Getting a Macaw?
Some important things to consider
Macaws are colorful, intelligent, social birds and they make amazing pets, but they are not for everybody. To help you decide if a macaw is the right companion for you, I have compiled a list of ten things to consider before getting a macaw.
Image Source: Pixabay.com – Creative Commons
Macaws are large birds and they need a lot of space. They range in height from 28 to 36-plus inches, with wingspans up to 48 inches. The minimum cage size for a larger macaw is 30 inches deep by 48 inches wide by 60- to 72-inches high. Larger is always better.
Macaws are not meant for apartments or small houses. It is best to have a separate bedroom just for them. Between the cage and toy storage, they need a lot of room.
If size is your only negative, there are several mini-macaw species. They range in height from 12 to 20 inches. They are not as colorful as the larger birds, but they have the same personalities and intelligence.
Macaws are from the rain forest. They frequently need to communicate with flock members from a distance. If they decide they need to communicate with you in the house, they can squawk – no, the word is screech – very loudly. The numbers I have seen range from 105 to 115 decibels. For comparison, that is noise on the level of a jackhammer, in the house. Luckily, macaws do not vocalize often at that level. Mine usually only let loose if they feel ignored or if they are alarmed. Just like people, how talkative they are varies from bird to bird.
As with other pets, there are many opinions about the best diet for macaws. That is a longer discussion than this article can encompass, but I have always fed my macaws a varied diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Every day I chop up fresh fruits and vegetables to feed them, which is more time-consuming than throwing some kibble in a bowl like I do for the dogs. In addition, because birds tend to be even more sensitive to pesticides than humans are, I always buy organic for them.
4. Veterinarian Care
Not all veterinarians have the knowledge to care for birds. Depending on where you live, there might be several avian vets in the area, or you might end up driving many miles. It is a consideration when thinking about getting a macaw. Often, when there is a problem, time is of the essence and if the nearest avian vet is 100 miles away it could be a life or death difference.
The initial cost of macaw ownership is high. They are expensive to purchase, plus the cost of the large cage. Also, seed and nut mixes are more than most bags of kibble, and we all know the higher cost of organic food. The other consideration is toys. Macaws need toys to keep them stimulated. This is often just another way to say they need things they can destroy. With those big beaks, they go through toys very quickly. It all adds up.
Photo Credit: Marcel Sigg, Flickr
Another serious consideration is life span. The average macaw will live between 50 and 70 years. There is a big difference between committing to a dog or cat for 15 years and committing to a macaw for a lifetime. Responsible macaw owners will have a plan for their bird when they pass. A new caretaker should be agreed upon and documented in the will. A few owners I know have set up trust funds or bought life insurance policies with the bird as the beneficiary, to help the new caretakers with costs.
The average macaw will live between 50 and 70 years. Click To Tweet
7. Household Hazards
On the simplest level, macaws are lungs with feathers. Air quality is a big consideration when bringing them into the home. Many common things cannot be used in a house with macaws: candles; most cleaning and disinfecting products due to their odors; anything treated with PTFE (e.g. Teflon coated pans); stain resistant carpet; cigarettes; and air fresheners. This is actually a short list. Talk to your vet or do research online for a more comprehensive list of items in your house that can be dangerous to pet birds.
Macaws are very social animals. In the wild, they live in flocks and mate for life. In your house, they will want to be with the family, all the time. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, they want to be involved. For some people, this is one of the wonderful things about them. For others, it is a burden; they do not like always having to interact and include their macaws. Carefully consider your own personality in this respect, because a lonely macaw will become unruly, noisy, and destructive.
Image Source: Pixabay.com – Creative Commons
Along with social factors, consider how intelligent macaws are. They are smart and will learn to mimic. They are very trainable. On the downside, if they do not get enough mental stimulation, they will become troublemakers. Just like the intelligent child who is bored in school, they will find something to do. Usually, it will be something noisy or destructive. Even worse, it might become self-destructive. Feather plucking is a serious danger to birds, often caused by boredom or neglect.
