Macaws are a type of parrot that have become increasingly popular as family pets. With their vibrant colors, intelligence, and playful personalities, it’s no wonder why they have become so loved by bird owners.
If you’re considering getting a Macaw as a pet, there are some important things to consider before making your decision. First, Macaws require a lot of attention and care. They are very social birds and need to be around people in order to stay healthy and happy. If you’re not willing to spend a lot of time with your Macaw, then it may not be the right bird for you.
In addition to needing attention, Macaws also need a large cage or aviary in order to live comfortably. These birds can grow up to three feet long, and they’ll need plenty of room to move around and play. They also need a variety of toys and perches to keep them entertained.
Macaws are large and colorful birds, the largest of them can grow to over two feet tall and weigh up to three pounds. They are popular as pets in part because they are highly intelligent, able to mimic human speech with surprising skill.
Macaws are very social and can bond well with several members of the household. They are very playful and highly energetic, and they need plenty of room to move around and roomy cages. It’s important to give the right kind of toys to your Macaw, they can be very mischievous and will look for things to chew and destroy.
Macaws are the largest, most colorful member of the parrot family. The most recognized species are the Blue and Gold Macaw. These birds are known for their ability to mimic human speech. The quality of their bird’s voice is determined by their age, the way they’re handled and the amount of time spent talking to them.
Because of their size, they’re not a bird suitable for smaller children. They can become quite territorial when it comes to their own space, and should not be allowed to roam free.
Important to know that Macaws can be quite loud. They are known for their loud screeches and calls, and it’s important to make sure you have a place where they can make noise without disturbing your neighbors.
Overall, Macaws are an excellent choice for a family pet. With the right care and attention, they can give your family years of companionship and fun. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, then a Macaw could be the perfect bird for you.
Information about Macaws
- Average Length: 20 to 42 inches
- Average Weight: 2 to 3 pounds
- Colors: Blue; Blue and Gold; Red: Cobalt-blue; and Green
- Grooming Needs: Moderate
- Tolerance to Heat and Cold: Yes
- Good Pet: With early socialization and training, yes
- Safe with Children: With training but not with young children
- Good with Other Macaws: Yes
- Good with Other Pets: No as their loud noise can scare other pets.
- Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: No, they can be very loud which can be irritating for the neighbors.
- Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: No, they need a lot of attention.
- Training: Moderately difficult
- Exercise Needs: High
- Weight Gain: Normal
- Health Concerns: Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), Avian Bornaviral Ganglioneuritis (ABV), Constricted Toe Syndrome, Beak malocclusions, Psittacosis and Feather Plucking.
- Allergies: None
- Average Life Span: 30 to 50 years
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Physical Appearance of Macaws
Macaws are the largest birds in the parrot species and can be as long as 42 inches. They have long tails that can be up to half their body length. Their feathers can be a variety of different vibrant colors. These birds have large beaks with white or light color patches on their face. The female and male Macaws look similar which makes it difficult to visually identify their sex.
Blue and Gold (Yellow) Macaws are the most common Macaws in the United States. They typically get between 33 to 42 inches in length. Blue and Gold Macaws have a bright yellow chest and blue feathers on their body. These Macaws have green feathers above their face and a small patch of black feathers just below the beak. They have a partially naked face without feathers which turns pink when the parrot gets excited.
Scarlet Macaws are another popular variety of domesticated parrots. They are a little smaller than the Blue and Gold Macaws, only getting up to 35 inches long. The birds have red feathers on their body with a combination of bright blue, yellow and green color feathers on their wings. Some Scarlet Macaws will have a black beak but most will have an off white or tan color on the upper part of their beak, and black on the bottom.
Both the Blue and Yellow and Scarlet Macaws will have gray or black feet.
Temperament of Macaws
Macaws are friendly and active birds. They are also known for being intelligent, playful and social. Macaws need a lot of attention, if you are a bird lover with time to spend with them they will be great pets. If they get bored they have a habit of screaming loudly to get attention. They are stubborn but generally do not act aggressive.
