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Reader's Stories

Bird owners share thier large macaw story

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Kakai & Ara/Courtesy Juel Fajardo Balbon, Phillipines

Kakai and Ara
Courtesy Juel Fajardo Balbon, Philippines

I bought my first macaw almost three years ago, a blue and gold named Kakai. I love birds a lot. I have several parrots in the house, but it’s truly the large macaws that fascinate me. I believe they are truly magnificent creatures and I’m fortunate to share my life with them. Recently, I bought my second macaw, a green-winged macaw named Ara. My macaws love fruits, especially banana, papaya and cooked corn on the cob. They love to chew so I supply them with cut up dried branches. I live in a semi suburban part of Manila with lots of trees. I gather the twigs myself, cut them into pieces, drill a hole on them and chain them together to make chewable toys.

Kakai is the most talkative. He knows how to say his name, Hello, all the names of my dogs and my nephews! Whenever he is on his play tree on the porch he shouts at all the neighbors passing by. He calls them “pangit” (the Filipino word for ugly) and then laughs. Whenever my macaws are on the front porch, they never fail to make all the people who pass by stop for a while and talk to them.  I think my macaws are unique because they are a reflection of me. They empathize with me. They seem to know when I’m sad, and they mellow down a bit or when I’m happy they want to know what I’m happy about and share that happy moment with them. I believe that owning large macaws is great because you can hug them, cuddle them, talk to them and they will talk back to you in their own voices. They seem to know what they are saying and seem to know the right time to say it. They are lovable, affectionate and playful. I know that they may not be for everyone, but those who are able to care for them are really blessed. For me, sharing my life with these magnificent creatures is pure bliss.

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Harley/Courtesy Dominique Dietz, Georgia

Courtesy Dominique Dietz, Georgia

I am owned by a 1 ½-year-old blue and gold named Harley. She is the love of my life, but it didn't start out that way. My original plan was to get a Solomon Island’s Eclectus. We were at the bird fair and I was oooing and awwing at the baby ekkies. That was when my dad found Harley. She was a baby, adorable and snuggly. She and her clutch mate were sitting happy as could be, letting everyone pet and cuddle them. Sure, she was cute and pretty, and since my dad had had a blue and gold before, he was in love. I however, was not so convinced. She was big for one thing, and that beak- it was huge! All I could think was big beak equaled big bite. Well, we ended up buying her. I was thrilled to have another bird in my life, but wasn't too thrilled with her.

When she came home a few weeks later, I was in charge of the hand-feedings. I was familiar with this as I had successfully done it with a few pairs of lovebird chicks. After she was weaned, however, she was immediately passed off to my brother, who didn't exactly give her the proper care. Well, a couple months passed and one day, my mom proposed we rehome Harley. Sad as it was, not only because Harley is the sweetest, cuddly, gentle and most lovable macaw I have ever met, but also because I had re-homed a bird before, and it was hard. So, with some begging, I persuaded my parents to let me keep her; I told them to give me a chance and see if I was successful. They agreed. Well, it has been almost 6 months since that happened, and I must say, Harley is the best bird ever! I have never met another bird like her. Yes, I had to get over my fears. But, the reward has been greater than I can express. Harley has bitten me hard, doesn't scream (although she does let them out occasionally) and simply adores me! I am so happy to have gotten over my fears! Harley has brought the greatest joy to my life, more than any other animal has ever given. No words can express my love for this bird; she is a true gem- a diamond that will give me more than a lifetime of happiness!

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Sassy-blue and Boni/Courtesy Boni Bates, New Jersey

Courtesy Boni Bates, New Jersey

My friend Shara worked in a local pet store and received a phone call from a man who asked if she knew anyone who would take a macaw off his hands. He worked from his home, and this parrot was too loud for him to make calls. He kept her in a closet and didn't want the responsibility of having her anymore. She immediately called me, told me the story and to give this guy a call. I couldn't dial with my fingers fast enough, hoping to get this poor bird from a closet. I told him I would definitely take it, and he came over, so it seemed, before I could hang the phone up.

There I was with this big blue and gold, staring at me with distrust and eyes pinning like I was going to be the next thing on its menu. I had an empty cage just in case one day I would get a macaw, and there she was. I looked deep into her eyes and felt her loneliness. I talked to her, sang to her, tried to gently touch her side wing. I would always get a nip, or bite. No problem, I would keep going into her room, sit by the cage, eat in front of her, offer her food, sing some more and we would watch TV together. She eventually came out of the cage, and stayed on top claiming her dominance and still wanting to taste my flesh.

