how to care for macaw parrots

How To Look After Macaw Parrots – A Complete Guide!

An icon of the parrot world, macaws are bright-colored and loud. These intelligent birds require a great deal of social interaction to remain happy. They’re also the largest parrot species in the world, requiring ample space to move around. That’s topped off with complex personalities that will need training to keep in control.

Macaws should have their cages cleaned once a week, with water and food changed daily. They should be fed a mix of pellets, fruits, nuts, veggies, seeds, and meats in their diet. The minimum cage size is 30 x 48 x 60 inches, but 5 x 6 x 3 feet or larger is better. Macaws should be bathed every 2-3 days, and they need a great deal of enrichment. Be sure to spend 8+ hours with your macaw daily, and keep its cage in a place that it can see you constantly.

Macaws should not be left alone for long hours, or they’ll become bored, destructive, and lonely. With quality training, they will be well-behaved and fun-loving. Macaws may be loud, messy, and demanding, but they’re also very intelligent, loving, and dedicated to their owners.

Types of Macaw Parrots

There are several types of macaw parrots, with 10 existing as the most popular. Many are known by their colors, while others have earned more unique names.

  • Blue and Gold: This parrot has blue feathers on its body and wings, with yellow feathers on its chest.
  • Green Wing: Green-wing parrots are more complex than that. They have a red head and body with striped red, green, and blue wings.
  • Hahn’s: The Hahn’s parrot is almost fully lime green, with small bright orange spots around the top of the wings.
  • Hyacinth: Just like the flower, the hyacinth macaw is blue-purple in color, with yellow around the eyes and the beak.
  • Hybrid: Hybrid macaws come in a vast range of colors, but are usually a mix of yellow, red, green, and blue. These patterns will exist anywhere on the body, depending on the parrot.
  • Illiger’s: These parrots are completely green, with a darker green around the top of their heads. They can also have yellow, orange, or blue feathers mixed in on different areas.
  • Military: The military macaw has bright green feathers on its body and the back of its head. Additionally, there may be red feathers directly above its beak and blue feathers on the front of its wings. This species is considered endangered, according to The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
  • Scarlet: Scarlet macaws are the exact color you’d expect them to be. They are bright red, with blue and yellow stripes along their wings.
  • Severe: The severe parrot looks similar to the military parrot with a mostly green body and head. It also has blue and orange feathers at the very front of its wings.
  • Yellow-Collared: Yellow-collared macaws look as you’d expect. They are mostly bright green, but have a thin yellow line around their neck.

How Long Do Macaw Parrots Live?

Macaws can live for 50 to 70 years, with some boasting of an even greater lifespan. Charlie, the blue macaw, reached an impressive 117 years.

If you’re older, this may involve planning who will take care of your macaw when you’re gone. Some owners even set up trust funds or include the parrots in their will.

How Big Are Macaw Parrots?

Macaw parrots are the largest parrots in the world. They range from 2 to 3 feet in length. Scarlet parrots are on the smaller side, at around 2 feet. Meanwhile, blue and yellow or hyacinth macaws can reach 3.3 feet.

How Much Do Macaw Parrots Cost?

A macaw’s price depends on its species and size. A Hahn’s macaw can range from $750-1000, while a scarlet can go for $2000-3000. While it’s not common, and only concerns the rarest species, some may cost $20,000.

Hyacinths are usually the ones who demand that 5-figure price tag. That’s because they’re an endangered species, according to Biodiversity and Conservation. Let’s take a look at the average cost of macaws:

Macaw SpeciesPrice Range (USD)Avg Price (USD)
Blue/Gold Macaw$1200 to $1500$1350
Green-Winged Macaw$1500 to $2000$2500
Hybrid Macaw$1000 to $5000$3000
Smaller Macaw$700 to $1000$850

Do Macaw Parrots Make Good Pets?

Macaws make good pets, as long as you have the time, experience, and patience. This species is not for beginners, though. They require specialized care, training, and social interaction. If you’re just starting out, it’s better to choose a smaller or less demanding bird.

