Last Updated on January 27, 2023 by Ali Shahid
The fearsome beak and bright colors of macaws are enchanting & mesmerizing to look at. They have a very sweet personalities and make the best pet birds. If you’re planning to make a macaw for your family member, you should know what macaws eat.
Macaws eat a whole variety of different foods because they are omnivorous. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and wild insects. Macaws are native to Central and South American rainforests where their diet is usually omnivorous.
Nutrition is an important aspect of every living animal. The same goes for macaws to fulfill their nutrition needs and keep them healthy. All of the major nutrients must be provided through diet in the case of macaws.
No matter if macaws are living in the wild or captivity, the nutrition spectrum is extensive. In this article, we are going to learn about macaw’s favorite diet. At the same time, you’ll also know what to feed them if you’re about to get one.
What Do Macaws Eat? – The Natural Diet
In the wild, macaws predominantly show an omnivorous type of diet regimen. They eat nuts, berries, fruits, and seeds along with other vegetation. In that essence, nuts are their favorite food to fulfill their daily dietary body requirements.
The beak of a macaw is hard enough to crack open various nuts. These birds do so by putting a lot of pressure on their facial muscles. The strong beak and big tongue allow them to pull the seeds out of their nutshells.
Wild macaws also eat flowers and their nectar by sucking on the succulent portions of plants. Similarly, berries, eggs, and various insects make up their daily diet. Snails are another source of calcium for wild snails.
As macaws are inhabitant of rainforests, ample amount of vegetation is available for them. This includes flower buds, leaves, and other parts. Macaws are also known to show another type of interesting wild behavior called geophagy.
It means that macaws also eat clay and dirt to keep their digestion running. Research suggests that eating clay protects macaws from various toxins present in their feed. Many plants in the wild rainforests contain toxins that are detrimental to macaws’ health.
The clay provides a medium to neutralize the present toxins. It works like activated charcoal that binds with the toxic substances inside the gut and neutralizes them. At the same time, the clay also provides mineral content such as calcium, phosphorous, and carbonates.
Importance of Nutrition for Macaws
Most bird owners think feeding the regular bird diet to every pet bird is enough. This is not true as different organisms need different diet plans. Instead of focusing on a diet just to maintain life, pay attention to the actual diet of macaws.
The provision of proper nutritional content to macaws benefits them in several ways. The food you offer must be nutritionally balanced enough to help your macaw flourish. You may hear the common saying that the bird’s health is entirely dependent on the type of diet.
Nutrition might sound like a common word but the life of macaws depends on it. Feeding macaws with well-balanced nutrition keep them disease free and strengthens their immune system. In contrast to other parrots, macaws have considerable body size and mass-to-bone ratio.
A fully formulated diet of macaws includes an appropriate amount of carbs, proteins, and fats. Minerals and vitamins are equally important as they help maintain the metabolism. Just as carbs and fats act like energy reserves, proteins are vital for the macaw’s growth and weight.
Both wild and captive macaws have almost similar nutritional needs. To maintain consistency in nutrition, you must follow proper macaws feeding guidelines. Keep reading to find out what are the diet options in the case of these beautiful macaws.
Ideal Diet Regimen for Macaws
If you’ve come to this point, it seems like you are planning to get a macaw or are confused about its feed. Macaws need a wholesome diet that you can easily make at home. Just like the pelleted diet of other pets, there are many commercially available macaws’ feeds.
According to birds’ nutritionists, a good ratio of 75% pellets and 25% natural source is ideal. The major portion of the all-natural diet contains seeds and other vegetation. In that essence, these are the following feed inclusions in the case of macaws.
- Nuts & Seeds
- Pellet Feed
- Fruits & Veggies
Let’s talk about how well these ingredients are in terms of nutrition provided in the case of macaws.
Nuts & Seed
Nuts and seeds contain a majority of the beneficial nutrients for macaws. These are the main diet source you can provide. However, one thing I must mention is that nuts and seeds should never be fed as the only source of diet in macaws.
The reason is that they are fat-rich and cause dietary intolerance in large amounts. This is why seeds and nuts must be offered along with other nutrients. It is recommended that include a couple of nuts per day mixed with other feed.
If you’re concerned about which seeds and nuts are suitable for macaws, you’re not alone. In the case of nuts, you can use peanuts, cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts. These are completely safe for macaws and don’t carry any harm when fed in appropriate quantities.
Canary, buckwheat, oats, and millets are preferred and frequently used in macaws. Most of the macaw owners also choose sunflower seeds in their diet. But, the problem with sunflower seeds is that they are high in fat and prolonged use may cause digestive and weight issues.
