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Macaw activity levels and exercise tolerance

flyzipper

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I'm curious about the experience of others with respect to exercise tolerance in their macaw(s).

JerichoOscar
Weight
460g (steady)​
1030g (increased from 900g over the span of 7 months)​
Age
14yrs (approx.)​
10yrs (approx.)​
Free flying (indoor)
frequent​
infrequent but increasing​
Recall training (indoor)
15-20 repetitions per day​
2 or 3 (being established)​
Breathing after flight
moderate​
heavier with wings out a little
Audibility of breath
barely​
noticeable
Recovery duration
quite quickly​
quite quickly​

The items in bold are what triggered this post.

When Oscar came to me in October 2020, his wings had been clipped during a failed bird-flipping ordeal, but he was previously flighted, however I'm not sure how much opportunity he had to fly in his previous home. At this time, his clipped flight feathers have fully grown in, and he's started to be comfortable flying again in the past few months.

Back in January I had Oscar to the vet when he first started to fly, and I observed this breathing characteristic. At that time, he also had a clear nasal discharge, which resolved within a week after his nares were flushed, and hasn't resurfaced. He was back at the vet this week for a quick wellness check, related to this issue and our vet again did the same non-invasive tests (listened to his air sacs, and swab/cultured his nares), which were normal. He also pointed out that Oscar has gained weight, which he said wouldn't typically be the case if he had an actual respiration or cardiac issue. So, the current theory is exercise intolerance (i.e. he's out of shape), and the recommendation is to keep providing him with opportunities to exercise. I believe he's getting slightly better over time, and definitely isn't getting worse.

Any thoughts on this breathing observation? Insights from your birds?
How do you offer/provide yours with exercise?
 

Macawnutz

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Muscle weighs more than fat so I see nothing wrong with your observations if the vet gave him a clear bill of health.

My guys fly through the house all day long and I don't see any heavy breathing with that but they have been doing it for years. If the few that aren't great flyers hold the perches tight and flap their guts out I see a quick pant and can hear breathing but it recovers in under 60 seconds for sure.

I don't do any recall teaching any longer as all the flyers are solid with coming and going. The majority of my flock did daily performances for an audience and they don't need to do it in my living room. They are solid with just about every training technique and we use it daily without even thinking about it. My guys are in amazing physical condition. Lean mean flying machines.
 

Hankmacaw

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@flyzipper - if after vigorous exercise a macaw doesn't recover his breathing within 60 seconds there could be a physical problem (atherosclerosis, heart issue, infection in lungs or air sacs) and possibility of him just being out of shape (like me).

Watch him close after exercise and note if he has any whistling or wheezing or crackling in his breathing - if so there is a problem.
 

The_Mayor

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One, not joking, thing I wanted to add.

As someone who lives in a city and, before Covid mostly used the Metro and walking to get around, I was always fitter than one would expect just from incidental exercise. It wasn't that I was going to the gym, but I had a 20 minute walk to work (and back), combine that with walking to get groceries, etc. and it adds up.

I don't know anything about the logistics of providing that sort of incidental exercise for the big birds and I know that activity levels are probably very different. But, watching my teammates in their aviary, I realized that I think of their flying exercise as at night when they do their twilight swoops. But, in fact they're getting a lot of short flights as they go over to spend some time on their people-watching perch (I watch them, they watch me, it's hours of entertainment for us all) or fly over to play in their eucalyptus leaves or even just hovering when they get behind me in their aviary and then they have to figure out a path around me to get to their dinner table.

Is there a way to set it up so Oscar's motivated to fly even short hops throughout the day? Not so far that moving that body is more trouble than the walnut he just saw you drop in the bowl over there is worth to him, but, if it's only a few flaps away, that might be worth it. Even navigating a rope walk encourages mine to be active.

Again, my bird is experience is as small as my birds themselves, so take it for what it's worth.
 

tka

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What does Oscar's keelbone feel like? Is he getting heavier because he's building muscle, or is he a bit podgy?
 

flyzipper

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my bird is experience is as small as my birds themselves, so take it for what it's worth.
I've said in the past that my little, medium, and big birds are at least 80% similar, so your little bird perspective is definitely relevant.

What you described is the row in my chart labeled "Free flying (indoor)" and you're right, Oscar has been lazy in that regard due to his wing clip.

Now that they're grown in, and he's shown an ability to fly, and our bond has grown so he's motivated to be with me, he's being a lot more active in his own. I'll walk from my desk to the kitchen and he'll fly to the perch just outside the kitchen pass-through so he can watch me, for example.

Thanks for the suggestion to look for more opportunities like that.
 

flyzipper

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What does Oscar's keelbone feel like? Is he getting heavier because he's building muscle, or is he a bit podgy?
I definitely need to watch that more closely, because Oscar has thus far refused to get on my home scale. I was honestly shocked that he registered 1030g at the vet.

Based on my relatively novice groping, he's building muscle. My vet was of the same opinion at his recent visit.
 
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