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Grooming Your Blue and Gold Macaw

By: Dr. Don Harris

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Blue and gold macaws are well known for their dramatic coloring. Here are three ways to keep them looking their best.

Bathing

Routine bathing or showering is vital to maintaining good plumage and skin condition. Birds can be misted with warm, clean water applied in a soft mist from a spray bottle. Allow the bird to dry in a warm room or in the sun, or dry it with a blow drier.

An ideal way to bathe macaws is to put them in a cage outside, sprinkle them with the hose, and allow them to dry in the sun. You can also try taking your bird into the shower with you. Shower perches can be purchased through pet supply distributors or pet shops. Beware of commercial birdbath sprays, though. They may have additives that can build up on the feathers if used repeatedly without a clean water bath.

Wing Clipping

Clipping your bird's wings will make him calmer and more dependent and make it safe to take him outside. Macaws are very strong fliers and most of the lift in their wing is from the primary flight feathers (10 feathers closest to the tip of the wing). Most of the primary feathers (usually 8 to 12 feathers) should be clipped to prevent flight. Avoid clipping the secondary feathers (the 10 feathers closest to the body).

Clip only enough so the bird will glide safely to the floor. Don't clip the bird so much that he falls or so little that he can gain altitude. Generally, it is best to cut both wings equally. If you trim only one wing, the bird will be unbalanced and will tumble and may be injured if he tries to glide to the ground.

Be sure to look for blood feathers (an immature, growing feather larger and softer than the shaft of a mature feather) and avoid breaking or cutting one. If a blood feather is cut, the bird can have considerable blood loss. Mature feathers do not have nerves in the shaft and cutting them is not painful.

The frequency of wing clipping will vary, depending on how soon your bird molts after being clipped. If he starts to re-grow his feathers and is able to gain altitude, he should be clipped again.

Nail Trimming

Trimming the nails routinely will also enhance your relationship with your birds. Using concrete or abrasive perches will help to remove the sharp points but will not take down the length. Occasionally the nails will need to be ground or clipped. Start with your baby bird and work with him to accustom him to having his nails filed. That way you can take off the points with an emery board between grooming visits with a professional.

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