These birds are talkative and like to mimic human speech. Their words are not as clear as other parrots like the Parakeet. Among the Macaws, Blue and Gold Macaws are the best when it comes to mimicking human speech. The Macaws will whistle and sometimes even scream. Their screams can be very loud which can irritate some people. They will make the most sound during the evening, the time when they are most active.
Macaws should be trained from a young age. Early training can help reduce the screaming that they can do. Training them requires trust and consistency. For the first few days they’re in your home, help them get used to your voice and their new cage. Greeting them with the same word every time you enter the room and communicate with them is a good way for them to get to know you. Words like “hello” or “hi” are great because they’ll learn this as a greeting when they see their family.
The first step to training them is getting them to climb on your hand. Offering them treats with your hand through the bars of their cage is an easy way to build trust with them. Once they start accepting the treats from your hand, you can move on to opening the cage. Repeat the same step by reaching inside the cage. Slowly your Macaw will build trust with you and climb on your hand. If after two weeks they still will not climb into your hand, you can try gently pushing them up onto your hand. Take them out of the cage and continue training them.
The next step training them is to work on their speech and tricks. Start training them to speak by repeating the same word for a few days. Once they learn the word you can move on to the next word. After 2-3 words it will become easier for them to learn new words. They might not be quick learners like other parrots but being consistent will help. Macaws can also be trained to perform tricks like waving their wings or staying still with their wings open.
Training them will be easiest in a room that has a table or perch on which they can sit. It’s best if there are no distractions in the training room like an open window or noise from a TV or radio. Minimizing distractions will make training easier. The training sessions should be short, between 15 and 20 minutes and should be done once or twice a day. Reward them with treats and praise when they make progress.
Their Compatibility with Children
Their compatibility with children will depend on the way they have been raised. It can take some time to understand how well the birds will get along with children. While some Macaws and children will get along well, the large size of Macaws can make it difficult for children to hold them correctly. Holding them correctly can be even more difficult if your bird likes to move around. These birds have large powerful beaks that can hurt your children if they can’t hold them correctly or if your bird becomes frightened. Because of all the potential problems young children will need extra supervision to play with larger Macaws.
Sometimes children can be overly affectionate and try to hug and kiss the birds frequently. Too much good intended affection can irritate your Macaws. If they get irritated they may scream, which can be frightening to your children. Children should have adult supervision any time they want to interact with your Macaw to make sure that there are no problems.
Best Habitat for Macaws
Macaws need a large bird cage to let them move around and exercise. The size of the cage should allow them to fully extend their wings without touching the edges. A large cage that is 4’L x 3’W x 5’T will be great for the Scarlet and Blue and Gold Macaws. The cage has to be strong to withstand the powerful beak of the Macaws. Stainless steel or wrought iron cages are recommended. These are very intelligent birds and can learn to open the doors to their cage. Because they can manipulate some cage openings, we recommend using a harder to open cage to keep them from getting out.
The best perches for them are made from natural wood. Natural wood perches will allow them to chew the perches without getting sick, keeping their beaks trimmed. Several different size perches should be kept in their cage with the diameter of the perches ranging between 1.5 to 2 inches.
Aspen, wood-pellet or corn cob all make good substrate options for the bottom of the cage. The substrate should be less than 1 inch deep.
The Macaws are very loud and they may need to be kept in a place so that they will not disturb the neighbors or your family. Some bird owners like to keep their Macaws in a separate room which gives them a lot of space to move around freely. It is not required but can be a great option, especially if you have two or more Macaws. The room needs to have perches for your Macaws to climb and stand. If you give them their own room make sure the room is free of furniture, electrical cords or anything else that your birds can chew.
A parrot play stand or a large outside perch is also recommended so your Macaws can play when they are outside their cage. A play stand is a large free-standing perch for parrots with places to keep food and water bowls, hang toys and add swings. It helps keep them entertained while outside of their cage.
Their food dishes and the water bowl need to be cleaned every day. All the toys and perches need to be washed once a month. Replace any damaged, broken toys or perches with new ones when cleaning their cage. The substrate needs to be cleaned once a week. A deep clean of the cage should be done once a month.
