9 Reasons Why A Macaw May Be Aggressive



9 Reasons Why A Macaw May Be Aggressive


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Are macaws aggressive? These birds have massive bodies and strong beaks. For this reason, it is no longer surprising if people think that they are hostile creatures. 

Macaws in the wild are aggressive since they are prey animals. These birds will only show aggression when threatened, bored, scared, and provoked in captivity. Macaws are gentle when properly tamed and is living in a suitable environment. 

Are Macaws Aggressive?

It is a known fact that parrots are friendly and sociable animals. In captivity, they bond with their human companions if treated right. These birds are also smart enough to play with humans as long as they are adequately tamed.

However, a bird’s body language is different from that of humans. For this reason, your parrot may become aggressive when it is trying to communicate with you.

Macaws are one of the most affectionate and intelligent parrots you can keep as pets. But a macaw’s personality and high intelligence level require an experienced carer. Otherwise, they may act up, bite, or scream when trying to communicate with you. 

But are macaws aggressive?

Are Macaws Really Aggressive? The Truth

Macaws are excellent companions when raised and tamed in a suitable environment. These birds love to express themselves whenever they are bonding with their owners. They can also mimic the human language, making them an exciting and unique pet. 

While macaws are social, they often bond with only one particular person. On top of that, they can perform intimidation tactics, such as lunging towards a person that they do not know. Although this behavior is a form of aggression, it is unlikely to happen if your macaw has undergone proper training. 

Macaws are also stubborn rather than aggressive. When tamed and socialized, these birds are gentle and loving. Still, it is essential to note that macaws may display aggression in some instances. 

While people think macaws are aggressive, they only show aggression when something triggers them. (source)

9 Reasons Why Macaws Become Aggressive

1. A change in routine

Macaws love doing activities routinely. A change in their routine can affect their behavior. However, the idea of sticking to a single routine is not compatible with how human lives. For instance, you may need to replace your furniture or have guests on certain days. 

The only thing you can do to prevent your macaw from becoming aggressive is to set up a new pattern for it as soon as you can. This way, it will become familiar with the new routine and become less aggressive in time.

2. Insufficient socialization

While macaws are young, you must make them feel secure. The reason is that macaws are aggressive to people they think are a threat to them. So, it is crucial to help them recognize that you mean no harm to them while they are still young. This way, they will begin to trust you as they age. 

In addition, a consistent connection is key to helping your parrot trust you. Your parrot may not cooperate at first, but you should not force it to do anything. Instead, allow your pet to decide when it will bond with you.

Moreover, socializing with your macaw requires patience. It will take time before they trust you. But your patience and perseverance will make your parrot sociable when they become an adult. 

3. Hormonal Changes

As it reaches its teenage years, your macaw will experience hormonal changes, called bluffing. Macaws are aggressive during this stage. Suppose you see your parrot panting heavily, plucking its feathers, or becoming more vocal than usual. In that case, it has hormonal changes, which causes its aggression. However, a vet will know for sure.

At this time, the only thing you can do is to ignore your macaw’s unruly behavior since you cannot control its hormones. 

4. Jealousy

Macaws are loyal to their human companion; thus, they form a strong bond with them. Given that a macaw only has one mate throughout its life, your pet sees you as its lifetime partner. For this reason, it can be territorial towards you. 

Macaws are aggressive when they see anyone interfering with their mate, which, in this case, is you. This jealousy can result in your macaw attacking anyone who has less to do with them. When an unfamiliar person or another animal visits your home, you can see this aggression. 

5. Threat

Parrots are territorial. They will show aggression whenever they are threatened to protect themselves. Such could happen if you introduced a new bird to it or did something that scared them. 

To prevent this aggression, make sure that nothing is invading their space. If you want to take another bird home, place it in a separate cage for a month to ensure that they do not have any contagious illness. Then, put the cages next to each other so your parrots can become familiar with each other. 

Once your parrots are used to each other’s presence, you can try free-roaming them outside their cages. 

6. Stress

Macaws are aggressive when something is stressing them out. Such is why these birds are better cared for by bird experts. 

The position of the cage can cause stress to your macaw. It would be best not to place the parrot’s cage near the window. The reason is that this area is noisy and has temperature changes that can stress out your macaw. 

Instead, place the cage where your parrot can see its surroundings while feeling safe.

7. Mishandling

Macaws are not a good choice for beginners. The reason is that they require a consistent routine and interaction to keep them tame. Macaws are aggressive when not handled correctly, so you need to know about caring for them. 

8. Boredom

A macaw bobbing its head up and down shows a sign of boredom. These birds need a lot of interaction and playtime not to get bored. It would be best to spend time with it every day to entertain it. 

If possible, let your macaw roam freely inside your house. This way, you can prevent them from becoming aggressive. 

9. Lack of understanding from the carer’s side

If you do not have much experience taking care of a macaw, reading the bird’s emotions and movements can be difficult. When macaws are aggressive, they are merely trying to say that you are invading their space or doing something to threaten them. 

At such times, you might want to back off a little to make your parrot comfortable. Once you can read your macaw’s body language well, it will be easy for you to understand what they are trying to communicate. (source)

Are Macaws Friendly?

