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I think I want a macaw as my first bird

Carina.317

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So I might be the stupidest person in existence, but despite all my research and warnings against getting a large macaw as my first bird ... my heart is still set on a large macaw. So far, a blue and gold has come out on top. I know they're loud and messy, but I truly believe that if I do enough research and save enough money I could pull it off and care for a happy macaw for ... well the rest of my life. I'm currently 22 going on 23 and since they live to be about 50 years old, hopefully we'll die around the same time.

I know how important training is for these large birds. Of the large macaws, are there any who (and I know every bird is an individual, but I'm asking about general species stereotypes and trends) tend to do better with inexperienced bird owners? Any that tend to be easier to train? Or am I being very dumb and will likely regret this decision? Even though I may be dumb for wanting a large macaw as my first bird, at least I have the good sense to never impulse buy :) Does anyone have any input into the general trainability of large macaws? I know some species are generally more well known for being stubborn, so I assume some species are a little bit more biddable? Or am I completely wrong and just need to stick with the smaller birds?

Thanks guys!!
 

Sparkles99

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There are people on here whose first bird was a large one. TBH, I don't think having a smaller bird would prepare you for some other species. If you'd like a macaw, there are good-bad-ugly sections in each species/species group subsection. Here's the large macaw one: The good, the bad, and the ugly about Large Macaws
 

Hankmacaw

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My first bid was a large macaw, a Greenwing. He had been badly abused by a prior owner and was very mean. It took about three years, but he became my best buddy and the love of my life.

Macaws are rather easy to train, mainly because they like humans and enjoy interacting with them.
 

Shezbug

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You should get the bird your heart is set on and if that is a large bird then so be it- you do need to be well aware of what you will be getting yourself into though. If you have never lived with birds (small ones or large) or been around birds a lot then I really suggest you find somewhere to get a good feel for what being around them is really like before considering any bird as a permanent room mate. They are so different to living with dogs or cats and I have heard of more people than not who got birds thinking it was a good idea and then were desperate to get rid of them within a very short timeframe due to noise and mess and lack of being like other pets they were used to.

It makes no difference what size the bird is, they all need the same things, care and considerations- sure budgies take up less room, are quieter, less messy are simple to handle and really do not hurt or cause serious damage when you stuff up and they bite you but the same cant be said of the larger birds and they are going to do the same things but I can promise it is on a much larger scale than with the little birds and it is much scarier and more stressful being chased about and bitten by a large bird than it is by a small bird- so my advice is to seriously get to know what it like being around birds in general as the idea of it all is so much rosier than the reality often is.

My budgie sits happy in his cage and causes no problems in or out of it, I wont ever say the same for my awesome macaw lol, he has broken bars on his cage, totally broken a kitchen tap, destroyed every piece of my furniture he has access to, constantly breaks out of his cage even with alterations done to it to stop him and he alone would be enough of concern for any regular landlord that I would seriously be struggling to get any rental home with him- same goes for baby sitting so I can go away, anyone I know will happily take my huge dog and budgie to care for but no one I know will take on my macaw or cocky even for a weekend.

It really is all about you rather than the bird as to if the situation will work out.

I have had a few people tell me they want a macaw or cocky as their first bird but then they visit me to get an idea what it is like being around a large bird and they discover they are too scared or uncomfortable to even be in the room if I open the feeder door to replace a bowl of water and will not allow me to open the door to let the bird out of the cage at all while they are in the room.

Get a good feel for what interacting with these large birds is like before committing to bringing one home. The reality really is so different to what you can imagine.
 

macawpower58

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I believe a macaw as a first bird can make your life whole. Or make it a nightmare.

Look at yourself: If you answer yes to most of my below thoughts, you may do just fine.

Do you take change well? Do you handle stress well? Can you improvise and make do quickly?
Are you stubborn and resourceful? Do you give up easily or keep on trucking?
What is your pain level? Do you feelings get hurt overly easily?
Do you have a home/place that can handle LOUD noise?
Can you handle your prize possessions being demolished?

Macaws IMO make life exciting, dramatic and ever entertaining.
They are a constant companion that wants involved in every moment of your life.
They also can break your heart, drive you nuts, and cause you to buy stock in band-aids.
If others enter your life, your macaw may hate/hunt them. They may bluff/scare them.
They may chose them over you.