Space

As the world’s largest parrot, they need a sufficiently large cage. They also need to be let out regularly to play and explore. If you’re in a small apartment, this won’t do.

Noise Levels

Macaws vocalize very often, whether it’s to chirp, sing, or squawk. You can expect them to be noisy pets, and you shouldn’t live in a place with thin walls. However, if you have a house and aren’t worried about the noise, a macaw is a good pet for you.

Behavior

Macaws are clingy and needy birds. They will need constant attention, love, and care. If they’re deprived of this, they become unruly and aggressive.

If you’re looking for a full-time friend with stunning intelligence, then they’re a great fit. Once bonded, these parrots are loyal and dedicated to their owners, happy to play or talk.

do macaw parrots make good pets?

Macaw Personalities

Macaws also tend to have big personalities. When properly trained, this manifests as spunky and fun-loving with a desire to love their owners wholly. If the macaw isn’t properly trained, however, it will be stubborn and even jealous. It may nip at you, small children, or other pets.

Macaws Make a Mess

Macaws like to throw their food and play in the water. They also carelessly shed their feathers and, as large birds, you can expect bigger droppings. They even tear up paper, cardboard, and toys without inhibition. You will often need to clean up after your macaw, but you may also find this zest for life endearing.

What Do Macaw Parrots Eat?

To maintain their large size and colorful feathers, macaws need a balanced diet. Unlike other parrots, this will include a slightly higher amount of fat. As long as you dedicate a portion of your food bill to your parrot, it will remain healthy, vibrant, and happy.  

Food

Balancing foods is the key to ensuring your macaw remains healthy and energetic. The proper ratio should be 75% pellets and 25% fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Pellets can work as formulated diets to give your macaw all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs.

Foods that are higher in fat, like roasted peanuts, will be ideal. However, don’t let the parrot eat them without moderation, as they can still fall victim to obesity. Like other parrots, macaws cannot just eat seeds. That should be paired with mixed amounts of fruits, veggies, and meat. Fruits that macaws can eat include:

  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Mangos
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Papayas

Parrots can also have veggies like:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Leafy greens

That should be matched to plenty of carbohydrates found in whole grains. Perfect examples include:

  • Oats
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Quinos
  • Rice

Water

Macaws have big appetites, but also need to stay well-hydrated. One macaw should have a dish that holds at least 2 cups of water. It should be full at all times so that it can drink its fill.   

Cage Requirements

Macaws need a cage that allows them to comfortably sleep, eat, and rest. At the very least, the enclosure must be:

  • 30 inches deep
  • 48 inches wide
  • 60 inches tall

The larger, the better. Some owners invest in cages that are 5 x 6 x 3 feet, so their parrot has enough space to spread its wings. If you let your parrot out regularly to play, then the minimum cage size will be fine. However, if you’re gone for long hours at work, it’s inhumane to keep the parrot from moving around comfortably. A larger cage will be needed. 

The cage should ideally be made of stainless steel. Macaws have powerful jaws and can bite through other materials. The bars should be at least 3 inches thick and close enough together that your macaw can’t sneak through. Look for ones that are about ¾ inch to 1.5 inches apart, depending on how large your macaw is.

What to Put Inside the Cage

Apart from the size of the cage, it will need to be outfitted with the right accessories. Macaws are very intelligent, so a plain cage will leave them bored and depressed.

Toys

Macaws need plenty of toys to keep them occupied. That’s especially true if you can’t let the parrot out for most of the day to explore and play. You can outfit the enclosure with:

  • Climbing ropes
  • Chains
  • Bells
  • Swings
  • Puzzle feeders

Cuttlebones are also important to keep your macaw’s beak healthy. The cage should have at least one, so it can shape and file its beak.

Perches

Perches also allow your macaw to keep busy and exercise its feet. This can even help prevent arthritis. The perch should be at least 1 foot in length and 1.5 inches in diameter.

