PET BIRD CARE

Complete Care System For Macaws & Amazons

 

By Dr Rob Marshall & Tailai O'Brien

 

This section has been compiled especially for our clients and looks at the daily life and behaviour of macaws in the wild. From this information you will gain a better understanding of the needs and true potential of your pet macaw or your macaw breeding pairs. A detailed account of our recommended daily and weekly routines for macaws is also included in a chart format that you can download for easy reference. These routines give your bird the best possible opportunity to remain happy, healthy and develop its true personality as a companion pet. Special information regarding macaw breeding is also included in this section.

Before reading this section you may like to look at the following introductory articles attached to this web page:
Diet & Foraging Behaviour of Parrots in Nature and Daily Routine for Pet Birds - Introduction.

 

Introduction

There are several different species of macaw. This article looks at those species that are popular as pets - blue & gold, scarlet, green wing and hyacinth. We believe that the blue and gold macaw makes the best pet from this group. Smaller macaws such as the Hahn macaw also make very good pets. An understanding of the behaviour and daily routines of wild macaw described in this section will allow you to better understand their needs in captivity. Their large size and loving nature makes the blue and gold macaw an ideal pet. As pets they should be provided with a daily routine and opportunities that encourage the development of their natural characteristics and true personality.

 

  • Characteristics of & Special Instructions for Macaws

 

  • Daily Routine for Pet Macaws

 

  • Weekly Health & Nutritional Programme

 

  • Annual Health Check-up

 

  • Breeding Programme for Macaws

 

Characteristics of & Special Instructions for Macaws

 

Originating from South America, the macaw is a striking and impressive bird. Macaws are very intelligent birds and require an owner who is willing to provide the necessary stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. This includes providing a continuing supply of fresh branches on which they can destroy when alone at home. Macaws deprived of this opportunity often become very destructive, using their large, strong beaks to chew on their cage and other household items.

The macaw is a very sociable parrot and will most often develop a strong bond with its owner, making it a wonderful pet for those experienced in the care and training of a companion parrot. As with any parrot species, a hand reared male macaw from aviary bred parents always makes the best pet.

Macaws have an excellent talking ability. With appropriate training they prefer to talk in context and do not readily learn to mimic household sounds e.g. microwave cling telephone ring and other bird calls like other parrot families such as the lorikeets.

Macaws tend to be extremely loud: their voices are designed to carry over long distances. However, when given a regular daily routine - that does not need to be rigid but involves shared mealtimes and given foraging opportunities during the day - they are seldom heard. When this type of routine is not provided then macaws may become loud and raucous and become very demanding birds to keep so that the decision to have one as a household pet should be carefully considered.

Many of the macaw species are large and magnificent in every respect. They require a home setting that allows them to chew as much as they need, foraging activities to keep them busy in an area that is easily cleaned and maintained.

Macaws live for up to 65 years and may start to breed between 5-8 years of age. The decision to have a macaw as a pet should be seen as a life-long commitment because of their longevity.

Pet macaws thrive on frequent interaction, handling and love just as humans do. Lack of affection can lead to emotional disturbance and associated physical problems such as feather picking, screaming and biting. When subjected to nurturing and non-aggressive behaviour from a young age they will trust most humans and can be handled even by strangers if someone familiar is also alongside.

Without proper adult supervision, macaws are unsuitable as pets for children. All species of macaws have very powerful, large beaks and are capable of causing considerable harm to both children and adults. They are emotionally delicate creatures and require respectful and loving care from owners.

Consider the following before adding a macaw to your family:

 

  • These are large parrots that require space -- are you able to provide an appropriate and safe space for this bird?

 

  • These parrots can live for many years. They bond for life -- are you ready for a long-term commitment?

 

  • Macaws become noisy when they are not cared for -- will you be able to provide daily, supervised time outside his cage?

 

Daily Routine for Pet Macaws

 

Click here to view our daily routine for pet macaws.

