Keeping and Training Macaws as Pets

The work of training your Macaw cannot and should not be expected to be completed in a short period of time. Gizmo, my Macaw, is 312 years old, and despite all of the training he has had, he is constantly learning and educating me!
I consider myself extremely fortunate and honored to have had the opportunity to train and meet so many different kinds of Macaws over the last 18 years, and I continue to learn something new every day.

It is totally up to the person to what extent they choose to educate a bird. Some owners are pleased to merely learn their pet to “Step up,” whilst others wish to accomplish a higher level of training, such as roller skating or flag hoisting. Personally, I feel that these lovely birds should be educated in fundamental handling practices, with any further trick training selected by the bird itself, with support provided if it desires to acquire other talents.
Macaws are incredibly energetic, inquisitive, and clever birds, and more about Macaws as pet. However they are not the same as “Circus Performers.” Training should be done for the benefit of the bird, not for the owner’s ambition to have a circus performance.

So, how would we classify the Macaw? My own definition is as follows:

  • Wonderful and caring
  • Playful and nimble
  • Inquisitive and curious
  • adventurous yet being delicate
  • Exceptionally entertaining

As a result, in this second part of the essay on Macaws, I will just discuss basic training and not the specialized training necessary to do “Tricks.” Macaws are incredibly bright, and with proper training, they may be affectionate, tame companions capable of communication.

After you’ve completed the “Step up” maneuver taught in Part One, the trust link between you and your bird will have begun. The “Step up” approach should be done repeatedly to reinforce the skill and strengthen the link between owner and bird.
If there are other family members living in the house, the bird must also be trained to “Step up” on their order. To guarantee that the bird responds to handling even if the primary owner or caregiver is not there. This condition is critical since it will assist to avoid the bird from dominating the rest of the family and will also ease managing the bird in a medical / accident, escape / rescue scenario if the primary owner / caretaker is not there.

I’ve seen several cases when a bird has harmed itself worse or died because the owner was not around and no one else could manage the bird.

Aside from family, a Macaw need socialization with other people. Macaws like being the center of attention and thrive on meeting new people.
Gizmo, my personal Macaw, joins me on school visits and attends charity fetes and events.
Gizmo recently visited the Derby “One Spectacular Day” event, which was attended by HRH the Queen. There were 24,000 people in attendance, and Gizmo relished the attention, particularly as he roamed the packed stadium.

He reveled in the crowd’s cries of “Gizmo!” and the applause as we moved about, even when he was bombarded with requests to pose for pictures, which he gladly accepted. He flapped his wing and cried “Hello!” to his numerous followers, and I’m certain he merely used me as a mobile perch! He would have wandered around on his own if I hadn’t went around with him! A buddy mentioned seeing Gizmo at the stadium and inquired as to if I was there!

If given the chance to interact with other people, macaws seem to gain greatly from this activity and quickly assume the role of celebrity. Perhaps this is why Macaws seem to like the activities when they are exploited as entertainers. Other birds, such as African Greys, often perform with Macaws, although their function is mostly that of a stooge rather than that of a real star performer. However, I continue to believe that the bird should be free to determine how much it acts for the pleasure of its human.

Patience, love, time, and repetition, like with all birds, are essential for effective training sessions. No bird, particularly a macaw, will react to or comprehend punishment or yelling. It’s just not in their makeup. If a screaming bird is ignored, it is considerably more likely to realize that its behavior is wrong than if the owner reacts by yelling back at it! Many owners make the mistake of yelling back to their birds. They are, in fact, praising the bird for its negative behavior! The bird has easily attracted the attention of its owner! If the behavior is ignored, the bird rapidly realizes that it is not having the intended impact and the behavior ceases. It is much preferable to congratulate the bird when it is acting properly, imparting in the bird the awareness that good behavior attracts attention. You can pay attention with what your parrot like and thus entertain with your pet more frequently.

