Macaw Behavior: How to Train a Macaw?

In this article, I look at all that you need to know about macaw behavior and how you can train a macaw.

If you recently got a Macaw, it’s safe to assume that you’re excited to make your feathered friend a part of your family.

However, understanding your pet’s behavior is crucial before you can train it and build a strong bond with it.

All individual birds have their own personalities and behavioral traits.

However, most birds of the same species typically show similar behavior. Let’s get to it without any delay and learn more about macaw behavior and training.

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    Macaw Behavior: How to Train a Macaw?

    What Are Macaws Known for?

    When we talk about macaws, the first thing that comes to our minds is their vibrant appearance.

    Macaws are easily one of the most colorful birds in the world, noted for their beautiful plumage.

    This is especially true with certain hybrid macaws, such as the rainbow macaw.

    However, the majestic parrots are also known for many other things, as mentioned below.

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    Macaws can mimic human speech

    This is probably one of the best things about these macaws.

    Talking birds never fail to amaze and entertain us, and macaws are certainly one of the best in this regard.

    They are excellent at vocalizing and can mimic human speech perfectly.

    Even wild macaws are known to communicate with each other using a variety of specific sounds.

    However, you might want to note that pet Macaws don’t understand the human speech they mimic.

    Like all other talking birds, they can only learn sounds/words and repeat them.

    Macaws can talk. In fact, they love to learn talking and repeat human words easily

    Macaws are noisy

    I hate to break it to you in case you weren’t already aware, but macaws are extremely loud and noisy.

    In their natural habitat in tropical rainforests, macaws can be heard throughout the jungle as they communicate among themselves.

    Macaws are very social and love to chatter away loudly with their flock members.

    If you plan to get multiple macaws as pets, expect them to have a lot of noise in your home. Of course, there are ways to stop noisy parrots from screaming excessively.

    They mate for life

    Macaws are among the few species of monogamous birds in the world.

    They usually mate for life once they find a partner – a trait missing in most animals.

    Macaws make lovely couples, grooming each other and raising their babies together throughout their lives.

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    Macaws live very long

    Among common pet bird species, Macaws have one of the longest lifespans.

    These majestic birds live up to 60 years on average but are known to live longer than 80 years in some cases.

    You’d be getting to spend much longer with your beloved macaw compared to most other birds.

    They can live for more than 60 years

    They have strong beaks…and a powerful bite!

    Be careful to never put yourself in a position to get bitten by a macaw. Their beaks are not only large and unique but also very strong.

    Some species like the Hyacinth macaw can even crack coconut shells with their beaks.

    Are Macaws Aggressive?

    Macaws are often known to be aggressive birds that lunge and try to bite people.

    However, most owners will agree that these large parrots do this to test strangers rather than attacking them.

    Macaws are smart birds, and by pretending to attack a new person, they check how the latter would react.

    The person’s immediate reaction to it shows the bird whether it can control the person by displaying such threatening behaviors.

    So, are Macaws really aggressive? Well, not inherently, at least.

    They make amazing companion birds if raised properly. However, they are quite stubborn, and this might sometimes be interpreted as aggression.

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    Potential reasons why a macaw might turn aggressive include:

    • Fear
    • Jealousy
    • Boredom
    • Poor socialization
    • Traumatic experiences
    • Hormonal changes

    Macaws tend to become jealous and aggressive very easily

    Blue and Gold Macaw Behavior Signs – Understanding Your Avian Companion

    To truly understand your feathered friend, you must learn to read its body language.

    Macaws are very expressive, and their behavior says a lot about how they might be feeling or what they might be trying to convey.

    Raised feathers on the head

    Macaws usually raise the feathers on their head and neck when they are relaxed and want you to pet them.

    However, be wary if it’s accompanied by an open beak, aggressive stance, or beak clicking and grinding.

    These indicate that the bird feels threatened and doesn’t wish to be handled.

    Pupil dilation and eye pinning

    Dilated pupils and half-closed eyes are both signs of a relaxed macaw. Eye pinning, however, is something to look out for.

    It’s a common behavior in parrots, where they rapidly expand and contract their pupils.

