How bad is a bite from a macaw? We have heard a lot of horror stories about macaw bites being able to rip someone’s finger off, but is there any truth to this? Somehow, macaws got the reputation of having the worst bite out of all the parrots and we are going to tell you exactly how much its bite can hurt.
Macaws have one of the most painful bites of all parrots. Compared to Cockatoo bites, Macaw bites are twice as strong as they have a bite force of 500 to 2,000+ psi. However, a single bite cannot rip off a finger. Even though there are times when they really draw blood and you have to get stitches.
There are also some cases that macaw bites can break apart a piece of hollow wood or a slightly thicker twig or branch. But you do not have to worry as a single bite will not cause serious harm, except if that bite is on a vital part of the body where it hit a nerve.
With that said, we are going to discuss what you can do about macaw bites and also how to prevent them from happening.
Why Macaw Bites are the Worst
It has a lot to do with the size and the shape of their bills. Macaws tend to have larger bills than other parrots. More than that, their bills are curved and has a pointed tip. In this way, when they bite, it is not just a straight nip.
What happens is that the skin is pierced and as they withdraw their bill, the pointed tip latches on the skin and due to its curved nature, it is able to rip off a part of the skin.
So a macaw bite is technically not a bite, but a bite and rip. In a lot of cases, when the macaw cannot withdraw its bill from the bite, it will keep on biting until it successfully withdraws its bill.
The result is a deeper bite and a large chunk of flesh or skin gets ripped off. There are also certain species of macaw, like the Green Wing Macaw that can inflict a stronger bite. Further, female macaws who are at their nesting stage are also known to give such aggressive bites.
If your macaw is aggressive, you should read our article on that here. It will show you why your Macaw is aggressive and what you can do about it.
What to Do When You Get Bitten by a Macaw
As we have mentioned earlier, a bite from a macaw can range from a simple nip of the skin to you needing stitches. Let us now discuss the things that you can do in the event that you get bitten by one.
If the Area is Just Tender
You always have to assess the bite and see if it broke the skin. If it did not, then all you have to do is to run the affected area under warm water and wash it with unscented soap. After drying it off, you can put some rubbing alcohol on it or an anti-inflammatory solution.
The tenderness will not go away quickly, so make sure that you do not allow the area to be hit by something. Also, expect it to swell before it heals. If swelling continues for three days, you have to consult a doctor.
If the Skin is Ripped
If only the top layer of the skin is ripped but the depth of the bite itself is only on the surface, you can still treat it at home. Again, just wash it under warm water and wash with unscented soap. You can then put alcohol on it and a wound cream.
Expect it to swell and you always have to check if there is any pus. If there is pus, then you should consult with a doctor as you might need antibiotics.
If it is a Deep Bite
This is the worst-case scenario when your macaw hits a vital area and when a large area of the skin got ripped off. You immediately need to go to the hospital and have them check it.
Such a bite may need stitches and antibiotics because germs and bacteria found in your macaw’s bill might infect your body. Usually, two stitches are enough, but in worse cases where the macaw repeatedly bit an area, you might need three to four stitches.
How to Prevent Your Macaw from Biting
Macaws are known to be extremely prone to stress and they demand a lot of attention. Moreover, they are very territorial and vocal. All of these characteristics combined may contribute to your macaw’s biting habit. Here are some things you can do to correct their biting behavior.
You cannot just leave a macaw in its cage with nothing to do. They are the type of parrots who love to nibble on things. Therefore, giving them a chew toy will be beneficial.
At the same time, you also have to train them that their chew toy is different from your hand or your face. Once they associate that biting is okay with their chew toy, and biting is not okay with your hand, it will be so much easier to regulate their biting behavior.
You can then move on to training them to eat treats from your hand.
Give Them Enough Attention
Macaws can be very affectionate to the people they know. So always set aside time to bond with your macaw may it be training or just hanging out with it. Make sure that this time does not involve food or treats as that might ignite their natural instincts.
Further, slowly socializing them with other people will also help. You should make sure that all members of the household are exposed to your macaw so that it can get used to them and do not see them as a threat.
Remember, most of the time it is best to keep parrots at least in pairs. We explain why here!
Maintain a Stress-Free Environment
Even the most secure macaws can get rattled easily. Therefore, you have to make sure that it always maintains a calm composure. Feeding time should always be calm and you should never feed it when it is overly excited.
At the same time, you should also cover its cage while it is resting so that no one can bother it. This is also similar to respecting its private space.
You should not bother your macaw while it is in its cage because it will start to become territorial and might bite you the next time you clean the cage or place its food.
For additional information on how to stop a macaw from biting, read our article on that here!
Will I die from a macaw bite? No, you will not die from a macaw bite per se, but the chances of getting a fever are high when you leave a deep bite untreated. The reason behind this is that the bacteria from the bill gets transferred to your body and might result in a serious infection.
My macaw is biting me for no reason, what should I do? If your macaw has always been calm and it suddenly took on a biting habit, it must be sick or something is stressing it. Observe your macaw and find out if there are any stressors present when it starts biting. If there is none, you should take it to the vet as biting is also a way to relay a message that something is wrong with it.