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Exotic Birds

Macaw

All about the true parrot

Looking for a good pet? If you are thinking of having a bird, perhaps you should consider taking a macaw, one of the most loved and appreciated by bird lovers.

Types of macaws

What is a macaw?

The macaw is a genus of parrot family bird that you can especially find in the jungles of Mexico, Venezuela and northeastern Argentina.

Within the order of Psittaciformes, it is the largest species, as it can measure up to 90 centimeters, although the normal size is about 75 centimeters. It can weigh up to 1.5 kilograms.

They are climbing birds that like to do acrobatics, so they tend to move around in the space they have. They are not as good imitators as the common parrot, but you can teach them to repeat the human voice.

Its plumage is very colorful and bright, and it fits perfectly with the rainforests of Central and South America. Its beak is large and robust, being able to easily break the shells of nuts and dried fruit. Unlike other animals, the macaw has a bone in its tongue, which is dry and scaly, making it a very good tool for striking.

What is the behavior of a macaw?

Compared to other variants of parrots, the macaw is a docile animal with a gregarious instinct. If they are accustomed to living with humans from an early age, it is not difficult to bond with them. They do not like to be alone in a cage, although they do not like sharing a cage with smaller birds either.

Macaw

It is very active and quite noisy, which likes to play a lot. It is also a very demanding pet when it comes to receiving love. When it comes to training them, it is not usually complicated, as they are animals that can quickly get attached to humans and do not dislike learning some tricks.

Depending on the type of macaw, the character may vary. For example, the blue and yellow macaws have a friendly character and are quite affectionate and playful.  The green macaws are very friendly but of a much calmer character.

How long can a macaw live?

Making the decision of having a macaw at home is to opt for an animal with a fairly long life. The average life expectancy of macaws can be up to 80 years, some of them can even reach 100 years.

Although they may live a long time, it does not mean that you so not have to care for them. Some macaws live only 20 years due to human carelessness or because they escape and become unaccustomed to wildlife. Having this animal has the same obligations, as if you had a dog or a cat.

How to tell the sex of a macaw?

Most macaws are monomorphic, it means that males and females have the same appearance. They have slight differences that only the most experienced people are able to distinguish between both of them.

What if you want to breed this species? In this case, you should go to a specialist for a DNA analysis to be sure of who is the male and who is the female.

How to get along with a macaw?

Although they are friendly and affectionate animals, it does not mean that they will become your friend as soon as they arrive home. As other animals, you have to work on the confidence of your macaw.

First of all, it has to be a young macaw, as it is more difficult to gain their trust in adult animals, especially if they have not lived in captivity. We do not recommend you to force them to be friendly until they want to.

How can you become its friend? First, don’t let your presence disturb it, so the cage must be located in a place where the whole family have daily contact. This way, the bird gets used to your presence. It may protest at first, but it will gradually calm down. You can get a little closer to the cage to start getting in touch, but if it starts to get upset, it will be better to stay away until it is quiet. That will set the distance limit it needs to start.

Get closer to the cage every day, until it finally allows you to be near. Then it is time to start gaining its trust with some tricks, such as putting some food it likes. It may refuse it, so you will have to leave it alone in his cage. Repeat the process every day until it finally wants to eat it. Little by little, it will get close enough to take it.

Did you make it? If so, it is time to try to feed it by the hand. The process has to be slow and calm, so that it does not get overwhelmed. You probably will not get it the first time, so you will have to repeat it every day until it finally wants to eat.

All about a macaw’s cage

The cage you buy for you macaw is one of the most important things if you decide to have this bird as a pet. In this section, we will tell you all you need to know about it.

What to consider when buying a cage for your macaw

To get an idea of how big a macaw’s cage must be, it has to be at least twice the size of its wings, from one to the other, spread out. It should not be round, as this causes a number of disturbances in birds, even if they look pretty in shops.

The door of the cage should be wide enough to allow the macaw to be easily removed from the cage or to put your arm in if it wants to stand on it. The bars should be vertical with a short distance between each one, so that the macaw cannot get its head between them.

Try to select stainless steel feeders, so that they do not spoil easily. It is better if they are located on the outside, because if they are inside, when they are very young they could escape through the door of the trough.

Macaws are very clean animals, so you will have to remove the feces often. Therefore, the tray should be easy to remove from the bottom of the floor grid. It’s also a good idea to use stainless steel or a material that will not break easily when you are cleaning it.

Macaw

Once you buy a good cage, it is time to decide what to put inside. First, the hangers on which they will be perched most of the time. We recommend you to choose tree branch because so they can file their nails with it. You can also put some toys, such as hoops or ladders, which will help them exercise.

