Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My thoughts on severe macaws

It's been a long time since the last time I posted my thoughts on the species of parrots that share our home. That's because the only remaining bird left from my initial plans is Rocky (we've since added Stella but I'm not ready to write much about her at this point -- we're still watching her come out of her shell!) and I'm not quite sure how to succinctly write this post. I guess we'll see what happens. Also, don't bet on this being succinct!

I know this is ridiculously long, but if anyone is considering adding a severe macaw to their house, please read and think about it. As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comments. I don't have any agenda and will be as honest as possible.

As anyone who has perused my blog knows, Rocky and I have a very unusual relationship. From the outset, let me say that I love this little guy so much and, despite what I may write about him here, he is not leaving our household, so don't worry about that!

Before taking Rocky in, I had done some internet research on mini macaws. Everything I read (mostly on breeder sites, where they want to show their wares in the best possible light in order to stay in business) said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Want the personality of a macaw but with less mess/noise/destruction/etc? Try a mini macaw!" They were described as very intelligent and playful, great talkers, and great family birds. He is very intelligent and playful, he talks some, but is most definitely not a great family bird. If all breeders and pet stores were honest about the realities of living with a severe macaw, none would ever sell.

Needless to say, Thomas and I were not prepared for him and the way our lives would have to change.

We brought him home to foster for the rescue where we volunteer as he needed frequent medication for his enlarged preen gland. We wanted to ensure that he would be properly medicated and monitored, and that would be easier to do in our house than at the shelter, where things are much more chaotic.

Doing additional searching for severe macaw personalities led me to this article, which was my first inkling that things might not turn out to be as rosy as anticipated. I am quoting from the relevant paragraph on severe macaws:
"In my opinion, I have never, nor will I ever, suggest anyone buy one for a family or pet quality bird. Though they may well be manageable for some people, the majority of pet owners will have problems with severes and will 'dump' them at the first opportunity - because the birds are not what they expected. These guys are hard headed, opinionated, and for the most part a one person only bird. I do not remember ever hearing of one that was a good quality pet for more than ONE person in the household."
And that's coming from a macaw breeder. Since breeders need to encourage parrot ownership in order to stay in business, when one offers contrary advice, it's generally a good idea to listen, or at least think about what they have said.

To make a long story short, Thomas and I decided to adopt Rocky. Among the reasons? Apparently we are masochists. Just kidding! First and foremost, he was so difficult and had such a horrible past. I'm certainly not condoning it, but I can see why someone not as committed to parrots as us locked him in a back bedroom for at least 6 years. And I could totally see his next owners, whoever they might be, doing the same thing. He is a very frustrating being, and we'd fallen too much in love with him to take the risk of him falling into a bad home. Secondly, he fell in love with Thomas and was incredibly happy with us; possibly the first time he'd been truly happy in more than a decade. Thirdly, he might require expensive medical treatment (which has so far not turned out to be the case) and we'd be willing and able to cover those costs.

I am a very determined person, and both Thomas and I had gained enough experience working with difficult parrots at the parrot rescue that I knew we'd defy the odds. After all, I'd heard greys were one-person birds and Max loved both of us equally. Rocky would be tame and handleable by both of us! Oh, how naive I was!

I joined a severe macaw board and asked if anyone had a mature (preferably over age 10) severe macaw that was tame to more than one person in the house. No one responded affirmatively. I had the lady who runs the rescue where I volunteer ask her many bird contacts if anyone had ever heard of this happening, but no one had. Same thing with my vet. Maybe there's one out there somewhere, but I've been unable to find one.

When brave people (like our bird sitter) come to our house and want to hold him, Rocky is a delight to them. He doesn't see them as a threat to the bond between him and Thomas. Some visitors have even accused me of exaggerating Rocky's behavior towards me since he appears to be so charming. I know one severe macaw that used to do nursing home visits to cheer up the residents and could be handled by the elderly (I would NEVER risk this with Rocky).

What's most upsetting is that Rocky has taken an active role in trying to drive me away. This is in contrast to Calypso (caique), for example. Calypso doesn't like Thomas. He shows this by running away to the side of his cage furthest from Thomas and avoiding eye contact with him at all costs. Rocky will come over and try to attack me, even when I'm minding my own business. I have to be on constant alert for him, and I strive to keep a stick (onto which he steps up) within grabbing distance, always. I can't sit on the couch with my feet on the floor, or I risk a bite. If he gets 2 flight feathers, he leaps off of stands and I have to watch out for aerial attacks until he's clipped again, at which point I only have to be on alert for ground attacks. Sometimes (several times per month) he'll even climb the stairs to the 2nd floor, eschewing Thomas's attention, in an attempt to find and attack me.

