Macaws are beautiful birds that can be wonderful companion parrots. It is hard to resist these comical, colorful parrots that are simply full of personality. They have been kept as companions for centuries. In the United States, it is documented that Pueblo Indians have these prized parrot as far back as 1100 A.D.
Is a Macaw Parrot the Right Pet for You
If you are considering adding a Macaw to your live, keep in mind this is a really big decision. These parrots are highly intelligent and require a lot of time and care from their human flock. They also require study, safe cages for the time that you can’t be there to supervise them outside the cage.
They can be noisy and therefore may not be the best choice for apartment dwellers who want to add a parrot to their lives.
Macaws Make Wonderful Pets
Many of the Macaw species are available for sale and they vary in price. Yes they make really good talkers if you take the time to work with them. Macaws are very active and need a good nutritious diet.
They like to be scratched and cuddled. They can learn to accept multiple members of a family with a little work. Hand-fed baby Macaws are very sweet and do make fun pets for people willing to properly care for them.
The large Macaw species that are most commonly found for sale are: Blue and Gold Macaws, Greenwing Macaws, Scarlet Macaws, Military Macaws, Red Fronted Macaws, Blue Throated Macaws, and Hyacinth Macaws.
The different species vary in price depending on availability and rarity. I must say, though, that all Macaws are great parrots. Babies and adults of all species are fun to keep as pets.
Which Macaw Species to Own
For those that can provide the right home for a Macaw, the hardest part of the decision is choosing which Macaw species to own. Macaws are not inexpensive; even the small species cost several hundred dollars and the large Hyacinth Macaw, an absolutely gorgeous parrot, can cost as much as $25,000!
You also have to provide a large, sturdy cage for your Macaw, and this is another large expense. You’ll need to provide veterinary care as needed with at least one check-up per year, as well as food and lots of toys which will almost immediately be destroyed by the large, strong beak.
But any happy Macaw owner will tell you it is well worth every cent of the cost to be loved by one of these magnificent, elegant feathered creatures.
Blue and Gold Macaws
Just about everyone loves the beautiful blue and gold Macaws. These birds are commonly seen the companion parrot market and they adapt to live with humans quite easily. These big birds have three color variations, all of which are mainly blue and gold but with slightly different patterns.
The greenwing Macaw is the Macaw whose name and color just do not match! These birds are mainly red with a band of green on the wings. These are not seen in the pet market as commonly as the blue and gold, but more are being seen recently.
They are very smart and extremely mischievous. There are two subspecies of greenwing Macaws, both are among the largest Macaw species.
The Hyacinth Macaw is a rare and gorgeous parrot. The blue-violet plumage combined with the bright yellow skin and loving, gentle nature makes this one of the most sought-after Macaws, but also the most expensive.
Because the numbers in the wild are on the decline, any responsible Hyacinth Macaw owner should breed the parrot once it reaches adulthood.
The military Macaw is red and green, but a bit more muted tones than some of the other Macaws. They are still beautiful birds and have tons of personality and are frequently very talented talkers. They are slightly smaller than the blue and gold and other large Macaws listed above.
The Hahn’s Macaw is the smallest Macaw commonly seen on the pet market. This little guy is full of personality but in a smaller package. Sometimes called the “mini Macaw” because of its size, it is the least expensive of the Macaws and can easily fit into a home that isn’t well suited for the bigger Macaws.
Red Fronted Macaw (Ara Rubrogenys)
Comical and attentive these Macaws are much smaller than those more commonly seen. They have pleasant voices and a mischievous nature. They enjoy peanuts and corn.
One of the mid-range Macaws, these two foot long birds are about a foot shorter than their larger family members. What they lose in size, they make up for in personality. Though certainly not as common as Blue and Golds and Scarlets, captive bred birds are usually available.
Scarlet Macaw (Ara Macao)
Nature created a spectacular combination of color in this Macaw. They are in the top ten of the worlds most beautiful parrots. Preferring the love of the immediate family over large crowds. They can become real show-offs if introduced to the public life at a young age. The most impressionable of the large Macaws, Scarlets are particularly sensitive to mistreatment of any type.
They have sometimes been called “nippy,” but if raised in a loving environment, allowed daily freedom from their cages and played with, they will match any Blue and Gold. They are highly sensitive to their environment and do poorly if raised in isolation.
They can be the most loving and adoring member of the family, but if mistreated when they are raised or teased they can become headstrong and unhappy. There are several variations of the Scarlet; most notably an uncommon variety with emerald green on the wing along with the yellow; and the more common wide patch of yellow.
Their declining populations in the wild continues to cause great concern for tropical environmentalists.
Macaws as Pets
Provided they are given a healthy diet, allowed freedom from their cage and given lots of attention Macaws will be life long companions. These birds are so long lived that several dogs and cats will have been born and died in one Macaw’s lifetime in your home.
It is because of this longevity that deciding on a pet Macaw should not be taken lightly. This is not the time for impulse buying that you might regret later.
