Ever been called brained? Take it as a compliment because recent studies show birds, specifically parrots, are exceptionally intelligent for their brain size! In fact, they pack more brain power per inch than many mammals, equaling that of medium-sized primates!
Macaws are the second most intelligent parrots. Their walnut-sized brains contain an astonishingly large number of neurons in their forebrain, with possibly higher levels of connectivity that can be found in primates.
A joint research conducted by the University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge found that parrot brains have a well-developed information highway between the two parts of the brain:
the cerebellum which deals with motor functions and balance and the cortex which deals with thinking and information processing. If you’re thinking of getting a macaw into your family, keep the following points in mind:
1. Macaws display creative, logical and predictive thinking
The well-connected sections of a macaw’s brain mean macaws are capable of logical and predictive thinking. Experiments have shown macaws hide their food if they think another bird can steal it from them!
Macaws can find their favorite seeds from a bowl full of mixed seeds and nuts and won’t hesitate to toss out the lesser liked ones with a swipe of their beaks!
If its favorite fruit or toy is hidden amongst other objects, a macaw will be aware of the trickery and will happily hunt through the jumble to find it.
2. Macaws EQ and IQ can equal a human toddler’s
The intelligence and emotional quotient of a macaw can be compared to a two or three-year-old human child’s. Macaws can display thinking capabilities by demanding treats and attention from their human, and sulking when denied them!
Macaws also show emotion by “blushing” and fluffing their feathers.
3. Macaws feel love and jealousy like humans!
These birds often “love” their humans and are capable of showing jealousy to their human’s same-species partner!
Many macaw owners and their partners talk about how the bird will show affection to its human one minute with nibbles and kisses, then hiss, flash its eyes and fluff its feathers at the “third party” in its relationship!
4. Macaws can talk
Macaws in the wild vocalize to communicate with their flock. Scientists observing these macaws think they use a wide range of sounds to communicate danger, mark territory, share hunting tips and call out to their flock.
In fact, it is thought that macaw parents are the only birds in the world that assign different “sounds” to their offspring, and the entire family learns to produce these sounds!
When trained in captivity, macaws can be taught to imitate sounds and vocabulary from the humans they live with. It’s fairly common to hear parrots laughing, beeping and whistling!
However, just like humans, the younger macaws are more open to learning new languages and sounds, while the older ones can’t be bothered.
5. Macaws use their time wisely
Apart from having smartly wired brains, macaws have a long life expectancy – 30 to 35 years in the wild and up to 80 years in captivity. In this time, they collect a lot of memories and use them for intelligent decision making.
One rather industrious macaw spent a whole day completely taking apart a tricycle its owners had left in the conservatory while they were out – the owners returned to a pile of nuts, bolts, wheels and rods that used to be their toddler’s tricycle!
In one experiment, macaws quickly learned to work a mechanical lock and let themselves out!
6. Macaws need constant mental stimulation.
The high intelligence of this bird means it can get bored easily. Bored macaws get up to mischief, as was discovered by another family that came home to couches that had all the stuffing pulled out of them!
Macaws need constant mental and physical activity, which is why one sees rather complex play gyms in pet stores which are specially designed for macaws.
In the case of the above-mentioned tricycle destroyer, the owners would re-assemble the tricycle and place it in the conservatory whenever they would be out of the house for a long spell!
In this regard, we recommend reading our following articles:
- 9 Reasons why parrots should not be left alone!
- Why you should keep parrots in pairs – 9 Reasons
- 10 Reasons why your macaw is so aggressive
7. Macaws are loyal
Macaws typically mate for life. They not only breed with, but also share food with their mates and enjoy mutual grooming. In the wild, they fly close enough to their mate to almost have their wing-tips touch.
They recognize their siblings and offspring and have a relationship with them.
8. Macaws can be trained
These birds have been in great demand as pets for over 3000 years not just for their beauty, but also because they can be trained to perform tricks.
Macaws can be “trained” to count, do basic math, and tell left from right among other tricks. Of course, the math they do is merely vocalizing a human word to a cue, but it’s amazing nevertheless!
Macaws can also be taught to perform tricks to audio and visual cues. Watching a macaw wave, play dead, take a bow, turn around and do other stuff on command is entertainment at its best!
9. Macaws have clear food preferences
Macaws are smart enough to know their food. They love seeds and nuts but have clear favorites – Brazil nuts and peanuts will always be preferred over sunflower seeds and pine nuts, and they will not hesitate to toss out a bowlful of seeds to get to the lone peanut left in it!
10. Macaws can read human emotions
Macaws bond closely with their human and are able to read their emotions accurately. Not only do these birds love dancing and laughing when their owners do, but macaw owners have also reported getting kisses from their bird when they were sad.
11. Macaws eat like primates
Unlike most birds that have three toes point forward and one pointing backward, a macaw has two toes facing forward and two facing backward.
This unusual configuration allows the parrot to hold its food in its claws and crack it open or nibble at it with its beak. This mannerism is very similar to a primate’s where the animal uses its hands to hold the food.
They also like to flick their food. We show you how messy macaws truly are in this article!
Why do macaws eat clay? Macaws are known to visit “clay licks” (exposed clay walls along river banks) daily. They eat this clay to either neutralize toxins and acids from their natural diet or to aid in digestion. The birds could also be eating the clay to get some salt in their body as their diet is low in sodium.
Should I keep a macaw? Keeping macaws is a huge responsibility. If you have the space for such a large bird, can commit to giving them the care and attention they need and deserve and don’t mind a bird that can be affectionate one minute and sulk the next, then, by all means, get one!