Even with Thomas, Rocky occasionally gets overstimulated and will bite. Thomas has to be very attuned to his body language and, in doing so, has mostly avoided getting bit. He is a very beaky bird and can cause discomfort to humans even when he's fake biting and playing. I didn't quite believe Thomas on this, but Rocky will occasionally fake bite my leg when I'm under a blanket and while he doesn't break skin, it still smarts.

We are lucky in that Rocky is not bird aggressive. He'll sometimes go on Beeps's cage to eat his food or on Daphne's cage so that she'll make a fuss and he'll get attention when he's removed, but he's never made an aggressive move towards any of our parrots, even when Max buzzes him. That is not always the case. A lady who boards her birds at the rescue where we volunteer has a severe macaw and an umbrella cockatoo. She is the only human in the home. Perhaps because she's developed a mate relationship with her cockatoo, her severe macaw has made it his mission to destroy the cockatoo. She is unable to have them out of their cages at the same time, for fear of what the severe macaw will do. It is way too easy for a toe or beak to be removed in such a situation. She is very stressed out by this situation and has talked about surrendering her macaw.

Rocky is very needy. If Thomas is home, Rocky wants to be within several feet of him. I'm not sure how much of this is due to his past (he was 19 when we got him) and how much is due to his species. Based on conversations I've had with other severe macaw owners, I'd give more importance to the latter. And he's not content sitting quietly on Thomas's lap. He's fake biting him, or climbing in his clothes, or chipping wood while climbing in his clothes. All while making noise pretty much the entire time. Not words or anything "cute," but noise. Moaning, babbling, clicking, laughing; constantly.

They are very loud. In the summer, with the windows open, I have clearly heard him from more than two blocks away. We've used techniques to greatly reduce his screaming, but it hasn't been eliminated. It's no longer his first choice for expressing frustration, which is huge progress, and sometimes we can't find any reason for it. We think he must just like the sound of his own scream.

They are very expensive; the purchase price is just the beginning. Severe macaws love chipping wood. We make many of our own toys and still spend around $500 just on him every year for toys and toy supplies. Every single severe macaw surrendered to the rescue where we volunteer has come in a cage with either 1) no toys or 2) no toys and no perches, because the person got sick of spending money on such an ungrateful bird.

Here is a picture of a severe macaw (not Rocky) with an overgrown beak due to lack of chewing opportunities. He'd gone so long without perches (because he chewed them up, lacking toys to chew), he didn't even know how to perch -- he spent his days hanging upside down from the top of his cage. For years.We taught him how to perch, and how to play with toys, and he's keeping his beak trim by chewing. You can also see the poor condition of his feathers, which we improved with a good diet. He chose me up at the rescue, but we couldn't take him home due to resource limitations. His behavior towards Thomas and me pretty much mirrored, in reverse, Rocky's behavior towards us.

They are very messy. We have wood chips all over our house. I am constantly sweeping up after him. I can no longer walk barefoot in my house because it is painful to step on the chips. We leave baskets of wood slices around our house so that when he gets the urge to chew, something acceptable is close. Before we did this, he would take chunks out of our fishtank, the molding, our kitchen table, even the wallpaper.

We've tried so many things to get him to like me. As an example, for a significant period of time, all things positive came from me, and all things less pleasant from Thomas. It didn't matter -- even after more than a month of this, he'd rather bite my hand than take his favorite treat from it (and he's extremely food motivated, having gone through food deprivation in a previous home). We currently use ABA, clicker training, and a melange of positive training techniques.

Our experience certainly falls under the description given by the article I linked to, as you can see. Like the author of that article, I could never advise someone to buy a young severe macaw. If the demand dries up for them, perhaps not so many will be produced. As for the older ones out there, in rescue, if someone goes in with their eyes open and truly makes a commitment, a wonderful relationship can be had; especially if the severe macaw chooses you and all members of the household thoroughly understand what they are getting into.

Rocky and I are making progress. When Thomas isn't home, Rocky will climb up on the couch and sit near me. He will step up on my covered arm without biting if I tell him I'm taking him to Thomas. Sometimes he will walk past me and not even threaten to attack. Who knows where our relationship will be 10 or 20 years down the road?

We have games we play together; for example: fetch, mimicking clicking sounds, and dancing. He's not living in fear because I'm around; he's just trying to usurp my place in my marriage. I'm fine with that. I know Thomas won't leave me for a macaw.

Rocky is a very happy bird. We have a solution that works for us, but that would not work in most homes. Homes where the non-chosen person wants to be able to move freely about their house without fear of attack. Homes where people want to be able to clearly hear the TV. Homes with kids. Yes, we could keep him caged more often (although he'd scream more) but we don't want to do that. He didn't ask to live in captivity, and I feel it's the job of Thomas and me to make his life as pleasant as possible.