Two months later, she allowed me to let her perch on my arm and walk around the house. Eventually I trained her to kiss me. Now she talks to me, and, like one of my own teens, talks back, too. One time I cleaned up her area around the cage, thought I was done, and all the sudden I hear a crash. I go in her room only to see her food bowl on the floor, food all over. I said loudly, "Hey! I just got done cleaning in here, what are you doing?" Her reply was, "Shut-up!" Now I can honestly say, my teen doesn't talk to me like that, but now my macaw – now known as Sassy-blue – does. My jaw just dropped, and I went into a full barrel laugh, and looked up at her, and she said, "I LOVE YOU." If that doesn't make your emotions get mushy, I don't know what will. All I can say is she is my best feathered friend, and I love being with her. I can't spoil her enough. And the best part of this, I know she loves me.

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Buddy/Courtesy Emily Schwingler, Minnesota

Buddy & Cheyenne
Courtesy Emily Schwingler, Minnesota

I got my green-wing macaw, Buddy, from a breeder who thought he was a girl for the first nine years of his life. Before she knew he was a male, he was paired with various male macaws. He got in a fight with one of these macaws, which caused him to lose six of his toes. With only two toes remaining, he still gets around his cage really well. Buddy likes to hang around on my shoulder, though I always have to walk slowly, and give kisses to people. He also likes to answer the phone by saying "Hello?" Buddy was my first macaw and probably the largest bird I will ever get. I love macaws because they have the best personalities! All of the macaws I've had, which include Buddy and a blue and gold named Cheyenne, are very sweet, yet have their comical moments. For instance, Cheyenne likes to hang from her feet on her shower perch, which is currently in the kitchen. They both love to share dinner with us, and pretty much eat most of my meal! Cheyenne will do anything for a spoonful of peas, and Buddy is pretty much in love with noodles. Macaws are definitely not for the beginning bird owner, but when you have one, you'll agree with me by thinking they make the best companions!

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Harley/Courtesy Pam Devenish, Georgia

Courtesy Pam Devenish, Georgia

I have a male 5-year-old scarlet macaw named Harley. He is quite a character. One time he was being especially nippy, and I told him he was going to have into time out, as he knew that being nippy is unacceptable behavior. When I put him in his cage, he started throwing his toys on the bottom of the cage and having quite a temper tantrum. I told him he needed to stay in there and calm down.  As I was walking away, he said, “Mama bad girl!” at the top of his voice. Of course I couldn’t let him see me laugh, so I had to turn my back and tell him that it was him who was being the bad boy.  Being a macaw, he, of course, had to have the last word, and as I walked away he kept hollering, “Bad girl! Bad girl!”

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Frisco/Courtesy Judy & Tom Kempf, Florida

Courtesy Judy and Tom Kempf, Florida

Frisco is a red-fronted macaw, the smallest of the large macaws, and we think he is very special. We met Frisco at Parrot Jungle in Miami, and he was the last bird sold there before they closed their retail bird store. When Frisco was just 3 months old, he was featured in The Miami Herald in an article about Parrot Jungle ending their parrot sales. The article included a picture of us, the proud parronts, holding Frisco. We were all famous! When we got to know Frisco better, we discovered that he loves to wear clothes. When I hold out a small T-shirt, he sticks his head right in and look so proud and handsome. He has quite a wardrobe, including a kimono and a wedding gown. He dressed up like Santa for Christmas. It's a lot of fun to go clothes shopping with a parrot. Frisco also loves to show off and do tricks. His “dead bird” is quite dramatic and if we are around other people, he goes right into his acrobatic routine. He especially loves to do tricks for children. If he doesn't get applause, he's heartbroken. Frisco has captured our hearts.

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Harley and Anne/Courtesy Anne Bush, New Jersey

Courtesy Anne Bush, New Jersey

Here I am with my harlequin macaw when he was 5 months old. I always admired these "biggies" but was actually terrified of their beaks having been bitten by one or two parrots in the past. I never did get over my fear of the "biggies" only with mine. I was staring into the glass windows at the birds in the shop one day just admiring other owners of large macaws for their fearlessness. One of the ladies in the shop saw me looking at two green wings, and she opened the door. They were a little snippy and I said, "Oh no! Never mind" She explained they were young, which did little to assuage my fear. Then she said, "Wait until you see what I have down here." I followed her just to be accommodating, and she turned around with a harlequin macaw hugging her chest. She said he was 4 months old and sweet. “Yeah, right” I said in my mind. But he put his head along side her cheek and said "Aww" and then he dropped his head again and snuggled on her chest. I came alive and thought "Is this possible? For me? The scaredy cat?" I gingerly held out my hand and he climbed on board. She told me to relax and he climbed up and leaned against my chest.

