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Provide Nuts For Your Macaw

Find out how many nuts to feed your macaw to meet its dietary needs.

By Rita Groszmann

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Pet birds can eat just about anything and will, if given half the chance. A macaw will be filled up with about 1 1/2 to 2 heaping tablespoons of food. For that reason, it is important to make nutrition count and feed treats after they have eaten their main meal.

Macaws are not all the same in terms of dietary needs. Although all macaws require more fat in their diet than most other parrot species, there are also differences in amount of fat depending on the species of macaw. The amount of fat in the diet can be regulated by the amount and types of nuts fed, as well as how much seed mix is offered.

Blue-and-gold macaw eating walnut
By Gina Cioli/BowTie/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
Feeding nuts provides the fat that many macaw species needs.

In the wild, macaws consume fruits and nuts that are very high in a variety of essential fatty acids. These help sustain skin and feather quality. Essential fatty acids are found in true nuts, not peanuts, and form a critical part of their daily diet. How much exercise your macaw receives also needs to be included in the equation.

Protein can be regulated by offering a high-quality pellet and/or sprouts. Macaws need water to process pellets, and this should be available to them at all times. Some macaws are more likely to eat their pellets if they are softened in warm water or fruit juice. It makes a pellet easier and more interesting for them to eat; however, pellets offered this way can spoil, so do not leave them in the bowl all day long.
 
Macaw Needs
Hyacinth macaws need a specialized diet high in fat and low in protein. They require saturated fat in their daily diet. This can be given in the form of raw, unshelled macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts and coconut. Filberts, almonds and pistachios should also be given daily, but these nuts do not have the saturated fat. Hyacinths are primarily nut eaters but other daily offerings should include fresh fruits and vegetables and soft cooked foods along with a high-grade seed mix and a high-quality pellet.

Green-winged macaws also need a high-fat diet but require a bit more protein than the hyacinth.

Blue-and-gold, scarlet, military and blue-throated macaws need less nuts than the greenwings and hyacinths but also require fat in their diets. This can be provided through filberts, Brazils, walnuts and pistachios along with a high-quality seed mix. Offering a high-fat, moderate-protein diet works well for these macaw species.

Nuts For Foraging
Macaws are very inquisitive birds. Providing foraging opportunities using nuts as a reward can be fun for them. A foraging toy can consist of something as simple as wrapping an almond in notepaper, twisting the ends and hiding it on the playgym or in the cage. It is fun for your bird to work for its nut. Other healthy treats can be offered in this way as well.

A well-balanced diet keeps your parrot healthy with beautiful, glowing, colorful feathers, bright eyes and a stable temperament. Make sure your macaw eats its nutritionally balanced diet before offering treats. This can be hard to do sometimes, but consistency and dedication will allow your bird to live the long life it was meant to have.

How Many Nuts?
These amounts can vary, depending on the bird’s activity level and whether it tends to gain extra weight:

Green-winged macaws: an average amount of nuts per day is 1 Brazil nut, 1 walnut, 2 almonds and 2 filberts (hazlenuts).  

Blue-and-gold macaws: mixed nuts are a welcomed treat but should not be given in abundance. Two to 3 almonds, 2 filberts (hazlenuts) and 1 walnut daily is adequate.
 
Blue-throated macaws: offer 1 to 2 Brazil nuts, 1 walnut, 2 almonds and 2 filberts (hazelnuts).

Hyacinth macaws: require saturated fat in their daily diet. They do well on 10 to 12 macadamia nuts and 2 to 3 Brazil nuts. Filberts (hazelnuts), almonds and pistachios can also be given.

Food Variety
Good nutrition makes the difference between your bird living a long and healthy life and a life shortened by ill health. Macaws (actually all parrots) need foods that are high in beta carotene, which is converted to active Vitamin A, and calcium. This can easily be provided through natural foods offered on a daily basis. When baby macaws are weaned on to a healthy, varied diet they do not become seed/nut junkies. They will eat what they need for that day, if offered the variety to choose from.

Offering numerous food choices is also important for the psychological well-being of a macaw. Macaws are highly visual and can see colors in the ultraviolet range. They also have taste buds (although not as many as people have). Offering foods that are different colors, shapes and flavors provide important stimulation that macaws need. 

A variety of foods should include a high-quality pellet, a high-grade seed mix (preferably safflower based), soft, cooked foods (grains, legumes, dried fruits and vegetables), fresh fruits and vegetables chosen for their beta carotene and calcium content and mixed nuts. Bok choy, broccoli, dandelion greens and kale provide calcium. Carrots, red peppers, cantaloupe, papaya, sweet potatoes and apricots (no pits) are good sources of beta carotene. Favorite fruits include apples, grapes, bananas, oranges and peaches.

It is also a great idea to try your hand at sprouting seeds, and feed them to your macaw when the sprouts have a little, one-day-old sprout coming out of the seed. They are a complete food, and many birds love them. Get accurate instruction about how to do this so that you do not develop problems with organism contamination.


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