As I said in the beginning, I love the little guy. He makes me laugh out loud daily. His intelligence astounds me. But, based on my experiences, severe macaws are among the species that suffer most in captivity because most people are unable/unwilling to make the required changes in their household for these challenging fellows. Add in unrealistic expectations brought on by a sweet baby bird (who is going to grow up!) and untruthful sales techniques by breeders and pet stores, it's no wonder so many severe macaws are doomed to an unhappy life.

60 comments:

Stephanie said...

Thanks for this - I wish more people would be honest about the realities of living with these birds. Do you think the same general problems come with all Macaws?

Mary said...

Stephanie,

Based on my observations at the rescue and talking to other macaw owners, no.

Most macaws don't bond as strongly to one person, which is at the base of our problems. Also, most macaws seem to understand "gentle" more than severes. Militaries, scarlets, Illiger's, and their hybrids are also often quite nippy.

The general problem with macaws is that many feel it's funny to intimidate people. They bluff, and if you're afraid, they know it and capitalize on it. Therefore, in inexperienced homes, problems happen and the longer they go on, the harder they are to resolve.

The mess, destruction, and noise are definitely problems with macaws. The reason most B&G macaws are surrendered to us relates to noise, closely followed by the macaw being upset by a new baby.

Of all of the birds surrendered to the rescue, as a group, the severes are by far in the worst shape when they arrive -- even worse than cockatoos. People underestimate them because of their size.

Meg said...

I think it is wonderful you took the time to write such a post, I hope it helps people see the other side of that absolutely-hands-down-adorable face-in-the-petshop!

I also enjoyed reading your older posts on your bird species, especially the one on the caique. I had been considering taking one in to foster, because I felt so sorry for him on craigslist. He was posted by someone who has "some" knowledge of birds, I believe, but they wanted to put him up as a breeder, as he bit (emphasis placed several times on that) and wanted to trade him for a baby or a large rehoming fee.

Shannon said...

As always, thank you, Mary for posting this educational information about the realities of parrot-keeping and specifically about this species. I wish it wasn't necessary to have exotic bird breeders, period, except for breeding for conserving threatened species....which may soon be most of them. Sigh.

Pamela said...

Excellent post, it should be required reading for anyone thinking about getting any kind of long-lived parrot. Thanks for your honesty.

Mary said...

Meg -- your comment about that caique is heartbreaking. Caiques are often quite misunderstood because their small size lends itself to a false sense of security. I hope he found a good, non-breeding home. The biting genes aren't the ones that should be passed down!

Shannon -- I agree. I know there are many people who take very good care of their birds; sadly there are many many more that don't, and it's the birds that suffer.

Pamela -- thanks for the comment! As I've mentioned before, I've considered not blogging because I don't want people to see the cute pictures and decide to get a parrot; I'm hoping that by being as honest as I can, people will think about their decisions.

Pamela said...

Yeah, I'm thinking of writing about the harder things of bird ownership myself....

janwright said...

I purchased my Severe when he was 13 months old (7 years ago this month). Max is sitting on my shoulder as I type this.

Max had decided he is not going to let anyone talk to me UNLESS he was on my shoulder. As soon as anyone started a word, he would out squawk them. This includes and more to the truth, especially my husband. Max is most assuredly my bird. The irony of this, is that due to my work schedule, my husband was actually around him most. However, he remains true to me.

I did have to do a couple of "tricks" of my own. Hope you find these helpful.
1. I purchased a second home (cage) for Max. It is upstairs. This is where he goes when we have company. I actually think he prefers his second home to strangers. It is furnished the same as hs primary residence (main cage).

2. Got a mist bottle and filled it with water. Everytime he started to over-talk someone, he got misted. Max is very smart. It only took a couple of mistings to stop the behavior. Now, if he feels like trying it again, all I have to do is show him the mist bottle. No need to spray.

Max can also be very sweet and very loving. When I ask him for a hug, he rubs his cheek against mine and says awwwe. He gives me the biggest, warmest, most heartfeld "HI!" when I walk in the door or into the room.

Would NOT trade him for the world!

Wolf said...

I have had a Severe in the past and am in the process of acquiring another, 12 years after losing my faithful friend. Garfield, my first Severe, was himself a rescue coming out of a dark room where he was barely fed and watered and in terrible shape. Our first introduction he bit me on the bridge of my nose, making it bleed. But in short order, he was my best friend. I had the luxury of being able to take him every where, including work where he had his own play stand. I think it was the socialization daily that made him a good bird. Yes, he was MY bird and would defend me if I fell asleep in the chair and someone approached. But he loved many people, mostly women, and was not aggressive with my significant at the time. I used a spray bottle to manage the screaming and pets and cuddles to reward the "soft voice" and he did pretty well unless something terrible upset him (like when the dog got into the peanut butter and wouldn't share). So, I think there are ways to manage the innate behaviors but posts like yours make people aware of the intention that is required to meet those needs and understand the behaviors. Thanks for your post.

