Illiger's Macaw Questions


New member
Jun 23, 2021
Hi there.

I have a young, hand-reared Illiger, hatched on 21/5/2018. I live on my own, so he had no choice but to bond with me. I live in the UK, so we have had a series of pretty strict lockdowns, which he has loved, as he got me all to himself, every day.

I have had other species of macaw over the last 45 years or so, so have had a bit of experience. However I have to admit I am struggling with this one.

I have totally spoiled him. He has a room all to himself, suitably proofed, (all cables in bite-proof sheaths). He has a few stands, lots of toys, and a large, open cage where he eats and drinks. I spend most, if not all of the day with him in there. I also have an outside aviary connected to the house, where I can take him when the weather is suitable. He gets fresh air, natural rain and unfiltered UV (although we don't get too many hours of sunshine here).

I have been very careful not to over-stimulate him, and only preen the feathers on his head. He has a pretty good diet, although he can be fussy. He eats a lot of diverse seeds (very little sunflower), and nuts, especially green pistachio kernels, which I believe are higher in protein. He doesn't like fruit much, but if I leave stuff for him to find during his foraging, then he tries some out before trashing it.

I have managed to get him to eat red and yellow bell peppers (not the dried ones, but the juicy fleshy ones). He is getting to like the flesh as well as the seeds. We usually share one every morning. I believe it is a source of vitamin A from the beta carotene. He gets calcium and vitamin supplements in his water, but not too much, and not every day. Occasionally he takes grated carrot.

I believe Illigers are known to be very inconsistent in terms of mood. He certainly qualifies, as he can be a cuddlebunny one day, nuzzling into my neck, or simply sitting on my hand or shoulder for hours, preening his feathers - the ideal state. Then the next few days he is a deliquent, aggressive with his toys, restless, and not very good company (although he may say the same about me, if you could ask him!)

I think we are now suffering from three pressures, namely the "terrible twos" (if they really do exist), the fact that lockdown is easing and I am going out a bit more (he hates being left on his own), and of course the summer breeding season.

I am getting plenty of face rubs, with a lot of nips to my face in between, and pretty consistent regurgitating, trying to feed my hand and open my mouth. Of course, he is only being a macaw. I quite understand.

He also exhibits some strange behaviour.... He seems to have a regular type of spasm, where he jerks his head to one side, and lets out a shriek. Sometimes this occurs in the middle of a phrase he is trying to say, but other times it just comes out. He also regularly clenches a foot and bangs his perch. Other times, he raises it like he is saluting, or giving a "high five". I once read that this can be a sign of extreme vitamin deficiency in cockatoos - although it may not be the same as I am describing.

Right now, he is more work and not very pleasant to have around than any macaw I have kept before. However, I am keen to persist, and not give up. I have invested a lot of energy and love with him. I have a few questions.......

Have you ever seen a macaw with this twitch/spasm behaviour?

He is now three years old. Is the "terrible twos" a real phenomenon, and is it likely to last much longer?

I am hoping his hormonal phase will subside soon, perhaps being brought to a close with his next moult, which seems to have calmed him down a bit last summer. Do you think he is likely to calm down, or is this what I should expect for the rest of our time together?

Should I do both of us a favour and get him a companion Illiger macaw?

If I have posted this in the wtong thread, perhaps an admin could tell me the best place to post it.

Many thanks.


Staff member
Super Moderator
Apr 24, 2018
Maine, USA
Tucker the Red Sided Eclectus
Baxter the YNA
Avery the CAG
Patches the Grand Eclectus, my best friend. RIP
Cuckoo the BFA RIP
I have a few thoughts, but I'm not a macaw guy at all, so just my two cents...

All birds can be moody or "inconsistent." If you consider that they're mentally on par with a human toddler and look at the behavior as such, it changes the perspective. Difference being, the bird STAYS like a toddler forever.

Not sure about the timing typical for illiger's, but puberty is absolutely a real thing, and you may be experiencing the harsh reality of it. As they say, this too shall pass. Like humans, every bird is different in their reaction to their first rush of hormones, but typically, they don't fully understand what's happening to them so don't know exactly what to do about it. It's a confusing thing for them, and can definitely be stressful for their person. "My sweet baby suddenly hates me" is a phrase we hear quite often around that time. Patience is your friend here. Bear in mind, personality changes can happen, just like humans. Some will try to push you away, as they see you as their parent, and that's what kids (and young birds) do. With hope, they get past it and life returns to normal.

Seasonal hormones are also very real, and vary from bird to bird. We have many amazing parronts here who experience times of the year when their sweet, social, otherwise perfect parrot becomes aggressive and miserable. Again, that rush of hormones takes over, and they have little control of it. Patience. Wait it out, and continue from there. I've always adopted adult birds, so never had to deal with puberty and the personality issues involved, but I totally understand the attraction of raising one from a baby.

Most important, don't give up hope! He'll get through it, as will you.

Now, the head "spasm" to the side... A few ideas, again for what it's worth and without seeing it, some birds will do similar to adjust their crop, and it's a normal thing. Some will do it to bring up food to regurge, which you mentioned he does, so maybe look at a bigger picture of what's happening before and after the motion.

Hope this is of some help. Perhaps just another perspective if nothing else. Keep us posted, and share pictures! We love pictures around here :)


Well-known member
Feb 6, 2010
Maryland - USA
Parker - male Eclectus

Aphrodite - red throated conure (RIP)
Extremely well put by my friend above. Not much I really want to add to it, other than your illigers really is in the prime age for puberty, fully agree and endorse above. These aren’t just “illigers are unpredictable/modify”, parrots will go through certifiable moods just like humans. They really aren’t going to be bubbly outgoing things day in and day out. If your bird isn’t feeling like interacting, give him his space.

And absolutely not on the companion question. That won’t do anything for him.

Oh, also, it’s not “summer hormones”. It’s spring, with a dash of fall. Most parrots now should be past their spring hormone phase, which unusually lasts about 4-6 weeks for most.

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