Macaws require two perches; one inside the cage and one outside of it. This allows the parrot to rest inside, climb around outside of its cage, or explore the home from an easy vantage point. Just be sure to set the perches away from water and food dishes, so no droppings fall in.

Where Should I Place the Cage?

The cage should be placed in a central location and not too close to any out-facing walls. The farther away from where your neighbors might hear, the better. Macaws are also very social birds, so they’ll want to share a room with you. Place the cage:

  • Where you and your family hang out the most
  • At eye level
  • Where the sun shines

However, don’t put it right in front of a window. In certain climates, the sun will overheat the macaw. The parrot should also not be housed in homes where people smoke, near scented candles, or placed near the kitchen.

Caring For A Macaw Parrot Cage

A macaw’s cage, specifically the newspaper and floor of the enclosure, should be cleaned once a week. This not only keeps your parrot healthy, but it also stops it from ingesting bacteria and allergens.

  • The water and food dishes need to be cleaned out daily.
  • Any accessories or perches must be scrubbed down every 2-3 weeks.
  • The cage itself should be completely sanitized at least once a year.

Macaw Parrots Behavior

The most prominent behaviors from macaws are frequent noise, destructive tendencies, and the need to be social. As long as the parrots are cared for and trained, this can all be minimized. However, it’ll never completely go away.

Noise

Macaws will regularly be loud and harsh-sounding. It’s just their way of communicating. You can either train them to be a little quieter or tone down the noise levels of your home.

These parrots will match the noise of their surroundings. If you play loud music or turn up the TV, you can expect the macaw to begin squawking. It’s also important to understand the difference between their noises.

  • Normal:  Loud and harsh sounding.
  • Eating:  Soft growls or churtles.
  • Excitement:  High-pitched squawking.
  • Morning and early evening:  Loud, short squawking for 1-5 minutes, since they’re calling for you. This is a sign that the macaw is in very high spirits.
  • Screaming:  This is not normal behavior. It means the parrot is afraid and uncomfortable. Screaming most often occurs when no one is home for a long period of time.
caring for a macaw parrot

Destructive Behavior

There’s a certain amount of destructive behavior that’s natural for macaws. It can’t be trained out and gets worse if the parrot is bored.

That’s why it’s important to give your macaw plenty of toys and distractions. This keeps it from destroying more valuable parts of your home. Providing branches, ropes, and puzzles ensure it will stick to destroying appropriate things and not your furniture.

Can Macaws Live Alone?

Macaws are very social birds. As such, they need someone to be home or around most of the time. If they get lonely, they can start picking at their feathers and become temperamental.

If you get a macaw at an early age, it’s wise to get a second macaw. They will both need socialization whenever you’re not around. On the flip side, it’s not recommended to introduce two older macaws to a home. They will be set in their ways and may be aggressive towards each other.

How To Care For Macaw Parrots’ Hygiene

Just like feeding or entertaining them, it’s important to groom your macaw or ensuring it’s grooming itself. As a plus, this is a great way to bond with your parrot.

Bathing

You should bathe your macaw 3-5 times a week. All that’s necessary is to:

  • Gently mist the parrot with a spray bottle of water
  • Place the macaw in the sink and turn on the facet
  • Get a shower perch, so they can stand inside your own shower and bathe with or without you

Pedicure

A macaw’s nails can become long and sharp, so you should give it a pedicure every 3-6 months. This process involves:

  • Getting a nail file perch, as can be found at pet stores.
  • Filing them manually yourself
  • Asking your vet to trim the nails during your next visit

Beak Trim

Macaws occasionally need their beaks maintained, but this isn’t always necessary for every bird. If they do need it, it should only be done by your veterinarian.

It’s too difficult for a non-professional to take on. Once a year, your vet can lightly trim the overgrowth that the macaw has not handled with its cuttlebone. If your parrot’s beak cracks, they usually repair themselves.

Preening

A macaw will need help preening and grooming the feathers on its head and neck. After all, it can’t reach those parts. To help your bird preen:

  • Gently take a few feathers on the parrot’s head between your thumb and index finger
  • Rub them together
  • A dandruff-like material (dust) may come off

This is a great bonding activity. However, you and your parrot must have trust already built up for the macaw to allow this.