These days if he is not let out early enough in the morning to feast on goodies on his tray, he grabs the bars and shakes them and says "Get up! Get up!" I open the top door and he runs and leaps on my shoulder and says "Aww." The wonderful thing about Harley is that he is friendly with my daughter and granddaughter. Good thing, he could live to be 100. And I hope that he does saying "Aww" to someone else who will love him as much as I do.

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Freddie and John/Courtesy Anne Breden

Courtesy Anne Breden, Ohio

Our large macaw is Freddie, a 24-year-old bird that came to us after the original owner, an elderly woman, passed away.  The owner's children, while very fond of Fred, were unable to give this bird the time and attention needed. My husband and I were so fortunate that they allowed us to adopt Freddie and make him a member of our family. We had him DNA-tested and he is a she! Even though Fred's true gender has now been established, we still refer to "him" – it is just easier this way.

Fred is a remarkable bird. I was afraid that the transition would be difficult since he was with his former owner for 23 years. They were very bonded, and I was concerned about Fred's ability to emotionally cope with all the new aspects of life with our family.
Fred was a little nervous at first, but has been a real trouper.  He says a great many words and phrases: “Atta boy, Fred,” “Fred, stop that!” (said in at least 3 different voices), “Com'ere! I love you, Fred”, “Fred's a good boy” and more. He laughs exactly like an elderly woman, and knows several tricks: raising the wings on command, shake hands, give a kiss, wave and "get pretty," which involves raising and spreading his tail feathers like a peacock. We have had so much fun with Fred in the last two years, and I will always be so grateful to his former family for allowing us to enjoy his company. I have never had such a large bird before, but now I can't imagine being without Fred.  He is truly a joy.

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Karma and Becki/Courtesy Becki Jackson, California

Courtesy Becki Jackson, California

About four years ago, I fell in love with a baby scarlet macaw that was being hand-fed at our local pet store. I would go in at least every other day to visit and play with her. I usually stayed about an hour, holding, petting, talking and cuddling the bird. I am on permanent disability and there was no way that I could afford to buy her. I was heartbroken when she was finally sold, but happy that she went to an apparently good home in a town close by. A young woman bought her for her new husband's wedding present. I thought of her often, and wondered how she was doing in her new home. In the middle of December 2005, I was reading the classifieds in our local paper and came across an ad for a "Tame, Scarlet Macaw, looking for a new home". Just on a whim, I called. The young man who answered the phone was surprised when I asked him, if by any chance, had his wife purchased the bird as a gift to him. There was a long silence, and he said, "Yes, but how did you know that?" I told him of my story, how I visited the bird and fell in love with the macaw. Would it be alright if I came down to visit her?

My husband and I went down to see her. Another couple had beat us there, they wanted to buy her too. After spending about half an hour there, rather uncomfortably with the other couple pretty much monopolizing the bird's attention, the owner finally asked me if I'd like to play with her and see how she was doing. I was sitting on their living room floor when he put the bird down on the floor clear across the room.  She came running to me, lay down on her back and started rubbing her head all over my legs and arms. Climbing up into my lap, she just kind of nestled down like she belonged there.  The owner, the other couple and my husband were amazed. The owner said that he'd never seen anything like that before from this bird. Normally she was pretty stand-offish with strangers. I explained that I wasn't really a stranger to her. When the other couple saw her reaction they said, "You know, we've never seen anything like that with any of our own birds. We will step aside if you want to take her. She really should be with you!" So, on New Year's Day 2006, we brought home our beautiful scarlet macaw and changed her name from Merlot to Karma. My husband said that with all the "karma" surrounding our relationship that just had to be her name. After having lived in a small cage, in the owner's garage, and not having had the attention she should, when we finally got her home, we discovered that we had a lot of work to do.  The only apparent words she knew, were "OWWW!" and "No!" in a very loud tone. She did say her old name of "Merlot" once in a while. She would bite often and I have the scars to prove it! However, with a lot of love and patience, she has definitely come around. She is no longer afraid, is on an excellent diet now and has a truly wonderful personality. She has brought a happiness and joy to our home that can not be described. Her good nature, her clowning around, and constant chatter keeps us laughing.

