The blue and gold macaw is notorious for biting. You might be reading this right now as you have experienced a nip from this feisty parrot. First off, we hope that your hand is doing okay, and second, you need not worry as there are ways to avert this kind of behavior.
To stop your blue and gold macaw from biting, you have to do consistent positive reinforcement training. Doing negative reinforcement training is not advised as this may aggravate the biting behavior. You should also know the driving force behind it as there are also external factors to consider.
With that said, we are going to talk about the different ways on how to stop your blue and gold macaw from biting. Moreover, we are also going to discuss some factors that can influence your macaw to bite. We have a lot to cover, so let us go on with it!
Why Does A Blue And Gold Macaw Bite?
The blue and gold macaw is a fun-loving parrot and can really prove to be the perfect pet if you know how to manage its big personality. Even though they are not beginner parrots, macaws are known to be very friendly as we show you in this article.
However, they are such big birds that they can easily wreak havoc in your home if you just tolerate their bad behaviors.
Here are some reasons why your blue and gold macaw is biting you:
Pent Up Energy
These parrots are very active and energetic which is why a lot of pet owners can spend hours on end training blue and gold macaws to do a lot of tricks from talking to even going through mini obstacle courses.
Since they are so intelligent (We show you 11 facts about their intelligence here) they love to get their minds stimulated and along with that comes physical activity.
Therefore, if they get cooped up in their cage for a long time without any physical activity, they result in biting just to release some of that pent up energy. This even happens when they have toys inside their cage.
Playing with those toys are not enough, they really have to be let out of their cage.
Not Enough Attention
As we have mentioned earlier, blue and gold macaws are such fun-loving birds and with that, they require a lot of attention. Even when they are left in their cage, they will usually call out to their owners just so they can get attention.
They love to receive hugs and kisses and they can be extremely cuddly as we have explained in this article here. Further, they are very sociable, so they constantly want to interact with other humans.
On the other hand, if they do not receive proper and adequate attention, they can result in biting just to express their frustration.
This is usually expressed when you take it out of the cage and it will let you pet it. But when you stop, it will occasionally nip at your hand. For some, they get bitten by just trying to open the cage, as if saying, “I’m biting you because you ignored me.”
Suffering From A Health Condition
Blue and gold macaws tend to easily suffer from nutritional disorders. The upside of this is that it is extremely easy to spot if your macaw has a health condition. Why is that? It is because they tend to self mutilate and pluck at their own feathers.
Moreover, they also tend to suffer from overgrown beaks. This is extremely uncomfortable for them and unfortunately, it can only be corrected with a trip to the vet. To prevent any beak problems in the future, we recommend reading our Beak Health Guide here!
Therefore, if you see some of these behavioral signs on your macaw, it is best to leave them alone instead of exposing your body to impending bites.
How To Stop Your Blue And Gold Macaw From Biting?
Now that you have a general idea on why your macaw is biting you. You can now adjust your training based on the source of the biting behavior. Keep in mind, macaws are very affectionate so they will not usually bite without reason.
So take it easy on them and be very patient as they did not bite you just for the heck of it.
Foster A Positive Relationship
It is all about gaining the trust of your macaw and vice versa. You cannot really expect to have a working relationship with your humongous pet bird if you only have a friendly relationship. It should also understand that you are its master, therefore, you should also behave accordingly.
It does not only mean giving physical affection, but you should also employ low demand activities like speaking to your macaw in a low and calm voice. Moreover, you should also start with activities that are low in stress.
Once your macaw understands that whenever it is with you, it will not come to harm, it will slowly but surely trust you.
If you are not still comfortable feeding treats with your hand, you can start by offering them treats by using a spoon. Do not get frustrated when they initially refuse, just give them time and simply try again.
Once they start feeding on the spoon, you can slowly build up to feeding them treats with your hand.
Make sure to reward your macaw with a gentle petting when they accept food. Further, you can try pecans, almonds, walnuts, macadamias, and filberts as macaws love these nuts.
Along with fostering a good relationship with your macaw is the fact that you should also give them nutritional food and provide them a spacious cage. Your pet will trust you more especially if they see that you are taking good care of them.
Do Positive Reinforcement Training
Almost all pet birds learn good habits through association. So you can use this to your advantage by making sure that your macaw associates any action with a positive experience. A good example is to associate your hands with positive behaviors.
An already biting macaw may feel more threatened if you try to shoo them away by waving your hand, so it puts them in panic mode. Instead of trying to make them learn to stop biting by waving your hand, they associate this action as a negative response.
Therefore, it will be even more problematic for you to hold your macaw; since once they see your hand, they get defensive from the get-go. The first thing to do is to not force your bird to perch on your hand. Start by training it to stand on a wooden spoon or surface.
Once it succeeds in doing so, always pet them paired with appreciation. In this way, they can associate your hands with positive reinforcement. With consistent training, your macaw will not bite your hand even though they are flailing all over the place.
You should also teach your macaw to step up. You can do so by placing a treat in front of it and gently asking it to step up while making eye contact. When they go for it, gently pet it and give it another treat. Repeat this process until it can step up without the use of treats.
Learn The Body Language Of Your Macaw
You should never try to handle a bird that is already on an aggressive or stressed state.
You are just setting yourself up for failure as no matter how much you try to command it to stop biting, your macaw cannot process the command as it is too busy on figuring out how to bite off your hand.
Joking aside, think of it as a toddler throwing tantrums. It is pointless to communicate properly with a wailing child as they are busy, well, crying. The same goes for your macaw; if it is already readying itself to bite, do not anger it further by putting your hand in front of its face.
Give your macaw time and adequate space to calm down before trying to hold it again. Here behaviors to look out for:
- Beak clicking which is accompanied with stretching their neck or lifting their leg. This usually means that they do not want to be handled. As opposed to tongue clicking, this means that they want to play with you.
- Eye pinning happens when your macaw is overly excited or something is causing them to get stressed.
- Growling is a very obvious way of telling that your macaw is upset, so give it time to calm down before holding it.
- Raising its foot or hanging on the bars of the cage usually means that they want to be let out. When this happens, do not hold it, instead just open the cage door and let it do its thing before trying to hold it.
Why Negative Reinforcement Training Is Not Recommended
It is not recommended because usually, it encourages biting behavior. A good example is trying to nudge the neck of your macaw while it is biting for it to let go and step up. It would result in your macaw biting more as it wants to avoid stepping up.
Also, spraying it with water once it bites may cause your macaw to fear you. Instead of associating “the act of spraying water” to the command, “stop biting,” it will only think that you are being mean to it.
Further, hitting it or abruptly putting it back to its cage when it bites, is counterproductive.
Even though they are intelligent creatures, they cannot associate those punishments as a result of their biting behavior. Therefore it is better to give them positive reinforcement when they do not bite and if they do, just leave them be.
In this way, they can understand that when they bite, they do not get treats or affection.
My macaw bit me and will not let go, what should I do? This is a good situation where you can train your macaw not to bite. You can try blowing gently at its face to distract it and make it let go. Or, you can slowly put down your hand so it can concentrate on keeping its balance. Never shout or hit it.
How strong is a macaw bite? It has a bite strength of 500-700 lbs. per sq. in. But you do not have anything to worry about as it cannot deliver serious harm just as long as it does not puncture the skin. The area might feel numb for a while, but that feeling will go away. Also, it can swell.