New Unplanned Macaw "Caretaker"

K.C.

New member
Jan 19, 2021
24
Media
11
Albums
1
4
Central U.S.
Parrots
Catalina Macaw
I am the unplanned (sort of) caretaker of what is either a Harlequin or Catalina macaw. I'm not experienced enough to tell which. We will call him "M" on here, since he's not technically mine. It's a long story if you're interested.

Last spring my husband and I decided we were finally ready for a family dog for our blended family. My oldest daughter's bio-dad is extremely competitive, and decided to outdo our family decision by buying our 12-year-old daughter "K" a parrot (when we got a cat, he got a dog, when we got a dog, he got a bird; I'm getting nothing else--he might get a giraffe next).

I thought it was a bad idea to throw a youth in at the deep end of the bird pool, but I have no control in his household. My only bird experience is from a my mother's parakeets in my childhood, and rescuing wild birds occasionally to take them to a wildlife rehab. My daughter has no prior experience.

"M" was 15 last spring, and this is what I know of his prior life: He was raised with a mate. His owners were an elderly couple. The female mate was the primary pet; M was the companion bird. The man died; his wife wanted only the female. M went through multiple owners in a very short time before he came to my daughter. He was stressed and terrified when she met him. She didn't know anything about birds, but is very instinctive when it comes to animals, and quickly made friends with him. M and K are now as bonded as I've ever seen a person and bird bond. He ADORES her. She is his person.

K started coming home very concerned about M in the fall. She said her dad would reprimand him for preening (Why?!) by slamming his hand onto a table to startle him. M has 1 toy and a large cage. Her dad uses water spray bottles for a punishment if M tries to bite. Then her dad took a job that makes him travel constantly, and since K's primary residence is my house and she's only at her dad's on weekends and 24 hours midweek, it all equalled a very depressed bird that sat in his cage quietly and quit caring for himself.

So, K started working on the idea that her dad would let M come with her here when he's out of town, but we still had no cage and no spare big bucks to shell out for one. Then, a ray of hope broke through, and my out-of-state sis offered a medium-sized parrot cage. It was too small for a large parrot, but the situation seemed too desperate to not try it until something else can be had.

We got the cage after an all night drive to and from Michigan. It was full of toys and gadgets! We in faith bought some parrot food and bigger perches at our local Petco. We put perches on the outside and took out the bottom of the cage to make plenty of "tail space." We got a small heater for my daughter's room to keep it a little warmer like the bird was used to.

K then crossed her fingers and called her on-the-road dad and asked if M could visit while he's out of town. He finally said yes!!! We went and got M. He was more stressed and bedraggled than I'd realized. I knew the transition was hard for him, but was too worried the alternative depression was going to kill him. It seemed a risk worth taking.

M spent 48 hours with us the first visit. After 24 hours his inner raucous macaw started showing. He roamed over the medium-sized cage like a jungle gym. We don't close the cage door. He goes in if he feels like it, but prefers the outside perches and whatever room my daughter is in. He started dancing and expressing delight and disdain for things. I never thought I'd be happy to see and hear a bird scold loudly when my daughter walks away, but at least he's making himself known and not sitting in a silent huddle! I much prefer the loud, crazy M!

My daughter got him to take his first shower since he's been hers! He LOVED IT! Since water has been used as a punishment, she felt such a sense of pride in getting him to enjoy it! She sat him on the shower rod and took her own shower. He observed and decided it looked pretty interesting, and after some initial scolds and fear, really climbed in and got a good soaking!

He came for another 48 hour visit, and is now on a 1-week visit! Yay! He's started eating regularly again, and enjoying making a giant mess in doing so. He loves to shred paper and make balls to throw on the floor. He's been busy dismantling the toys of the former parrot. He likes the Rio kids movies with birds and music. He likes rainforest sounds. He likes when my daughter does her schoolwork at her desk by his cage. He preens quietly and is looking magnificent! He's fixed all the ratty-looking feathers. We've got a rolling parrot gym ordered to give him an easier place to play wherever my daughter is. He's like a loud, grouchy toddler in the evenings insisting he's not tired and trying to prove it with lots of activity...until he crashes asleep.