Where to put the cage if it is too big?

It is important to place your macaw’s cage in a suitable place. You can locate it in the living room, which helps the animal not feel alone. I will also help you to keep it under control. Try to avoid places with strong aistreams or too close to windows.

The cage should be neither too low nor too high. The best choice is at the level of your eyes. If it is too low they feel intimidated, and if it is too high, they feel too powerful and it is impossible to get along with them.

Different to other animals, macaws don’t have issues if the cage is placed in front of a TV. It helps them learn words, but they should not see it directly, because the flashes on the screen can make them blind or cause epileptic seizures.

How to clean the cage of you macaw

As we mentioned above, macaws are quite clean animals. At least a couple of times a month you have to clean the cage. But how do you clean a macaw’s cage?

First of all, let the bird out of the cage. If it is not yet used to moving around the room, it should be moved to another cage. To do so, join the doors together to pass by on its own. If it is used to getting out of the cage, just let it fly around the house or do whatever it wants while you clean the cage.

The best way to clean the cage is to use bleach diluted in water, applying it with a towel. Afterwards, all the corners of the cage should be disinfected and cleaned with a brush. After 15 minutes, rinse with plenty of water until it has no bleach. Dry with another towel.

It is possible that during the cleaning process the bird may escape from the cage and wants to be wandering around the house. Remember, do not yell at itm or force them back into their cages. Try to take it back to the cage by using some tricks like offering its favorite food. Make sure you close all the doors and windows so he can’t go to another room. When it is hungry, it will go back to its cage.

Is it recommended to raise a macaw out of its cage?

We recommend you to keep the macaw in the cage until he trusts you. Many owners o consider it a cruelty to have the macaw locked in a cage and since they are little they have been camping around the house. But is this really good for the macaw?

Well, macaws are very intelligent animals and unlike parakeets, they are not very used to flying around the house. All they really need is a place to lay down on when they sleep, like a hanger, where you can put newspaper on the floor to let their feces fall out.

There is nothing wrong with raising it this way, but you have to think that in this case you must always be careful that all the windows are closed so that it doesn’t fly away. It’s also easier to establish a relationship with him, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work to make friends.

What do macaws eat?

Some bird species eat almost everything and although it is better to feed them properly, some food that can be given to achieve a complete diet and that can offer them many advantages for their health.

Let’s start with dry foods. This should be 10% of their body weight per day, which is a mix of high energy food, specific macaw seeds, a bit of cashew, walnuts or hazelnuts and sprouted legumes.

They should also eat wet food, which should be 10 or 12% of the weight of the macaw, such as a fruit mix. It should be composed of 5 different ingredients that have a high calorie content, such as banana, grape or coconut. You can also give them some vegetables such as lettuce, chard or spinach, as long as they are well chopped.

Can you give them some other foods? Yes, even if they are not a part of their diet, you can occasionally give them a little bread, rice or pasta, even a little boiled egg. But do not get used to it, so they should become a kind of prize or reward once a week.

How to teach a macaw to talk

Has it been easy for you to get along with your macaw? If so, you should know that making it talk is going to be much harder. Some macaws learn words on their own by hearing them for a long time in the environment in which their cage is located, but learning words that their owner wants takes a long time. Even so, it is not impossible teaching a macaw to talk.

The first thing is to establish a practice schedule, which should never exceed 15 minutes, because the macaw will get bored of hearing you repeat the same word. The sessions should be between the owner and the macaw, having turned off any type of electronic device that may disturb the training.

The bird must be a young specimen, they start imitating sounds since they are 4 months old. But it is necessary to keep in mind that there are specimens that learn before other ones. Some of them never get to pronounce any word.

The words to teach them must be simple and repeated several times during the 15 minutes of the session. You should repeat them once or twice, but it is possible that in less than a week it is able to pronounce it. If this is the case, give it a prize.

It is an exercise that requires your constant effort and never give up. At first you can teach the macaw words like “Hello” or the name of its owner, or someone in the house that it constantly sees. In the case that the animal demonstrates a great potential to emit sounds, you can teach it to ask for food, such as “I want apple”.

If you cannot take 15 minutes to train your macaw, there are other tricks to teach it how to talk. The most typical is to use a recording with a word that is constantly repeated, during the 15 minutes of the session.

Is my macaw sick?

Although macaws are a bird that can live as long as a human being, they are not exempt from being sick. A good owner knows that the parrot is sick because of its state of mind, since it is very lively and one day it turns weak, it is because it is not feeling well. Or if suddenly it is nervous when it is always calm, it is because something is altering it a lot, like parasites.

