Beautiful, vivacious, the macaw is loved as a companion around the world. Having a macaw as a pet can feel a bit like having a little sliver of the tropics inside your home. Vibrant color patterns and stunning markings make each macaw seem like a one-of-a-kind painting. In fact, the feather patterns of macaws are as unique as human fingerprints! Macaws are characterized by their long tails and large beaks. Did you know that some macaws actually have cheeks that blush to indicate mood? This is just one of many fun pieces of trivia to know about beautiful, exotic macaws.
Macaws hail from some of the most beautiful tropical locales on the planet. Macaws are native to Mexico, Central America and South America. There is no denying that Macaws are in a class of their own. However, these birds actually belong to the parrot family. One characteristic they have in common with all parrots is the way their first and fourth toes point backward. This feature allows macaws to grip tree branches without slipping.
It’s only natural to want to be able to properly take care of your macaw once you welcome it into your home. That’s why learning about the lifestyle needs, nutritional needs and habits of macaws is so important. Take a look at some important things to consider before bringing a macaw into your home.
What things should I consider before buying a macaw?
Macaws are very social and intelligent birds. This intelligence is what makes them such great companions. Intelligence is also what makes them a bit complicated. The first thing to know when considering a macaw as a pet is that these birds are large. The average adult macaw reaches a height that ranges somewhere between 28 inches and 38 inches. It’s not uncommon for some macaws to grow even taller. That means that a standard bird cage simply won’t do.
How big should a macaw cage be?
A macaw requires a cage that is at least 30 inches deep by about 40 inches wide. Many macaw owners actually opt for cages that are much larger than that. The general rule is that larger is better when it comes to macaw cages. The cage requirements for macaws can be limiting for some people. Not all homes and apartments are large enough to comfortably house a macaw cage. This is something you really need to take a look at before you bring a macaw home.
Are you comfortable with loud noises?
The reality is that you need to be comfortable with having noise in your home if you’re going to become a macaw owner. It is in a macaw’s nature to communicate with members of its flock from a distance. You will essentially become your macaw’s flock once you become a macaw owner. That means that your macaw will feel the need to communicate with you from time to time. A macaw’s version of communication will often sound like a very loud screech!
Most people love the sounds that are made by their macaws. These sounds can make you feel like you’re relaxing deep in the Amazon when you’re fixing dinner or watching television on your couch. However, having a macaw in your home could become problematic if you cannot tolerate loud sounds for any reason.
People who require uninterrupted sleep, have babies in the home or have children who may become alarmed at the sound of a screeching macaw may not be suited for this type of parrot. The decibel range for a macaw’s squawk is similar to the decibel range for a jackhammer. Each macaw is different. Some are very chatty. Reserved macaws will save their squawks for the times when they really need to tell you something. However, you won’t know just how disruptive or comforting the sound of your macaw will be until you live with it in your home for a while.
A macaw is a friend for life
It’s also important to know that taking a macaw into your home is a long-term commitment. The average macaw has a lifespan of between 50 years and 70 years! That means you will need to have a plan in place for the long-term care of your macaw. Many macaw owners actually set up trust funds or wills to cover the costs and care of their pet macaws.
Macaws are social birds. This is precisely why many people choose them. However, you must be prepared for the fact that your pet macaw will require much attention. Macaws are loyal. A macaw in the wild will actually stay with a single flock for life. You can expect your macaw to become very attached to you. Macaws require interaction on a consistent basis.
Are you ready to provide the attention a macaw needs?
Having a macaw means agreeing to give your bird attention every day. You will also need to find ways to include your bird in your daily routine as much as possible. A lonely macaw is an unhappy macaw. A macaw that is feeling isolated often becomes destructive and unruly. In addition, a macaw may become very loud and hard to control if it feels ignored.
The high intelligence of macaws is one of the reasons why they require so much interaction and stimulation. An unhappy or bored macaw may begin plucking its own feathers. This is a sign that your bird is feeling neglected. Feather plucking can be quite dangerous for the health of a bird. It will be important to consult your avian veterinarian if you observe feather plucking. Of course, there are some real bright spots when it comes to owning an intelligent bird. Macaws are highly trainable. They can easily learn to mimic sounds and actions.
What else do I need when considering whether or not to buy a macaw?