There's so much to learn! Not going to lie, it's a little overwhelming. No, it's a LOT! There SO much information out there about parrots, but some of it is contradictory and some of his behaviours I've found nothing on.

Example: he does some type of display where he hangs off his cage by his beak only, fans his tail, and flutters his wings a bit. It almost looks show-offy? But I can find nothing on it. Is it bad to never close his cage? Are we creating something bad by not doing so? Is it mean to stop him from regurgitating to "feed" my daughter? She shifts his position to distract him when he starts. I know he means well, but no, she really doesn't want your smooshed bananas and nuts, Bud. Does he need a cover at night? He doesn't sleep inside the cage, but on top as near to my daughter as he can stand. Our parakeets years ago had a cover over the cage at night, and I worry he'll be cold.

Since I've always heard birds are 1-person pets, I'm a little distrustful of his seeming to like me. He extends a foot asking me to hold him anytime I'm near him. I usually don't comply because then I can't get him off me once he's on. I'm just worried he's luring me in to bite me, even though he never has. A macaw wasn't in my plans, so bear with me as I adjust to his magnificent, crazy self. I'm currently content to let him be K's baby, but do see the need to be able to care for him as a backup. Any good suggestions about reliable info sources are appreciated. This forum is my first reaching out to the bird community, but even this is overwhelming I admit. There's SO MUCH here! I'd like to know what his display means. There's lots more I could say, but this is a long introduction and a good place to start dipping my toe in for information.

 

Laurasea

Well-known member
Aug 2, 2018
9,648
1,012
USA
Parrots
Neptune blue quaker (MIA), Ta-dah GCC female, Penny quaker female, Pikachu quaker female!!, Phoebe quaker female, 3 parakeets males, Burt The Burd GCC female RIP
welcome to the forum! We love bird stories
 

fiddlejen

Supporting Member
Mar 28, 2019
1,151
Media
11
672
New England
Parrots
Sunny the Sun Conure (sept '18, gotcha 3/'19). Mr Jefferson Budgie & Mrs Calliope Budgie (albino) (nov'18 & jan'19). Summer 2021 Baby Budgies: Riker (Green); Patchouli, Keye, & Tiny (blue greywings).
Oh, so hard to read of bio-dad's treatment of this poor bird. I am glad you get to keep the bird some of the time. Can't help but hope, maybe bird will get to stay with you permanently? OR else perhaps bio dad will educate himself as to bird's actual needs.

Not good to let the bird sleep outside cage. Reason is, it could decide to fly to her in the night, she could roll over onto it. I have read more horror stories than I've wanted to, of that occurrence.

Regarding covering. As long as sleeping INside a closed cage, go by M's preference. I have two budgies and a conure. One of my budgies has night frights if the cage is more than half-covered. (I cover the top and only the top 1/4 of the front.) Other budgie doesn't care either way. My Conure, however, wants pitch-black, full cover to sleep. And, she lets me know it!

With my conure, IF the room is black, then she is happy to have cage-front un-covered to See me sleeping. I would suggest something like that. Many folks have a "sleeping cage" for their birds that is much smaller than their day cage. So don't feel bad about insisting that M sleep INSide cage, remember that it is for his Safety.
 

Laurasea

Well-known member
Aug 2, 2018
9,648
1,012
USA
Parrots
Neptune blue quaker (MIA), Ta-dah GCC female, Penny quaker female, Pikachu quaker female!!, Phoebe quaker female, 3 parakeets males, Burt The Burd GCC female RIP
Last edited:

fiddlejen

Supporting Member
Mar 28, 2019
1,151
Media
11
672
New England
Parrots
Sunny the Sun Conure (sept '18, gotcha 3/'19). Mr Jefferson Budgie & Mrs Calliope Budgie (albino) (nov'18 & jan'19). Summer 2021 Baby Budgies: Riker (Green); Patchouli, Keye, & Tiny (blue greywings).
Regarding the regurg. He is showing his affection. Gently divert his attention is the best response, he will eventually stop the behavior. It can also be a sign of hormonal affection. Again, diverting him to something else is the best response. (Also you should all be careful to never pet nor stroke below the neckline, as this is quite Personal to birds and can stir up hormones.)

