You need to be prepared before getting a large parrot, like the macaw. Macaws can live for 50 years, with some living for even longer. With the right know-how, you can raise your parrot to be a friendly and affectionate companion. This all starts by learning how to care for your macaw parrot.
Macaw cages should be 5 x 4 x 3 feet. The cage should be at least 1½ times the length of the macaw’s wingspan. Macaws require 30 minutes of daily out-of-cage exercise. Macaws should also be given a companion, preferably one of their own species and the same sex. Parrots should be fed pellets, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
You can expect a macaw to make a range of interesting sounds. It’ll squawk, click its tongue, chatter, growl, hiss, purr, and grind its beak. Macaws can be quite loud and have a painful bite. However, with the right care, training, and diet, your macaw will be social, curious, intelligent, kind, loving, and affectionate toward you.
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 will need a large cage of around 5 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. A good cage should be at least 1.5 times your parrot’s wingspan.
You’ll need to decide on the lining that can catch your parrot’s droppings. A whole newspaper sheet is usually the best option. You can remove the entire sheet and throw it away without any fuss.
You’ll need to install 3+ perches inside your parrot’s cage. Be sure to set them up at different heights and angles within the cage to provide some variety. This ensures that your macaw can retreat to whichever one it wants to rest on.
Once you have the general set-up, you can add various parrot-safe toys around its enclosure.
Where to Put a Macaw Cage
Position the cage in an area where 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 there.
Don’t place your parrot’s cage near your kitchen or bathroom. The fumes from non-stick cookware can be deadly for birds. Also, don’t light any candles (scented or otherwise) in your parrot’s room.
Set up your macaw’s cage somewhere in a corner at around your chest level. The two walls will help your parrot feel more secure and give it fewer open spaces to monitor.
Give your macaw supervised access to sunlight. Place the cage near a window while you sit nearby.
How To Care for A Macaw
Understanding your parrot’s body language and behaviors is just one part of caring for your macaw. You also need to know what to feed it and how to keep it physically healthy.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to establish a proper cage set-up that provides for all its entertainment, exercise, and resting needs.
What Do Macaw Parrots Eat?
Macaw parrots eat a variety of different foods in the wild. To ensure it gets a well-rounded diet in your home, you should feed your pet macaw:
The average parrot will consume around 10 percent of its total body weight daily.
According to the Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, around 75 percent of its diet should consist of pellets. Pellets are packed with plenty of essential nutrients that can keep your parrot healthy.
How Long Can Macaws Survive Without Food and Water?
You should always feed your pet macaw fresh food and replace its water every day.
Macaws can go up to 2-3 days without eating any food before their health will start to decline. Larger macaws can go without food for a maximum of 4 days.
You should change out your macaw’s water every day so that it has a fresh supply. This ensures it’s untainted. A macaw will die within 3 days without fresh water.
How to Exercise a Macaw
Allowing your macaw outside of its cage once a day for at least 30 minutes every day is highly recommended. You need to allow it to fly around and stretch its wings.
You can encourage your parrots to play tug-of-war or another game with you while outside of their cage. By playing with your parrot every day, you two can start to bond pretty quickly.
According to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 30 minutes of daily supervised flight or time spent outside the cage (as well as 30 minutes of walking on a rotating perch) for 105 days straight improved lipid metabolism and lowered cholesterol in parrots.
There aren’t yet any long-term studies on the effects of exercise on a parrot’s routine. However, many researchers seem to agree that daily exercise can keep a parrot in peak condition.
Do Macaws Need Their Beak Trimmed?
Macaws in the wild don’t need their beaks trimmed because they often use their beaks to pry open hard nuts, seeds, or fruits. Pet macaws won’t have these same opportunities, so they may require a beak trim.
All parrot beaks are made up of keratin, which constantly grows along the surface of the beak. It’s similar to how human fingernails don’t stop growing.
Offer your parrot a variety of toys it can chew on. Providing your macaw with a cuttlebone will keep its beak in shape.
How Long Should a Macaw’s Nails Be?
According to the Journal of Zoology, the claw radius of a bird should be proportionate to your parrot’s body mass.
