Adopting a macaw

Hi there, I am a new user here though I have followed this forum and Michael’s blogs and videos for quite some time. I am in the process of adopting a 16 year old greenwing macaw, and I had my first visit with her yesterday. She was described as being extremely loving and sweet, however the only person she hasn’t liked is someone I neared a passing resemblance to, and immediately she was aggressive with me. She indeed was very sweet and obviously bonded with her foster parent and the woman’s son, but she was never completely comfortable with me. I did take a pretty serious bite once when the son was hanging around, but she was calmer when neither were in the room to the point where I could pick her up and rub her beak, but there were still small constant threats when it came to head scratches or anything else. I did spend an hour and a half with her, and brought some apple slices as treats which she showed zero interest in and I was told she was not food motivated. I can see that she has the capacity to be a sweet and loving bird, but if it isn’t love at first sight for her with me would she ever be comfortable with me? The reason I still have some hope is Michael’s story of adopting Santina, however he has eons of know-how compared to myself in winning them over. Would I be better off giving up on her or keep trying?

I don’t know how to advise you as I have no idea as to what types of birds you have experience with or how much experience you do have, and I think that these things should be taken into consideration. As you have already found out their bite is not a joke, and they have both a slicing and a crushing type of bite and neither one of them are desirable. This one has developed a bond with her foster parents son which is why she was so aggressive with you on your visit. It is very possible for you to have a good relationship with her after she adjusts to her new environment, should you continue to pursue this relationship. Macaws can be very affectionate with their human and they can also be rather moody, so for this reason you would want to get to know her better and assess her personality yourself. Macaws are also known for their lungeing tactic, which may not always mean a bite but rather a test of how much she can intimidate the person. A bird of this size will affect everything that you do for the rest of your life if you adopt her. It will affect your choices in housing and even your relationships with people especially with those relationships that you might want to pursue romantically as well as whether you should have children or not. I don’t know how to advise you in this matter and I really don’t think that anyone else would know either. So for that reason, I have instead tried to point out just a few areas that a bird of this type will affect and that you should consider before making this choice. It is a major responsibility to adopt this type of bird and only you can decide if the benefits of this relationship will outweigh the drawbacks. Other than this I just wanted to welcome you to the forum.

Well, for a little about myself I am certainly not one you have to warn about the responsibilities inherent with macaws, though I do appreciate the effort. Having worked at a private zoo for years I’ve raised and cared for toucans, amazons, kookaburras and eclectuses. I have been involved in foster programs for birds before, and I made the decision to adopt rather than buy, because there are already plenty of macaws out there who need homes. Having been bitten by chimps and things with much larger fangs, I’m not really worried about being bitten, though it is unpleasant no matter what gets you. I haven’t owned macaws before, and I’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s important that the bird pick you, which is why I’m asking for advice. I think a few more visits might help me find a better way of getting her to accept me but its fairly tough as every time she sees the son I lose all progress

I am glad to know that you have the experiences that you do, but you would be surprised at some of what we gat and so I prefer to be cautious. I believe that it is important for every parrot to choose you rather than the other way around, I am also happy that you are choosing to go the adoption route as opposed to a pet store or breeder. I would ask that the foster parents son not be present for your next visit with this bird. By this, I mean that he not be in the same room as the bird until your visit with the bird is over so that you can get a more accurate assessment of the type of relationship that you and the bird could have. Surely the birds foster parents can understand this in light of the bonding that has taken place with their son.

Well, macaws are definitely in a class by themselves and greenwings are quite big, even for a macaw as only the Hys are bigger. I am glad you have some experience with parrots but amazons and ekkies are completely different from macaws and, in my personal experience, zoo animals are completely different in behavior from pet ones so, although you do have experience that will serve you well, I would not rely 100% on it, if I were you.Now, usually, macaws are pretty laid back and the ‘good’ ones tend to like almost anybody but if the one you are considering has mate-bonded with one of his foster family members, you might have to wait quite a while before you get a good relationship with it as they do tend to get more attached to their human than smaller species. But, who knows? Maybe you can ‘turn it around’ real quick…

I’m rather surprised how negative most of both of your views are when speaking to anyone who is planning on becoming a home for a macaw, in some cases I can understand when someone with little to no experience doesn’t know what they’re getting into, but in my personal experience I would be much more concerned about amazons or cockatoos presenting more frequent serious issues. Is it merely the size of the bird and required care you protest?

