Is It Irresponsible (or Unethical) to Buy a Macaw?

Is anything untoward going on in the macaw trade (such as an avian equivalent to a puppy mill, or other unethical practices)? Are they amenable to captivity?

I might buy one of these beautiful animals after my cats are dead.


“If you have to think about it, you know it’s wrong.”

Most people have no business owning a bird. These highly-social creatures need hours of attention every day. For the rest of your life. Let that roll around in you brain. Anything less is condemning a creature as capable of emotion as any of us to something like solitary confinement.

Presume you are a bird person with a stable home life, job, home and everything else you need. Then ought you to buy a bird? One line of reasoning is “If I buy a bird I will give him a better home than the next person in line.” This is a poor argument. Parrot mills can crank them out faster than we buy them up.

There is a way around this. Link up with your local parrot rescue. you will have to look, ask around with vets and pet shops. Then work there for a few months. Find out if you are a bird brain. If you are, you will be able to take your pick from abandoned, abused and traumatized parrots.

Please keep us informed.

Despite the ethical ramifications, if I had a chance to buy a Hyacinth Macaw at a reasonable price I’d jump on the opportunity.

I would love to do avian rescue, but really don’t have the space that large birds need. About the biggest thing I could rescue would be a 'teil or budgie … :frowning:

And other than one cat, all my cats have been rescue cats. I don’t understand paying for purebreeds unless you are planning to breed them. other than my wolf hybrid, my dogs have all been rescued dogs …

Whatever anyone might say about Something Awful, their Pet Island forum is absolutely full of people who care deeply about their animals and will rip idiots to shreds. Here is a brand new thread, just starting out, called “Tell me about owning a parrot.” The Something Awful Forums

In post #3, user Captain Foxy says:

The is a parrot rescue in IL. Not that I’m saying anyone should or shouldn’t buy a parrot but they will help you learn about them and what needs to be done to care for them in you’re interested.

If you want to get a parrot, absolutely get one from a parrot rescue agency (or, if that just isn’t feasible, maybe even from Craig’s List - it’s pretty common to see people trying to rehome their parrots on there because they can’t handle them, and that’s still preferable to buying from a breeder). There are so many parrots that already need homes, I can’t really support the idea of buying a parrot from a breeder. Even parakeets and cockatiels show up at the humane society shelters semi-regularly.

They are not impossible to keep - it’s just that they are so intelligent, they require more effort and attention to keep them amused and emotionally healthy than a cat or dog does. It’s really a lot more like having a toddler than a cat. Many people get a bird on a whim without thinking it over properly and then realize they just can’t handle it. However, if you know what you’re getting into, I think opening your home to a parrot is a great idea.

Also make sure you draw up a will that dictates what will happen to the bird and who will care for it if it ends up outliving you (a real possibility, as many of the large parrots can live 50-70 years - though looking at a rescue for an older parrot who has already outlived one owner may be a particularly good idea if you don’t want to worry about a young parrot outliving you).

Another alternative is to look at the MEDIUM SIZED parrots like mini macaws or parrotlets. They are not quite as long-lived and some of them are much quieter than the big macaws/cockatoos are, so it is more likely one of them will fit your lifestyle. Again, though, research the kind of parrot carefully before getting it - Sun Conures are small and beautiful birds, but the big problem with them is that they are capable of unbelievably ear-splitting screeches that make them a difficult pet for many people. Some of the other conure species, on the other hand, are much quieter.
Good luck!

If you go the conure route, research your species- my mitred conure was as loud and noisy as any macaw- twice the shriek from half the beak. Macaws can be great, but you must get used to handling birds and reading their expressions because those beaks can harm you.

I encountered a red green-winged macaw this week at a pet shop - an imposing and breathtaking bird.

He seemed well-cared for and content enough in his cage - but brother was it a big cage. A not-very-small child could have stood upright in it with elbow room.

These are big birds. I wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of those beaks of theirs, either. Probably not the ideal pet for anyone with serious commitments to other pets, or maybe even outside the home.

