houseplants
  • Toxic fumes
  • Pesticides
  • Easily dismantled toys
  • Dogs, cats, and young children
  • Cedar, redwood, and pressure treated wood shavings
  • Sources of lead or zinc
  • Plug-in air fresheners

For more information visit: Association of Avian Veterinarians, Good Bird, Inc.