Treats may be extremely useful in teaching any bird, but they must be used in an organized way to have the intended effect. Select the bird’s favorite food, such as a grape, cedar, or pine nut (NOT peanuts as these can be harmful to birds because they prevent the absorption of the crucial Calcium mineral). Restriction these goodies during the early training sessions and only use them as a reward when attaining the required command throughout training. If you only use them for this reason, the bird will come to link this reward with positive behavior (this can also work with many parrots).

Training should be limited to no more than 5 minutes at a time; birds cannot focus for extended periods of time. It is considerably preferable to have 5 minutes of high-quality, productive training 2 – 3 times each day rather than longer but ineffective sessions. All training should be done in a separate room from the one where the birdcage is kept to signal to the bird that a particular, predetermined method is being followed that varies from the bird’s typical daily routine.

If at all feasible, training should be done at regular established times throughout the day. Do not try to teach the bird while it is about to feed, when he or she is fatigued, or when other humans or household pets are around, since these factors will impede the bird from focusing on the required disciplines.

Remember to always praise and thank the bird for successfully completing each job. Keep one training assignment at a time, rather than a half-dozen, since this would just confuse the bird. Wait until the bird has mastered this job before introducing further orders. When the bird understands when it has successfully executed a command, it will begin to realize the rewards of good behavior and look forward to satisfying its owner and receiving praise and/or a treat as a reward. To teach the bird, use a tiny portable perch, a chair back, or the floor. Obviously, a separate free-standing perch would be ideal, since it would provide the bird with a place to play and perch away from its cage throughout the day. For the reasons indicated earlier, do not try to teach the bird in its cage.

The most effective directives are those that are given calmly. Shouting will merely confuse and startle the bird and will have no effect. It may also have the unintended consequence of upsetting your neighbors! Keep your orders brief and straightforward.

When training, the bird should always be below your eye level, with the bird looking up to you and you looking down on the bird. This keeps the bird from taking control of you. A dominating bird will be difficult to teach. All birds are flock oriented and need a flock leader; in order to obtain results, you must become that flock leader. Similarly, the bird should not be permitted to sit on your shoulder until it has been well schooled in the fundamentals. Aside from asserting dominance, a Macaw possesses a powerful beak that may do considerable injury to the face and eyes.

It will take time to teach your bird to speak. This approach may be used while the bird is in its cage as well as in other locations. Begin with a simple word, such as “Hello.”

Say it slowly, emphasizing the words “Hell-O.” Repeat this term as many times as you can until the bird starts to imitate it. A bird will often not pronounce the word in front of you until it believes it is as near to the sound you have produced as possible. I’ve spent many joyful times standing outside my bird room, listening to my parrots’ efforts to make the sound just so in an effort to please me, and it always creates a knot in my throat, since it’s then that I realize how much they want to please me. Once the bird has acquired the first word, you may introduce additional words or phrases, but be warned: I holiday board many birds and have been amused by some of the things they repeat. If their owners knew how much their birds tell me, they’d be ashamed!

Please, please, please do not teach your bird to curse. The bird is unaware that it is cursing, which might be humiliating for the owner if the bird is in mixed company or in settings where children are present.
If my parrots swore, they would be barred from visiting the various schools, hospitals, and events that they presently enjoy, as well as vacation boarding!

The “Clicker” is one of the training tools available at excellent pet shops and bird exhibitions.
Although I am aware that many owners have had success with this instrument, I do not use it myself since, in my view, it is the rewards used in combination with the Clicker that encourage the bird to respond. A pre-recorded spoken training cassette is another useful tool. This may seem to be a smart idea, but it may result in the bird just recognizing the voice on the recording and not responding to your own voice. Furthermore, I find it charming when people comment, “Your bird sounds just like you!”

Another popular assistance is the harness; although I know numerous owners who use this device to transport their birds, I personally do not recommend it since birds are not dogs and harnesses are foreign to them.

If the bird is traveling with you, it will most likely be perched on your shoulder (if basic training has been completed). If a thief decides he wants to get rid of your buddy, all he needs is a pair of scissors. The lead is severed, and the bird is snatched off your shoulder, letting the thief to go without ever touching the bird. If the bird is on your shoulder, the thief must be bold enough to determine if he is willing to risk a terrible bite in order to grasp the bird and drag it away from you. Obviously, if your pet is going to travel on your shoulder (like Gizmo does), you must exercise care to keep the bird from being frightened by unexpected sounds or rapid movements.