Regarding holding him and getting him off you. My understanding is that you should not allow larger birds onto your shoulder until they understand and comply with Leaving your shoulder when asked. BirdTricks has very good videos about this. (Keep in mind - they believe in free-flying. Personally I would never risk such a thing, and your bird is nowhere near having the secure homelife I think would be required - but they do have great videos about training birds like yours.)

You all should probably read up on target training. I think he is really happy to have you all and will probably be quite receptive. As you grow to trust each other and have more confidence in each other, I am sure he will step up for you. To me it sounds like he is already pretty well-behaved, for a bird. He sounds happy at your home. Birds CAN be multiple-person birds, or, can have a Preference for one person but still love the other person(s) too.
 

Laurasea

Well-known member
Aug 2, 2018
9,648
1,012
USA
Parrots
Neptune blue quaker (MIA), Ta-dah GCC female, Penny quaker female, Pikachu quaker female!!, Phoebe quaker female, 3 parakeets males, Burt The Burd GCC female RIP
Also yiu need to start weighing him weekly. With all my sick burds I can't tell yiu hiw important it was to catch the rest of tge flock getting sick after Penny, first by weight loss only.

You need a kitchen gram scale that will go up to a least 2 kilograms, as a macaw weighs more than 1 kilogram.

Weight-loss by % a loss of 3-5% a vet visit needed. A loss over 5% you have a sick burd and need see the vet in the next couple of days.
Weight lost ÷ normal weight x 100 =% lost

There are a lot of household things that can kill a bird, non stick cookware, ironing boards, air fryers, are some of the few things that off gas toxic fumes that can kill a burd in seconds anywhere in the house even behind closed doors and on a different floor. and metal other than stainless steel when chewed on or swallowed causes metal toxicity, can be acute or build up and become chronic and severe later.
 
OP
K

K.C.

New member
Jan 19, 2021
24
Media
11
Albums
1
4
Central U.S.
Parrots
Catalina Macaw
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #8
So I've read every link listed above. There's a lot! Thank you all for suggestions. Lol, my daughter was shocked about the not touching M below the neck part. He lets her touch him all over, um, maybe for other reasons than she thought. We just thought he wasn't afraid of her (and I'm much too chicken to try to touch him ANYWHERE). I also read that they're not supposed to be in dark, snuggly places. That one disappointed K, because M plays "hide-and-seek" in her closet clothes. He dives in and hides between clothes, then he pops out when she asks, " Where's M?!" She said that one seemed really game-like to her and she didn't know he might be thinking of nesting.
 

noodles123

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2018
8,141
152
Parrots
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
So I've read every link listed above. There's a lot! Thank you all for suggestions. Lol, my daughter was shocked about the not touching M below the neck part. He lets her touch him all over, um, maybe for other reasons than she thought. We just thought he wasn't afraid of her (and I'm much too chicken to try to touch him ANYWHERE). I also read that they're not supposed to be in dark, snuggly places. That one disappointed K, because M plays "hide-and-seek" in her closet clothes. He dives in and hides between clothes, then he pops out when she asks, " Where's M?!" She said that one seemed really game-like to her and she didn't know he might be thinking of nesting.