While a number of Macaw species are now commonly bred in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, certain species remain difficult to breed and their populations remain low in the wild.
The wild populations of Buffon’s, Hyacinth and Blue-throated Macaws have severely declined in recent years. In my opinion they are still too rare to be used as pets. I would, however, encourage serious breeders to work with these species.
This is the single most important consideration when purchasing your Macaw. Anyone selling a Macaw should be willing to have their bird checked by an avian veterinarian before you take it home.
Included in that exam should be a Complete Blood Count (known as a CBC), cultures of the throat and vent, and a Chlamydia (psittacosis) screen. It takes about two days for the results of these tests to be determined. A signed vet certificate should accompany the bird.
If all the tests and the exam reveal no apparent disease you can feel fairly confident about your purchase. As a precaution all new birds should still be quarantined from the rest of your birds for a minimum of 45 days.
Age of Macaw
The age is less important than the health and temperament of the bird. Buying a young bird does not guarantee tameness and buying an older Macaw does not mean the bird will not make a good pet. Macaws are individuals.
Macaws will continue to grow until they are about a year and a half old. Baby Macaws have dark eyes which lighten as they age, except for Buffon’s and Hyacinths which remain dark when they are mature.
Male or Female Macaw
The gender is not important for pet purposes. The only reason to desire a certain sex would be to breed or prevent breeding.
Some pet owners may desire to get birds that are the same sex as the birds they already have to avoid breeding. With some species them appears to be fewer of one or the other sex. Because of this there is a greater demand from breeders for these rarer birds.
From a temperament standpoint I see few differences. There are introverts and extroverts in both sexes. The males are not always larger than the females. This varies more due to their genetic background and the species. Talking ability does not seem to be sex related.
Large Macaws do talk quite well if you put the time into teaching them. Unlike some smaller parrots their voice is quite loud so when they speak it’s not difficult to know what they’re saying. Be careful what you teach them, though, because it’s not as easy to eliminate colorful words from their vocabulary, if you you know what I mean.
A Macaws’ diet is made up of fruits, vegetables, nuts, a good seed mix, and mineral/vitamin supplements. Pellets can be added to the diet to eliminate the need for vitamin supplements. Pellets should not replace any other part of the diet.
Peanuts and other non-salted nuts should be given as Macaws need more fat than other parrots. Foods that should not be fed are: anything with caffeine, anything with lots of salt, no chocolate. skip onions tomatoes and avocado.
Handling and cuddling are a very important part of the whole Macaw experience. They love it! There’s nothing like a good scratch or gentle hug. Yes, everyone in the family should take part in this experience so that your pet Macaw doesn’t form a strong bond with any one person.
Behavior is a huge issue when keeping pet birds. In fact the number one reason people get rid of their bird is because they can no longer deal with a behavior problem. Most if not all problems can be avoided or corrected if you learn to understand bird behavior. I would recommend learning as much as you possibly can.
Look for book authors who have actually studied field guides and wild bird behavior. Remember, a nutritious diet, daily handling, short training sessions for desired behavior (like talking), and a good bird behavior book will get you rolling into the world of the majestic Macaws.
Locating a Macaw
There are primarily three ways to acquire a bird; a pet shop, pet owner or directly from the breeder. In addition, your veterinarian might be helpful in providing information on available birds.
The Macaws Birds History
The more information you can find out about the bird’s lifestyle before you get them the better.
How are they housed, inside or outside? What temperature range are they used to? What is their diet? Knowing their favorite foods might make their adjustment to your home less stressful. Are they able to fly?
This will have an affect on how you position the perches. Learn as much about their feather condition, personality and previous medical history as possible.
Find out what other types of birds are on the premises. This will help you assess the risk factor of bringing in this new bird. When did the seller last get a new bird? This is also important.
If they are not following a strict quarantine of new arrivals, the bird you wish to purchase might have been exposed to this new bird.
What does the purchase price include? Will the owner have an avian veterinarian check the bird? What will that include? Suggested protocol would be a complete physical exam, blood work, cultures of the vent and throat, and chlamydia screen.
Different species might require different tests be done. Who will pay for that exam? Will the owner include written information about the bird? What is the return policy? These things all need to be discussed prior to your purchase.
Cost of the Macaw Bird
Just like with other commodities the cost is based on rarity. If the bird is uncommon in captivity or in the wild, you can expect to pay a higher price. If the bird is bred frequently in captivity, the cost will normally reflect this. If the seller has done all the veterinarian checks, sex determination and weaning you can expect to pay more.
This is beneficial to the buyer who otherwise would have to do it himself As many people have found out a higher cost does not guarantee a healthy bird.
If you can give a Macaw a loving, caring, safe, and healthy home, you’ll have a cuddly friend for live. You might even consider looking into adopting a Macaw that needs to be re-homed as an option.
This can save you a great deal of the cost of purchase but does require that you invest some time working with parrots and submit to a screening process. It is well worthwhile to have the satisfaction of having a Macaw that needs a loving home come to love you and your family.