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Giant Birds of the Jungle

Are you considering acquiring a macaw as a personal companion and family pet? You may want to think twice.

Wild parrot flocks are found on the Big Island of Hawaii

Highly entertaining and more interactive with owners and others than any other pet, a macaw requires a major commitment of time and energy; they can live for over a 100 years.

Sadly, these regal birds of brilliance too often end up at animal shelters. Many have outlived their owners or others were just too much of a challenge and chore for the owner. Macaws are messy; tossing nut shells and bits of food in all directions. You will want to have a perch or alternative cage to keep your macaw secure when it’s time to clean the main cage.

Vigorous chewers, Macaws will chew on anything and everything within their reach. Extremely destructive to furniture, wooden molding, and household items if allowed, Macaws are best kept in a large cage that allows for plenty of movement or on a play post positioned to secure items you don’t want to be vandalized out of reach.

It is wise to spend some time in the company of a macaw before deciding to bring one into your family or home environment.

Giant birds of the jungle, macaws are a distinctive group of parrots easily recognized by their large heads, elegant long tails, and a large, strong and curved beak. Macaws can come a diverse rainbow of colors including scarlet, orange, yellow, indigo, white, gray, and green.

Displaying brilliant plumage and an inquisitive, bold nature, parrot fanciers covet macaws for their amazing talking ability and keen intelligence. The larger varieties of macaw exhibit the most spectacular feather coloring. The smaller or “mini” macaws are typically bright lime green with few accent colors. A large number of macaws have been crossbred to create unique coloration and patterns that reflect the dominant traits of their parentage.

Because macaws are highly intelligent and very social, they require a great deal of attention and colorful toys to keep them entertained and busy. Pet macaws adapt very well to captivity, adjusting quickly to a cage or aviary and their new home. Young macaws will tame quickly and form strong bonds with their keepers.

It is prudent to bear in mind, macaws, like any other large parrot, can be quite dangerous. Even a gentle and tame macaw make strike out of anger or fear; resulting in a laceration that requires a visit to the emergency room for stitches.

Native to the rainforests of Central and South America, macaws are a group of parrots well known for what is called “flock calling”. In the wild, macaws live in large flocks of a 100 or more birds. Even though they like to congregate in large flocks, they mate for life.

Macaws call out in a piercing scream to find a potential mate and to locate the flock. The male macaw with the loudest, most strident call gets the girl. This is a helpful natural adaption in the wild, but a little hard on the ears and nerves of neighbors making them inappropriate pets for urban dwellers. When adopting a young bird, this piercing scream can be moderated somewhat by training. However, it is a natural vocalization so you can never get your bird to stop screeching completely.

In the wild, macaws enjoy a wide variety of foods including fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers, and leaves. Macaws, in their native habitat, also consume clay daily. Some seeds and nuts contain properties that are toxic to macaws and scientific research indicates that the clay contains a natural antidote to the toxins.

Because macaws are such high-energy birds, they require a diet rich in oils and calories. In captivity, dependent on the size of the bird, macaws typically consume about 1- to- 3 cups daily of a mixture of nuts, fruits, seeds and specifically formulated parrot food. It is crucial to also provide a continual supply of fresh, cool water.

Be sure to provide plenty of fresh non-toxic tree branches for your bird to munch on as well as colorful bird ropes, swings, and bird ladders for exercise and wooden toys for gnawing. Macaws bore easily, so it’s best to rotate toys to provide variety.

Monitor your macaw’s diet carefully. Avoid treats that could contain cherries, chocolate, caffeine, or avocado, as they are poisonous to macaws and parrots.

Responsible care starts with a great enclosure. A macaw cage should be designed to accommodate a very large bird. Macaws must also be able to move freely between two perches, or muscle weakness can occur which will render your bird unable to fly. Provide the largest cage possible. A macaw must be able to fully extend its wings without touching the sides of the cage.

As an example, the world’s largest macaw, the brilliant-blue Hyacinth Macaw, displays a wingspan of 3- to- 4 feet. Native to Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, the Hyacinth Macaw is said to be the friendliest of all macaws, the easiest to train and exhibits the largest vocabulary.

Red Fronted Macaws are the smallest of the large macaws. They are colorful and lively clowns! Macaws are great mimics and affectionate pets. Many bird lovers find this intelligent parrot to be their favorite. The Lear’s Indigo Macaw is the rarest of macaws with less than 1,000 birds existing today. Native to Brazil, this exotic species is only found in very few areas of its original protected habitat.

Common Greenwings and the Blue and Gold Macaw are the most readily available and normally the least expensive of the larger macaws. Fun loving, playful and eager to please, Blue and Gold Macaws can develop a substantial vocabulary and typically mimic the family member that spends the most time with it. Greenwings are a bit more laid back but can become quite talented talkers.

There are 145 species of parrot native to Central and South America, 45 are in danger of extinction; 18 species of macaws are threatened by habitat loss and heavy exploitation for the pet trade.

The beautiful Hyacinth Macaw is especially vulnerable to exploitation, capture and habitat destruction because it is very noisy, predictable, fearless and dependent on palm trees.

International trade of all macaw species is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Currently, the number of macaws being bred in captivity is rapidly changing due to a decrease in imports and because of the increase in demand for these amazing birds. Today, the majority of macaws sold as pets are captive bred. Several intriguing macaw species are readily available from breeders as hand-fed babies.