has added a new member to her family. His name is
Maxwell, and he is a 5-month-old blue and gold macaw.
She has a large cage for him and plans to allow him
plenty of time interacting with her outside of his cage.
questions revolve mainly around his diet and what would
be best to feed him. Maxwell was purchased at a pet
store where she was told to feed him a seed mix along
with various fruits and vegetables, but she had heard
that seeds might not be ideal for his diet.
new family member is truly a spectacular creature.
Macaws are natives of Central and South America but
thankfully are no longer imported to the United States
after being taken from their homes. They are, however,
readily available as pets thanks to breeders who are
able to raise and breed these birds in captivity.
a macaw as a companion is comparable to a full-time job.
These birds are highly intelligent and do require a
tremendous amount of interaction with their caretakers.
I’ve often heard of these birds being compared to a
5-year-old child in both intelligence and habit.
to their intelligence, they can be very manipulating if
allowed. I know of several households that I would swear
to you are run by the macaw in the living room.
Obviously, these birds can be a challenge as companions;
however, with the right "upbringing" they can
make unbelievably wonderful family members.
is the most important factor in good caretaking for any
companion, and macaws are no exception. Of the disease
problems I see in my avian patients, 90 percent can be
either directly or indirectly tied to poor-quality
nutrition. These low-quality diets are always seed
trying to decide what is best to feed a companion bird,
it is important to understand how these birds eat in
their natural environment. Macaws, like many of the
parrots, are omnivores. This means they take their
nutrition from both plant and animal sources. Humans and
dogs are also omnivores.
Elaine’s letter, she states she was advised to feed a
seed-based diet with fruits and vegetables. This
combination is not an omnivore diet suited for a macaw
and eventually will lead to malnutrition and the
diseases that can result.
common pitfall that bird caretakers commonly drop into
is allowing their bird to pick what it wants to eat. I
often hear caretakers tell me their bird really loves
its seed mix. Birds have an extremely well-developed
sense of taste and will, when allowed, eat only what
tastes best. Seeds do have good taste owing to their
extremely high (40-90 percent) fat content; however,
they can become a disaster for their health.
use the 5-year-old child analogy, if you place a bowl of
broccoli and a bowl of ice cream in front of a
5-year-old and let them make the choice on which to eat
… which do you think they’ll pick? I think you get
the point. Taste is not a nutritional quality!
best diet for a macaw is one that addresses their
omnivorous needs, and one of the easiest ways to do this
is to base their diet on a pelleted formulation. Those
of us with dogs and cats for companions are already
using this type of preparation in dry foods. These foods
along with water make a complete nutritional package.
These pelleted diets accomplish the same thing with
the case of macaws, I recommend a diet based 80 percent
in pellets. From this base, add vegetables of almost
infinite variety, fruits to a much lesser degree,
grain-based foods such as pasta and rice and small
amounts of meat.
can commonly be heard telling bird caretakers that human
foods that are considered to be nutritious are OK for
your bird. This is the case as long as pellets make up
at least 80 percent of the overall diet.
special dietary note specific to macaws, especially the
spectacular hyacinth macaw, is their need for a higher
fat diet. Thus, seeds can be used, especially whole
large seeds with their shells.
nuts work quite well for this purpose allowing the
macaws to work a bit to get at the nut and then
providing the extra fat in a high quality that they
bird diets are readily available at most pet stores and
are sized according to type of bird. Any quality pellet
is far and away better than a seed-based diet.
this mean your bird should never have seeds? Absolutely
not; seeds can be given as a treat once or twice a week
for a couple of hours. Again, back to the 5-year-old, it’s
OK to eat the ice cream once in a while.