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Macaw

MacawSpecies of macaws typically kept as pets include the following: Hahn’s macaw, yellow collared macaw, scarlet macaw, red fronted macaw, blue and gold macaw, blue throated macaw, military macaw, green winged macaw and hyacinth macaw. In addition many species have been hybridized to create various combinations. Some of these crosses have been given names. Here is a few of the names given to various macaw hybrids: milligold macaw, camelot macaw, catalina macaw, harlequin macaw, capri macaw, ruby macaw, shamrock macaw. Note: the hybrid macaw names are not recognized in parrot taxonomy.

Endearing Macaw Characteristics:

Macaw species can range from the tiny Hahn’s macaw to the impressively large hyacinth Macaw. They can be quite entertaining companion parrots. With a good positive reinforcement approach to training and handling many macaws learn to enjoy cuddling and can be very interactive with their caregivers. Macaws are certainly capable of learning a number of impressive tricks and are commonly seen demonstrating their skills in bird shows.

Some macaws can be quite playful and will roll onto their backs and gently mouth hands and fingers.

Although not usually known for their ability to mimic sounds, some macaws do learn to talk. However they do not tend to present the perfect mimicking abilities of African Grey Parrots or even Amazon Parrots. Macaws tend to still sound very much like a macaw when they say words. Hahn’s macaws in particular have a very high pitched, almost mechanical sounding voice when they talk. Hyacinth macaws on the other hand can produce some very low pitched sounds when they talk, as well as a few high pitched ones.

Macaws can be very captivating parrots. Not only are macaws beautiful, if they are fond of attention and people they will present some interesting behaviors to gain attention. One behavior macaws often present involves presenting one side of the face and then moving the head to present the other. They will often do this over and over. Macaw eyes are usually opened wide and sometimes the skin on their face will flush red. If a person mimics the same head movements with the parrot, quite often a macaw will respond favorably. However sometimes this lead to a very excited parrot, which can easily flip to aggressive behavior. To learn more about addressing aggressive behavior check out “The Parrot Problem Solver”.  

In addition to head movements, macaws will also sometimes put their wings up in the air in unison with a person. This is a great way to capture this behavior and put it on cue. Macaws will often present this behavior with other macaws, especially when they greet another macaw.

Interesting Macaw Facts and Quirks:

There is a small debate as to which is the largest parrot, the hyacinth macaw or the rare Kakapo. This is a bit of a toss up. Hyacinth macaws are longer in length, but the Kakapo weighs more.

Macaws are easily identified by the bare facial patch around the eyes and alongside the beak. Within this patch there are sometimes lines. These lines are actually made of feathers. The lines are unique to each individual macaw and can be used as an identification system. Some researchers of wild parrots used these lines as a means to identify individuals in their study.

Although some macaws are quite big and can be intimidating for some people, they are a group that tends to give easy to read body language or signals. For example the facial patch on a macaw will flush when a macaw is highly aroused or showing aggressive behavior. Eye pinning is also easily observed because most macaws have a very light iris. An exception to this is the hyacinth macaw. While eye pinning can be observed in macaws, it is more difficult to see due to the brown iris of this type of parrot. To learn more try the DVD “Understanding Parrot Body Language

The Spix’s macaw is a so rare there are none left in the wild. They are being bred in captivity in hopes of saving the species. Positive reinforcement training was actually used to help their recovery. The Spix’s macaws at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation have been trained to accept hormone drops through their nares to encourage reproductive activity.

Potential Macaw Behavior Problems:

A larger parrot means everything can be a bit more intense. Therefore a bite from a large macaw has the potential to be much more painful than that of a cockatiel. However when you use positive reinforcement to train, biting does not have to be a part of owning a parrot. For a video segment on training an aggressive blue and gold macaw to step up nicely try the DVD “Parrot Behavior and Training. An Introduction to Training

A larger parrot also means the potential for a louder scream. Again this is something that can be avoided and also addressed if the problem presents itself. See how to stop a parrot from screaming for attention for more information.

Macaw Training Examples:

This young blue throated macaw demonstrates a variety of behaviors he learned via positive reinforcement training. You can read more about his training on the Good Bird Inc blog.

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