If the idea of having an active, playful parrot appeals to you, perhaps a pet macaw will fit the bill. While it can give you a lot of affection, love, and fun, the bird is not like most other feathered companions in terms of maintenance and behavior requirements. For this reason, it is crucial to know certain unique qualities of the clownish bird before adopting one.
Let’s start with a quick suitability checklist. I strongly recommend that you seriously think about these considerations or questions before getting a macaw.
1. Is it the first time you have a pet?
A macaw needs a lot of attention. It does not come close to the type of bird that can be described as a loner.
It will not be satisfied living alone, even if you provide all the food and toys in the world. The macaw has an innate need to interact with other birds and their human friends.
Therefore, caring for a macaw can be very difficult if you have never had experience with pet birds. Even if you work from home and have a lot of free time to spend with the bird, it will likely follow you around the house.
It will hope from one activity center to another during its time out of the cage. This could cause a big disruption to the way you go about your daily activities and can even affect other people in the home if you have a family or live with other people.
You may want to adopt another type of feathered friend if this is your first time having a pet bird.
However, if you think you have what it takes to tackle the challenges, you may need to make considerable adjustments to your daily routines.
2. Are you ready for a long-term commitment?
A macaw is a long-living bird! In most cases, the life expectancy of the macaw is between 40 and 50 years. Decide if this is a period that you are willing to put into a pet owner relationship before adopting one. It would be best not to bring one home if you feel that a long-term commitment to caring for a pet is not your thing.
3. Do you travel frequently?
A macaw is not the right pet for you if your lifestyle involves frequent travel. There is simply no way around this. I strongly recommend that you do not adopt this attention-seeking bird if you are a frequent traveler. The macaw needs a lot of attention every day, and you may not be able to provide adequate care if you are away from home most of the time.
A macaw is hardwired for companionship and thrives when interacting with its owners. Don’t deprive it of this innate urge for friendship and daily interaction.
Whether you travel a lot or spend many hours away from home every day, perhaps at work, you probably shouldn’t buy a macaw.
A macaw is likely to get sick if it is left alone for too long. Many people make the mistake of thinking that this bird only serves to provide company when the owner so decides. However, that is not the case with a macaw. The relationship is symbiotic; both the owner and the pet offer companionship, and the bird needs more.
4. Are you planning to relocate soon?
Consider getting another pet if you plan to move to another town or city in the next couple of years. Although a macaw can adapt quickly to new environments, birds are generally sensitive to changes in location. Moving to a new home can potentially cause stress for your pet.
The commotion of moving furniture and noisy packaging can be stressful for your bird. Also, relocation may require finding a new vet, especially if you are going to another city. It may not be very easy to find a bird vet in a new city, depending on where you are moving. Ideally, you should consider a macaw if you don’t intend to make major lifestyle changes in the foreseeable future.
5. How much noise can you handle?
Macaws can be quiet when they don’t feel like talking. However, they will let out occasional screams that can be really loud. For example, Hyacinth macaw can screech at a painful noise level of 120 decibels, similar to the volume of a chain saw or jet engine. Some other species can even exceed that noise level.
A macaw is anything but silent. Unlike other parrots, the macaw doesn’t have many vocabularies and is likely to do a poor job of mimicking human words. However, that does not take away from the ability to scream very loud.
While some species of macaw are louder than others, it is best to adopt another type of bird if you want a quiet home. You cannot completely rule out screeching or ear-splitting flock with a macaw, regardless of the species. It is generally not the best move to have one of these birds in your home if loud noise easily disturbs you.
6. Can you live with nipping?
Nipping is a macaw’s way of saying it is scared, stressed, upset, or tired. The macaw can nip you and other people in the home when it experiences any of these, especially during training. Fortunately, you can take steps to minimize nippings, although it may not be possible to prevent nipping entirely.
7. Are you ready to invest in lots of toys?
A macaw is an avid chewer, exploring almost everything with its beak. Don’t adopt the bird if you’re not ready to invest in lots of toys, including enrichment toys and chew toys.
The former will challenge their intelligence to provide mental stimulation and avoid boredom. The latter will satisfy their chewing instinct.
Unfortunately, a macaw does not know if what is available is a toy, beautiful clothing, or an expensive piece of furniture. If you have unrestricted access to any shreddable item, the bird will explore it with its beak and it could damage your valuable household items.
Providing toys like vine balls, swinging toys, and wooden blocks is a great way to allow the bird to keep its beak healthy, as well as to prevent it from breaking your documents and other valuables.
8. Are you willing to deal with a lot of mess?
All birds create a lot of mess, and the macaw is no exception. If you are thinking of adopting one, you must be willing to clean up after the pet every day if you want something like a clean environment.
A macaw can be a messier eater than other pet birds. It can also produce larger and more poops than a cockatoo or parakeet, for example, depending on its diet. Shredded toys, splattered food, and feathers are a part of what to expect on walls and floors.
Of course, you can minimize the mess by using plastic sheeting and other methods, but there will always be feathers, bits of food, and droppings, no matter what measures you apply. If this isn’t something you want to deal with for a long time, you may want to reconsider getting a macaw.
9. Do you have children?
A macaw is not usually the best pet choice for children, especially very young children. However, having a family is a great advantage for the bird and for everyone at home. The macaw will enjoy the flurry of home activities while providing plenty of clownish entertainment for the family. If you are not at home, it can fully enjoy the company of other members of the household.
The downside is that children can find it difficult to properly handle or interact with the bird. A macaw may nip if your child accidentally hurts or scares it. While nipping may not be harmful, it is not a particularly pleasant experience, especially for children.
If you have children, you must be willing to teach them proper macaw handling and interaction to avoid frequent nipping. As noted above, it may not be possible to completely eliminate the nipping. That means your children may have to experience occasional nipping too, even if they take all necessary precautions and learn the correct way to socialize with the bird.
Also, if someone in your household has a weak immune system, you may want to reconsider your decision to adopt a macaw. The bird is robust enough to carry an infection without contracting the disease. This can be risky for people with a frail immune system.
10. Do you have other larger pets at home?
A macaw may not fit in your home if you have other larger pets that can be aggressive towards birds. You should keep an eye on your dogs and cats if they are around you, especially during the time the bird is out of the cage. Even if larger pets are not violent, they can unintentionally scare the bird just by looking at it inside its cage. Housing a macaw in such conditions can leave it stressed for most of the day, especially when you are not at home to monitor your other companion animals.