Macaw Parrot Care And Training

Macaws are very smart, always up for learning new tricks. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Don’t force it. If your macaw is clearly not into performing the task that you want, leave it be.
  • Training must be conducted at the macaw’s pace, or else it will rebel.
  • Always start small. You can begin with small tricks, like making it perch on your arm or shoulder.
  • Once the parrot has mastered one trick, you can then move to harder tasks, like saying specific words or dancing.
  • Be sure to repeat any command several times, and understand it may take days or weeks to perfect.
  • Offer consistent rewards for good behavior, since this is what encourages your parrot to continue.
  • No training session should be more than 20 minutes in length. Your macaw will lose interest after that point.

Are Macaw Parrots Aggressive?

Macaws can be aggressive, but there is usually a reason for it. From a lack of socialization, to being afraid, to boredom, aggressiveness in macaws will always signal another underlying issue.

Lack of Socialization

If your macaw is poorly socialized, your only choice is to be patient. Most often, this aggression comes from being in multiple homes before yours. Eventually, it will learn that you:

  • Won’t hurt it
  • Aren’t going anywhere

If you want to help speed up this learning process, then try setting up a routine. This will help the intelligent bird recognize a pattern. Its day will follow the same schedule that is always safe, loving, and calm. The macaw will then come to expect that and relax.

Jealousy

Parrots can become jealous. If your macaw has bonded with you and then sees that you interact with another animal or a human, it may become aggressive.

The best way to deal with this is by having everyone in the household take care of the macaw. The parrot will learn that other people are not a threat, but just extra companions.  

Hormones

Parrots go through hormonal changes and puberty just like humans. This may include temper tantrums and aggression.

Unfortunately, because this is a natural occurrence, you can’t fix it. Instead, you can apply training to help curb the worst effects and ignore any other aggressive behavior.

Feeling Threatened

Parrots can be very territorial. If your macaw believes it’s being threatened, it will become aggressive.

In the first week or two of owning the parrot, be sure that all your movements are slow and methodical. Speak in a calm tone of voice and don’t handle the parrot against its will. The macaw will gradually warm up.

Boredom

If your macaw is bored, it will use aggression to spice things up. To identify these situations, watch to see if your parrot is bobbing up and down. This can be a sign that it’s bored and looking for trouble. In response, you can give the parrot more space and time outside of its cage so that it can explore and play.

Are Macaw Parrots Solitary?

Macaws are not designed to be solitary. In fact, all parrots are very social creatures. In the wild, your macaw would have spent time with its flock constantly, interacting with up to 30 birds. In a domestic setting, your parrot needs attention from either you, a family member, or another macaw.

Nonetheless, many people keep macaws as a single pet. That’s because of their size and maintenance. It can be overwhelming to care for two birds with large cages, large appetites, and large social needs. If you do choose to buy a macaw, be sure to evaluate how much time and energy you have for this bird, especially over the next 5 decades.

Buying a companion for your macaw may be a great way to fill up the hours you can’t be present. However, if you’re away from home often, this can still backfire. You may find both parrots bonding close to each other and ignoring you. They may also grow unruly and temperamental if their enclosure isn’t aviary-sized.

Can Macaw Parrots Fly?

Macaws can fly, with an impressive 4-foot wingspan. In the wild, this allows them to fly an average of 15 miles each day to forage. They can even reach speeds of up to 40 mph. This means your pet macaw will be a wonderful force of nature – but that may be overwhelming in the home.

Ideally, you will be able to give your macaw ample space to explore and play around your home. If you’re concerned about the parrot injuring itself, however, or destroying items, you can trim its wings.

A professional can clip its flight feathers, or you can do this at home. Just keep in mind that this will not stop the macaw from flying altogether. It will still be able to flutter and glide, just not efficiently.

Do Macaw Parrots Bite?

