Temperament: Loud, gregarious, varies between species
Cost: $7000 – $10,000
Lifespan: 50-80 years
Recommended for: Enthusiasts
The only feature of Macaws more breath-taking than their plumage is their price tag – literally thousands of dollars per bird. But what a bird!
Macaws are intensely-coloured parrots with great strong beaks and long tails. They come in a fantastic colour range and combinations, from the stunning blue and gold macaw to the greenwinged, scarlet, and yellow-collared. Even more amazing is the fact that the spectacular colouring seen in Macaws is natural – in other words they are not manipulated by man such as those of many popular pet bird species such as the budgerigar.
The more popular blue and gold or green-winged macaws are quite large birds, with the hyacinthine macaw growing to a metre (3 feet) from head to tail. They are native to Central and South America.
Macaws are bold, brash, highly intelligent and picky about their mates. Blue and Gold Macaws and Green-Wing Macaws are said to make the best pets. Macaws must have daily attention or the birds may become bored, distressed, anti-social and destructive. Still, if you paid $10,000 for a pet you’re hardly likely to ignore it!
As with most birds preventative routines such as cage hygiene, correct diet and housing are vital for good health. Galvanised cages are toxic to birds like macaws whose huge beak is intended to spend a lifetime chewing! Therefore, fresh branches from trees need to be provided every few days. Grevilleas, casurinas, and banksias are especially good but avoid plants that give off white sap. In an emergency bits of timber can be provided to chew on but DO NOT use treated pine. Stainless steel cages, although costly, are much safer.
Macaws can be fed a wide range of fruit such as grapes, passionfruit, apples, oranges and bananas, vegetables such as peas, beans, carrots and sweet potato, and sunflower seeds. Carrots, peas, and beans as well as broccoli and silverbeet, are said to enhance the red colouring of the plumage. Macaws take enormous delight in cracking open shelled nuts such as brazil, pecan, and almonds, while Green-Wings can crack macadamias.
According to experienced owners, Macaws are not hard to breed if you can find a mate they like! Some birds bond so closely with their (human) owners they can find it difficult to understand they need a feathered friend. Once established, breeding is said to be relatively easy, although most owners hand-raise the chicks.
Space and housing
Aviaries are need to be around 3m (9ft) tall with room to fly from perch to perch. The birds need privacy when breeding.
Individual macaws can be very loud and very destructive. Owners report young macaws need to be treated like unruly toddlers – carefully watched to prevent them getting up to mischief! They may need to be entertained with ‘toys’ such as chains, rope, and bits of timber. Birds kept indoors can and will damage furniture. Despite their high price, Macaw owners reckon their bird will outlive 7 or 8 dogs, aren’t as expensive to feed, and are much easier to clean up after!
We filmed our story with Neville and Noddy Connors, Casaurina Parrot Gardens, Grafton, NSW, phone: (02) 6644 9513
For more information contact:
Parrot Society of Australia
PO Box 75
Salisbury, QLD, 4107
Fax: (07) 3809 4040
Avicultural Society of Australia
Secretary, Graeme Hyde
80 Harris Road
Elliminyt, VIC, 3249
Fax only: (03) 5231 1390
The Australian Birdkeeper magazine is published each month and is full of advice, tips and contacts for the amateur or expert bird enthusiast. It is available from selected newsagents or contact them direct:
The Australian Birdkeeper
PO Box 6288
Tweed Heads South NSW 2486
Phone: (07) 5590 7777
Fax: (07) 5590 7130