Nancy H wrote:
Dear Mitch and Catherine,
I own a Blue and Gold Macaw that I’ve had for 23 years, I love him dearly as he’s been my little companion and room mate.
The problem is and I’m hoping you can help is that I’m not able to have my family or friends over, because Bernard will literally take a tantrum screaming until I go in and get him and bring him out to see who’s there and when I go to bring him back to his cage, he bites me hard with displaced anger.
So, as you can see I don’t know how to correct this bad behavior.
I live in a very small apartment, with my bedroom off the living room, his cage is in my bedroom because it’s the largest room and fits his cage comfortably, so he knows exactly when someone comes.
The way I’ve dealt with this problem is by not having anyone come over.
I can’t help but wonder if he thinks the whole apartment is his nest and doesn’t want anyone else invading it.
If you have any knowledge on how to correct this bad behavior, it would be most appreciated, thank you.
You have to make some changes here.
That you keep the bird in the bedroom and not in the family area is the main problem.
None of this is his fault (and never will be).
You are basically keeping your mentally challenged child locked away in your bedroom and then when company comes over, he acts out and you bring him out for a visit and then you are locking him back away from the family and friends, so he reacts even more.
That he is reacting badly is to be expected.
This needs to be fixed.
This bird is a family member and should be treated as such.
Ideally he should not reside in your bedroom, it creates the wrong sort of intimacy between you and the bird.
You want to be bonded but not as a mate, just part of his flock.
If space does not allow for it, then make sure he is covered at bedtime.
Do you get naked or have sex with the parrot in the bedroom?
If yes, then the cage should be covered during those times.
If will just upset him.
Do you cover the cage nightly?
If not, you need to start doing so.
Even if it is a simple sheet wrapped around the front can act as a visual blocker so your macaw can rest and not be stimulated by your coming and going after bedtime.
Do you have a big bird play stand in your family area, living room?
If not, I would advocate getting one.
A macaw (suited) play stand should be located where your bird can be a part of the flock (family), period.
Your blue and gold macaw should be out when you are out.
He should be able to watch as you wander your home, sit, read, watch TV and when you entertain company.
In the evenings at bedtime you can take the bird back to its cage for sleep. (8-8:30 PM in the summer and 7-7:30 pm in the winter)
If you are away from the home, then the bird needs to go back into the cage for safety. Always.
He wants to be part of the flock, the family and is large enough to be able to let you know that he is unhappy with the current set up.
He should be able to be out on his stand, playing with toys, have fresh water and maybe a few treats while surveying the household.
Having very little food on the stand will help keep the bird knowing that if he is to eat, his cage is the place to be.
Get your bird on a daily schedule. They do well knowing that things happen in time and will learn to wait to expect things to happen at those times.
So in the morning he gets put on his stand with a few fresh foods.
Breakfast is the most import meal for a bird.
It should be called break-feast.
He is with you until you can’t watch him anymore and needs to be put into his cage.
Editor’s note: (no bird should be left on a stand or out of its cage at anytime without human supervision).
Then give him a high value treat or favorite foot toy.
While something is in the birds beak, he can’t chomp on you while putting him into his cage.
If you are afraid he will bite you then get a thick perch to carry him on that gives you some distance.
Editor’s note: all birds should have a “friendly stick” they know and and more importantly trust, for retrieval from high places and behind furniture.
When you know company is coming over, plan ahead and make sure the bird is already on its stand in the family room with toys and special treats.
Let him be part of the group.
Unless he is aggressive and snapping at people or biting, let him stay.
Even if he calls out.
Over time he may calm down more and be a better member of the family that he should have been part of all along.
Also, what sort of lighting are you providing for your bird?
Do you have a full spectrum light mounted above the bird cage and on a timer set for 12 hours on and 12 hours off?
This will help with temperament as well.
When you set up his play stand you also need the same lighting over the stand so he is in a proper daylight set up.
Please let me know how this works out.
Bernard is my absolute baby! Since my own children left the nest it’s only been the two of us, he is absolutely without a doubt my flock, truthfully, he doesn’t want for anything.
I understand that what your saying about Bernard being in my room is not the most conducive place, but unfortunately his cage would take up the entire living room, so therefore, I tend to use my bedroom as a sitting room where I am in close contact with Bernard most of the time.
Your probably going to think this strange, but Bernard doesn’t sleep in his cage, he likes to sleep in the bathroom perched on towels on top of the shower door.
Interestingly enough, whenever I’ve moved into a new place, he immediately will establish where he will sleep right away, it’s just always been that way.
He has an open cage where he can come and go as he pleases, my bedroom is bird proof, so I’m not worried he’ll get into anything when I’m not around and of course he’s potty trained to go in his cage.
Editor’s note: NOTHING IS BIRD PROOF!
We just have a routine that works for the both of us, but like I explained, I think where it’s just been the two of us for so long, he doesn’t like anyone coming over and interfering with his routine and he gets very upset and acts out.
I don’t have a perch for the living room as you suggested, which I think is an excellent idea, that would be great to have for when I do have company, thank you.
And you are absolutely right in saying that it’s not his fault, it’s definitely mine and please don’t get me wrong, he’s an awesome, loving bird, but only with me.
I hope I explained the situation better and thank you for reaching out to me, I truly appreciate it.
That you have done as well as you have with Bernard in such close quarters is to be commended.
However only you can make the changes needed to keep you from being made to live a solitary existence in your home.
Your bird is only 23 years old and can live another 23 years. You have time to make changes that can improve the quality of his and your lives.
That you left your bird to sleep on the shower instead of putting him in his cage was your doing and you could have handled it back then.
If your bird does not sleep in its cage, you really don’t need such a large bird cage.
Do you use the bird cage at all?
If it is only for a secure place while you are away for shopping, etc then you can replace it with a much smaller sleeping cage.
It is not unusual for one with birds who are out during most of the day to have very small cages for sleeping and security purposes.
They go in to sleep and then in the morning they come back out and have their stands to sit on during the day.
That would allow you to rearrange your home to get rid of the large cage, put a stand in the bedroom and or a smaller cage. And I mean one as small as 24″ wide.
Do you work or are you retired or do you work from home?
If you are away from home 8-10 hours a day then the large cage is needed for the bird to be able to spend his day safely and have access to toys and food and room for exercise. If not, a smaller cage would work out fine.
Please make some changes to make your life more pleasing to you both.
Please let me know how it goes.
Getting a smaller cage just may be the answer I was looking for, thank you!
I’m retired, but I am out and about a few days a week, but not long, although once in a while I will be gone most of the day.
When I’m out, Bernard will usually sit in his cage and look out the window, watching the birds and squirrels, but there are times I come home to my drawers pulled out with clothes strewn about the floor! Lol.
Anyway, I have a very positive feeling about getting a smaller cage! Bravo, Catherine!
Thank you so much, again, for taking the time to reach out to me and sharing your knowledge, wisdom and insight in solving my problem regarding my baby! You’ve been great!
I am glad I managed to strike on something that may work to improve your situation.
I’m glad I managed to strike a compromise that will work to improve your macaws environment .
Do you have a bird club in your area?
Or a bird rescue?
You might consider reaching out and offering an exchange.
Your large bird cage for a smaller one.
Used bird cages are a bear to sell and a trade may work out well while saving you from buying a new one.
They may be enthused to do all the work as in helping to move the cages too.
Please let me know how it goes. I would love some pictures of your current set up and then the update.
Thank you very much for writing to us.