Feeding Your Blue and Gold Macaw
Dr. Susan Clubb
Blue and gold macaws are lively birds, much prized for their looks and their intelligence. They are fairly long-lived – surviving well into middle age – and make good pets for an owner who wants to spend time playing with them and teaching them. Here are 10 tips on feeding a blue and gold. Macaws should be fed at least once a day. But, since mealtimes are a good time for bonding, it's a good idea to add an extra feeding – as well as treats for good behavior. Birds especially enjoy sharing your breakfast, which makes it a good time to provide extra vitamins.
All macaws need plenty of energy. Many of their natural foods, especially palm nuts, are rich in oils and calories. So, ideally, the birds should be fed a formulated (pelleted or extruded) diet to ensure they get balanced nutrition with each bite. Feed a macaw approximately ½ cup of the pelleted diet.
The daily diet should be supplemented with ½ cup fresh fruits and vegetables washed well to remove pesticides. Provide a variety of fresh foods including green and yellow vegetables, fruits, melons and nuts. Favorites include broccoli (don't feed more often than twice weekly), carrots, romaine, green beans, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, oranges (high acid fruits should be limited), apples, strawberries, bananas, grapes, melons, kiwi, mango, papaya and pears.
Do not feed your bird coffee, excessive sweets, alcoholic beverages, chocolate or avocado. Parrots do not need grit.
For treats, offer two or three nuts a day. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds on a formulated diet.
Macaws like seeds, even though they're not the most nutritious foods. Seed mixes designed for macaws (large hookbills) are available and usually contain sunflower seeds, a mixture of other seeds, nuts and maybe some dried fruits. Some are sold as "vitaminized," but the vitamins are applied to the shells of the seeds, which are lost when the parrot shells the seed before eating it.
Parrots that are fed seeds only should be given a vitamin and mineral supplement daily. Many vitamin supplements are sold as water-soluble, made to be used in drinking water. While this is an easy way to provide vitamins, it is not the best way: Many vitamins break down quickly in water. B vitamins also don't taste good, so manufacturers add sugars to cover the taste. The combination of vitamins and sugars in the water, and the habit of adding food or feces to it makes a very foul mess and provides a good growth medium for bacteria. Ideally, vitamins should be provided in soft food rather than in water. Good choices are cooked sweet potatoes, yogurt (in small quantities) and oatmeal, sprinkled on moist vegetables or added to a little bit of table food.
Fresh water should be provided at all times. Parrots love to dunk their food, so water should be changed often. Bowls must be kept clean to prevent bacterial overgrowth and should be washed daily. Some messy birds do better if given water by way of a water bottle but they must also be kept clean and refilled daily.
Blue & golds are moderately difficult to raise from a very early age and you should not try to hand-feed a very young bird unless you have experience and adequate time to devote to the task. It is safer to leave the baby with the breeder or pet store and visit frequently. The lower initial price that you might pay for a very small bird may be more than offset by veterinary bills if your bird becomes ill.
Very young macaws require a high fat diet and do well with additional protein. A small amount (approximately 15 to 20 percent by weight) of peanut butter or ground sunflower seeds or macadamia nuts may be added to increase protein and fat levels. Volume for hand feeding should be approximately 10 to 12 percent of the bird's body weight given at each feeding.