What kinds of diseases can macaws have?

  • Pacheco’s disease: A highly infectious and deadly disease for this type of bird. It is caused by a spread of Herpesvirus and affects birds of the parrot family. It is possible that once infected the parrot does not present symptoms, but the animal dies a few days after contracting the disease that damages its organs. In case of detecting an animal with this infection, it must be separated from the rest.
  • Salmonellosis: Diarrhea, weight loss, arthritis? It is usually a disease transmitted by direct contact between two specimens or by their feces. It can be cured using antibiotics mixed with water and cleaning the cage well.
  • PBFD: It is known as the disease of beak and feathers, a viral disease that affects everyone in the family of parrots. It is a virus that attacks the growth cells of feathers, beaks and claws, causing malformations in them. The bird stops eating and may suffer from diarrhea.
  • Papillomatosis: A viral infection caused by the growth of papillomas in the digestive tract of the macaw. The animal will pant if it is in the mouth, but if it is in the cloaca, then its dispositions will contain blood and will have an abnormal odor. The animal may also have gas.
  • Avipoxvirus: Although it is not as serious as the previous ones, it can also be fatal, since it is transmitted through blood-sucking bugs that adhere to the bird and begin to attack it. It can be transmitted from one bird to another. Those who are affected are decayed, have fever, pustules on their legs and commissures on their beak and eyelid.
  • Psittacosis: Although it is a disease suffered by animals, it is contagious to humans, which is transmitted by inhalation of dust from the fecal material of birds or by having handled birds in slaughterhouses. The affected bird may lose its appetite, have a disheveled appearance, eye discharge and diarrhea. To cure the bird, provide antibiotics or it could die.
  • Malnutrition: A bad nutrition of the macaw does not only have to lead to obesity. It can also have bad plumage, suffer respiratory problems, and be very thin if it does not eat enough nutrients or that it is of poor quality.
  • Feather plucking: You may suddenly notice that your macaw is plucking its feathers or that there is some part of the body that lacks them. The reasons can be external parasites, skin alterations, sexual frustration or skin irritation due to environmental factors such as humor. It is also possible to tear them off if it feels bored or jealous. In order to solve it, you can be given it tranquilizers, a spray that gives a bad taste to its feathers or a collar.
  • Fracture: The parrot can hurt itself and break a wing or a leg. In these cases it is better to go to the vet to take care of it. It is normal for birds that go out to explore the room for the first time, so you have to watch it.
  • Bleeding: If the bird has started to pull out its feathers, it could start bleeding. In these cases it is necessary to press on the wound with the fingers, to block it, with a gauze and disinfect it when it has stopped bleeding with chlorhexidine or iodine.
  • Burns: It is not normal for a macaw to burn, but if it is close to the sun or usually walks through the kitchen it could happen. In these cases, the affected area should be washed with cold water and then use some ointment.
  • Smoke inhalation: It is important that the macaw is away from any object producing smoke, and it also means being away from tobacco. If you are going to smoke, do it far from the room where the bird is.
  • Heat stroke: If the bird’s cage is located in a hot place, in summer it could begin to breathe with difficulty and to separate the wings from the body. If it happens, you should wash the macaw with cold water to cool it down.
  • Egg retention: It is something strange that happens, but it is possible. This is especially true for adult females or females that have not been fed properly. In this case it is necessary to apply a little heat in the sewer, using for example steam, or a little oil to facilitate the exit.

How to breed macaw birds?

Is it hard to breed macaws? Certainly not, and they can be left alone and may have offspring on their own. But if you want to participate in the process of breeding, the first thing to take into account is that macaws cannot breed until they have reached their sexual maturity, which doesn’t happen until they are four years old.

The first thing is that both macaws make a good couple. If two young macaws were raised together, there is no need to worry, since they are animals that get along easily. The nest can be bought or let them do it with materials left in the cage.

Couple of macaws

Once they have mated, it is normal that the female macaw lays two eggs, although on special occasions it may lay three eggs. Incubation will last about 30 days. In the beginning young macaws are blind, so they will depend entirely on the mother until they are 2 or 3 months old, moment in which they leave the nest when they have their plumage. Then they will be with the parents for another six months, until they learn how to fend for themselves and can be moved to a different cage.

Macaws are not adults until they are 7 years old and when they form a bond with their partner, this is for life, so it is quite difficult to get a macaw to join another female that is not the first one it chose as such. Is that impossible? No, but being an animal that joins much its partner, it is not surprising that it goes into depression if it dies and wants to be alone within its cage.