Ask Lafeber


July 20, 2018

Military Macaw

I have. Military macaw. He is my soul mate. When a female comes over he is smitten. He will get off his cage and attack me. Soon as the female ( human) leaves he is sweet and loving to me. ????? Any idea why?


Hi Laura,

Like many pet parrots, your macaw views you as his mate. This can be a nice bond, but it comes with complications like what you encounter. We have learned that in the wild, parrots do not allow another bird to preen it anywhere but on the head, unless the bird is its mate. When we pet our birds on the back, around the tail and parts of the chest, we are telling them we are the mate. Unfortunately we can’t be a true mate so this can lead to behavior issues. The short answer is to leave him in the cage when you have company. The reason he attacks you is in the wild, if a rival bird came too close, he would attack his mate and drive her back into the nest or anywhere away from the rival. Even though it is with female humans in this case, it’s probably due to the overall, confusion we give them when we unintentionally behave as a mate.

I don’t know how long you have had him, but you might try changing the way you interact with him, because as they get older and more sexually mature, the behavior issues can get out of control. It is best to keep any petting to head scratches and avoid contact with the rest of his body. He can learn to enjoy the head only petting and he is not going to like you any less, just not as intensely like a mate. Because birds are so long lived, the potential for future problems is high, and truly we are just now learning the mistakes we have made when interacting with our parrots – mainly excessive physical contact. You might try other forms of physical enrichment like teaching him some behaviors or tricks. There are many sources online for different things you can teach your bird, and macaws are especially trainable. Keep things fun and don’t push a behavior or trick that he does not seem to enjoy.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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