Allergies to birds are not as common as cat or dog allergies, which are usually caused by the saliva, not the hair. However, bird dander and dust mites that might hang around can be problematic for some people. If you have anyone in your household that you think might have allergies, think seriously before getting a bird. If possible, have them spend a lot of time around birds first. Nothing is more heartbreaking than having to find a new home for a beloved bird because of allergies.
If any one of these items have given you second thoughts, do more research or talk to other macaw parents. Bringing a macaw into your life is a long-term commitment and you should be positive when you do it. I love having macaws in my life, but it is not for everyone.
Image Source: Pixabay.com – Creative Commons
Guest Writer Bio: Valerie Jocums loves the sun, her fur and feather babies, and her fiancé George. When she isn’t mountain biking, practicing her public speaking skills, or reading, she is writing about everything she has learned.
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A QUESTION FOR YOU: Do you have a pet bird in your home? Please tell us about it. What did you name it and how old is it? We want to hear about it!
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39 thoughts on “10 Major Things to Consider Before Getting a Macaw”
My neighbours have macaws in a cage. It’s become a nightmare to us immediate neighbours simply because of the noise factor!!
There is just nobody at their home to interact with what is ibviously a beautiful bird.
Probably out of sheer boredom it keeps awake as early as 5 am.
We were given our macaw by my son’s father. I did not research his needs prior. Phil (he was already named that) has become angry and hates everyone except me. We have had him approx 25 years now and I am 71. I worry about him because when I die who will care for him. Can they go to a new owner without getting depressed?
Jean, Wow! You’ve had Phil for a long time. Well, I hope you will outlive him. You still have a lot of years ahead of you. And I don’t know how to answer your question about him getting depressed with a new owner. My guess is that he would be missing you greatly after all the time you’ve spent together. You’re his life.
Now, I don’t know the state of your health, of course. Do you have someone in mind that would want to take over for you? If so, I would make sure they get some bonding time. If not. then I would advise you to look into rescue organizations. Not your local shelter, either, although I would ask them for recommendations and suggestions. But there are macaw rescue places that would be happy to take him in.
All the best!
Years ago I watched a demonstration on how powerful their beaks are. . . . they can snap finger bones!! After that. . I didn’t want a bird. . . heheheh
I heard that too, that a macaw could snap finger bones. They’d be dangerous to have around pets, children, and strangers, wouldn’t they? They are beautiful, though. Thanks for your visit! I hope you’ll come see us again sometime.
I had no idea Macaws lived as long as they do! They are beautiful birds.
I didn’t know macaws lived so long either. Wow. May you two live long too, you beautiful cats. 🙂
Macaws are such beautiful birds – thanks for raising important issues about how to care for them.
I love the looks of a macaw too. They’re so beautiful. I’m glad you stopped by and took the time to read the post. Take care! Meow for now.
Wow! I had no idea they lived that long. That’s amazing and a lot to consider if you’re thinking of getting one in your mid-life years!
Yes, I was amazed too to learn how long a macaw can live. I can’t imagine being willing and able to give that kind of commitment. So many things could go wrong in the meanwhile. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, and for taking the time to read the post. I hope you’ll come back and visit us again sometime. Peace
They live such a long time! We would definitely not be a good fit as we live in a small condo.
Right! A small condo wouldn’t be a good fit for a macaw. That tenacious little terrier of yours probably would want all the attention to himself anyway. He’s such a cutie. I love him to pieces.
50-70 years is definitely a commitment! I would say if I was a bird Mom, I would be so tickled for that longevity. Sadly, our canines and felines aren’t as lucky.
Knowing that a macaw can live 50-70 years certainly is a huge commitment. I’m not that brave. I met a macaw once. My goodness, was that thing loud. 50-70 years? Ouch. Thanks for your visit, Tonya. Take care.
