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how to care for macaw parrots

How To Look After Macaw Parrots

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2023)

Macaws can live for 50 years. You can raise a parrot to be a friendly and affectionate companion with the right know-how. 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.

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 the 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.

Add 3+ perches in the cage at different heights and angles to enable the 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 too noisy. The living room or a home office are ideal locations since you’ll spend time together.

Don’t place the 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 the parrot’s room.

Set up the macaw’s cage in a corner at around chest level. The two walls will help the parrot feel more secure and give it fewer open spaces to monitor for threats.

Give the 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.

caring for a macaw parrot

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 the 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:

  • Pellets.
  • Seeds.
  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.
  • Grains.

An average parrot will consume around 10% of its total body weight daily.

Around 75% of its diet should consist of pellets. Pellets are packed with essential nutrients that can keep the parrot healthy.

 Another 15% should consist of fresh foods, such as fruits, grains, and vegetables.

The remaining 10% should be rewards and treats, like seeds and unsalted nuts.

How Long Can Macaws Survive Without Food and Water?

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 the macaw’s water daily so that it has a fresh and untainted supply.

How To Exercise a Macaw

Allow the macaw outside of its cage once a day for at least 30 minutes. You need to allow the 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 a 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 (and 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 a 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 should be cut reasonably 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. Let a veterinarian handle the macaw’s nail trimming if you can’t restrain the parrot.

How Often Should a Macaw Shower?

Offer the 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 a 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.

Behavioral Problems

According to Iowa State University, around 65% of parrot screaming behavior stems from a need for attention. This shouldn’t be tolerated if the macaw constantly screams or bites you.

The parrot may have learned that screaming earns it food. If a 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 the 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 observe the 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, you should keep them in separate rooms if they scream at one another. Some personalities clash and never get along.

do macaw parrots make good pets?

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 pick 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.
  • Listlessness.
  • Drooping wings.
  • Sagging body.
  • Extreme mood changes.
  • No appetite.
  • Bulges in feathering.
  • Partially closed or watery eyes.
  • Swelling of the eyelids.
  • Rasping.
  • Difficulty breathing.

If a parrot is experiencing any of these issues, take it to the vet for assessment and treatment.

A macaw will be a loving and affectionate pet with the right training and care. Daily supervised exercise, play sessions, and fresh food and water are essential.