When people think about pet parrots, the Macaw is the one that is most likely to come to mind.
Known as the giants of the parrot world, Macaws are made popular for their beautiful vibrant colors and their humorous personalities.
There are currently 18 different living species of Macaw including the Blue and Gold Macaw, the Green Winged Macaw, and the Scarlet Macaw (to name just a few).
But as beautiful and entertaining as a Macaw can be, they aren’t for everyone.
Their bold, stubborn personalities can often put them at odds with the wrong human companion.
But as bold and stubborn as they are, is aggression something you need to worry about?
The answer to this question is that it depends on several factors. Like people, parrots all have their own unique and individual personalities. Some will be meek and mild mannered, while other parrots have been known to have quite a temper. It can also depend on their upbringing. When raised properly, most Macaws will grow to have a friendly, loving, and sensitive nature. But if the needs of a Macaw are not met, they could become aggressive.
Today we will look deeper into the topic of Macaw aggression learning more about what can make a Macaw aggressive and what warning signs to look for.
We will also discuss:
How to stop aggressive Macaw behavior
How to prevent aggressive Macaw behavior
And what to expect from a happy, well rounded Macaw
So let’s not waste another minute!
What to Expect from a Happy, Well Rounded Macaw
Before we talk more about aggression in Macaws, let’s first talk about their personality in general.
When raised in the proper environment, a Macaw can make a great companion bird.
They are extremely intelligent and social birds that love to voice their opinions.
And yes, they can mimic human speech so you need to be very careful what you say in front of your Macaw.
If you’re looking for a quiet bird, the Macaw isn’t the right choice for you.
These birds have a large personality and love to call attention to themselves.
If you are ignoring them, they will make their presence and voice known.
Macaws are also a very playful parrot.
They love playing with their own toys, as well as playing games with their owner.
While they are very social, they do tend to bond most closely with one particular person and will be loyal to that person for life.
Having said all that, Macaws have also been known for their intimidation tactics.
It wouldn’t be abnormal for a Macaw to try to scare someone by lunging towards them.
For the Macaw, this is most often a game.
In other words, lunging is often not a form of aggression.
Rather, it’s often an attempt to get a reaction.
With that being said, some lunging behaviors are a form of aggression, and if your parrot is not properly trained, aggression could become a possibility.
What makes a Macaw Aggressive?
As we just mentioned, the majority of Macaws are stubborn but not aggressive.
A well-socialized Macaw can make a loving, gentle companion.
But there are some Macaws out there that do display aggressive behaviors.
Here are some common causes of aggression in Macaws:
If your parrot is afraid, it may lash out in an aggressive manner.
Biting behavior is common when a parrot is afraid or fearful.
If you have a naturally timid or fearful parrot, aggressive behaviors like this may be more common.
Keep in mind, however, that aggression resulting from fear doesn’t necessarily mean that a parrot has an aggressive temperament.
It may just be that they are trying to protect themselves or warn others of their fear.
If your parrot has had a previous traumatic experience, it could become aggressive.
We often see this in rehomed parrots that have been previously abused, neglected, or abandoned.
Like other pets, parrots require socialization from a young age.
If they aren’t used to being around other people or pets, they could become aggressive in their presence.
Macaws are very demanding of attention.
If they want your attention and you are directing your attention elsewhere, they could act out in an aggressive manner.
As mentioned earlier, Macaws are an extremely intelligent species of parrot.
If they aren’t getting enough stimulation, they could start acting out and becoming aggressive.
If your parrot has always been friendly and calm but suddenly starts lashing out, they could be going through hormonal changes.
This is common in Macaws between 4 months to 1 year of age when they are going through their bluffing stage, or “teenage phase”.
Of course, these are just a few of the many things that can make a parrot aggressive.
Aggressive behaviors may also be caused by things like stress, diseases or illnesses, pain, and territorial behaviors.
How do I know if my Macaw is about to lash out?
If you have an aggressive Macaw or if they are going through an aggressive phase, you want to avoid becoming the target of their aggression.
You can do this by monitoring their body language.
Here are a few signs to watch for that signal that your parrot may be about to lash out:
In most cases beak clicking is used as a friendly greeting, but in some cases it may be a warning to stay away.
If your parrot has an open beak and their neck is extended towards you, they could be preparing to bite.
If a parrot has pinned it’s eyes on you, watch for other signs of aggression.
Eye pinning can be a sign of excitement, but it can also signal that the parrot is being territorial, feeling threatened, or about to attack.
Like many other Macaw behaviors, raised feathers can have several different meanings.
It may simply mean that your parrot is relaxed, but it could also be a sign of aggression.
A Macaw will often fluff its feathers to appear larger and more threatening when they are being aggressive.
If your Macaw is fanning it’s tail out, it’s trying to appear larger and more threatening.
This is almost always a warning and act of impending aggression.
Wing flapping and stretching
Again, this behavior can have several different meanings.
If a Macaw is flapping or stretching their wings, they could just be engaging in a form of exercise.
Alternatively, they could be signalling aggressive behaviors.
If a Macaw is angry, it’s often very vocal about it.
If your Macaw is screeching or hissing at you, it may be warning you to stay away or expect an attack.
If you notice any of the above behaviors in your Macaw, they may be signalling that they are about to attack.
Keep your distance and wait for your parrot to calm down before you approach.
Again, many of these behaviors can have dual meanings.
The more you get to know and bond with your parrot, the more easily you will be able to tell when they are excited or when they are being aggressive.
How to Prevent Aggression in Macaws
Create a comfortable environment
A Macaw that is happy in their home is much less likely to become aggressive than a parrot that is in an environment where they feel stressed out or unsafe.
Make sure your parrot has plenty of room to roam and that all of their social, emotional, and physical needs are met.
Macaws are very demanding and high maintenance parrots – if you don’t have time to meet their needs, they probably aren’t the right pet for you.
Never force contact
If your parrot seems timid, frightened, or otherwise bothered by your presence, don’t force contact.
It may take time to build a bond with your parrot to get to the point where they are comfortable being touched by you.
Until they reach that point, never force yourself on them.
Doing so could result in aggressive behaviors out of a fear response.
Parrots love to get a reaction out of their owners, even if that reaction is a negative one.
By yelling at your parrot, you’re actually unwillingly encouraging their negative behaviors.
Rather, stay calm and remove yourself from their presence.
Over time, your parrot will learn that aggression leads you to walk away – which they definitely will not want.
The number one way to avoid aggressive Macaw behaviors is by building trust and a strong bond with your parrot.
The more time you spend together, the less likely they will be to act out.
A trusting parrot is a happy parrot which is a non-aggressive parrot.
Socialize your parrot at a young age
Macaw parrots can be extremely territorial over their space, as well as over their owners.
The only way to break this territorial behavior is by socializing your parrot, preferably at a young age.
It’s important to show your parrot that your interactions with other people are not a threat to your relationship with your parrot.
If they feel your relationship is threatened, they could lash out aggressively.
Get professional help.
If all else fails and you cannot figure out why your Macaw is behaving aggressively, seek professional help.
The first thing they will do is rule out illness or pain as a cause.
If ruled out, they can provide you with tips for eliminating and changing the behavior.
In conclusion, Macaws are not usually aggressive parrots.
When raised in the proper environment with an owner who is attentive to their needs, Macaws usually grow to be well-rounded, friendly companions.
With that being said, each Macaw has its own individual personality and there may be factors that can lead to aggression.
If your parrot is acting aggressively and you cannot tame the behavior or find a cause, seek professional help.