    Macaws usually pin their eyes when they feel threatened or are protecting their territory.

    They might also do it when they’re curious or excited, but it’s best not to get too close if you aren’t sure why your feathered friend is pinning its eyes.

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      Watch out if your macaw is pinning its eyes – it could be a sign of trouble

      Head bobbing

      A content and playful macaw might sway or bob its head, and it’s certainly a good sign.

      They also sway their heads to let their owners know that they want to be fed, though this is particularly common in baby macaws.

      Do note that head bobbing can also be a macaw’s way of warning you to stay away if the bird keeps its beak or wings open or/and cranes its neck forward.

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      Toe-tapping and crouched legs

      Macaws often tap their toes as a sign of dominance, especially when they feel threatened.

      Also, watch out for crouching legs; they usually indicate that the bird is getting ready to pounce. This might be either to attack or to simply draw attention.

      Tail and wing movement

      We all know that dogs wag their tails when they are happy, but did you know that this behavior is also found in some bird species, including macaws?

      However, tail wagging might also indicate that the bird is ready to defecate.

      Macaws bob their tails to catch their breath after exercise or intense activities.

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        Macaws wag their tails when happy

        If your bird does this even without any exercise, it might be suffering from a respiratory illness. When they feel threatened, macaws often fan their tail feathers to show dominance.

        Besides flying, birds also use their wings to communicate. Macaws simply flap their wings or fly in place when they are happy and content.

        Wing flipping, however, might also be a symptom of pain, a sign of aggression, or an attempt to draw your attention and earn a treat.

        Macaw Nesting Behavior

        Sexually mature macaws breed once a year, usually in the spring.

        They display various hormonal behaviors during the mating season, including aggression.

        It’s followed by the nesting season when the females prepare their nests and get ready to lay eggs.

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        Nesting behavior in macaws includes:

        • Gathering nesting materials like feathers, straw, newspaper or textile lining, and other soft materials.
        • Territorial behavior becomes very prevalent during the nesting season. Even a macaw that’s usually docile might hiss and bite someone getting too close to its nest/putting a hand in the cage.
        • The territorial behavior may be accompanied by extreme possessiveness over the bird’s toys, mate, and caregivers.
        • In case the macaw doesn’t have a partner, the sexual frustration might potentially result in feather plucking. The bird might also masturbate by grinding its bottom against different surfaces.

        During nesting season, macaw females will prepare a nest

        Macaw Behavior Problems

        As a macaw owner, you should be aware of potential behavioral problems that might arise in your feathered friend.

        Some of these are natural, while the rest are induced by the bird’s lifestyle.

        Besides some of the issues we discussed earlier, like noisiness and lunging, here are a few more that you should know about.

        Destructive chewing

        Most parrots tend to destroy and shred things by chewing on them.

        However, this is particularly problematic with macaws due to their large beaks and strong bites.

        Do not let a macaw out of the cage without bird-proofing your home unless you want to end up with severely damaged furniture.

        This is a natural behavior; wild parrots tend to shred tree branches and leaves. Don’t try to train it out of macaws.

        Instead, provide it with shredding toys to keep it entertained.


        Sexually mature macaws often show their affection towards a person they love by regurgitating food, even outside of the nesting season.

        While you shouldn’t punish this behavior, you should certainly discourage it.

        Frequent regurgitation might also be a sign of a yeast infection in the bird’s crop.

        Macaws show their affection to you by regurgitating their food on you


        As with most birds, biting is the most commonly reported behavior problem with macaws.

        It’s usually a result of fright or aggression, though they might also bite playfully.

        As a bird owner, you must figure out why your feathered friend is biting you and take the steps necessary to discourage the behavior.

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        Feather plucking

        This is yet another common issue with pet birds. When extremely depressed or stressed about something, a macaw might resort to plucking its feathers.

        Feather plucking might also be a sign of a disease, so set up an appointment with an avian vet if you’re unsure.

        Either way, this behavior must be addressed immediately. Excessive feather plucking not only ruins the bird’s beauty but can also lead to injuries and infections.

        How to Train a Macaw?

