|Photo by HolleyandChris|
One of the most recognized is probably the scarlet macaw. But macaws have far more to offer than just good looks and exotic flair. They're an intelligent pet that rewards the right type of owner with years of affectionate and fun-loving companionship, sometimes compared to dogs in terms of how well they respond to their people.
No one should get a parrot without research and planning, and this is especially true for the larger species of macaws. Their caging needs alone make it out of the question for anyone with little space, and along with that big body comes a big attitude. Inexperienced parrot owners may not be prepared for a sassy, brassy macaw. And if you're looking for a parrot on the quiet side, forget it. Macaws' voices match their personalities: bold and almost always ready to go. There still may be some hope for you if you like what macaws have to offer but aren't able to accommodate such a large parrot. One of the smaller varieties might fit your lifestyle. You'd still need to know what you're getting into, though. Even the mini macaws require an owner that's dedicated and willing to establish rules and limits. A macaw of any size is not what I would consider a beginner's parrot.
One challenge macaw owners can face is getting over any nervousness about those large beaks. Capable of snapping a broomstick, a macaw that means business isn't a bird you want to push around. They learn when they're young that hissing, lunging and brandishing that beak are effective ways to get what they want. But most macaws, as long as they've been treated kindly by people, are actually pretty gentle and easy going. They will rarely bite as hard as they're able. In the years that I've dealt with macaws of all ages and sizes, I've never received a serious bite, only some pinches that hurt at the time but didn't do any real harm. I've been screamed at loudly, though, which isn't pleasant and can be somewhat intimidating in its own way. If someone is working with a macaw and is overly hesitant, the bird is going to have that person's number right away. A calm, confident person tends to do much better with a macaw. They don't respond well to bullying, but they do need guidance and kind authority.
Treated with respect and given the right environment, which includes plenty of out-of-the-cage exercises and mental stimulation, a macaw can be a joy. They like to be involved in whatever the family is doing and thrive when they can have the stage all to themselves. They're one of the major "hams" of the parrot world, so talking, singing and trick training are fine activities to do with a macaw. While some individuals don't mind just sitting around and may be able to spend a considerable amount of time on a play gym, a macaw will often want to investigate things, wandering around on the floor and climbing up onto anything he can get to. Supervision is important. They aren't the type of pet you'll want to let come and go at will from his cage. Doing so can lead to behavior problems, such as the bird becoming overly pushy and willful, but it's also likely to result in lots of chewed-up items around the house. Remember, think "guidance" and "limits". Give them more chances to be good than to misbehave.
Behavior problems in macaws can range from minor, hormonal moodiness to all-out mayhem with biting and excessive screaming. Rescued macaws that were mistreated, ignored, or just not well-trained seem to have the most issues, but even these guys can come around in time. Macaws are very social and will usually want to have a relationship with the people around them. They've got big hearts to go along with their big beaks.