Again, training is the solution. I trained all of my parrots to stay on my shoulder by first strolling about the home and yard while members of my family made loud sounds and rapid movements, and then just touching my bird’s claws and saying “Stay.” My birds’ wings are all partly trimmed so that they may travel with me. When putting your bird outdoors for the first time, I recommend choosing a calm time of day, walking around your own garden first, and then visiting a neighbor’s home. The bird is progressively assimilated into the fast, loud, and colorful world around it in this manner, rather than being exposed to a shopping spree in the nearby town on its first expedition!

Similarly, traveling by automobile must be introduced in an organized manner, and a robust, safe, and secure carrier must be accessible. The carrier should ideally include water and a food container. Place a kitchen towel and, if possible, a favorite toy on the bottom. Before making the 40-mile drive to meet Aunt Joan, take the bird on a few small trips! A cover should be provided to cover the carrier if the bird seems to be scared by passing cars.

DO NOT LEAVE THE BIRD ALONE IN THE CAR; particularly on hot days, the risk of heat stroke and consequent death of the bird outweighs the risk of theft.

Of course, if the bird escapes from the carrier, you may discover that the value of your automobile has drastically decreased! Not the Macaw, but the automobile!

When introducing your Macaw to other family pets, use caution. A Macaw’s beak may seriously injure a cat, a dog’s sensitive nose, or a smaller bird, and the bird may lash out in fright at what it thinks to be a predator. My cats and dogs appreciate my parrots since some of them have been on the receiving end of a parrot’s beak! They have, however, embraced the adage “once bitten, twice shy!” Everyone, including humans, now lives in perfect peace, since the pecking order has been established!

All birds must be taught the significance of interactive and solitary play; many birds are not naturally competent at this. When a bird is left alone in his cage, he must be taught how to entertain himself without shrieking, shredding the wallpaper, or plucking himself out of boredom. If you must leave your bird alone for any length of time, give stimulation by leaving a radio on, ideally one with a mix of speech and music. Finishing the training session with a brief playtime is a fantastic approach to educate any bird to play; this will also encourage the bird to look forward to training sessions since it will know that a playtime will follow.

Start with basic toys. When you gently roll a little hard, “Macaw proof” ball near your pet’s claws, the bird will often “kick” the ball back to you. Thus, the initial steps toward a football game are taken. Gizmo, like many of the Macaws I’ve taught, enjoys sorting things. He enjoys putting items into other things, such as rings on a post, blocks in holes, and cotton reels in a margarine tub. He really enjoys playing with his many musical gadgets. He also likes his toy box, which is just a basic tub stocked with snacks, nuts, toilet paper holders, cotton reels, wooden dolly pegs, dog chews, and dog biscuits. He spends hours delving through the box and toying with the contents.

It is very possible that your bird may grow weary, irritated, and begin to nip during training. If this occurs, the session should be terminated. Blow forcefully into the parrot’s face and shout “No” firmly to assist avoid additional biting. The bird will quickly cease biting since parrots dislike the feeling created by blowing.

A parrot need enough relaxation after a long day. Each night, your bird should have 12 hours of covered rest. Make certain that the dark-colored cover fully covers the cage with no gaps at the bottom. This can assist to avoid “Night Fright,” such as automobile headlights or fox/cat eyes, which may all represent a predatory danger to your bird, resulting in abrupt, seemingly unexplainable death.

Finally, I hope this essay has given you some ideas for caring for and teaching your Macaw. There is no greater reward than owning a loving, tame, cuddly bird, and while I do not recommend training your pet to give the same passionate, tongued French kiss that Gizmo gives to me (and any other female who shows an interest in him! ), with patience, love, and praise, your bird will become the same perfect companion that I am lucky and privileged to own!

If you are interested in learning more about parrots as pets, you can always look at the materials on our website for additional details.

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