Remove all the habitat parts like toys, perches and swings from the cage while doing the deep clean. Use a bird-friendly disinfectant to clean the cage. Make sure the cage and all its parts have fully dried before placing your bird back inside their cage.
The Attention a Macaw Needs
Macaws have high attention needs and need to be handled regularly. Single Macaws will bond strongly with their family and will become needy and affectionate with them. They need a lot of interaction and playtime with their family. Spending less time with them can cause them to be aggressive and possibly have destructive behaviors. In extreme cases they can start plucking their feathers and skin.
The Macaws have high exercise needs and should be allowed to play outside the cage for 2 to 3 hours a day. Parrot swings, bird ladders, ropes and wood toys are some of their favorite toys. Sometimes they may even hang upside down from their toes. Having a play stand with various toys for the Macaws will be a good way to keep them entertained during times when your family is busy.
A Macaw that is fed properly and given enough attention will not usually get sick. Visible signs of a sick Macaw are
- Ruffled plumage
- Extreme mood changes
- Loss of appetite
- Sagging body
- Drooping wings
- Listlessness (lethargy)
- Swollen eyelids
- Difficult breathing
- Excessive Saliva
- Change in color of the feces
Common diseases found in Macaws are mentioned below.
Feather plucking is sadly an all too common behavior among pet birds, and it’s often caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors. Physical causes of feather plucking can include parasites, skin irritation, hormonal imbalances, allergy sensitivities, dietary deficiencies, or medical issues such as liver disease. Psychological causes can include boredom, stress, fear, lack of environmental stimulation, or overly close human-bird bonding.
Symptoms of Avian Feather Plucking
Symptoms of Avian Feather Plucking can vary depending on the underlying cause. In general, feather plucking can cause bald patches, particularly around your bird’s neck, chest and wings. The affected feathers may be thin or brittle, and might look broken or jagged. Some birds might also have signs of distress such as vocalizing excessively, pacing or panting.
Psittacosis, also known as parrot fever or avian chlamydiosis, is a contagious bacterial infection caused by the Chlamydia psittaci bacterium. Chlamydia psittaci is mostly found in birds from the Psittaciformes family, such as parrots and macaws.
Symptoms of Avian Psittacosis
The symptoms of avian psittacosis can vary depending on the species affected, but may include:
- Respiratory distress
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
In some cases, birds can also have neurological signs like tremors, seizures or paralysis. Birds with psittacosis can have difficulty breathing and might have signs of eye discharge.
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)
Beak and Feather Syndrome is caused by a newly identified virus called circovirus psittacus (PsCV). The virus is spread from bird to bird through contact with saliva, feces or feather dust. The virus has also been found in feed, water and cages that are contaminated with infected bird droppings.
Infected birds usually have symptoms of the disease within 6-12 weeks of contact with the virus, and it can take up to a year for all symptoms to manifest.
Symptoms of Beak and Feather Syndrome
Symptoms of Beak and Feather Syndrome include:
- Feather loss
- Discoloration of the feathers
- Deformed beaks
- Overgrown claws
- Swollen joints
In more severe cases, beaks can become fused together or a bird may develop difficulty balancing or walking. The virus can also cause weight loss and weakness in infected birds. In extreme cases the disease can lead to death.
Avian Bornaviral Ganglioneuritis (ABG)
Avian Bornaviral Ganglioneuritis (ABG) (often referred to as parrot wasting disease) is an infectious disease caused by a virus known as Avian Bornavirus (ABV). ABG affects the bird’s peripheral and central nervous systems, causing paralysis and death.
ABV is found in a variety of bird species worldwide, including pet birds. The virus is spread through direct contact with infected birds or through contaminated food and water sources.
Symptoms of Avian Bornaviral Ganglioneuritis (ABG)
Symptoms of ABG can vary depending on the stage of the infection, but generally include:
- Paralysis or weakness in one or both legs
- Difficulty walking
- Appetite loss
- Decreased activity levels
- Depression and weight loss
In some cases, birds can also experience seizures and tremors. As the disease progresses, affected birds can become unable to stand and eventually die from respiratory failure.