Pellet Feed – The Complete Nutrition
In the modern animal nutritional sector, pelleted diets are a preferable option to choose from. Pellets are made by grinding the basic feed ingredients into a palatable format. If your macaw is on a seed diet, changing that to a pellet one is highly recommended.
In short, pellet feed is a must and ideal choice for macaws. Pellet manufacturers produce several different types of pellets for individual bird needs. For instance, if the macaw is deficient in protein requirements, you can get one with a high crude protein percentage.
It takes almost 4 to 6 weeks for a seed-fed macaw to shift toward a pellet diet. You can improve the pellet acceptance by mixing small amounts into the regular seed mix. Then gradually start reducing the quantity of the seed and increase the pellets at the same time.
You may think of stopping the seeds entirely before shifting towards the pellet. This is not beneficial at all because such sudden changes can lead to gut upset in macaws. The transition should be done slowly and consistently.
Once you offer the pellet diet with seeds, always make sure the macaw is eating that mix. Some macaws are stubborn and they start sorting out the feed and ignore the pellets. But, you can train your macaw to eat pellets with a diet without exerting any stress on its gut.
What About Vegetables & Fruits for Macaws?
Many new macaw owners choose green leafy vegetables for macaws thinking these are good for them. Vegetables such as celery and lettuce have high moisture and water content. Besides, these vegetables don’t contain any appreciable amount of nutrition in them.
Apart from seeds, nuts, and pellets, fruits and vegetables make up 20% to 25% of the feed. You can grow different vegetables in your backyard or purchase them from the supermarket. In case you buy them from a store, certain measures must be taken before provision to macaws.
Store-bought fruits and vegetables have many chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals possess detrimental effects on the health of macaws. Therefore, you must wash them under running water thoroughly to remove all types of harmful agents.
Sometimes, macaws develop the habit of eating only one to two types of vegetables or fruits. You must limit the respective quantities so that the macaws don’t eat them often. In the case of vegetables, you can try zucchini, carrots, beets, broccoli & pumpkin.
Fruits, although nutritious, contain a high amount of sugar in them. In the case of macaws, fruits must be supplied in limited quantities. The high sugar content will make the intestines runny leading to diarrhea in macaws.
The inclusion of fruits in the macaw’s diet plan should be done on an occasional basis. There is no need to provide fruits every day in large quantities. You can reduce the size by cutting the fruits into small pieces and using different trays for fruits and vegetables.
Additional Tips Related to Macaws Foods
Up till now, you’ve acknowledged yourself with what macaws eat in nature and captivity. The provision of fresh water is very vital, especially during the summer months. During this period, birds a lot of water through heat exchange.
The bowl must be shallow enough to hold water and clean enough from any contamination. If you want to invest in a good quality bowl, choose a stainless steel one. Such bowls don’t possess any health hazards and have lower bacterial growth.
Additionally, you must also add various supplements to improve the overall nutritional profile. No doubt, the regular feed is enough to fulfill the basic nutritional requirements. But, you can supplement it with peanut butter for some additional proteins and fats.
Vitamins and mineral powders are also great options to add to the macaw’s regular feed. You can add them to the drinking water or sprinkle some on the feed. Such supplements will only benefit the macaws and keep them healthy and joyful.
Unsuitable Foods for Macaws
As beneficial as other foods are, there are some foods that you must keep away from macaws. These foods shouldn’t be used in any form and possess many harmful effects in the case of macaws.
Avocado is one of the prominent fruits that you may think about offering your macaw. As tempting as it sounds, avocados are highly toxic for macaws and should be excluded. Similarly, parsley and chocolate are also not ideal in the case of macaws.
Many types of fruit seeds such as apple seeds contain harmful cyanide poisons in them. Feeding macaws with such diets are linked with disturbed metabolism and death. Various products also contain alcoholic compounds that carry the risk of life-threatening conditions.
Milk and dairy products should be avoided at all costs in macaws. The digestive system of macaws is not compatible with dairy products. Milk and other products hinder the absorption of valuable nutrients and limit their availability.
You must limit and entirely remove the above-mentioned foods for better health of macaws. Also, make sure to know about the nearest avian veterinarian in case you need any emergency. Macaws are curious birds and accidental ingestion of harmful foods is always present.
The omnivorous nature of macaws allows them to eat a variety of different foods. Seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are some of their favorite diets. However, the quality and quantity of them must be maintained to avoid any harmful effects.
If you have macaws, you are lucky to have some of the most beautiful birds in the world. Taking care of them means paying attention to their dietary and managemental needs. In a captive state, pelleted feeds are very ideal to choose from as they are highly nutritious and harmless.
With that being said, you are now completely aware of what you should feed your macaws. Keep certain food items such as avocados, and chocolates away as these are potentially toxic for macaws. Keeping a check on your diet and following hygienic measurements is your way to have lively and healthy macaws.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.