Q: I have an unfriendly blue-and-gold macaw. He/she decided to sit on one of his/her toys. This has been going on for two weeks or so. At one point I removed the toy and the bird got aggressive, lunging at the side of the cage every time I walked by. I decided to put the toy back and my bird calmed down. I have another bird, a DNA-sexed male macaw, that is friendly. Every morning I sit with both of them and give treats and/or food for 30 minutes or so.
In the beginning the unfriendly bird let me rub its head and I could take it out of the cage and put it on a perch. Neither bird wants to come out of their respective cages, although I haven't had either for very long. I can take the friendly one and bring it out of the cage, but I don't think that’s good to do. I'm going to wait until it comes out on its own.
I am wondering about the unfriendly bird. Should I take the toy out of the cage? Also before the toy incident, the bird would regurgitate, but not anymore. My thinking was that he/she was bonding with me but is now bonding with the toy. Could that be close? What should i do?
A: My guess is that your “unfriendly” bird is in a nesting mood, and the toy is her surrogate egg. I don’t think that a hen actually bonds with an egg in the same way that it does a perceived mate. However female macaws are very protective of their eggs. Normally if the macaw perceives the toy as an egg and enough time goes by, it will eventually abandon the toy as an infertile egg. Until that time, trying to remove the egg will cause aggression.
Did the two macaws come together when you got them? If there is a mate bond between them, it will be more difficult to get them both tame to you. This is especially true during breeding season. Once this period of time passes, they both should be easier to work with. I am curious about the history of both birds and whether or not they were tame before. With more information, I could provide better advice.
There is a non-aggressive method I have used for years to get parrots out of their cages. With some birds, it may take longer than others, but it I can’t think of a bird that it has not worked with. Get a basic T-stand that has a food bowl on one end. When you are going to be in the area for awhile, open the cage door and slowly place the perch or T-stand as far into the cage as it will go. The food-bowl end should be on the outside. Make sure the macaw is watching when you put one of its favorite treats (an almond or walnut are usually a good choice) in the food bowl. Go about your business without intently focusing on what they macaw does. After a few times, the macaw will begin to think of the T-perch as part of its cage furniture and become comfortable climbing out to get his treat. Eventually you should be able casually go over and move the T-stand away from the cage. When you can actually move the stand with the bird on it into a neutral room where the bird can’t see its cage, you can start working with the macaw to win its trust. I have always found that the best way to win a macaw’s trust is through calm, gentle head skritching.
Patience is very important, and if the two macaws do have a bond with each other, you will always have to respect that bond and work around it. This means that you will need to work with each bird individually in a neutral room to establish and maintain a relationship with that bird. It will also be important to work with them both together, again, preferably away from the cage territory.