Macaws can live for 50 years. With the right know-how, you can raise your parrot to be a friendly and affectionate companion. This all starts with learning how to care for a macaw parrot.
Macaws have nice dispositions, with the average trained parrot described as curious, friendly, affectionate, intelligent, playful, sensitive, and friendly.
Of course, unhappy macaws can also display behavioral issues that must be addressed. Misinterpretation of macaw behaviors and the failure to recognize their needs can result in impaired welfare.
Macaw’s Cage Setup
Macaws are big parrots that need space to stretch their wings and move freely from perch to perch.
So, a large adult macaw needs a cage that’s 5 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. A good cage will be at least 1.5 times your parrot’s wingspan.
You’ll need a cage liner to catch the parrot’s droppings and food waste. Alternatively, a whole newspaper sheet is a good option, as you can remove and throw it away without fuss.
You must add 3+ perches at different heights and angles in the cage, as this will enable your macaw to choose its favored position. Most parrots prefer elevated positions as it makes them feel safer.
Then, you can add food/water bowls, swings, rope ladders, bells, and toys to its enclosure.
Where To Put A Macaw Cage
Position the cage in an area you frequently visit, but not somewhere that’s too noisy. Your living room or a home office are ideal locations since you’ll spend time together.
Don’t place your parrot’s cage near the kitchen or bathroom. The fumes from non-stick cookware and cleaning agents can be deadly for birds.
Also, don’t light candles (scented or otherwise) in your parrot’s room.
Set up your macaw’s cage in a corner at around chest level. The two walls will help your parrot feel more secure and give it fewer open spaces to monitor for threats.
Give your macaw supervised access to sunlight. Ideally, the cage should have a shaded area. Never constantly leave a parrot exposed to direct sunlight because this can lead to overheating.
How To Care for A Macaw
Understanding a macaw parrot’s body language and behaviors is part of caring for a macaw.
Also, you need to know what to feed your macaw and how to keep it healthy. Equally importantly, you must establish the right cage setup for its entertainment, exercise, and resting needs.
What Do Macaw Parrots Eat?
To ensure a macaw a well-rounded diet, you should feed it the following foods:
An average parrot will consume around 10 percent of its total body weight daily.
Around 75 percent of its diet should consist of pellets. Pellets are packed with essential nutrients that can keep your parrot healthy.
How Long Can Macaws Survive Without Food and Water?
Always feed a pet macaw fresh food and replace its water several times daily.
Macaws can survive for 2-3 days without eating food before their health declines rapidly. Larger macaws can go without food for a maximum of 4 days.
You should change out your macaw’s water daily so that it has a fresh and untainted supply.
How To Exercise a Macaw
Allow your macaw outside of its cage once a day for at least 30 minutes. You need to allow your macaw to fly around, stretch its wings and exercise its muscles.
You can encourage parrots to play ‘tug-of-war’ or ‘fetch’ with you while outside the cage. By playing with your parrot daily, you develop a close bond together.
According to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 30 minutes of daily supervised time spent outside the cage (as well as 30 minutes of walking on a rotating perch) for 105 days improved lipid metabolism and lowered cholesterol levels in parrots.
Do Macaws Need Their Beak Trimmed?
Wild macaws don’t need their beaks trimmed because they often use their beaks to pry open hard nuts, seeds, or fruits. Unfortunately, pet macaws often lack these opportunities and may require a beak trim.
All parrots’ beaks consist of keratin, which constantly grows along the surface of the beak.
Offer the parrot a variety of toys it can peck at and chew on. Providing your macaw with a cuttlebone and un-shelled nuts will wear down, polish, and sharpen the beak.
How Long Should a Macaw’s Nails Be?
According to the Journal of Zoology, the claw radius should be proportionate to a parrot’s body mass. Claws have no specific length, but they should be cut close to the ‘quick.’
This ensures a parrot doesn’t experience issues moving or perching. The ‘quick’ is the part of the parrot’s nails where the blood vessels and nerves start, in the middle of the nail.
Never cut to the edge of a parrot’s nails because cutting the ‘quick’ will cause bleeding. If you can’t restrain your parrot, let your veterinarian take care of your macaw’s nail trimming.
How Often Should a Macaw Shower?
Offer your macaw the chance to bathe 3-5 times a week. Keep in mind that overbathing can cause a macaw to get dry skin. If you give your macaw a bowl of water, it’ll wash.
Macaw Sounds And What They Mean
A macaw will make various vocalizations, so you need to understand what they mean:
- Clicking its tongue: A macaw is feeling happy.
- Chattering: Attempting to talk to you or other macaws in its flock.
- Growling or hissing: It feels stressed and threatened. Hissing and growling can quickly escalate to screeching or screaming without further action.
- Purring: A parrot feels contented, especially during petting or snuggling.
- Beak grinding: Self-soothing in readiness for sleep and relaxation.
According to Iowa State University, around 65% of parrot screaming behavior stems from a need for attention. This shouldn’t be tolerated if your macaw constantly screams or bites you.
Your parrot may have learned that screaming earns it food. If your parrot is hungry, calm it down before feeding it. If you feed it while it screams, it’ll only reinforce this unwanted behavior.
Biting can signify macaw jealousy because your parrot sees you as a mate. Therefore, if you interact with another person or animal, it’ll react aggressively.
Do Macaws Need a Companion?
Consider getting two macaws so that neither parrot feels lonely.
You don’t have to buy two macaws of different sexes unless you intend to breed them. Parrots of the same sex are known to get along fine once bonded.
However, if you notice your parrots fighting, house them in separate cages. You can keep macaws’ cages nearby to allow them to communicate and play with one another.
This can prevent fighting while providing for their social needs. However, if they scream at one another, you should keep them in separate rooms. Some personalities clash and never get along.
How Long Do Macaws Live?
According to Experimental Gerontology, pet parrots are predicted to live for 25-70 years.
Animal Conservation found that the maximum lifespan recorded for parrots was around 92 years old, although you can expect cared-for macaws to have a lifespan of 50 years.
Macaw Health Problems
For macaws, the most common illnesses and diseases include the following:
- Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD): Affects the gastrointestinal tract nerves, causing brain inflammation.
- Psittacosis: Infectious disease that causes poor appetite, eye or nose discharge, and diarrhea.
- Feather picking: Parrots will pull out their feathers due to stress and illness.
- Beak malformations: The beak can become misshapen due to malnutrition, parasites, and diseases.
- Kidney disease: This manifests as listlessness, weight loss, swollen joints, and breathing issues.
- Lipomas: Fatty tumors are often found under the skin, near the sternum, or in the abdomen. These always need to be checked by a vet because they can be malignant or non-malignant.
It can be difficult to determine the signs of illness in macaws, but check for the following signs:
- Ruffled plumage
- Drooping wings
- Sagging body
- Extreme mood changes
- No appetite
- Bulges in feathering
- Partially closed or watery eyes
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Difficulty breathing
If a parrot is experiencing any of these issues, take it to the vet for assessment and treatment.
Your macaw will be a loving and affectionate pet with the right training and care. Daily supervised exercise, play sessions, and fresh food and water each day are essential.