Actually I have not protested anything. I must admit to presenting the down side of owning a Macaw, but that is simply because I would be wrong to advise an inexperienced person to get this bird. If you are aware of the risks, because of what I have said, then I have done my job, which as I see it is to advise in the best interests of the bird first and you secondly. If you then feel that you have the required skills, then please go ahead and get this bird. I also do not feel that I am being negative in any way by presenting some of the normal behaviors of this species of bird. Do you have the skills needed for this bird? I really can’t say at this point. The only thing that I know for certain is that you did not read the birds body language correctly during your first encounter, but with a bit of practice that is fixable. I am sorry if you came here expecting to be told to go ahead and get this bird that can remove your fingers as easily as I slice through warm butter, without telling you some of the risks. We care about the well being of the bird more than that, You apparently have no idea of the grief that these bird experience when they are rehomed, but it is very much the same for them as you losing your mother or father or your child or your spouse. And it takes them a while to recover from this type of loss and some of them never do recover. They are a very loving and devoted bird, much more so than most humans are. Actually, if you ask most of the people with macaws, they will verify everything that I have said, while telling you all about how much they love their bird and cautioning you to not get one. I think that the point that you might be missing is that we are coming at this from the perspective of what the bird experiences and not from the human angle. If you can get past that we are not jumping up and down and patting you on the back especially for choosing to adopt, which is absolutedly wonderful, I would love to talk to you more as you go through the process of this adoption as we may be able to help you to avoid some of the pitfalls. You seem to be a very intelligent person and if you are feeling this strongly about this bird at this early of the process, you just might have what it takes to be this parrots special person. Please think about it. We are here to help, but we will always approach things from the perspective of what is best for the bird and not the human.

I didn’t mean my post specifically, as I said I’ve kept up with this forum for awhile now. I was not expecting advice to be given towards one way or the other, merely asking for opinions to be given, which you have done and I appreciate. I was not attempting to discredit whatever you had to say, only asking for some reasoning behind your thoughts. I am aware of the incredible psychological factors that can be issues and the complexity of the birds themselves, and while maybe they shouldn’t be pets in the first place the fact is that there are dozens of them that are already here and need caring for. With that being said I think I will go back to my role as a spectator only as apparently asking these questions do not go over well.

I agree that there are way too many birds in rescues and for all the wrong reasons, their only crime being that they went through puberty and grew up. I am happy to explain in as much detail as you require what my reasons are for any opinion that I have. I also understand that there are bound to be misunderstanding to begin with and so I will also answer the same question in as many different ways as require to clear up these misunderstandings. I really don’t see how you feel that I am being negative, but I am also willing to listen to you, I am an animal person and I am well aware that there are times that my delivery may need some improvement. If you actually feel that I am being negative then please do not stop there, tell me why you think this. I am here for the birds and to be more effective at helping them I know that my people skills need work and improvement so explain yourself so that I can improve as well. I don’t have the answer to the overbreeding of these creatures, but I know that the answer has to lie in education. I know that it lies in the correct pairing of individuals both avian and human. I try to answer with facts that are supported by scientific research as well as personal experience. I also feel that if you have information that can help that you should help by sharing it and not running away because someones answer may not have matched up with yours, we will never be able to build the forum by doing that, because the essence of a forum is in communication. If it isn’t up to your expectations then log in and speak up and make it that much better. There are no experts here, just people who care very deeply about these birds.

Perhaps I was over sensitive about the "jumping up and down and being pat on the back", assuming my ignorance, and other sentences I found somewhat offensive. Having taken a moment away before I tried reading through it again I can see that you are trying to help in perhaps your own way. Everyone has different view points.