Definitely if you want to own a bird like a Macaw you better know what you are getting into it before you do it, and this article would be great for that. My husband had a bird named Bingo when we met, he stayed with his roommate after we got together, which I guiltily wanted. I’m not sure what kind of bird he was, I remember he was black though.
Bingo’s a cool name for a bird, I think. I hope the roommate didn’t mind taking over bird duties. You’re more of a dog person, I know. Me too. I’ve never had a bird. See ya later!
I found the comments at last HURRAH! Well done with a splendid post about these gorgeous and amazing birds.
I remember in the UK a pub had two Mackaws who lived in the main bar area because they loved the constant stimulation, the coming and going. For customers the birds were beautiful to watch but many, I suspect, would not know they take work to keep healthy and happy.
Hi there! Thanks for checking out the post about the macaws. Two macaws in a UK pub would certainly be interesting. I imagine they learned a few choice words too. Oh dear! 🙂 We had one in a department store here years ago and he used to whistle at all the women. He was comical. Take care, and come back soon.
They are such beautiful birds, thanks for sharing all the info 🙂
You’re quite welcome, Ruth. I’m glad I published this post about macaws. I learned a lot. Come back soon!
They are such stunning, beautiful creatures!
Yes, macaws are gorgeous, aren’t they? I learned a lot about them from this post. Thanks so much for stopping by! Take care!
This is really informative, I can’t believe these beautiful birds can be so complex! I’m amazed they can live so long, you really do need a will or trust in place for them.
Love & biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
Hey, Cathy. I’m glad you stopped by my blog. Macaws are fascinating, aren’t they? They truly are quite a huge commitment. I learned so much from this post. Thanks for reading.
They are such beautiful birds. I didn’t know that they lived for so long, it’s like haveing a child.
Yes, having a macaw would be a lot like having a child. Wow. What a commitment. I’m so glad you stopped by and took the time to read my post. Take care and come again.
Wow they are absolutely magnificent looking! I hope anyone considering committing to a macaw will read this very helpful and informative post first. As Sherri mentioned above, I do think it’s important to know exactly where they came from. The illegal trade in exotics is incredibly cruel, and you want to be sure you won’t be supporting it. Thanks again for a very interesting read.
Hey, thanks for stopping by. I hadn’t realized all that was involved in having a macaw for a pet. I certainly hope potential owners would do their research. I’m glad you mentioned about the illegal trade. That’s terrible what happens to animals on the black market. I think I’ll add a note about this to the bottom of the post. Thanks so much! Take care!
These birds are really complex creatures. The few individuals I know who have them are obsessed and willing to do all things necessary to keep them cared for. I’d also suggest on your list knowing where they came from. The illegal trade in these creatures is ugly.
Hi Sherri, thanks for your input on this post about macaws. You’re absolutely right that I should mention knowing where your bird comes from because of the illegal trade. I will do that. Thank so much!
That is a good reminder. Not only is the illegal trade horrible for the caught birds (most die) and the species as a whole, but they are not good pets, usually. For the best experience, you want a hand-fed, domestically-bred bird.
Very good info here that anyone considering getting a macaw should read! I visited Best Friends last year and they also spoke about things to consider — and truly opened my eyes that I would likely never be the right person to adopt a parrot.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the right person to adopt a macaw either. They’re more work than any other pet I know (so far). Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog today, Rachel. Peace
I hope people think this through before they get such a beautiful bird! If people can’t commit to a dog (10-15years), imagine wat 50-70 year might be!
I think they are just beautiful, but deserve to fly free in nature :)!!
Hi Valerie. Macaws really are beautiful bids, aren’t they? What a commitment! Just knowing they live so long would deter me from wanting one. I’m glad you stopped by. Take care!
Loved your post. These are definitely good points to consider before being a parront
I’m glad you stopped by, Malaika, and reading my post about macaws. They’re amazing, aren’t they?