It depends on how old he is (most macaws are sexually mature around 3-4, but hormones kick in before that). Even if he isn't thinking that way now, he will be eventually and you don't want to start things that you can't continue (within reason)..
When they are super young, they do need more handling because you don't want them freaking out at the vet etc etc. That having been said, at 2, that's plenty old to make new games etc (ones that involve less touching and fewe shadows ;) ---I'm SURE you guys will be fine, but I am glad your daughter knows now. Think about a pre-school teacher mixed with a cool babysitter, mixed with a mom--- you want to have a bunch of stuff to do, but you have to sell it first and at the same time, you have to have boundaries or you will go crazy (don't get me wrong- they still need hours of out-of-cage-time and interaction--just try to find that bonding in something less physical gradually--be sensitive to the fact that this bird really does care about those peek-a-boos etc. SO, think about training, treats, attention etc BUT make sure you do not push any changes too fast- they are very emotional and stressing them out etc can lead to behavior spells (during which trust is temporarily lost etc)
 

chris-md

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2010
3,986
227
Maryland - USA
Parrots
Parker - male Eclectus

Aphrodite - red throated conure (RIP)
Wow, there’s a LOT going on there! Thank you for helping your daughter create simply
the most loving and caring space!

I won’t overwhelm you, there’s a lot to learn and your going to get a million thoughts and opinions on a million different things! Perhaps break questions into individual threads to help you keep things organized. Too much information on one thread can be simply overwhelming and leave good information hidden.

I want to key in on one thing here to ease your mind: one person bird. Being a one person bird doesn’t automatically mean it’s aggressive to others. It falls on a spectrum, has a range. Where the bird falls insolely based on the birds individual temperament and personality.

That range begins with “loves everyone” - “likes everyone, but has a person they prefer, and will drift towards given an oppourtunity” - “mildly tolerates everyone, disinterested, avoids...may step up but prefers to be left alone and won’t bite” - “may occasionally bite, but not always” - “bites everyone who isn’t the favorite”.

My old conure was the 2nd to last, would bite almost anyone who wasn’t me with exception of a female friend she took a shining to.

My eclectus, he’s the 2nd one. He’ll go to anyone (unless they are black because parrots are randomly racist), but he’s in love with my partner - who didn’t even want him but has come to appreciate him! He always tries to get to my partner if he can bum rush to him. Sit him dead center of us and he’ll automatically drift to my partner.

It’s a bit early to say and you don’t really betray much in the way of dynamics, but it sounds like so far you’ve got one who tolerates most people. You can keep it that way by 1)making sure all interactions are positive interactions ie, everyone giving him treats for stepping up, or treats whenever you put him in the cage, and 2) observing proper hormonal controls, like proper diet and no touching anywhere other than the head and feet (so no petting anywhere).

Just be congnizant AT ALL TIMES of the birds body language - notice times it’s saying that it doesn’t like what you are doing, big clues like avoidance behaviors/leaning away - and don’t make the bird do things it doesn’t want to do. Use treats to convince the bird to do things.
 
Last edited:

Scott

Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
Aug 21, 2010
31,079
3,289
San Diego, California USA, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy
Parrots
Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Welcome aboard, thanks for an enjoyable and comprehensive narrative of M's life. He's an exceedingly mellow bird having a recent unsettling and neglectful period prior to timesharing in your home.

Superb advice above, no reason he cannot have a rewarding life with multiple folks in your family. Helpful link with full explanation of macaw beaks, their propensity to bluff, and more: http://www.parrotforums.com/macaws/56384-big-beak-o-phobes-guide-understanding-macaw-beaks.html
 

Ellie777Australia

Supporting Member
Apr 12, 2019
1,280
47
Queensland, Australia
Parrots
SI Eclectus Female, Ellie; RS/SI Eclectus Male, Bertie (both adopted as rescue/re-home)
Welcome KC, and thanks for loving/caring about M and K as you do. Excellent start on the info above and I agree 100% with chris, important information may be lost in an extended 'welcome' thread. Please ask specific questions in a new thread in the Macaw section. I didn't do this when I first joined and I repeatedly revisited the thread to try to get ALL of the important information that these wonderful members offered. Looking forward to following M's journey in the Macaw section. I sure hope he gets to stay at your house 100% or that the bio-dad learns to care for M properly. Perhaps the best thing is for him to agree to K's preference as M is her companion. Wishing you all the best and thanks for reaching out.
 