Beak malocclusions, otherwise known as beak deformities, can be caused by a range of factors. Poor nutrition and genetics can both play a role in the development of these conditions. Inadequate nutrition can lead to a lack of minerals and vitamins necessary for normal beak growth and development, while genetic factors can cause improper beak growth and development.
Beak malocclusions can cause a variety of problems for birds, including difficulty eating, drinking, and grooming themselves. In severe cases, beak deformities can prevent birds from being able to feed themselves at all. Beak malocclusions can also impact your bird’s ability to find mates and successfully breed.
In addition to causing physical problems, beak malocclusions can also lead to psychological issues in birds. Birds with beak deformities can experience higher levels of stress and anxiety due to their inability to feed themselves properly or interact with other birds.
Constricted Toe Syndrome
Avian Constricted Toe Syndrome (CTS) is an affliction that affects a variety of bird species. This condition, which is also known as toe-binding syndrome, occurs when a bird’s toes or talons become abnormally constricted due to improper trimming, bandaging or other causes. The result can be painful and deformities may occur if left untreated.
The most common symptom of CTS is an inability to walk normally, because their toes become bent and twisted. If a bird is suffering from CTS, it can also appear to be in pain and could limp when walking. In severe cases, a bird’s feet can become deformed and their claws might grow into each other.
Symptoms of Avian Constricted Toe Syndrome
- Inability to walk normally
- Painful or uncomfortable walking
- Limping when walking
- Deformed feet and claws
- Overgrown, curved or twisted toes
- Redness, swelling, or feet inflammation
- Toe skin thickening
If left untreated, CTS can lead to more serious issues like infection and permanent deformities. If you suspect your bird has CTS, it’s important to get veterinary care as soon as possible.
Bathing and Cleaning
Bathing your Macaws will help keep their skin and feathers clean. We recommend bathing them once a week but it will vary based on the individual Macaws. Some may enjoy bathing more often than others. If your Macaw does not enjoy getting wet very often, it’s fine to bathe them a little less frequently.
To bathe them, use a tub that is big enough for them and fill it with 2 to 3 inches of water. It doesn’t seem like much water, but that will let them splash in the tub. Most Macaws will jump straight into the tub but there might be some who will be a little resistant. Macaws like to splash and it’s something to keep in mind while selecting a place to bathe them. A handheld shower attachment spraying lukewarm water can also be used to bathe them. Birds should never be bathed with soap because it can remove the natural oils from their feathers.
After bathing your bird they don’t need to be towel dried. They just need a little time in a warm place until their feathers are completely dry.
Macaws eat a variety of plants, seeds, fruits and nuts in the wild. Domesticated Macaws should be fed pellet food along with vegetables and fruits. Pellets have the nutrients that your parrot needs and they won’t need any additional calcium or vitamin supplements.
Pellets should make up roughly 50 percent of their diet. Nuts and seeds should consist of only 10 percent because they are high in fat. Their powerful beaks are good at cracking nuts and nuts should be fed to them every day.
The other 40 percent of their diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruits like apples, pears, plums, cherries, grapes, bananas, oranges, mangos and papayas are good for them. For vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini and cucumbers are all good choices.
A healthy Macaw will need to be fed food that is equal to 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. For a 2 pound bird, their daily food requirements are 45 – 65g of pellets, 9 – 15g of seed with 36 – 50g of fruits and vegetables. They need to be fed twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. Any uneaten fruits and vegetables need to be removed after 2 to 3 hours.
They can also be fed human food like pasta, applesauce and cereals. Make sure that they do not eat avocado fruits or foods that contain caffeine, salt, sugar or chocolate because they are not good for them.
Make sure that your Macaws have clean water to drink every day.
Are Macaws Endangered?
Yes, most of the Macaw species are endangered and at least 5 are already extinct in the wild. Hunting, deforestation and illegal trapping for the pet trade are the main reasons. Always ask your breeder about the history of the Macaw you are planning to buy to make sure they have not been captured from the wild. Many of the species are endangered in the wild but thanks to captive breeding they are available as pets.