Bird language differs from the human language so vastly that you might not understand why your Macaw is acting up and what you can do to fix it.
10 reasons why your Macaw is so aggressive. Before you jump to any conclusions why your Macaw is acting out first analyze their situation. Are they new to you or has the change happened overnight? Have any changes been made in their environment, or is the aggression directed towards certain people?
After studying their habits and when these actions take place, read further to understand why they are behaving in a belligerent manner and the steps that you can choose to alleviate the behavior.
Reasons your Macaw is aggressive
1. Lack of socialization
This could happen if your Macaw has had several owners before you or if the breeder didn’t take time for their development. The important thing here is to make them aware that you will not hurt them and that you aren’t going anywhere.
Consistent action on your part is required for them to start opening up to you. Set up a routine in which your Macaw can become acquainted. When beginning to handle a bird who is not used to human interaction don’t force anything too quickly.
Let them decide the pace in which the bonding occurs. Your patience in bonding will give them the room to trust you.
One of the best methods for helping your timid Macaw become acquainted with you while also training them is the stick method or target training.
This method allows you to direct their attention while also giving them something to bite instead of your finger. (Macaw bites can be really bad as we show you in this article!)
Items needed for target training:
- Stick long enough to prevent them from nipping your fingers and made of natural material
First, you will clicker train your bird, which is as simple as providing them with their favorite treat, or sunflower seeds if you are not aware of what that is. Once they get used to receiving a gift after you use the clicker, it is time to target train them.
The first response that we want from them is a lack of aggression towards the stick in their vicinity.
Point the stick at their chest and slowly move it into the cage. Once they began to attack the stick, then slowly draw the stick out. Continue this process until your bird does not attack the stick, then click and provide them with a treat.
After successfully accepting the stick, use it to direct them to your hand by pointing to where you want them to go. Click every time your Macaw reacts well, but never reinforce bad behavior with the clicker and treat.
This training is also helpful when you let your Macaw out of their cage and want to practice target flight training.
2. Scared of new experiences
The way to keep a bird happy is to set up a routine and stick with it as best as you can. That idea isn’t always compatible with the conditions of human life.
We invite new people into our space, move, change furniture, get another job, etc. We really can’t help but change the routine in which our animals are used to. And they do not like it.
Depending on the situation, try to set up a new pattern for your friend as soon as you can so that they can become accustomed to it.
They will probably be aggressive for some time, but keep up with the new routine and ignore whatever aggressiveness they throw your way.
If the newness is an addition to the family have them start interacting with your Macaw immediately. Incorporation them into the routine that you have set up, including playtime, feeding, and cleaning.
Doing this will head off the aggressiveness that they might exhibit to the one that isn’t their caregiver.
3. Jealously when an imprinted human interacts with other humans or animals
Birds form strong emotional bonds with their caretakers. Especially birds that have one mate for life like the Macaw. As weird as if might sound to you, they see you as their partner, for life.
Anyone else is considered suspect as if they are interfering with their mate, you the caretaker. They can become territorial towards you if you are their caretaker and attack others in the household that has less to do with them.
This action is most likely to happen to other people or even animals in the home than someone visiting.
The best way to alleviate this behavior is to have everyone in the household participate in taking care of your Macaw. Elicit everyone’s help to take care of them so that your Macaw becomes accustomed to them.
Like any animal, human included, they will always bond closely to certain people. However, everybody chipping in to help will cause your bird to see them as part of its family.
Birds go through hormonal changes during their teenage birdy years and also have bouts of hormonal periods in the wild when there are changes in light.
Your Macaw’s teenage period is called bluffing, which lasts from a couple of weeks to even a few months. Then they will also go through hormonal periods at least three times a year. While in the wild, this would happen seasonally.
However, due to modern air conditioning and heat, it could happen at any time.
Distinct from other bouts of aggression you bird might act sexual when you pet their back or wings, they pluck their feathers, pant heavily, and be a lot more vocal. If they are a female, then they will try to find and build a nest.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot that you can do when their hormones are in play. You have to wait it out. Just like with teenagers, the best course of action is to go about your routine and ignore the unruly behavior.
They have no control over their efforts at this time, and punishment will not fix their hormones. Continue to handle them and play like you typically would.
We don’t like to think of our animals as having a sexual life, and we can get a very creeped out when they direct that at us.
They don’t know any better and think of you as a massive bird, laugh off their silly flirting and continue to treat them just like you always have. As a general rule, keep petting to just their head and feet.
If they lunge or try to bite, do not draw back in pain or yell at them. Screaming does not affect your parrot; in fact, they love to hear their voice so they might join you.
Peaking order is very real in the bird world, and if they feel that they have the upper hand, then the behavior could extend to their non-hormonal periods because frankly, your Macaw knows that they have you under control.
After these periods are over, they will be back to their old selves again, but more mature. The video below shows the described behavior pretty well.
5. They feel threatened
Birds are very territorial, and if they think that their space or they are threatened, they will act accordingly. Territorialness could be due to a new animal or because you have performed in a way that they feel is hostile.
Make sure that no other animal is invading their space or trying to harm them. Any actions that you make towards your Macaw should be measured and slow if they are not used to you.
In the case, the threat is another bird in the household. The first thing that you need to do is keep both of the bird separate for at least 30 days in another room to make sure they are not sick.
Then to gradually introduce them to one another place the new bird’s cage next to your older one. If either act stressed out, put a little more distance between the two.
Gradually introduce them to one another in a less common room for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time while they are still in their cage.
Once they become used to one another, you can let them both out of their cage in a neutral room to let them interact with one another.
After becoming accustomed to one another’s a company, then you can allow them to roam free in the more general areas of the home.