You already know that you will need to find space for a large cage if you welcome a macaw into your home. Another thing to consider before bringing a macaw into your home is that you may have to change some aspects of your lifestyle to accommodate your new bird. Macaws are actually highly sensitive when it comes to environmental factors. The lungs of macaws are particularly sensitive. As a result, many household items that you probably don’t give much thought to can actually cause serious health issues for a macaw. Simple things like candles, cleaning products and air fresheners can cause respiratory problems.
It is not recommended for macaws to live in homes where people smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products. Even things like Teflon-coated pans and stain-resistant carpeting can be lethal for macaws, please do not take this lightly. Bird-proofing your home will be essential if you think that your macaw will be able to fly from its cage at any point. Glass windows that can attract macaws, fabrics that could catch the claws of macaws and heavy metals that could be ingested by macaws all pose risks. It will be important to speak with your avian vet about any potential hazards that could be in your home once you are a proud bird owner. Of course, learning about the parrot diet is essential if a macaw is in your future.
Should I be concerned about what my macaw eats?
Tending to the dietary needs of your bird is one of the biggest responsibilities you’ll have as a macaw owner. The truth is that what you feed your macaw will impact your bird’s health and happiness for decades down the road. Creating the right diet can keep your bird feeling and looking its best. In addition, being proactive about your macaw’s diet can potentially help you to avoid vet bills down the road. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about pet bird food.
What exactly does my macaw naturally eat?
You might be wondering what the macaw diet looks like in the wild. A wild macaw will typically eat foods like seeds, nuts, berries and fruits in its natural habitat where it is free and perhaps get more exercise than our feathered friends. The key thing to know is that a wild macaw’s diet will depend entirely on what is available. That means that a wild macaw’s diet is varied and fresh.
What should I feed my macaw?
Balance is the key when it comes to designing a healthy macaw diet. One unique thing that is known about macaws is that they actually require foods with slightly higher fat levels than other birds. However, that fact shouldn’t give your macaw a license to eat high-fat foods with reckless abandon. Seeds can certainly contribute to creating a great starting point for a macaw’s diet. However, a seed diet isn’t the whole story. A well-rounded diet that 1) offers variety and nutritional balance, 2) takes into account the fact that these aren’t wild parrots flying free, and 3) is a food source that encourages foraging instincts is what’s best for macaws.
The problem with all-seed diets
It’s true that macaws in the wild eat seeds. However, they actually come across a huge variety of seed types in wild environments. That’s because the seeds that are readily available change as different plants come in and out of season. Unfortunately, this level of variety isn’t replicated by the all-seed diets that many bird owners follow. The mixes in the commercial seed products that are available for macaw owners tend to be higher in fat than seeds that would be collected in the wild.
Fat can spell trouble for a pet macaw. In approximately 60% of bird autopsies there have been signs of nutritional deficiency, according to Valerie Campbell D.V.M. All these deaths could have been prevented, but luckily now we know how with new knowledge from developments in avian veterinary medicine and science. However, your macaw won’t know that. It is easy to be tempted into thinking that seeds are enough based on your macaw’s enthusiasm for them. The truth is that seeds are type of treat for macaws. Macaws often pick through bowls of seed to find the ones they like the best, and will often favor the options that have the most fat and are not healthy for them.
Letting your macaw’s diet become too reliant on seeds can lead to long-term health issues. It’s perfectly fine to lead with seeds when introducing your macaw to food. However, the goal is to slowly reduce the amount as you work your way toward introducing other foods.
Nuts, legumes, amino acids (proteins) and essential fatty acids (fats)
We already know how beneficial protein is when it comes to the human diet. Macaws also need protein. A diet containing protein will ensure that a macaw’s feathers grow properly. What do macaws eat for protein in the wild? A macaw in the wild would get protein from things like insects, nuts and legumes. Of course, the high fat content of nuts means that portions should be monitored. Did you know that our Cinnaspice Delight Mix offers a nutritionally balanced mix with a nutty twist? Giving your macaw this mix could help to provide a balanced diet that protects against issues like gout and vitamin-related toxicity.
There are many easy ways to work carbohydrates into your macaw’s diet. What do macaws eat for carbohydrates? The fruits and vegetables that are approved for macaws will provide some carbohydrates. Whole grains like organic millet, organic buckwheat, organic oats, organic barley, organic wheat, organic quinoa, organic spelt, organic kamut and organic rice also provide healthy carbohydrates for macaws. Did you know that we use a whole-grain base for our foods that includes nutritional powerhouses like organic couscous, organic cracked wheat, organic hulled millet, organic rolled oats and organic quinoa? It is so important to provide your macaw with foods made from organic ingredients. Pesticides used in low quality food products could harm your bird. It is also important to remember that you must thoroughly wash all grains that you source on your own to get rid of pesticides and other contaminants.