 

Tailai has developed a wonderful feeding routine for Risdon. She does not provide seed in the diet and avoids sunflower seeds and peanuts which are often contaminated with harmful mould related aflatoxins. Instead she feeds Tassie's Organic Bean Mix as part of the evening meal which provides a perfect balance of protein as well as being a low GI food. This is Risdon's favourite meal and when mixed with boiled brown rice and Turbobooster, E-powder F-Vite provides him nutritionally with a perfectly balanced food that he adores.

For his morning meal, Risdon receives a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables including sweet potato, pumpkin, green peas, chickpeas, corn, grapefruit, carrot etc. This nutritious high GI morning meal energises Risdon for learning session during the day. See our articles on food value, foraging, Tassies Organic beans and Cholesterol problems on the home page for detailed information about feeding your macaw. We believe nuts and sunflower seeds should not be part of a pet macaw's diet.

This forms the bulk of their diet and they are fed in the morning and again in the afternoon. Fresh water is always available. The food is given in stainless steel dishes.

This daily feeding routine is recommended for pet macaws and breeding pairs. Prior to the beginning of their breeding cycle the feeding routine for macaws should change in order to support the breeding process (see our breeding programme for macaws below).

Direct sunshine is necessary for a truly healthy macaw and every effort must be taken to expose your bird to the sun each day. Moving your macaw to an outside aviary during the day is highly recommended.

Macaws enjoy the company of other birds and we believe they are happier and thrive in a multi bird environment.

 

Weekly Health & Nutritional Programme

 

Click here to view the complete weekly health programme for pet macaws.

 

Click here to order health products for your pet bird.

 

Annual Health Check-up

 

A health check should be performed on macaws at least annually and preferably each 6 months - on December 1st and June 1st each year (refer below for full explanation).

December 1st Check: The ideal time for a health check is at the first sign of the moult. This allows us to identify any underlying problems that may prevent the successful completion of the moult. The moult must be completed in the shortest possible time to ensure good breeding outcomes. Any underlying problems that are identified at this health check can then be eliminated before breeding starts.

June 1st Check: Prior to the spring breeding season, a health check ensures everything is in readiness for a successful breeding season. Any underlying problems that are identified at this health check can then be eliminated before breeding starts.

The tests recommended for a health check each 6 months are as follows:

 

  • Faecal Wet Smear: Microscopic analysis of the dropping gives an immediate overview of the health of the bird. It is used to identify worms, parasites and infectious organisms.

 

  • Faecal Gram Stain: The Gram Stain is used to identify bacteria and yeasts.

 

  • Faecal Culture: The faecal culture takes 24-72 hours to process and identifies specific bacteria, yeasts or fungi that may be present in the droppings.

 

  • Choanal Culture (throat swab): This picks up subtle health problems, nutritional deficiencies and evidence of stress that may be detrimental to breeding outcomes.

 

  • Psittacosis Test from Faecal Sample: Psittacosis is a common cause of breeding infertility and is associated with stressful factors. A negative test indicates that the programme is successful. If positive, treatment can be completed before the start of the breeding season.

 

  • Blood tests are recommended for all macaws to monitor cholesterol levels and liver function.


Worm, lice & mite treatments are given at the time of the health check. It may be appropriate to give these treatments by crop needle.

 

Macaw Breeding Programme

 

Breeding times for macaws vary across Australia due to the varied climatic zones. To identify the ideal times to breed, we must examine the natural breeding times of macaws in the wild in relation to the climatic zones they inhabit. From this information and through observing the flock a breeding strategy can be developed that ensures your birds are breeding at the most appropriate time of year. This will maximise breeding opportunities and outcomes and promote a strong and healthy flock year round.

According to the natural habitat in which each macaw species live, we can divide commonly kept macaws into two groups:

 

  • Hyacinth & Red Fronted Macaws

 

  • Scarlet, Blue & Gold, & Green Wing

 

Hyacinth & Red Fronted Macaws

 

In nature, these birds inhabit the temperate zones of South America. They are spring breeders, which means they may begin their breeding cycle anytime after June 22nd (when day length starts increasing).