Macaws do bite, and their impressive jaw strength can make this dangerous. However, parrots rarely bite without a good reason, and it’s usually as a last resort. No matter the case, you don’t have to tolerate any nips. Instead, you can:

Earn Its Trust

Parrots only bite when they feel threatened. If you develop a strong bond with your macaw, it won’t nip at you. This can be accomplished by:

  • Petting it gently
  • Carefully feeding it
  • Giving it treats
  • Playing with it
  • Spending time in the same room together, even if you can’t play then

Evaluate Its Environment

Parrots may bite when scared or threatened. Because of this, look for signs of discomfort in your parrot’s cage or in the home itself.

  • Is something or someone bothering it?
  • Does its cage need to be cleaned, making it feel cramped and ill?
  • Are your other pets stressing it out?

By finding the source of its discomfort, you can resolve it.

Respond Calmly

If you get bitten, naturally you’ll want to discipline the parrot. However, yelling at the macaw will only be a form of attention, even if it’s negative. It may learn to use biting as a way to demand your focus. Instead, be sure to separate yourself from the parrot. Ignore it for several minutes as a punishment.

Why Do Macaw Parrots Scream?

Macaws are known for being noisy. However, if you notice that your macaw is actively screaming, not just singing or squawking, then it’s worth being concerned. Your parrot may be suffering from:

Illness

If your macaw is ill, it may be in a great deal of discomfort. The illness could be impacting its mood or ability to sleep, so it’s discombobulated, confused, and anxious. This will lead to a great deal of stress, and your macaw will scream from frustration or fear.

can macaws live alone?

Nutrition Issues

Nutrition issues can leave your macaw feeling lethargic and confused. Birds are very skilled at hiding their vulnerabilities, so yours will avoid making a fuss when it feels unwell. Once it becomes unbearable, the macaw will eventually scream out of stress, anger, and exhaustion. 

Stress

Parrots do not like changes in their environment, least of all the intelligent macaw. Perhaps there’s been a new addition to the family, a change in furniture, or you’ve undergone an extreme makeover. In response, your macaw will feel unsure of its surroundings and begin screaming to voice its discomfort.

Boredom

Although blatant screaming usually means a big problem is afoot, it can also mean boredom and loneliness. The parrot is now desperate to have its social needs met.

It’s tempting to tell the macaw to stop screaming. However, that will only make the parrot crave more attention. Instead, you will need to solve the root problem. Try giving the macaw a few toys or spend time with it.

Macaw Health Problems

It’s important to know what health problems you might expect. For macaws, the most common illnesses include:

  • Proventricular dilatation disease: Affects the nerves to the gastrointestinal tract and can cause inflammation of the brain.
  • Psittacosis: Infectious disease that causes poor appetite, eye or nose discharge, and diarrhea.
  • Feather picking: Parrots will pick and pull out their feathers as a sign of a more serious issue.
  • Beak malformations: This can be caused by malnutrition, parasites, and other diseases.
  • Papillomas: Non-cancerous tumors.
  • Kidney disease: Kidney disease in parrots shows up as listlessness, weight loss, swollen joints, difficulty breathing, and weakness
  • Lipomas: Fatty tumors most often found under the skin, near the sternum, or on the abdomen.

It can be difficult to see the signs of illness in macaws. However, there are subtle hints you can look out for:

  • Ruffled plumage
  • Listlessness
  • Drooping wings
  • Sagging body
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Having no appetite
  • Bulges in feathering
  • Partially closed or watery eyes
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Rasping
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive saliva
  • Any change in the feces not apparently diet-related

If your parrot is experiencing any of these issues, take it to the vet. When caught early, many of these diseases or infections are easy to treat. However, they may escalate if ignored. While waiting for an appointment, place your macaw in a warm room with food and water close by.

Taking care of a macaw can feel like a second job. However, seeing it happy and healthy makes all the time, patience, and care worth it. Just make sure you have enough space and ensure that it’s fed, entertained, clean, and healthy. If done right, you will have a friend for life.