The problem with an all-pellet diet
There was a time just a few years ago when the all-pellet diet was the recommended diet for macaws and other parrots. The bird community has since moved on from this trend. The fact of the matter is that a pellet diet will not provide the variety that macaws need. A pellet diet is a far cry from a diet that relies on what is naturally available in the robust, lush forests of Central America and South America. Another issue with the pellet diet is that it prevents macaws from displaying their innate foraging instincts. An all-pellet diet almost always leads to boredom. This boredom can cause your macaw to exhibit behavioral issues and feather plucking.
An all-pellet diet also poses some very specific long-term health risks for macaws, because toxicity is a big problem when it comes to pellet diets. In addition, the lack of enzymes in synthetic pellets can create some serious issues when it comes to the liver, kidneys and stomach. A bird on an all-pellet diet is a bird that’s out of balance. Bird Street Bistro’s blends are designed to bring birds back into balance. They replicate what a tropical bird would eat in nature using a carefully selected mix of good-for-you ingredients.
So why have pellets been recommended so often?
Pamela Clark, CPBC, CVT explains:
“Many avian veterinarians believe that parrot owners should be encouraged to feed a 100% manufactured diet to their birds because the majority of owners are not capable of providing a good diet otherwise. I never fail to feed saddened when I encounter this ideology, for it essentially removes the benefit and privilege of choice from the parrot owner. In other words, the owner is encouraged to feed a pelleted diet, not because of strong conviction that the diet is optimal, but because it is perceived as the lesser of two evils [pellets vs. seeds]”Pamela Clark, CPBC, CVT.
Macaw Food FAQ
Here’s a look at some common questions macaw owners have about what these birds should and shouldn’t eat.
Can macaws eat bananas?
Bananas are perfectly fine for macaws to eat.
Can macaws eat strawberries?
Strawberries are perfectly safe for macaws to eat. In fact, the general rule is that any berry that is safe for human consumption is also safe for macaws.
Can macaws eat peanut butter?
Peanut butter is typically not recommended for macaws.
Can macaws eat watermelon?
Watermelon is safe for macaws. Macaws often love the mix of juices and seeds offered by sliced watermelon.
What to feed macaws
It’s so important to offer your macaw a balanced and consistent diet that relies on carbohydrates, proteins, fats and healthy spices. You should also be focused on making sure the proper vitamins and minerals are being worked into your macaw’s daily diet. See our section above for some comprehensive information regarding the breakdown of a macaw’s ideal diet.
Can macaws eat crackers?
Crackers shouldn’t be part of a macaw’s regular diet. In addition, crackers with extra salt should be avoided. You should ask your avian veterinarian about specific cracker brands that could potentially be used as occasional treats.
Can macaws eat in the wild?
All of the food in a pet macaw’s diet should be provided by humans. Birds that escape may not recognize food in the wild.
What do I do if my macaw flies away?
It is so important to make sure there aren’t any exits that your macaw can use to escape from your home. What can you do if your macaw does fly away? You should immediately try to call your bird back. The sound of your voice may entice the macaw to fly back to you. Familiar words and phrases are often useful for calling a macaw. You may also want to remain in the area to see if your parrot will voluntarily return to the familiarity of its cage.
List of fruits for macaws
There are many fruits that macaws can safely eat. Here’s a look at the common fruits you can feed your macaw as part of a parrot diet:
- Fresh pineapple
- Juniper berries
- Kiwi fruit
- Rowan berries
- Mandarin oranges
- Rose hips
- Hawthorn berries
- Wild elderberries
You must be careful when it comes to feeding macaws apples, apricots, pears, peaches and cherries because the seeds and pits in these fruits can contain cyanide. You’ll also want to wash the skins of all fruits before giving them to your pet bird. Your bird will be thankful if you cut fruit into chunks that are easy to bite.
Macaws can also get fiber and nutrients from vegetables. In fact, many of the vegetables that humans enjoy can be sliced up for macaws. Here’s a look at the popular vegetables that are safe for macaws:
- Bell peppers
- Swiss chard
Keep in mind that vegetables with high water percentages don’t offer much nutritional value for a macaw. It’s best to avoid giving your macaw things like pale lettuce and celery often. Always wash the skins of vegetables before feeding them to your macaw.
