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Pros and Cons of Owning Macaws as Pets

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Macaws as pets pros and cons

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As a long-time macaw owner, I’ve experienced firsthand the joys and challenges of living with these incredible parrots. Macaws are exceptionally beautiful, intelligent birds that make truly wonderful animal companions. However, they also require an absolutely massive commitment in terms of time, effort, expense and lifestyle adaptations.

Potential owners need to deeply research macaws before acquiring one. Below I’ve outlined the most significant pros and cons of sharing your life with one of these unique birds. Hopefully this helps you make an informed decision about welcoming a macaw into your family!

Macaws as Pets: Pros

a Macaw

What initially attracts people to macaws? After all, they aren’t nearly as commonplace as dogs or cats as pets. Let’s explore why these parrots are becoming more mainstream animal companions.

Stunningly Beautiful and Unique Appearance

There’s no denying the visual appeal of a macaw. Simply put, they look like feathered rainbows! Their coloration and patterns range dramatically between the 17 macaw species, but all display extremely vivid plumage. No paints or dyes needed; macaws naturally shine in scarlet, azure, emerald, gold and more. It never ceases to amaze guests when they first encounter these Technicolor parrots. Along with beauty, their well-proportioned size and sweet expressions generate instant curiosity and admiration..

Highly Engaging Personalities and Bonding Potential

Incredibly social, mischievous and playful, macaws have magnetic personalities. Their goofy antics, loving affections, and clear communications quickly endear them to owners. You cannot help laughing at their acrobatics and silly reactions as they embrace daily life.

And there’s no animal quite as devoted as a macaw that bonds with her human companion. They crave enormous amounts and time quality interaction with their special person. In return for attentive care and friendship, macaws give unwavering loyalty and love throughout their very long lifespans. That level of relationship satisfaction helps explain their popularity despite high maintenance needs.

Rarity and Exotic Appeal

As tropical New World parrots mainly bred in captivity, macaws also benefit from being somewhat rare and “exotic” pets. You likely won’t encounter your neighbors out walking their macaws like you see people with dogs. This uniqueness satisfies folks wanting an uncommon animal companion that still exhibits traditional pet qualities like affection and intelligence. And who doesn’t love delivering a response of “Oh, that’s my pet macaw!” when others ask about the giant parrot accompanying you?

Intelligence and Communication Abilities

Let’s not underestimate the allure of a smart, communicative pet either. Macaws rank among the brightest avian species with reasoning skills akin to a human toddler. Hundreds of studies confirm these parrots capable of solving moderately complex problems, understanding concepts like object permanence, and potentially wielding vocabularies exceeding 200 words. Interacting with such an intelligent animal is intensely stimulating and rewarding.

Add the capacity for clearly pronouncing words and phrases through mimicry, and macaws provide fabulous conversational companions. Teaching these eager students new vocalizations helps develop an unspoken shared language overtime. There’s immense satisfaction gained when a beloved macaw recites “I love you” or requests your presence to snuggle with perfect diction.

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Long Lifespans

Macaws also seduce owners with the prospect of extremely long-term relationships spanning decades. Average life expectancies reach 35-75 years based on species – significantly longer than traditional pets. This lets owners establish lasting emotional connections over many shared years and life stages. By committing to a macaw, you gain a feathered confidant potentially until retirement age!

I’m sure you can see why macaws make very alluring pets for the properly prepared owner. From beauty to brains to bonds, they offer much of what people seek in animal companionship. Next let’s balance the scales by scrutinizing notable downsides of macaw ownership.

Macaws as Pets: Cons

Macaw cons

If I haven’t emphasized it enough yet – macaws require massive commitments and responsibility! Their specialized needs combined with extremely long lifespans means adopting a macaw resembles welcoming another family dependent. Unless 100% ready for the sacrifices and lifestyle adaptations essential to responsible macaw ownership, I’d recommend considering a less demanding pet.