It all depends on you.
 

flyzipper

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It's definitely doable, but my opinion is the stability of environment you can offer to a bird at this stage of your life should be a key consideration. Remembering back to me at 22, I couldn't (starting a career, still lived in an apartment, etc), so waiting might be my only suggestion if you're not at that stage (yet). Set yourself up for success as much as possible and that includes being honest with financial affordability -- "save enough money", will also need to account for ongoing expenses, not just initial.

Do you have access to a store, rehab, or sanctuary where you could get hand-on experience with one (or many)? There's a lot to learn in person that can't be discovered through theory. You may also find an adult macaw you mesh with and avoid some of the messy shifts during puberty that can come with a young bird as they mature. Both of my boys came to me around 10 years old, and their personalities were quite well established by that point -- "what you see is what you get", as they say. In full disclosure, I am biased in favour of rehomes and have no direct experience with raising a young macaw, so take that with a grain of salt (I hear young birds can be great too).

I really like the advice that came before mine in this thread as well, especially about knowing yourself.
 

Pixiebeak

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Hi,
One of your earlier posts you were talking of getting a Senegal. So maybe you haven't settled completely on a species?

I do agree you should get the species that captures your heart.

When I was getting my first parrot I wanted a quaker. This was around 25 years ago. The bird lady at the pet store strongly discouraged me getting one with big emphasis on the noise. ( to be fair this has held true) and the one at the store wasn't interested in me. A green cheek tho was and so clearly chose me. So I got the green cheek who was an a wonderful companion, extremely sweet and devoted to me for 17 years. So no regrets really. But when I finally got my first quaker 20 years later, they are indeed my dream species and now I have 3. I just connected with them above all the other species I've cared for, fostered or pet sit. They are noisy , they are indeed prone to screaming, and I took in screamers so my experience is definitely a lot of noise.

For you , I just stress like other members have . You are not truly going to understand the constant mess till you are dealing with it. Lose feathers and down , and dander float all over. They poop many times a day every 30 min on average . They chew and destroy stuff as a needed part of their life and that goes everywhere, plus they chew and destroy your stuff. Fresh veggies, pellets and seed , they fling everywhere. Messy creatures to live with.

Noise, all parrots are and can be extremely loud. Macaws have extreme tremendous decibel levels they can reach compared to jet engines. Loud calls can be heard outside the home , down the street and by neighbors. I don't claim to know how often , or duration of loud vocals or how prone they are. My quakers do not reach those decibel levels, but are loud enough in the home to drown out a loud TV, can be heard outside my home in my yard or on the street outside my home. But aren't loud enough to be heard inside my neighbors homes, thank goodness!!! But I don't think you can reasonably plan on living in an apartment or condo with a macaw. But I defer to member owners of macaws .

Parrots can big issues with housemates, relatives, friends and significant others. So many times significant others won't tolerate all that sharing life with parrots require. So many posts and threads on this, often leading to re home the parrots. Or parrots my become aggressive to others in the home.

Traveling with a parrots, or finding pet sitters or trusted places to board them can be difficult .

Parrots need certified avian veterans. These are few and far between. Most of us have to travel an hour to 3 hours to visit one. But thier expert care is well worth it !!!

Parrots are killed in seconds by non stick cookware or coating that contain the chemicals that Teflon does ( I forget the chemicals name at the moment ) and this coating can be on irons, ironing boards, insta pots, popcorn makers and more than just pots pans, cooking sheets. Research must be done on all products. As there are no second chances it can kill them in seconds on any floor or room in your home.....the horror stories! Some people have flirted with danger, having used something known or unknown contained these chemicals until one day it reaches a certain temperature or age and poof every bird dead. I use only cast iron, glass, or stainless steel to cook with. You have to be diligent with holiday meals or gatherings when others may bring dishes or cookware to prepare meals in your home not believe that it will kill your birds. Has happened to members. Has almost happened in my home and resulted in me kicking a family member out who wanted to just see if it would be OK didn't believe anything would happen! There is no testing, its deadly!

Parrots are intelligent, active and social. They require a lot of work and attention. Its like having a 3 year old child forever.

On the wonderful side, they are amazing, the connection you make with them is so deep and profound. Each is an individual with their own unique personality. With those of us who fall for them it makes all the sacrifice and frustration worthwhile.

Unfortunately not all who get parrots are prepared for the sacrifice. And parrots are re homed at tremendous rates
 

Mizzely

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One thing I will ask (you don't have to answer, just something to consider) is, are kids part of your plan?

