Do Macaws Get Along With Other Birds?

If you own a Macaw, you know how intelligent, how curious, and how playful these colorful birds can be. But you also know that macaws are highly emotional birds.

Macaws are very possessive. They don’t have a concept of “sharing.”

Unlike other parrots, they won’t cooperate with other birds of their own species to get food, and they become very attached to the human who takes care of them.

In this article, we will discuss whether Macaws get along with other birds or not and what you can expect when you put a macaw in the same cage with another macaw or with a bird of another species.

Sometimes, it is just not possible to avoid housing macaws with other birds, even if it’s just temporary.

For instance, you will need to clean and sanitize your macaw’s cage. But you can be forearmed with knowledge of what to expect and what you can do to minimize problems with cohabiting birds.

Sometimes Macaws Will Share a Cage with a Smaller Bird

It’s not easy to house a macaw with any other bird, even another macaw.

They can become very territorial and possessive if they think they are being replaced.

But you may be able to train a macaw to live in the same cage with another bird that is different enough that the macaw thinks it is not competing.

What Kinds of Birds Can Live With Macaws?

A few owners of macaws report that they have been able to get them to live in the same cage with other macaws, Indian ringneck parakeets, and conures.

All of these birds need lots of attention, but your macaw is not threatened by the attention you give to the smaller bird at the same time as you are giving attention to them.

Still, it isn’t a good idea to try to keep a macaw with another bird unless they have been raised together.

Also read: Do Macaws Need a Companion?

But Won’t My Macaw Get Lonely?

In nature, macaws live and fly in flocks. They naturally enjoy socializing with other birds, from a distance.

As pets, macaws have an endless need for attention.

If you have time to spend with your macaw, it will learn to treat you as if you were another bird. It will socialize with you, and not miss the company of other birds.

Your macaw may learn to live peacefully with another macaw if:

  • You give your birds a large cage, or you live in a warm (but not extremely hot) climate where you can keep birds in an aviary
  • You adopt the birds, and put them in the same cage, preferably at the age of about three months. However, many of the birds you see in the pet store lived with their mother until they were 12 to 18 months old
  • You have a male and a female in the same cage. However, this arrangement can lead to baby macaws!

The ideal way to make sure your macaw has the company it needs, if it isn’t going to be interacting with you most of the day, is to give it a mate.

Macaws bond for life with their mates.

They can socialize with each other 24/7. This keeps them calmer and quieter.

Same-sex couplings in macaws are not unknown, but two birds of the same species and same sex are more likely to fight than they are to establish an affectionate relationship.

And even if you are keeping a mated pair of macaws, you need to give each bird its personal space.

Also read: Do Macaws Make Good Pets?

Choosing the Right Cage for Your Macaw Helps with Sociability

Macaws are native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America.

Even though they are native to the tropics, they don’t do well at temperatures much above 80° F (26° C).

Because they have color vision, they need either indirect sunlight (direct sunlight can overheat their cage and kill them), but they need total darkness to be able to rest at night.

If you live anywhere outside the tropics, this means that you will need to keep your macaws indoors in a cage.

And because macaws are big birds, they need a big cage.

For mini-macaws, make sure each bird has the equivalent of a 34-inch x 24-inch x 36-inch (85 cm x 60 cm x 90 cm) cage with bars no more than ¾ inch to 1 inch (18 to 25 mm) apart. 

Each full-size macaw will need 36 inches x 48 inches x 60 inches (90 cm x 120 cm x 150 cm), with bars no more than 2 inches (5 cm) apart, and preferably closer.

You will need three doors, one for taking birds in and out of the cage, and one each for food and water.

Don’t forget to double the space for two birds, and triple it for three birds.

If you are housing three birds, your cage will be approaching the size of a room, so you may want to convert a sunroom or solarium into space for your macaws.

Macaws need room for perches, toys, and bath bowls. You need a perch for each macaw, preferably more than one.

If your climate permits, it is a lot easier to give macaws the room they need with an aviary.

