Bold and Beautiful Macaws
People have always been fascinated by parrots. Macaws are the largest parrots in the world. They’re beautiful birds, with brilliantly colored feathers. Sadly, these colorful, intelligent creatures are in trouble. Some species of Macaws are extinct already, and many more are endangered, which means they could become extinct. The greatest problems threatening the Macaw population have been the rapid rate of deforestation and the illegal capture of these exotic birds to be sold as pets around the world. Only about one million Macaws are still living in the wild. That may seem like a large number, but in reality, that is critically low.
International trade of all Macaw species is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Some species of Macaws for example, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) are listed on Appendix I and may not be traded for commercial purposes. Other species for example, the Red-Shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis) are listed on Appendix II and may be legally traded commercially provided that certain controls are in place. The controls include a non-detriment finding, establishment of an export quota and issuing of export permits.
A parakeet is a term for any one of a large number of unrelated small-to-medium sized parrot species that generally have long-tail feathers. The ones most commonly seen in the pet trade are the large colorful macaws such as Scarlet Macaws, Blue and Gold Macaws, Military Macaws, and Hyacinth Macaws. Mini macaws are harder to find, but include species such as Hahn's, Noble, and Yellow Collared Macaws.
The Macaw parrots are known to have a life span that ranges from 30-50 years, but there have been cases of parrots living well beyond that. The Mini Macaws have a life span at the lower end of this range, while a healthy large Macaw can be expected to live 50 years or more with good nutrition and care. Macaws are adored and well-known for their impressive size and colorful plumage. The largest parrot in length and wingspan is the Hyacinth Macaw. Generally the larger species range from about 20 inches (Military Macaws) to as large as up to 42 inches (Hyacinth Macaws), including their long tail. Mini Macaws are more manageable at 10-20 inches in length. The heaviest Macaw is the Buffon, although the heaviest parrot is the flightless Kakapo.
Macaws tend to be loud since in the wild their voices need to carry over long distances. This makes Macaws very demanding birds to keep as a household pet. They do have a fairly good capability to mimic speech (ie your talking parrot), although probably not as clearly as Amazons and African Greys. It is the ability to mimic speech that is one of the favorite traits of owners of these delightful, intelligent birds.
Macaws eat nuts, seeds, fruit, and sometimes insects. As pets they should be started on pellet food as the basis for the diet and supplemented with a wide range of healthy fresh foods such as grains, vegetables, fruits, etc. Pellets can make up 25-50 percent of the diet; however, seeds should be no more than 10 percent of the diet as they are too high in fat. Nuts are a good treat, in moderation. If your local pet store is unable to provide you with all your bird supplies then the internet will be a good source. Macaws need a large, strong cage so be prepared to make a significant investment. Mini macaws can be kept in bird cages sized for Amazons (24"x36"x48"). However, the larger macaws need a bird cage at least 36"x48"x60" and the cage must be strong enough to withstand their significant beak strength.
All species of macaws have very powerful, large beaks and large macaws are capable of destroying household furnishings and can potentially cause considerable harm to both children and adults. A stainless steel cage is therefore a good investment. Pet macaws thrive on frequent interaction and attention from their owners, and a lack of this can lead to their mental and physical suffering. A wide variety of wooden toys or plain untreated chunks of wood to chew on should be provided. Toys meant to be taken apart to get at a treat are also a good choice, as are hanging toys and toys to climb on as long as they are safe.
A common trend in more recent years is hybridising macaws for the pet trade. Hybrids are typical macaws, with the only difference from true species being their genetics and their colours. Male offspring tend to take on the traits of the mother, and the females take the traits of the father.Aviculturists have reported an over abundance of female blue and gold macaws in captivity, which differs from the general rule with captive macaws and other parrots, where the males are more abundant. This would explain why the blue and gold is the most commonly hybridised Macaw, and why the hybridising trend took hold among Macaws. Common Macaw hybrids include Harlequins and Catalinas (known as Rainbows in Australia).
Are you from the fortunate to own one of these beauties? What helpful tips do you have on maintaining and ensuring our pet parrots are best cared for?