Yes, that’s a good point. Large parrots are capable of biting hard enough to break the bones in a person’s fingers. Cockatoo bites are particularly brutal. You have to be careful around them, and most serious bird lovers never allow their parrots to sit on a person’s shoulder to avoid the risk the bird might cause an eye injury with biting. :eek:

If you want to buy a parrot you must do research on not only parrots in general but the particular species you’re interested in. But keep in mind:

Birds are social animals - even more so than people. You MUST be able to deliver multiple hours of attention to your bird. Even if you have two birds, or three birds, they will STILL demand lots and lots and lots of attention from you and any other humans around. If you fail to do this the birds WILL suffer from it. They will become neurotic at best and subject to screaming fits. It can progress from there to plucking out every feather they can reach on their bodies to biting off their own toes to even worse self-mutilation. They can go crazy to the point they will never be able to relate to humans or other birds again. If you can’t give birds the time they need DO NOT GET A BIRD!

Birds require room - for a full size Macaw you almost need a cage the size of a small room. And even then, he/she will need time outside the cage unless it actually is a BIG room.

Birds are inherently destructive - they chew and bite things. They take stuff apart. You can give them lots of stuff to safely chew and bit, like toys and pieces of wood, but sooner or later they’ll get something of yours.

Birds make a mess - and not just the poop. I swear, that’s the least of their mess. They shred things then scatter the bits all over. Feathers are discarded. They knock things over while outside of the cage. While inside the cage they may rearrange everything in the cage - perches, food, water - into one big pile. And for the best part - imagine chewing vigorously with no lips to hold the food in your mouth. That’s a bird eating dinner. They are sloppy eaters.

Birds are noisy - I’ve owned birds for a couple decades now and I still can’t believe how frackin’ NOISY they are. You would not believe the volume that can come out of a teeny tiny little feathered body. And the bigger they are the louder they are.

Birds live a long time - assuming they don’t have an accident but I’ll get to that later. Cockatiels are “short” lived at 15-20 years. A Macaw lives as long as a person - 50-70 years. Assuming you yourself are an adult you will need to make provision for what happens to the bird after you are no longer breathing. It is like adopting a child that never grows up.

Birds are too clever for their own good - sure, it’s adorable when they talk or do tricks. I’ve had several escape artists that kept defeating the locks on their cages. They get into stuff. Sometimes, they have accidents. Bad ones. Assuming they survive, treatment is pretty expensive and there is no pet insurance I am aware of for birds. Finding a bird vet can also be extremely difficult in some areas.

Birds need something to do - whether that’s something to shred or tricks to learn or people to bother or toys to play with (and shred), birds need mental stimulation. Lots of it. Or they go nuts. Then they get self-destructive.

Birds are NOT domestic animals - they are wild animals that have been tamed. They have not been captive bred long enough to remove a lot of wild traits so they have all the instincts of a wild bird and all the weaponry of one. They need to be tamed early, and if that is done properly they do well in captivity IF their needs are provided for properly. There have been instances of wild birds voluntarily associating with humans (falconers being the big example, but there are others) where they can, at any time leave and yet the birds choose to stay. A properly socialized parrot can live a happy life with humans under the right circumstances.

Birds are not cats or dogs - they’re not even mammals. Their body language is different. Dogs and cats are predators, birds are prey (even if parrots will hunt in the wild) and have a very different psychology. Birds will hide illness or injury to a degree you won’t believe until it happens. You will need to learn to communicate with the little feathered aliens.

OK - those are the downsides. Otherwise, birds are lovable and loving creatures that can be some of the most wonderful pets (when it isn’t hell on earth).

I highly recommend putting some time in with a bird shelter if there is one located near you so you can understand what the space, food, and other requirements of a large bird is BEFORE you get one.

I, personally, have bought birds from a breeder - but you have to be careful. Some of them are dreadful “parrot mills”. Others are actually concerned with breeding healthy birds and the long-term interests of the captive population. Such a breeder will keep detailed records, prevent inbreeding, and hand-feed the babies so they will be properly socialized as pets. A well-bred parrot is expensive because properly raising them is time and labor intensive. A young Macaw will cost several thousand dollars just for the bird (budget $2-4k, even more for certain species and colors) and you could easily spend as much or more on cage and supplies and “bird proofing” and so on. Other people don’t give a damn, they just want profits. If a breeder is selling cheap something is wrong. A rescue bird can be a good choice, but isn’t always. Again, if you spend some time on research and around birds you’ll figure out if they are a good choice for you or not.