6. Your Macaw feels that they are the dominant one in the human bird relationship
The whole dominant and subordinate thing is enormous in the bird community. Just because they are in captivity doesn’t mean that this instinct has died out. If you back down or act in fear, they know that they have the upper hand and they will use it.
Their behavior will get worse, to the point where the attack comes continuously. Which is annoying in a smaller bird, however, the Macaw can draw blood, but thankfully not break any bones.
Don’t back down from this little bully. That doesn’t mean you need to get rough with them, show them that you are not intimidated by their small games.
If they bite your finger then gently (and I mean gently) move your finger forward instead of jerking it back. If they are walking around attacking your feet, then walk them into a corner to make sure they know who the boss is.
Don’t yell, point, or lower yourself to their level. Show your parrot you are above it all and you will not be intimidated, even if on the inside you are terrified of this little dinosaur tearing you to pieces.
If they are chasing you and trying to take nicks out of your feet, then put them in time out. Back them into a corner and use sofa cushions to build a fort around them. Then let them sit there and think about their actions.
You are now the head of the pecking order, and they know it.
Have you noticed your parrot bobbing up and down before they started to get aggressive? This type of behavior is noticeable in many animals from big cats pacing their cages at the zoo, to your dog running about the house.
They are bored.
If might appear that birds are an easy-going pet because they can sit in their cage and play with their toys, but this is not true. Macaws need a lot of play and interaction to keep them happy and healthy.
In the wild, they have the ultimate freedom; they can fly wherever they choose to go. Nothing holds them down. Now they are trapped in a cage with only a few playthings for entertainment.
They need to be able to move around. A caged bird doesn’t sing because it is happy. The best compromise for your bird is for you to allow them to fly around the house.
If that is something that makes your palms sweat, then take it slow. Allow them to roam about one area of the house, a room where there isn’t anything precious contained.
See how they react and how you feel about the situation. Once you and your Macaw become comfortable with them roaming free then expand the area in which they can visit.
Observe their behavior when they are out of their cage. Do they have a favorite room? What kind of things do they like to play with? Once you establish their habits, provide them with a perch, they can sit on where they wish.
Just a tip, when setting up the pole, keep it eye level. Anything higher will cause them to look down on you literally and figuratively.
You should also interact with your bird every day. That amount of time depends on what you can do. When you first bring your bird into your home, overload them with affection that you know will disappear after the novelty has worn off.
They will become accustomed to this level of engagement, and as a result, will act out once it starts to fade away. The idea here is constancy and routine.
Stress could come from change or factors that you might not consider if you are not used to raising birds. The first thing to consider is where you have a cage.
It is best to give them the ability to roam free during the day they do need to be in the habit of going to a central location to rest at night, their roasting area if you will.
Typically this is the most significant cause of stress due to the area that you place their cage.
While it might seem like common sense to put them next to a window so that they can see outside, it isn’t the best location for them due to the noise and temperature fluctuations.
Parrots, in particular, enjoy a spot that can provide them with a good vantage point to view the surrounding area while also making them feel safe.
The best spot for this is in a corner so that their cage has two walls protecting it. At night place a towel or fabric over their cage to block any light that might come through and also regulate their roasting time.
Due to the lack of understanding for birds, they might have several owners before you acquire them. During this period, they may develop aggressive habits when encountering human beings since they remember their previous owners pretty well as we explain here.
Treat them like you would a bird that has a lack of handling. A constant routine and patience on your part will make a world of difference in how they interact with you.
Introduce them to clicker and target training to give them a structured way to get used to your presence.
10. Your lack of understanding
If you are new to parrots, especially the beautiful Macaw, it might be intimidating reading their emotions. They are so unlike me, you might think, or they are just an animal who doesn’t have many feelings.
This is not the case. Your Macaw has a vivid emotional life that they exhibit either through actions, feather puffing, or even blushing. It’s helpful to understand how your Macaw should interact with you so that you will know when all of these tactics have worked.
It’s important to understand that your bird does not have the long history of domestication that a cat or dog has, so they are more of a wild animal.
When their human is interacting with them, the Macaw will puff it’s head feathers, blush, and their eyes will be pinpoints. Blushing might sound odd in a bird, but you can notice around their eyes where there is a lack of feathers to cover.
When your bird exhibits this behavior, they both love and respect you as an owner.
Hostile behavior is apparent when your bird bites you when you try to handle them. Your bird will also hiss at you. Your parrot might run around on the floor and take nips out of your feet, which might have been cute at first, but now they are starting to draw blood.
A less visible sign is if their eyes are pinning and then dilating or are dilated, that means that they are feeling aggressive and you should back off for a bit, or you might get a nasty bite for your effort.
Pay attention to the situation and any other body language cues, such as the fanning of its tail to see if It is ready to attack.
Your Macaw is an intelligent creature, and like all rational beings, they like to test limits. So that you don’t have the equivalent of a child kicking and screaming to get that shiny new thing you will have to have a firm and consistent touch.
You cannot be mild with your approach, or they will see when you waiver and take advantage of it. While you might feel that you are mean, actually cruelty is allowing your bird to disrupt your household so that you can say that you are so lovely and kind to them.
They need a firm but loving hand, so you will have to step up to the challenge.
Additionally, we have created an article on how to stop a macaw from biting. You can read it here!
How bad is a Macaw bite? Due to the size of their beak, a Macaw’s bite can be quite painful. While it isn’t strong enough to break your finger, they can draw blood or bruise your skin very quickly. Make sure not to jerk your finger our of their mouth if they do bite, gently push your finger in so that they will let go on their own accord.
How can you tell if a bird is happy? Generally, you will know that they are so glad if they try to communicate with you, especially if you walk into the room. Other signs are blushing in the corner of their eyes, and for some birds, stationary pinpoint eyes when you are interacting with them.