OP
K

K.C.

New member
Jan 19, 2021
24
Media
11
Albums
1
4
Central U.S.
Parrots
Catalina Macaw
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #14
I learned a bit more about M's history last night. Apparently, his real name was given to him because he was a biter and unhandleable by the original owners. I will leave it to your imagination what his whole name is, in case the bio dad ever gets on here and sees I've outed him (the drama...). Let's just say that his name starts with M, has 3 syllables, and means rebel.... ;) I have a hard time picturing "mean" bird in him. Maybe he was so closely bonded to his mate that he wanted no one near her? It does seem cruel to have separated them though.

I know this about M from the short time I've been in contact, and the stories my daughter has carried to me since last spring. He is the very definition of resilience. He distinctly warns if we observe him closely enough--he does not just lash out. He is not just "mean" to us. He has ample opportunities to lose it and bite us as we clumsily figure him out, but he's never done more than pinch my daughter when she missed a signal while he was feeling his oats. She also didn't know to minimize her reaction, so he's been doing even better since since I had her start reading about that. I spot his signals better, but K is definitely the brave risktaker.

I'm still working through my fears. He likes me way too much for my current comfort level. I refused to hold him a couple days ago...and he decided he wanted me anyway...aaand he flew to my retreating back...aaand my daughter wasn't home to rescue me...aaand he didn't want to get down...aaand he climbed up and made himself quite comfy on my shoulder...aaand he attempted to straighten my hair...aaand I really, really, really wanted him off! Now, all you "bird people" are probably snickering at the image, lol, but I can assure you it was everything I could do to stay calm and figure out how to get him off! I finally got him to get onto my arm by tempting him to get closer to a mirror. Then I knelt by the cage, and he chose the higher position of the cage. Yeah, um, nope--I'm not there yet, buddy. He's just going to have to like me from a distance right now. I am not K.

We are trying to adapt him to some additional sandy areas because my daughter thinks he needs to be able to file his beak. He wipes it off regularly, but he's mad right now because I put bird sandpaper on his favorite rubbing spot. We'll see if it works. So far he's just irritated at the change, and is feeling brave enough to let it be known.

We are learning he'll try ANYTHING, and seems to be enjoying fresh stuff. He especially likes fresh stuff if he sees K eat it first. In fact, he prefers to beg pieces of hers, rather than his own.

We're hopeful right now that K's bio-dad might start agreeing to let him stay with K whichever home she's at. He has not agreed to that much yet, but he has agreed to his out-of-town times. We're viewing that as progress for now, and K is making plans for the future. Lol, she even found a macaw perch for the passenger seat of a vehicle online, and decided M is going to have one of those when she has her license because he loves car rides. We shall see, we shall see.

I will move to the macaw section with anything additional after this.
 
Last edited:

Scott

Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
Aug 21, 2010
31,079
3,289
San Diego, California USA, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy
Parrots
Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
M is quite endearing and possesses typical macaw ethos. He's truly a "gentle giant" absent malicious or destructive behaviors. I certainly hope he follows K as she cycles between homes.

Macaws can be handled by multiple persons in my experience. He keenly senses your quite reasonable concerns for harm from a powerful beak and talons. Time and continued working with him ought smooth out the relationship. As others have suggested, macaws are highly intelligent and respond well to target/clicker training.

My hunch is M vastly prefers your household over bio-dad. What is going to happen when K graduates high school and makes college/trade school or workforce decisions?
 

Laurasea

Well-known member
Aug 2, 2018
9,648
1,012
USA
Parrots
Neptune blue quaker (MIA), Ta-dah GCC female, Penny quaker female, Pikachu quaker female!!, Phoebe quaker female, 3 parakeets males, Burt The Burd GCC female RIP
Not a fan of sand perches , or sand paper...
Birds wipe their beaks all the time, a normal behavior.