Piercing Loud Vocalizations

Invest in ear plugs if you’re considering a macaw! As highly social flock birds, frequent loud vocalizations are completely normal macaw behavior. But normal doesn’t mean pleasant for humans subjected to nearly continual deafening screeches, squawks and screams at dangerously loud volumes. Macaw vocal cords have force equivalent to a jet engine – no exaggeration!

And macaw noises don’t simply stay contained in whatever room the bird occupies. Walls, floors and closed doors pose no meaningful sound barriers. You’ll hear their chatter throughout the home plus potentially yards beyond exterior walls. This understandably infuriates housemates and neighbors forced to endure the endless cacophony.

Unless you live isolated on acreage, you must make peace with consistently disturbing others if you choose to cohabitate with a macaw. Their species equivalent of melodic songs – contact calls shared between flock mates – may charm bird lovers. But most listeners categorize the majority of mouthy macaw utterances as nothing short of maddening.

Destructive Behaviors

Did I mention macaws also love to chew…and chew…and chew… This perfectly natural behavior keeps growing beaks trimmed and satisfies innate foraging urges. But those formidable beaks splinter lumber, pulverize fabrics, and obliterate household possessions with minimal effort. Providing acceptable outlets like destructible toys only partially diminishes their drive to destroy.

Bottom line: macaw owners must continuously “bird proof” surroundings by eliminating or shielding valuables vulnerable to assault. And if you ever relax vigilance, expect costly reminders in the form of shredded curtains, annihilated appliances, disemboweled furniture and more! You’ll either become highly skilled at damage control – or supremely tolerant of property demolition.

Substantial Financial Investments

Prospective buyers often underestimate the considerable price tag that accompanies macaw ownership. First, the birds themselves command hefty price tags even when sourced from breeders rather than retailers or brokers. Expect to spend anywhere from $1000-$2000+ for an average pet quality baby macaw hand fed and weaned. Certain rare color morphs sell for $5000 or more these days!

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And that’s merely the initial procurement cost. You must also budget for:

Extra large, customized caging: $500-$2000 depending on new versus used plus desired amenities

Specialist avian veterinarian care: $100+ per annual checkup; surgeries or emergency care runs $1000+

High quality pelleted diet: $30-$50 monthly

Foraging and shredding toys: $30+ monthly

Other supplies (dishes, perches, cleaning agents, etc.): $100+ monthly

Property damage from chewing: Widely variable but figure $1000s over a macaw’s lifetime

All told you’ll invest $1500 – $3000+ yearly as a responsible macaw owner. Having a padded savings account helps buffer unexpected medical costs too. Breaking down expenses, macaws cost roughly $75 monthly across a 50 year lifespan. Make no mistake – owning a macaw takes serious financial commitment!

Demanding Husbandry/Handling Needs

Macaws aren’t pets that can be ignored until it’s convenient to interact with them. As highly social flock birds, leaving them solitary for extended periods severely stresses them. Any owner who values their macaw’s mental and physical health must integrate substantial daily hands-on care into their lifestyle.

At minimum macaws need:

  • Multiple hours outside their enclosure for supervised interaction/ bonding
  • New food and water twice daily
  • Cage cleaning 2+ times weekly
  • Showering 1+ times monthly
  • Nail trimming every 4-6 weeks
  • Preening assistance as needed

Additionally, responsible handling is mandatory to prevent dangerous bites. Macaw beaks can sever digits or cause serious infections if they break skin. Owners must study macaw body language and use gentle restraint methods to avoid bites during interactions.

In many ways macaws need attention rivaling human toddlers. Leaving them solitary or improperly handling them risks permanent behavior and health issues. Forget spontaneous weekend getaways or returning late daily from work – macaws need schedules prioritizing their care. Terms like “clingy”, “demanding” and “needy” appropriately describe most macaws!