Having small birds even and then adding kids to the mix was a challenge and I wish I had done it the other way around to be honest! So even if you don't know, or are on the fence, remember that your dream doesn't have to happen right now to happen :)
 

Pixiebeak

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Also do not get an un weaned baby of any species.

Understand that a baby or young bird is different than adult parrot. Babies are more tolerance for our mistakes and extra sweet. While adults can and are still sweet, they see themselves as equal, and are generally not tolerant of our mistakes, can become cage protective or territorial, and have hormones and twice yearly on average hormonal seasons. Spring generally being the most intense, some individuals may become aggressive or extra vocal, seasons throughout their lives can vary in intensity or how they deal with the frustration as we don't neuter them they feel intense urges. Female can lay eggs without mates. Some can get into chronic egg laying. Sometimes life threatening emergency of becoming egg bound requires emergency intervention to save their lives. Or some may never lay eggs
 

FeatheredM

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There's nothing wrong with getting a big bird, even as a first bird as long as you can offer proper care. Having birds is kind of expensive even after buying the cage
perches, and bird because they will always need toys and sometimes a vet visit is neccessary. But if you can handle the costs, provide enough time and commitment the next step is to meet a macaw. I understand if you can't do this, but if you can I highly recommend it to ensure that you will be comfortable and happy handling one for a lifetime.
 

Icey

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My first bird was my macaw (other than my mothers budgies, lovebirds, and canaries growing up).
He is smart, funny, intelligent, sweet and very loveable.
I have had him for over 9 years now, and we have learned alot from each other.
Mutual respect and set boundaries help establish a beautiful partnership. He really is my soulmate.
Of course, there is the good and bad of all species, but taking into consideration what others have already stated, if you feel like a macaw is the right bird for you, you should get it. :)
 

hrafn

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One major thing I would caution you on is that you should definitely ensure that you have the stability that a large bird requires. You're still very young, so I imagine you don't own your own house yet (if you do - awesome!)

After having many birds, I have discovered that my favourite species is the Congo Afgrey. My two were the loves of my life.
Kamara, who may very well have been my heart bird, had to be rehomed. My landlady decided that she no longer wanted exotics in the house, and the only reason I was allowed to keep my 'tiel is because I've had him since I was fourteen and she was sympathetic to that. But my Mara had to go, and that was easily one of the most painful experiences of my life. I will miss her forever, and never forgive myself for bringing her into a home that she was forced to leave after already living such an abusive, unstable life up to that point.

Macaws are big, they're loud, they're destructive, and they're messy. My beautiful B&G, Taco, was one of the sweetest birds I've ever met, but he was a terror during hormone month, and he mangled anything and everything within his reach. Landlords aren't very forgiving of that.

If your dream bird is a macaw, go for it! They're amazing, and I absolutely adore them. But they do require a lot of hard work, and a stable home. You never want to have to choose between rehoming your best friend or losing your house, and finding a new apartment when you have a macaw is not easy. It's nigh impossible.
 
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WikiWaz

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I just wanted to add that maybe flyzipper's flow chart may be helpful here for OP?
 

flyzipper

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I just wanted to add that maybe flyzipper's flow chart may be helpful here for OP?
I haven't gone back to that recently to make some updates, but here's the current state (tough to read without the ability to zoom in)...


... the discussion in that thread might be useful.
 

sunnysmom

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I think people should always get the bird they want from the start- provided they have done their research, etc- because hopefully that bird will be with them for a long, long time. I know quite a few people who have very successfully had a macaw as their first bird. That said- you will have this bird for a long, long time, hopefully. I know there is no way I could have handled having a macaw at your age- or really any bird. But I also know we have some great younger macaw owners on here. Just some things to think about- they need a really big cage. Like a walk-in would be preferable. Do you have that space? Do you live in an apartment? How long do you think you will live in that location? I ask because the rescue I help with always cringes when we have to move a large cage. It's not easy. Do you plan to go on vacation? Go anywhere? Who is going to take care of the bird? And financially- big birds are expensive. Any bird, to a degree but I have an umbrella 'too with me right now and he can go through a toy a day if he wants to. Some days he does, some days he doesn't. But toys for big birds are $20 +. That may not sound like a lot, but if you're spending $200 a month just on toys, plus food, vet bills, etc. It adds up. I am not trying to discourage you at all. But just want to make sure you are considering everything.
 