Metal cages with nontoxic protective coatings on the wires are preferable. But you will still need to protect your birds from direct sun, wind, and rain. Most macaws are happier either in a park or in a spacious indoor cage.

What You Need to Know About Breeding Macaws

Breeding macaws, of course, requires keeping a female and a male in the same cage.

Mini-macaws such as the Hahn’s, Illiger’s, and Yellow-Collared varieties reach sexual maturity at the age of five to six years.

Larger macaws, such as Blue & Gold, Green-Winged, Military, and Scarlet macaws mature a little later, sometimes not until they are seven years old.

Of course, you will need to have one male and one female to breed baby macaws. You can’t tell which macaws are male and which are female by casual inspection.

That’s because macaws are not sexually dimorphic. In other words, males and females look alike.

The most reliable way to make sure that you actually have a male and a female, not two macaws of the same sex, is DNA testing.

Your vet can arrange this while giving your birds a medical exam to make sure they are ready for raising babies.

Once you introduce a mating pair of macaws, they will stay together for life. There is no mating season. Macaws will mate any time of year. But they need a nest for their eggs.

In the wild, macaws usually nest inside caves on the sides of cliffs and in the hollows of trees.

In a cage, your macaw will need a nesting box that is at least three times as big as it is. An ideal size box is 12 inches x 12 inches x 36 inches (30 cm x 30 cm x 90 cm), taking up less than half of the cage in any direction.

Never give macaws a cardboard nesting box. Ideally, it should be made of oak. You can find oak nesting boxes for macaws at pet supply shops and online.

Unlike other parrots, macaws prefer their nesting box to rest on a platform, rather than hanging from the side of their cage.

Be sure the box is secured in place with metal wires to keep it from falling with eggs inside.

Put pieces of wood inside the box for both birds to chew. It helps them synchronize their parental activities, and keeps them from damaging their nesting box.

Both parents bond with their chicks after they are hatched. Baby macaws depend on their parents for feeding for the first two or three months of their lives, but naturally, stay close to their mom and dad until the age of about 18 months.

Things to Keep in Mind When You Put Macaws in the Same Cage

Still planning to keep two or more macaws together? Here are some things to keep in mind.

When you put two macaws in the same cage, it is important they are the same size

That way, the smaller bird is less likely to be severely injured if they get into a fight.

If you train your macaw to be calm and gentle around you, it will be calmer around other birds.

The secret to keeping macaws calm is training them not to use their beaks

You do this gradually. Start by slowly touching your macaw on its beak. If it reacts or moves away, withdraw your hand.

If it lets you gently pet its beak, reward it with a treat. If not, wait until it is ready.

If you do this often enough, your macaw will get used to your touching its beak. This gentle attitude carries over to its interactions with other birds.

Never put a Macaw you just brought home with Macaw you already have (without quarantining it first)

Macaws get some infections that aren’t found in other birds.

They can get Macaw Wasting Disease, a viral infection that disables the bird’s immune system and takes over the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys.

Macaws can get a kind of bird acne, caused by viruses that live in the skin underneath their facial feathers.

They get a kind of herpes that causes liver failure, a virus that causes genital warts, tracheal mites that can cause wheezing and drooling, and psittacosis, an infectious disease they can pass to people.

Don’t put two birds in the same cage unless you know they are disease-free.

Macaws will use body language to tell you when they are upset

A macaw that stares at you is sending signals to warn you that you are in its territory. These birds pin their eyes on the bird or animal they intend to get physical.

A macaw that fans its tail feathers is getting ready to attack. Fluffing its feathers may signal that it is cold, or that it wants to look bigger to intimidate you.

Screeching and hissing are a warning to stay away.

Never lose your temper with your macaws.

Macaws love to get a reaction out of people, even if it is a negative one. When you yell at your bird, you are actually rewarding its behavior.

The best way to deal with an unruly macaw is to walk away and let it come to you when it is ready to play in a way you find acceptable.

Macaws don’t get along with other birds naturally. You will need to make special accommodations and spend a lot of time making sure they get along.

But macaws can be housed with other birds, when they have the space and attention they need.

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