There’s no specific length that your macaw’s nails should be. However, they should always be cut close to the “quick.”
This ensures that your parrot doesn’t experience any issues moving or perching. The quick is the part of the parrot’s nail where the blood vessels and nerves start, right down the middle of the nail.
In parrots with lighter feet, you should be able to spot the pink quick easily enough. On a parrot with darker feet, the quick is harder to spot.
Never cut down to the very edge of a parrot’s nails. Cutting the quick will cause your parrot to bleed. If you cannot restrain your parrot, you need to let your veterinarian take care of your macaw’s nail trimming.
How Often Should a Macaw Shower?
How often a macaw washes will depend on the quality of care that you provide it.
Offer your macaw the chance to bathe 3-5 times a week. Keep in mind that overbathing can cause your macaw to get dry skin. Bathing it every day isn’t recommended.
If you give your macaw a bowl of water, it’ll wash itself.
Macaw Personality Traits
Macaws have sweet dispositions that many owners love. Some will describe the average trained macaw as:
- Social (and sometimes loud)
Of course, macaws can also display behavioral issues that need to be addressed.
Misinterpretation of macaw behavior and the failure to recognize their needs can result in impaired welfare. Thus, your parrot will resort to acting inappropriately to get your attention.
Macaw Sounds and What They Mean
A macaw will make various noises throughout its life, and you need to distinguish what each of these noises means:
- Clicking its tongue: Your macaw is content and happy.
- Chattering: Attempting to talk to you or other macaws in its flock.
- Growling or hissing: Stressed or feels threatened. This can quickly escalate to screeching or screaming if you do not look further into this.
- Purring: Your parrot is extremely content, especially if you are petting it or letting it snuggle up next to you.
- Beak grinding: Self-soothing itself to help it sleep or relax.
If your macaw is constantly screaming or biting you, this shouldn’t be allowed or tolerated.
According to Iowa State University, around 65% of parrot screaming behavior stems from a need for attention. Macaws are loudest at dawn and dusk, though they should be quieter during the night or if you cover their cages with a sheet.
If your parrot continues to scream outside of these time frames, it may need assistance. Checking in on your parrot occasionally can ease its fears and ensure it’s not hurt.
Your parrot may have learned that screaming earns it food. You’ll need to be careful. If your parrot is hungry, you need to calm it down before feeding it. If you feed it while it screams, it’ll only reinforce this unwanted behavior.
Biting can be a sign of macaw jealousy. It’s possible that your parrot cares for you too much and sees you as a mate. Therefore, if you interact with any other person or bird nearby, it’ll bite to stop you from talking to them.
Do Macaws Need a Companion?
If you plan to get a macaw, consider getting two macaws so that neither parrot will feel lonely.
You don’t have to buy two macaws of different sexes unless you intend on breeding them. Parrots of the same sex are known to get along fine in the same cage if they have bonded well enough.
However, if you do notice your parrots fighting, it’s best to house them in separate cages for now. You can keep your macaws’ cages nearby to allow them to converse with one another.
This can prevent fighting while still providing for their social needs. If they still scream at one another, however, you should keep them in separate rooms. Some personalities will clash and refuse to get along.
How Long Do Macaws Live?
According to Experimental Gerontology, pet parrots are predicted to live anywhere from 25 to more than 70 years old.
Animal Conservation found that the highest maximum lifespan recorded for parrots was around 92 years old, though you can expect cared-for macaws to have a lifespan of 50 years.
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 brain inflammation.
- 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.
- Kidney disease: This shows up as listlessness, weight loss, swollen joints, difficulty breathing, and weakness.
- Lipomas: Fatty tumors are 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
- Drooping wings
- Sagging body
- Extreme mood changes
- No appetite
- Bulges in feathering
- Partially closed or watery eyes
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Difficulty breathing
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.
Pet macaws are certainly a lifelong commitment. Ensure that your pet’s cage is large enough to allow it to fly around when it wants. Likewise, it should be comfortable enough to not resort to screaming, biting, or unwanted behaviors.
With the right training and care, your macaw will be a loving and affectionate pet. Daily supervised exercise and play sessions, along with providing fresh food and water each day is vital.