The most suitable time for breeding these birds in Australia is based upon the climatic zone in which they are kept. They will not want to breed or come into breeding condition when it is too cold or too wet even when the day-length is increasing. In northern Australia they may want to breed from July onwards. Across the southern states where cold temperatures persist into July and even August an ideal time for breeding is when the weather begins to warm up. August 1st is a good time to start the breeding process in these areas as often it is too cold to begin breeding in June or July and if they do, it may endanger the health of the birds and especially females that become susceptible to egg binding at this time of the year.

The success of the breeding season however, is largely dependent on the successful completion of a moult. We feel the moult of these species should follow the same pattern as the ancient bird which starts in November, peaks in February and March, to end by late April.

When birds are unable to progress through the moult successfully, breeding failures are likely. As the moult period often falls concurrently with the breeding season in these birds, it is paramount that nutritional support is provided to promote a complete moult and thereby hold the birds in good stead for breeding.

The emphasis is on preparing macaws for spring breeding by documenting their moult closely.

The Breeding Programme outlined below will double up as the Moult Programme and continue until May or the end of the Moult. The conclusion of the moult is identified by the loss and re-growth of the last primary flight. It is best to monitor the growth of these flight feathers.

From May to July, the Non-Breeding Programme is implemented. This programme is less intensive and ensures the birds do not become overweight. At this time the amount of nuts in the diet should be reduced.

 

Scarlet, Blue & Gold, & Green Wing

 

In nature, these birds inhabit the tropical and temperate regions of South America. With their range extending across two climatic zones, these birds are capable of two breeding seasons in both Autumn and Spring. The success of these breeding seasons is again dependent on the successful completion of the full body moult during the summer months. Before autumn breeding, a pre-nuptial moult has been observed in these birds. At the completion of this moult, breeding may begin. In southern states of Australia Blue & Golds are ready for breeding in January or February. However, it may be necessary to pull these babies or incubate the eggs because of the cold weather that appears in April and May. Autumn breeding is by far the best time to breed these macaws across northern Australia nearer the tropics where temperatures remain warm during the winter months. Breeding may continue into spring where one round of youngsters may be reared. Any second round eggs should be incubated and the nest boxes should then be removed to allow the completion of the moult before autumn breeding. They will breed again in January and be able to rear their own youngsters before the cold weather arrives. Second clutches laid before the cold weather arrives should be incubated.

From May to July, the Non-Breeding Programme is implemented. This programme is less intensive and ensures the birds do not become overweight.

The completion time of the moult for macaws varies according to their exact geographic location. It is necessary for each breeder to assess the true natural moult period of their macaws by documenting the loss of feathers over a year period. This will help determine the exact moult times (appropriate to your climatic zone) and in doing so, reveal the most appropriate breeding times.


Macaw Moulting & Breeding Programme

As part of the morning daily feed routine, provide heated Tassie's Organic Bean Mix together with a variety of cooked vegetables and fresh fruits together with Quik Gel, Turbobooster, E Powder & F-Vite.
This breakfast meal is devoured with delight.

Recommendations for 100gm Tassie's Bean Mix:


1 drop Quik Gel
6 drops Turbobooster
¼ teaspoon E Powder
¼ teaspoon Fvite


For two days each week add the following to the paste mix (per 100gm) and feed as normal:


5 drops Dufoplus
5 Drops Ioford

Obtain stainless steel water bowl for aviary and use KD Water
Cleanser at ¼ teaspoon per litre water for one day each week.

 

Tailai's Views

 

Here at Carlingford Animal Hospital, we have first hand experience with macaws and amazons as Tailai is the primary carer of Risdon, a blue and gold macaw. Tailai's experiences with Risdon form the basis of our approach to their care and feeding routines. She is an expert bird trainer and writes about her views on macaws as pets. Please ask for our brochure on the care of these magnificent birds.