Sparkles99

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Very good point about vacations, sunnysmom! It's basically impossible to find exotic pet sitting here. You have to have friends/family willing to help. Most would be justifiably reticent to do so with such a large, wild animal.
 

Carina.317

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Thank you all for your detailed responses. I've done a lot of reflection and while I love the big birds, I don't think a macaw would be very happy living with me. I still adore macaws -- their personalities are just perfect for me. I desire a bird that is loving in the sense he wants my attention and would be happy to sit on my arms/head/shoulder, keep me company, and enjoy being with me whenever I'm home (which is most of the day). I used to have a noise stipulation (as in I wanted a quiet bird) but the more I learned the more I realized that there doesn't seem to be such a thing as a bird that wants your attention who's also quiet. It seems that social birds tend to be either loud, noisy, or both. I would rather have a noisy bird that likes being with me than a quiet bird that doesn't really want to sit on my shoulder all day long (like a Pionus. I was considering them for a while, but I think he'd get annoyed when I ask him to "step up" for the 100th time because I want him to stay on my shoulder :roflmao:). I think a small macaw would be a better option, because after reading through the responses, I have new concerns about big macaws:

1) Space. I believe I have underestimated the amount of space I would need. Somebody mentioned a walk-in cage ... I do have the space for a walk in cage at my current residence, but what about when I move? Also, it's very likely I will be living in an apartment for at least some of my life, and I most definitely cannot have a blue and gold or any other large macaw in an apartment. I would need a house. A nice, big house.
2) Noise. I would be fine with the noise but perhaps my family would not. A smaller macaw (perhaps the Hahn's) may be more suitable. From my introductory research it seems that Hahn's tends to be noisy but not necessarily loud (or at least they're not very loud very often). Instead they seem to choose chattering throughout the day. I believe this would be more suitable for both my family and if I do move into an apartment, I think it would be easier to get by with a Hahn's macaw or some other mini macaw without getting kicked out due to noise complaints.
3) Stability. I won't be living in my current home forever; a move is definitely going to happen in my future. A smaller bird would probably take to this transition more kindly, since he'll always have plenty of space. A larger bird might get angry I took him from a nice spacious house to a cramped smaller house.
4) Mess. Maybe I'm underestimating the amount of mess these birds can make. It seems they make more mess than I thought.
5) Destruction. I don't think I would mind too much destruction but I know for a fact my family would have some choice words about my new companion if our home was noticeably destroyed. A mini macaw wouldn't destroy as much, and anything he does damage hopefully I can either fix or patch up (then whisper to him to keep it a secret :D).

So there you have it! That's the current update on my "pick a species" adventure. A pionus might not be so bad, but I would need to do some more research first. I do like that they tend to be quieter, but I would be very sad if my new bird buddy didn't really care to be around me. From what I've read so far, it seems like the reason Pionus are quiet is because they don't really want you touching them. They would rather you just open the cage door so they can fly around the house and be free, but they're not planning on "chilling" on your shoulder anytime soon. So far, I believe a Hahn's macaw might be the best option. Yes, they seem to be louder than the Pionus birds, but I would get that "hey friend let me sit on your shoulder all day long" vibe that I'm going for. I believe that's a fair trade.
 

tka

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Bear in mind that spending extended periods of time on your shoulder/arm/knee/lap is a good way to convince a parrot that you are their mate. Parrots only spend long periods of time in physical contact with their partner, so if you replicate this behaviour you're basically telling your parrot that you share a pair bond.

As cute as this sounds, this is very bad for your relationship with the parrot and the parrot's mental health. I've observed wild parrots and pair bonded parrots spend all their time together - foraging together, sleeping next to each other and even flying wingtip-to-wingtip. Pair bonded parrots do not not tolerate their mate snuggling with others. It is a relationship of extraordinary intimacy.

As a human, you simply cannot be a good mate to a parrot - you will go out for work, running errands and socialising and will leave the parrot at home; you will hug your family and friends; you may have a partner and will kiss and snuggle with them on the sofa. A parrot who thinks you are their mate will find all of this incredibly stressful because this is not how their bonded partner is supposed to behave. You end up giving them mixed signals and make promises that you do not keep - you promise one thing by having them on your shoulder all the time they're out of the cage, then say another thing by deserting them during the workday and/or cuddling your partner. It sends their hormones into overdrive and often results in problems like aggression, feather destruction and screaming.


If you want a pet you can cuddle and who will happily chill on your shoulder, DO NOT get a parrot.