What should I not feed my macaw?
Choosing good food for birds also means knowing which foods to avoid. You should always avoid any foods that are typically considered hazardous for animals and pets. That includes any foods that contain caffeine. Chocolate, tea and coffee are pretty high up on the do-not-feed list for macaws. Some food isn’t good for a macaw just because it happens to be a fruit or vegetable. Here are a few “healthy” foods that are known to be toxic for macaws:
- Tomato leaves
- Raw potatoes
Most of these foods are toxic for macaws because they contain a compound called solanine. It’s important to avoid giving your macaw any foods that contain solanine. It is also so important to skip junk food when feeding your macaw. The list of the worst junk-food offenders includes things like butter, desserts, chips and candy. Anything with large amounts of sugar, salt and fat can do damage to your macaw’s health pretty quickly. Speak with your avian veterinarian if you have questions about specific foods.
What about people food?
The close bond that humans feel with their pet macaws can stir up the temptation to share food. After all, a macaw can start to feel like a member of the family pretty quickly! The reality is that you won’t be doing your bird any favors by feeding it food that is intended for people. The fresh fruits and vegetables on the approved list for macaws should be enough when you want to give your bird something special. You can ask your avian veterinarian about specific foods.
Does my macaw need extra vitamins, minerals or amino acids?
The food you select for your macaw should offer a mix of vitamins, minerals, amino-acids (proteins) and healthy spices. Your macaw will be receiving the nutrients it needs from grains, legumes, seeds, veggies and fruits when you feed it a comprehensive mix that is created for non-wild birds. That’s why picking a good food for birds is so important. Bird Street Bistro offers rich mixes that provide appropriate portions of carbohydrates, proteins (amino acids), vitamins, essential fatty acids, minerals and healthy spices.
What pointers should I remember about feeding my macaw?
Your macaw’s food should always be made available in a clean environment. That means you should clean all food and water dishes on a daily basis. Water is so important for a macaw. It is necessary to offer fresh water to your pet each day. It’s also a good idea to monitor and record how much food is actually being consumed.
Can I just put food in a food dispenser when I’m away?
Macaws should NOT be left unattended when you travel. Macaws require fresh water and fresh food daily. Your macaw could become very sick if you simply fill a food dish with a pile of food and leave. This could attract bugs and other pests. In addition, your macaw could become ill from eating old food. Fresh foods that are offered to your macaw should be removed after two hours. It is important to make arrangements for the proper care of your macaw if you need to travel.
Is there anything else that will be needed for my macaw besides Bird Street Bistro?
We recommend helping your macaw enjoy the healthiest life possible by providing it with a high-quality cuttlebone that serves as a good source of calcium carbonate. You also have the option to add vitamins to your macaw’s water supply to provide enhanced nutritional support. It’s also beneficial to give your macaw some sunshine time each day. Allowing your macaw to sunbathe for a few minutes each day will actually promote a healthy circadian rhythm.
How can I get my macaw to eat healthy?
Macaws thrive on routine. Offering healthy foods at set times twice a day will make it much easier to get your bird to try what you’re offering. Make sure you’re placing fresh food in a separate dish from other foods to ensure that you don’t create mold issues.
You may find that your macaw is favoring one type of food. There is nothing unusual or problematic about choosing a favorite food. However, a lack of variety can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health issues. You can often solve the problem of having a picky eater by temporarily limiting or restricting a favorite food. This may help your macaw to become interested in the other foods that are being made available. You can also try blending some of the preferred food with the food you’re trying to introduce.
For more details on how to introduce new healthy parrot food to your macaw here is a great source of information.
We are learning more every day when it comes to the nutritional needs of macaws. Many macaw owners were given the advice to feed their pets all-seed diets in the past. However, we now know that an all-seed diet can rob a bird of its health and happiness. Researchers are taking a closer look at the ways different ratios of seeds and pellets can impact the health of a macaw. The good news is that macaw owners can simply look to nature when they want to discover what’s optimal for the birds they love and cherish. Bird Street Bistro goes back to the basics when it comes to designing food for macaws. We take pride in providing all-natural, holistically minded food options.
Please remember that you should always consult with your avian veterinarian to determine the specific dietary needs of your bird.
Do you have any thoughts or questions about macaw diets or pet bird food? Leave a comment for us below to let us know what you think. We love hearing from our flock!
Have a wonderful day!