 

Tailai's Experience with Risdon

 

Risdon lives with Inti (male amazon parrot), Clifford (male long billed corella) and Deshi (male eclectus). He has a close affection for Deshi but is also very good mates with the other two extroverted parrots.

Risdon speaks in context only with his bird and human friends. Macaws do not readily mimic household sounds e.g. microwave beeps, telephone tones or barking dogs etc. like lorikeets, galahs, amazons etc. tend to do naturally.

Risdon has extreme clarity with some words but does not speak in long phrases like budgerigars, Eclectus or amazons do. He tends to speak in human language to other parrot species but has a macaw specific contact call to other members of the flock as well. He uses this contact call especially when his best friend Deshi moves out of sight.

Macaws bond very closely to humans; often accepting handling from all the family members for life but they need regular socialisation to accept or seek handling from new people.

Macaws also bond closely to their feathered flock members as well as other bird species in multiple bird homes and do not like these friends to be taken out of sight. Risdon loves music, talking and being hugged.

Macaws - as with all pet birds - like a daily routine. They become a confident parrot when kept in a genera daily routine knowing when to expect interaction with their human family. When provided with a loving and stimulating daily routine they are not demanding during the rest of the day and are not inclined to develop excessive screaming. During this time they are happy to forage alone in their own cages along side their feather friends until humans come home. In the afternoon before their meal time macaws enjoy their happy time ands may make loud joyous noises. They are not generally loud but may become noisy when highly stimulated or excited but will listen to humans and settle quickly.

Macaws are expert flyers and will learn to fly and hover safely in confined spaces. They need to be allowed to fly each morning and afterwards are happy to return to their cage for breakfast and foraging activity.

Extensive foraging is necessary and they are able to destroy a thick natural perch within a day. They also enjoy foraging toys and puzzles. They have a very strong beak and able to remove large screws from a cage so you must be ware of this possibility. Macaws are very dextrous with their claws and pick up food items in the claw. They have very good claw-eye coordination skills that can be encouraged for learning tricks.

When happy and healthy macaws love to lay on their back playing with items in their claws. They love to drive in a car with their human and feather companions. Macaws learn new skills readily as tend to listen carefully to humans and seek praise. When learning new tasks Risdon seeks praise more than food rewards. This may be a natural feature of macaws. Risdon is very obedient when motivated to fly on command, return to the cage, fitting a harness and going into a transport crate.

Risdon appears to show gratitude and respect for Tailai as he is very happy to see the morning food bowl and vocalises a happy call when seeing his fresh meal in the bowl. Risdon will cover the food bowl when he has had enough food, hiding and saving it for later. Due to this positive emotional response of intense gratitude and the obvious benefits to the happiness and well being of Risdon we believe there is no place for the texturally bland and tasteless pelleted food for macaws. We do not believe fatty foods (e.g. nuts or oil rich sunflower seeds) should be fed to macaws although they are less prone to cholesterol problems compared to other parrot species. Risdon does however enjoy nibbling a cracker treat and will take his time to eat them - crumbling them delicately while holding them in his claw. We strongly believe this is a far better treat to relish than nuts or sunflower seeds. Risdon is also happy to share food items and will hold a cracker for Tailai to eat.

Young macaws need special care whilst they are reaching adolescence and vigilant observation of their behaviour is required to ensure they are emotionally secure in their environment and are eating well.

Please contact us with any questions regarding your pet or breeding macaw.

 

Dr Rob Marshall and bird trainer, Tailai O'Brien have developed a complete system of care that ensures health and happiness in your pet bird.

Going on holidays? At Carlingford Animal Hospital, we understand the needs of your much loved pet bird and will cater for these during its stay with us.

Dr Marshall and Tailai O'Brien have developed a culture tested bean mix for larger parrots, to provide them with variety and a low Glycaemic Index (GI) food.

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