Please do a lot more research on parrot behaviour, especially hormonal and reproductive behaviour, before you even think about bringing a parrot into your home. At the moment, your expectations about interaction will not create a healthy and sustainable relationship with any species of parrot.
 
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Carina.317

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Bear in mind that spending extended periods of time on your shoulder/arm/knee/lap is a good way to convince a parrot that you are their mate. Parrots only spend long periods of time in physical contact with their partner, so if you replicate this behaviour you're basically telling your parrot that you share a pair bond.

As cute as this sounds, this is very bad for your relationship with the parrot and the parrot's mental health. I've observed wild parrots and pair bonded parrots spend all their time together - foraging together, sleeping next to each other and even flying wingtip-to-wingtip. Pair bonded parrots do not not tolerate their mate snuggling with others. It is a relationship of extraordinary intimacy.

As a human, you simply cannot be a good mate to a parrot - you will go out for work, running errands and socialising and will leave the parrot at home; you will hug your family and friends; you may have a partner and will kiss and snuggle with them on the sofa. A parrot who thinks you are their mate will find all of this incredibly stressful because this is not how their bonded partner is supposed to behave. You end up giving them mixed signals and make promises that you do not keep - you promise one thing by having them on your shoulder all the time they're out of the cage, then say another thing by deserting them during the workday and/or cuddling your partner. It sends their hormones into overdrive and often results in problems like aggression, feather destruction and screaming.


If you want a pet you can cuddle and who will happily chill on your shoulder, DO NOT get a parrot.

Please do a lot more research on parrot behaviour, especially hormonal and reproductive behaviour, before you even think about bringing a parrot into your home. At the moment, your expectations about interaction will not create a healthy and sustainable relationship with any species of parrot.
Thank you for the information! I had no idea, which is one of the reasons I signed up for this forum -- so that I can make as informed of a decision as possible. With where I currently am I have at least 1-2 more years (most likely it'll end up being 4-5 because I really do see this as a lifetime commitment and I cannot make the mistake of getting a bird only to realize "oopsies I have to give him away because of my own negligence") of research, planning, and preparation before I would be able to get a bird. Able financially, spatially, and with my knowledge base. Basically, I would only get a bird once I know without a shadow of a doubt I'm ready for the commitment and I have everything I need ahead of time. I would settle on a good avian vet, gather his cage, toys, perches, out of cage enrichment, potty spots ... I would set up my house so it'll be ready and THEN go out and get the actual bird. Perhaps a Pionus wouldn't be too bad then. Blue headed seem to be relatively available. Not very common but I've seen some available right now (unlike the bronze winged). Regardless, I would need to do MUCH more research into general avian behavior. And how to train them. And proper nutrition. And more research into their hormonal behaviors and what to expect with that. Needless to say I am in no space to get a bird anytime soon but that's why I'm here! To ask questions, learn, and make informed decisions :D

I say all this because I sometimes worry my posts come off like I'm a click away from purchasing a bird online then running out to go pick him up. I know I switch up which bird I want, but that's mostly due to ignorance, not some nefarious intent. I don't want to give off the wrong idea then maybe get banned or something. Just wanted to assure everyone that's not the case! I know I don't know hardly anything about bird care, but that's exactly why I made this account. To connect with people who DO know what they're talking about when it comes to birds!
 

Zara

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I want him to stay on my shoulder
I believe I have underestimated the amount of space I would need.
I would be fine with the noise but perhaps my family would not.
nice spacious house to a cramped smaller house.
Maybe I'm underestimating the amount of mess these birds can make.
I know for a fact my family would have some choice words about my new companion if our home was noticeably destroyed.
Have you considered a cockatiel?
A single bird would be less destructive than a larger bird, quieter, and often very friendly with their human - though this must entail playing, foraging, eating, not just sitting on a shoulder (no bird will sit on your shoulder the majority of the day).

I am of the belief like everyone else here - you should get the bird you want as your first bird... However, you can´t just buy a bird when you have expectactions that are not likely to become reality. If you want to buy a macaw and have no expectations of the relationship you will have, and the mess, the bills and the noise are not issues then great. But if you have expectations of bringing home a bird and having a very hands on relationship, with less noise, mess etc then I think looking for a species that is better suited is definitely a good idea.

A male peach faced lovebird could be just what you are looking for... but they are very much a small parrot, and having some knowledge of caring for the species is definitely something helpful!

Take your time to be sure you make the right choice :)
 
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