Enjoying your updates
 
OP
K

K.C.

New member
Jan 19, 2021
24
Media
11
Albums
1
4
Central U.S.
Parrots
Catalina Macaw
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #17
. What is going to happen when K graduates high school and makes college/trade school or workforce decisions?

Her plan at this point is to go to college/university from home as I did, and to keep him. She's pretty full of life plans, so we'll see. Those plans currently include lots of pets, no kids, and an outdoorsy job. Lol, we shall see.

Either way, we're aware M's a long-lived species. Because of the uncertainty of life, I do see the need to work through my fears to at least be a backup for M. I don't think her dad cared either way about longevity when he got him. M wasn't what I'd have picked for an inexperienced young girl. I'm hoping the same irritation K's bio-dad shows with M's bird ways will also smooth the way to M getting to be wherever he's K's full-time responsibility, and therefore in his "happy place."
 

wrench13

Supporting Member
Nov 22, 2015
8,160
Media
12
Albums
2
1,343
Isle of Long, NY
Parrots
Yellow Shoulder Amazon, Salty
Just a FYI on your comment "perch for the passenger seat of a vehicle online". One of these can easily be cobbed together using PVC piping from your local DIY emporium. Likely for around $20 and some time.

But parrots loose in a car in motion, well everything goes fine, until it doesn't. Idiots with horns, extremely loud bikes, unexpected short stops or god forbid an accident all can be dire in the case of a parrot loose in the car. At the least, you'll want to have the airbag on the passenger side disabled, both front and side. I did. When in the car, my little Amazon goes in his Pac-O-Bird carrier, propped up with a box, secured with a seat belt, so he can see outside. Long stretches of highway driving, he gets to come out, but around town, no way.

BTW you guys are doing amazing with M !!
 

chris-md

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2010
3,986
227
Maryland - USA
Parrots
Parker - male Eclectus

Aphrodite - red throated conure (RIP)
But parrots loose in a car in motion, well everything goes fine, until it doesn't. Idiots with horns, extremely loud bikes, unexpected short stops or god forbid an accident all can be dire in the case of a parrot loose in the car. At the least, you'll want to have the airbag on the passenger side disabled, both front and side. I did. When in the car, my little Amazon goes in his Pac-O-Bird carrier, propped up with a box, secured with a seat belt, so he can see outside. Long stretches of highway driving, he gets to come out, but around town, no way.

BTW you

Co-signing my friend here, a wild animal loose in the car while driving is a dangerous proposition for both you and the bird. It’s a touch irresponsible. Most of us keep birds safely tucked away in a travel carrier while driving. We’ll be driving cross country here in 3 weeks and Parker will be in his carrier the whole time. Finding accommodations for overnight sleeping during this trip...woof.
 

noodles123

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2018
8,141
152
Parrots
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
But parrots loose in a car in motion, well everything goes fine, until it doesn't. Idiots with horns, extremely loud bikes, unexpected short stops or god forbid an accident all can be dire in the case of a parrot loose in the car. At the least, you'll want to have the airbag on the passenger side disabled, both front and side. I did. When in the car, my little Amazon goes in his Pac-O-Bird carrier, propped up with a box, secured with a seat belt, so he can see outside. Long stretches of highway driving, he gets to come out, but around town, no way.

BTW you

Co-signing my friend here, a wild animal loose in the car while driving is a dangerous proposition for both you and the bird. It’s a touch irresponsible. Most of us keep birds safely tucked away in a travel carrier while driving. We’ll be driving cross country here in 3 weeks and Parker will be in his carrier the whole time. Finding accommodations for overnight sleeping during this trip...woof.




Agreed- I take Noodles out when I stop to go to the bathroom or something (I taker her out in the car, while stopped) but a sudden (mild) stop on the road can lead to them flying forward and losing balance-- even a cage should technically be buckled in or secured in the back seat. It takes very little to send them off kilter.
 

Most Reactions

Latest posts

Top