Are Macaws Friendly?
Bright Blue Hyacinth Macaw

Macaws are big birds with gorgeous feathers. Their size and large beaks often intimidate people. However, these birds are friendly and affectionate pets when adequately tamed and socialized. 

In the wild, macaws live with their flock all the time. So, they want to have the same kind of interaction with the human companion that they see as family. They will even cuddle with you as they love attention and some physical touches. 

But while macaws are friendly, they only show this side to the people they know well. So, you cannot introduce your parrot to a new person and expect it to cuddle as it does to you. Still, it may act sweet and gentle as long as it does not feel any threat from the new person that you introduced. (source)

Can A Macaw Bite Your Finger Off?

Macaws are aggressive in the wild because they are prey animals. They use their beak to protect themselves from harmful animals like snakes and monkeys. Also, according to Aland Bond and Judy Diamond in their book Thinking Like a Parrot: Perspectives from the Wild, “parrot jaw muscles, aided by a kinetic skull with a true hinge joint, produce a powerful bite that crushes nut and chisels hardwood.” So, you can expect a macaw to have a forceful bite. 

But in captivity, a properly-tamed macaw will not bite you, while an untamed one will not bite you without any reason. These birds are only aggressive when they feel threatened, scared, or stressed. And even when they show signs of aggression, macaws will deliver a warning bite, such as nipping for defense instead of biting you. (source)

How Hard Can A Macaw Bite?

A macaw’s bite can be excruciating. Its beak has an average bite force of 500 to 700 pounds per square inch (PSI). Meanwhile, a green-winged macaw can deliver a bite force of up to 2,000 PSI. This force, along with the size and shape of their beak, allows macaws to tear off a finger and bite through your bone. 

Depending on the force that a macaw exerted on the bite, it can cause:

  • wounds that require stitches
  • bruising
  • swelling
  • cracked or broken bones (source)

Do Macaws Love Their Owners?

Macaws make excellent pets due to their beautiful and bright colors, along with their ability to mimic human language. However, macaws are complex parrots that only experts can handle. 

If you are an expert in bird-keeping, you will understand a macaw’s behavior, thus allowing you to bond with it. 

When a macaw knows its human companion well, it will show love through physical affection, such as cuddling, nuzzling, and preening. While it will not let an unfamiliar person cuddle with it, it can love its human companion so much that it welcomes physical touches. 

On the other hand, macaws often lunge at people unfamiliar with them. But this behavior does not mean that macaws are aggressive. They are only testing whether a person will harm them or not. (source)

Why Do Macaws Hiss?

Parrots, like macaws, are observant and sensitive. For this reason, they do not easily welcome people and situations that are new to them. 

Macaws require a routine for them to thrive happily. So, if they encounter something new, they become wary and unhappy, which they will show you by hissing. 

Additionally, macaws are cautious animals. So, they hiss to show their carers that they are angry, uncomfortable, and frustrated. They may also hiss when trying to protect you from something they see as a threat.

Here are the other reasons why macaws hiss:

TerritorialismMacaws are territorial. So, they will try to drive away anyone or anything invading their space. 
Nesting BehaviorMacaws are protective whenever they lay eggs. When nesting, their hormones change, prompting them to become territorial and defensive. 
Need SpaceWhile macaws are friendly, they also need some time alone since they are territorial. If you get near your parrot and it hisses at you, back away and give it space. (source)

How Do You Stop A Macaw From Biting?

Macaws are notorious for their large beaks. If you have a new pet macaw at home, chances are it is not tamed yet, so it nips your finger whenever you feed it. In this case, you may think that macaws are aggressive. However, your pet only lacks proper training to avert such behavior. 

You can stop a macaw from biting through positive reinforcement training. Reward your pet whenever it does something good to encourage good behavior. Consistency is the key to this type of training. Start training your bird while it is young so that it will be tamed appropriately when it becomes an adult. 

Additionally, never punish your pet macaw for unwanted behaviors like biting. Punishment can aggravate such behavior as your bird will see you as a threat to its well-being. Instead of punishing your parrot, try to understand where the biting behavior is coming from. (source)

In Summary

Macaws are one of the best pet parrots one can ever have. Apart from their gorgeous looks, these birds are intelligent, making them unique from other bird species. 

However, macaws are aggressive in certain situations. For instance, they will try to bite anyone who seems like a threat to them to protect themselves. They may also become hostile when they are scared, bored, or when something is invading their territories. 

But taming a macaw will prevent it from showing aggression. For this reason, make sure to tame your pet while it is still young so it will grow up without unwanted behaviors. 

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  1. Andrew Luescher, Manual of Parrot Behavior. USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
  2. Brian Speer, Current Therapy in Avian Medicine and Surgery. China: Elsevier Health Sciences, 2015.
  3. Alan B. Bond, Judy Diamond, Thinking Like a Parrot: Perspectives from the Wild. USA: University of Chicago Press, 2021.
  4. Christopher W. Schwartz, Stephen Plog, Patricia A. Gilman, Birds of the Sun: Macaws and People in the U.S. Southwest and Mexican Northwest. USA: University of Arizona Press, 2022.
  5. Nikki Moustaki, Parrots For Dummies. USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2021.  
  6. Rachel Dickinson, Falconer on the Edge: A Man, His Birds, and the Vanishing Landscape of the American West. USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

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