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Meet The Large Macaws

With their playful antics and vivid colors, the large macaws are captivating, but can be a challenge for a new owner.

Jessica Pineda

Native to South America, the most popular macaws include the blue & gold, scarlet, greenwing, military and hyacinth and others. They are comical and affectionate pets, as well as loud! While not generally considered the best of talkers, macaws can pick up a variety of noises, and the word "Hello” fairly quickly. Many blue-and-gold macaws seem to enjoy singing "La, la, la” as off-key as possible.

They need a large cage that’s wide enough to accommodate their size and tall enough for their long tails. Young macaws tend to have tattered tails due to vigorous play.

Hyacinth macaw
The hyacinth macaw is the largest of the macaws (as well as the largest parrot)

Macaws can be incredibly destructive when it comes to their toys, going through even the thickest piece of wood in minutes.

Due to their size, a macaw won’t hesitate to show you who is in charge. Glenn A. Fountaine of Premium Parrots in Illinois, who  has breed macaws for 27 years, said, "You have to be the boss, or they’ll boss you around.” They do what is called the "macaw lunge” where they seem to strike out at an unsuspecting person (without actually biting) and are amused by the reaction they get. Many people fear their large beaks, which can crack a shelled nut faster than we can with a nut cracker. A macaw can figure this out relatively quickly and use it to its advantage. Careful monitoring of your bird’s behavior can deter this.

Macaws are susceptible to all avian diseases, but are prone to papillomas and proventricular dilatation disease (PDD, also known as "macaw wasting” disease). Fountaine said that green-winged macaws are the most susceptible to papillomas. He also noted it is rare to find a hyacinth macaw that has papillomas.

Scarlet macaws have a tendency to be nippy, and Fountaine pointed out it is because of their coloring. "They are flashier than the other macaws; they stand out more. In the wild that makes them more the target of predators, so a scarlet macaw instinctively is always on attention. A nip is to remind you they’re on edge.”

Macaws become sexually mature around 6 to 8 years old, but there is really no noticeable change in their behavior. Typically, hens won’t lay eggs without a mate, which is typical of many other large birds.

As a large bird, they need accommodations that match their size and an owner who isn’t afraid of their beak. They are not recommended for a new owner who has never had a bird before. With dedication, love and patience, a macaw is one of the greatest pets to own.

Want to know more about macaws?

Macaws: 8 Things You Should Know
Provide Nuts For Your Macaw

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Posted: April 30, 2014, 5:00 p.m. PDT

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