Potential Behavioral Challenges

Even expert owners providing exemplary macaw care can struggle with various behavioral issues stemming from their giant pet parrot:

  • Excessive screaming/vocalizing at uncomfortably loud volumes
  • Biting due to hormonal fluctuations or owning mistakes
  • Aggressive lunging/attacking that threatens human safety
  • Destructive chewing targeting household goods
  • Feather damaging behaviors like plucking or barbering
  • Stress-linked medical conditions(e.g. heavy metal toxicity, obesity)

Once established, behavior problems prove exceptionally difficult to resolve in macaws. Their extreme intelligence means they analyze then undermine training attempts while easily regressing to undesirable actions without constant positive reinforcement.

Let’s just say macaw owners need equal measures of patience and persistence while tackling behavior issues. You may need to seek guidance from specialized avian behavior experts if problems resist correction. Otherwise you risk compounding matters through poor handling responses.

Key Takeaways: Are You Ready to Commit?

Macaw as pet

I’ve outlined numerous reasons why macaws captivate owners as pets plus the substantial burdens accompanying parrot cohabitation. So how do you determine if sharing life with one of these high maintenance feathered wonders fits your lifestyle?

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Ask yourself these essential questions:

  • Can I provide consistent time daily – ideally 2+ hours – strictly for hands-on macaw interaction?
  • Am I fully prepared to “macaw-proof” my home to protect possessions from likely heavy destruction over decades?
  • Do I have the financial means to invest $1000s in initial purchase and ongoing care expenses?
  • Can I tolerate extremely loud vocalizations that will inevitably disturb human housemates?
  • Am I comfortable getting gently “bullied” by an assertive parrot with behavioral quirks?
  • What plan do I have to ensure lifetime care if ever unable to keep my macaw?

If you feel fully capable of meeting a macaw’s specialized stewardship needs for potentially 60+ years, then you’ll likely thrive as an owner. But if any aspect gives you pause, carefully reconsider whether this notoriously demanding parrot fits your lifestyle. Macaws don’t adjust well to major upheavals like rehoming.

Owning a macaw brings profound connections, endless entertainment and fulfilling companionship rewards when properly managed. Yet the road has pitfalls threatening unwary owners. Know precisely what you’re getting into before committing a macaw’s lifetime into your care! Please reach out if you need any other owning advice.

Frequently Asked Questions on Macaw Ownership

What’s the best macaw species for a novice owner?

For first-time owners, I recommend a Green-winged Macaw. Smaller and less noisy than larger macaws, they still exhibit wonderful personalities and talking ability. Green-wings make great starter birds to build experience before getting a pricier, more demanding species.

How much space do macaws need?

As sizeable parrots, most macaws need extremely roomy enclosures to engage their minds and exercise their powerful bodies. Minimum recommended caging dimensions are:

  • 36″ Wide x 36″ Deep x 48″ Tall

But bigger is always better when safely accommodated! Macaws should also get substantial out-of-cage time in macaw-proofed rooms.

What foods do macaws eat?

While nuts and seeds feature heavily in pet store mixes, a nutritionally balanced pelleted base diet with supplemental fruits/veggies best supports health. Strive for 70% pellets, 20% produce, 10% nuts/seeds at most.

Do macaws like other pets?

Macaws often view other animals like dogs, cats and pocket pets as prey or threats. Introducing unfamiliar species risks terrifying or injuring pets. However, some macaws tolerate canine or feline companions with slow introductions plus ongoing supervision. Know your bird’s disposition before interactions.

How do I find reputable macaw breeders?

Always verify breeders via vet references, documented parentages, USDA licensing where applicable, and in-person facility tours before purchasing. Their ethics matter as much as macaw genetics for responsible sourcing. Avoid supporting unscrupulous breeding mills churning out sickly babies.

Do macaws like kids?

Child/macaw compatibility depends greatly on species temperament and handling guidance from parents. With education on appropriate interactions plus ongoing supervision, many macaws thrive as family pets. Key is teaching children to respect macaws as autonomous beings with possible behavioural triggers. Manage expectations that bonding with these parrots represents a long-term process requiring empathy and patience.

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