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What Are the Pros and Cons of Macaws as Pets?

By Nicole Etolen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Macaws are one of the most popular types of parrots that are kept as pets, and like all animals, there are many pros and cons of owning macaws as pets. Macaws can be very affectionate birds, especially when bred in captivity and hand-fed by humans. They are also intelligent, and can be quite entertaining. On the other hand, macaws are very loud, require a good amount of attention, and can be destructive, especially when they are bored or lonely.

One of the greatest pros of owning macaws as pets is their level of intelligence. They are among the best talkers in the parrot order, and their antics can be highly entertaining to their owners. While macaws can learn to mimic speech and sounds simply by listening to those around them, training them to speak on command is a little trickier. Bored macaws can be extremely loud, to the point where nearby neighbors may complain.

Macaws as pets can also be very affectionate towards their owners. They typically tend to form the strongest bond with one person, but if everyone in the family works with them, they will be affectionate towards others. The earlier the bird is socialized, the better it will behave around people. Wild-caught macaws, which are illegal in most places, are harder to socialize than those bred in captivity.

In general, macaws are not afraid of people. While this is a large pro for macaws as pets, it can also be a con, as since they re not naturally scared of humans, they have no qualms about biting if they feel threatened. Macaws have massive, sharp beaks that can be harmful, especially to a child. Owners should instruct children to keep their hands out of the birds’ cages, and closely monitor any interaction between parrots and children. Until a macaw becomes familiar with its owners, it is also best to avoid allowing the bird to perch on shoulders or close to the face.

Those large beaks can also do a fair amount of damage throughout the home, especially if the bird is craving attention. Macaws as pets require a fair amount of interaction with their owners, and when left on their own, they may chew anything they can reach, including wallpaper, tables, and even chunks of the wall itself. Cages should be kept several feet away from the wall. Macaws that are allowed out of their cages regularly should be monitored closely.

Macaws as pets typically have a very long lifespan similar to that of a human, which can be both a pro and a con. On the pro side, owners will have many years together with their pet. On the con side, the birds can often outlive their owners, so arrangements need to be made to determine who will care for the macaw after the owner has passed away.

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Discussion Comments
By Mor — On May 20, 2014

@Iluviaporos - I don't think many people understand that you can only really have one or the other though. If you want to have a companion macaw that will play with you and want to be around you, then you probably won't be able to have two of them. Naturally they will prefer each other's company to yours.

I've never kept macaws, to be honest, but I've kept other kinds of birds and they will usually only become very attached to people if they have no other alternative.

As soon as an alternative is presented, they will revert to preferring that company.

But while they are alone and friendly to people, they are also desperately needy, because they are social animals and need companionship. So you can't just abandon them for any length of time or they will become stressed. Which is fine for people who intend to put a lot of effort into their parrot, but terrible if they are basically getting a bird as a novelty item.

By lluviaporos — On May 20, 2014

@Fa5t3r - You're assuming that the macaw is going to be kept like a pet inside with only humans for company and that they are only going to bond with a single person. If you have a group setting, with multiple people for them to bond with, there would be no problem with one of them going away on vacation. And, even better, if you have a proper aviary set up outside (or inside, I suppose) where you have multiple birds and ways for them to entertain themselves, then there's no reason a parrot can't be left to its own devices without human company. In that case, all you would need to do is make sure someone is feeding it and otherwise keeping it healthy, but you wouldn't have to worry about its mental wellbeing.

By Fa5t3r — On May 19, 2014

The thing you have to remember is that macaws live a long time and they are extremely difficult to keep entertained and happy. So if you get one, you can say goodbye to having vacations, for pretty much the rest of your life. They will get attached to you and then they will become destructive when you go away. It's not like a dog or a cat where you can put them in a cattery until you come back and they will essentially be fine.

Not to mention that a macaw is expensive. I wouldn't want someone looking after my fragile, thousand dollar bird while I was away.

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