        Being intelligent birds, macaws are relatively easy to train. You may teach your macaw various tricks, but here we’ll be covering just the basics.

        Discourage undesirable behaviors

        This is one of the most underrated aspects of training a macaw. Avian training isn’t meant solely for tricks; you may also train different types of undesirable behavior.

        Putting the bird on timeout or not showing any attention to negative behavior like screaming are perfect examples.

        Use positive reinforcement

        Rewarding your bird with toys and food is a great way to promote acceptable behaviors.

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          Positive reinforcement training is your best bet when teaching a macaw to behave in a certain way.

          In other words, it helps the bird associate positive behaviors with positive outcomes.

          One of the best ways to train a macaw is to use positive reinforcement

          Never yell or hit your macaw

          Yelling at your macaw or hitting it when the bird doesn’t act the way you want it to is a huge mistake.

          Firstly, you’d be breaking the trust that the bird has for you; your macaw won’t feel safe in your presence if you hurt it.

          Secondly, losing your temper due to the bird’s actions might entertain your macaw, prompting it to repeat such actions in the future.

          Be calm and patient

          Bird owners should never rush when training their pets. Be patient and give your macaw the time it needs. Especially with a new pet, building trust would take some time.

          Slow and deliberate movements are the way to go. It allows the bird to follow your movements more easily. Besides, sudden movements can be frightening for birds.

          Work on one trick at a time

          Don’t try to teach a macaw too many tricks at the same time—it will only confuse the bird.

          Start working on a trick and stick to it until the macaw has mastered it before moving on to a different trick. Maintain short training sessions for the best results.

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          Frequently Asked Questions

          How do you get a macaw to trust you?

          Macaws are intelligent birds, and it is not difficult to get them to trust you.
          Discourage undesirable behaviors and use positive reinforcement to promote acceptable behaviors.
          Yelling or hitting your macaw should never be done as it breaks trust and may encourage negative behaviors.
          Being calm and patient while training is important, as building trust takes time.
          Be slow and deliberate with your movements so that you don’t frighten the bird.

          What are macaw behaviors?

          Macaws display their behaviors through various cues and body language.
          Raised feathers on the head indicate relaxation, while dilated pupils and half-closed eyes show a relaxed bird.
          Eye pinning is a sign of feeling threatened or protecting territory.
          Head bobbing is a playful and content behavior, but crouching legs and toe-tapping can indicate dominance or aggression.
          Tail and wing movements can also convey different messages, such as fanning tail feathers to show dominance or wagging tails to defecate.
          During nesting season, macaws can become territorial and possessive. In fact, too much sexual frustration can cause them to start plucking their feathers.

          How do you play with macaws?

          When you want to play with a large parrot like a macaw, you should choose safe and sturdy toys and games that the bird can handle.
          Activities like playing fetch, rolling a ball, playing the shell game, playing hide and seek with a towel, and flapping with the bird can be fun for both the parrot and the owner.
          Owners should introduce new games slowly and offer treats and praise to encourage participation.
          It is important to consider the bird’s size and weight when selecting toys and games.

          How do you calm a macaw?

          To calm a macaw, it is important to reward the right behavior and teach manners and tricks.
          It is also important to read your macaw’s body language. It could be a cue to a behavioral problem and trigger the same.
          Letting the parrot do its natural thing, and using cues for trained behavior can also be helpful.
          It is important to understand that parrots are naturally noisy and boisterous, and it is in their genes to communicate in this way.
          Therefore, it is important to teach calm behavior while nurturing their natural instincts.

          Wrapping up

          A healthy bird that receives proper care, attention, and stimulation would usually display friendly and calm behavior.

          Unexplained aggression and other negative behaviors warrant a veterinary checkup because diseases like candida can affect the way a bird acts.

          Whether you want an adult macaw or a baby, you should be able to find them at pet stores without much trouble.

          However, some species, like green-winged macaws, are more popular than others.

          If you came to this page wondering whether you should get a macaw, I hope you found this article helpful.

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          Team Beauty of Birds

's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

          You can meet our team here.
          Team Beauty of Birds is separate from the “Parrot Parent University” parrot training course and its instructors.

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