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Hot Rod/Courtesy Jeanna Raffa, New York

Hot Rod
Courtesy Jeanne Raffa, New York

My large macaw's name is Hot Rod. We're really not sure if it's a male or female but we always refer to Hot Rod as "he." Hot Rod is a beautiful blue-and-gold macaw. He's owned us for about four years and he's a little over 4-years-old. We adopted him for a fee from a wonderful woman who owns a bird store in Long Island, New York. As soon as we got him home and settled in his cage I was in love. He was very shy and stayed in the cage, but once he tasted freedom he was very reluctant to go back in his cage. Hot Rod’s favorite trick is to swing by his beak from the top of his cage and squawk.  He can stay there for minutes at a time. He'll hang on the side of his cage and have his head scratched for as long as either my son or myself will do it. If he’s in the mood, he’ll give a kiss when asked. I love to have “conversations” with him by repeating the words he’s saying. I think the funniest thing he does is to watch and see if someone’s coming near the cage.  If he’s on his swing, he’ll immediately go to the top of his cage and start his swinging and squawking trick. It’s so wonderful to have him in the house and see how he appreciates the love and care we give him.

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Paulie/Courtesy Chuck Smith, Pennsylvania

McKala & Paulie
Courtesy Chuck Smith, Pennsylvania

I share my life with two large macaws. My first large macaw is a harlequin that I call McKala. I saw McKala at the local pet shop in town and stopped in to see her for a few weeks prior to purchasing her.  She was just 4 months old and I taught her to say hello the day before I brought her home.  I also did not understand that much about macaws but was reading like crazy so I would not make mistakes.  Well I then understood what a harlequin was after having her for a couple of weeks.  I also received her hatch record that showed her mother to be a blue-and-gold, and her father was a green-wing.  She is one great bird even though most bird people would not want her.  She learns fast and is eager to please.  She knows how to destroy or take apart her bowls; I have many extra as we both were learning how to keep them in the pen. I have a Manzanita tree for her in the living room for her to play on and she has not chewed it up, so it was worth the money spent.  I have a harness and when we walk everywhere, the people enjoy seeing her and hearing her talk.  The children in the neighborhood enjoy seeing her coming and all want to pet her.  I have discussed the proper way to pet her as well as the outcome if done improperly.  It is such great fun to see peoples faces as we walk the town of Sheffield. McKala, has now been here about a year, and I would not trade her for any other macaw. 

My second large macaw was such a great find for me and something I would never have thought I would have the opportunity to own in my life. There was an ad in the paper for a macaw for sale and so I called.  I was first told he was a blue and gold.  However, when I went to take a look imagine my surprise to find a rare blue throated macaw. Paulie, is 8 to 9 years old, and was being kept in the basement with a Congo African grey and a cockatoo all in the same cage.  He was brought upstairs and was left to walk around. He had a very pointed beak able to punch holes quite well. I left him alone and after awhile I put my arm out to see if he wanted to get up.  Imagine my surprise when he did and he stayed there.  He was dirty.  I wanted to take him home right then but I knew he would be a challenge from the beginning.  I decided to take him and bought a large cage for him as well.  I kept him quarantined from the other birds but he could hear them.  After a few days of his biting I decided to just use a stick to get him out of the cage which worked much better without being bitten.  He hated being given a bath in the morning (misted really) screeching to high heaven. He has gotten better about the shower in the morning, and his feathers look so great now reflecting the noble character of the blue throat. He has also, started stepping up on my arm now after being here a couple months.  He can say “Hello” and is trying to form other words as well.  He enjoys sitting on his tree perched over my desk and will sit there for hours.  He is one great looking bird and I do feel I am fortunate to have him. I cannot wait for the summer to get here to take him outside and to see if he will enjoy it as much as the other birds. 

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Reader Comments
excellent; i've had alot of birds in my time. i now am owned by a military , who we'll call Ozzie for now. he is undoutably the best thing that i ever set myself towards. very rewarding , lovely experience with a growing intelegence. only 10 months old. my what have we to look forward to. he has the run of the house daily, finds me in the upstairs bath, and showers with me. does very well with visitors and family. dogs too. we all are good together. love my ozmo.
piper, lima, OH
Posted: 3/29/2008 6:55:33 PM
Posted: 3/20/2008 8:28:23 AM
What sweet stories! We would really love to have a macaw in our flock! Maybe someday...
Hope, Oakley, CA
Posted: 3/31/2007 6:05:16 PM
Thanks for printing my story. I really was surprised and I just wanted you to know I appreciated it very much.
Chuck, Sheffield, PA
Posted: 3/30/2007 4:40:41 AM
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