Leah

cristiane said...

We have a female mini macaw and absolutely ADORE her. She is basically already potty trained at 5 months. She runs over and flips onto her stomache to have her tummy rubbed, she never screams (unless I challenge her to a screaming match). She has never bitten though she does use her beak to climb up on a hand. We train her not to go on shoulders and to fly only when we want her to (she still sometimes decides she wants to come visit).

I can't go on enough about Annabelle. Relatives even got her a "Parrot's first Christmas" ormanment. She is fine with both myself and my husband at work during the day. We leave the tv on for her and then have snuggle time in the evenings. I definitley would say she's a two person bird. She needs enough attention that if one person is cooking etc, its nice to hand her off. She plays by herself too, but if we've been gone all day then she wants to be with us when we're home during the week.

I would totally rec. a severe macaw to anyone with a loving bird heart, more than one person in the family to provide attention (she has no favorite, she tends to like to wrestle with my husband more though since I'm a little more delicate with her). She cuddles under our chins, under blankets and is the best thing ever.

She was hand fed by the way,and I don't think I would adobt a rescue bird, too many issues. I know that's sad but I know we wouldn't have been prepared for that. It's like adopting a kid who's been badly parented. I do think that the pet store, yes pet store that we got her from is responsible for her wonderful demeanor that we have kept up.

If you want an awesome bird, less annoying than a cocatail, smarter and more playful than a budgie, smaller thana macaw, and you have the time and patience to spend with it, like you would a real family member than a mini macaw will make a wonderful companion and will love you back!

Mary said...

Cristiane,

Thanks for the comment; however, I must point out that your macaw is only 5 months old. You have no idea what her adult personality will be like.

Almost every baby is sweet; I'm sure even Rocky was. However, your baby is going to grow up. Almost every baby at the rescue where I volunteer was loved and wanted. Then they grew up, and people who had purchased them from pet stores or breeders who said things like, "severe macaws make wonderful family pets" discard them when the reality doesn't match up to the hype.

I sincerely hope that you defy the odds with your macaw and that she's in her forever, loving home with you. Sadly, the odds are not in her favor. I'd be interested to see what your thoughts are, and where she is living, in 15 (or even 5) years.

I do think it's extremely irresponsible to say, when your macaw is only 5 months old, that they make great pets (you do not have enough experience and the truth is exactly the opposite). A baby grizzly bear might make a great pet when he's a baby.

It is also naive to make the comment about rescue birds having too many problems. All parrots are wild animals and therefore adults have trouble living in human homes because most humans are not willing to make the proper accommodations. Parrots are also very long lived and many rescue birds were never mistreated; they just outlived their owner.

I've seen it hundreds of times. The absolute best way to find a parrot that bonds to you is to adopt an older, rescue bird that picks you. Babies love almost everyone. You'll love any bird that's in your home, so you're off to a great start if you find an adult that likes you.

As I said before, best of luck to you and your severe macaw. Please look into clicker training and other positive reinforcement methods now, while she's still young. Please also reconsider snuggling under blankets as that only exacerbates reproductive problems. You have no idea what her adult personality will be, and the best chance you have for maintaining a loving, sweet, bird is by not reproductively stimulating her, and by teaching her limits and how to behave in your house.

Lucinda Gainey said...

We have a severe macaw (don't know if it's male or female) that we have had for about 10 years. Maco is really not a one-person bird. He is happy with me, my husband and my daughter. Sometimes it's hard to tell who is favorite is. On the other hand, he dislikes, and will attack, the other two members of our family as well as any visitors.

He was not a traditional rescue. We got him from my husband's boss who acquired him from a breeder. He was treated well, and well taken care of, but the owner was having to travel more and more for business and leaving the bird alone too much. We are only his second owners.

I do agree that this breed is not a good family pet. I wouldn't recommend them to anyone I love Maco, but he is not greatest companion. I did want to let you know that there is at least one severe out here that has bonded (of a sort) with more than one person concurrently.

Mary said...

Lucinda,

Thanks for writing in! I wish you had a blog because I have so many questions for you especially since you qualified your comment by adding that he has bonded (of a sort).

In any case, I will do a new blog entry on your comments soon, because it's nice to know there's one out there. I still have hope of winning Rocky over and, depending on how you use the word "tame" I could argue that he is tame to both of us. But that will go in my future post!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience!!!

Marie said...

That was a really good, and honest article about severe's.

I greatly enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

Mary,
Well, I'll try to find your blog again in 5 years and let you know how it goes with Annabelle! I am fully expecting to have some issues as I have had enough animals to know they do change with they become adults. She is so amazing now it's hard to imagine her being any other way.

Anonymous said...

Here's a really great foundation by our house that has good online resources too.
http://www.thegabrielfoundation.org

I called my vet today, they're avian experts and she said most parrots go bad when as they become adults they get less attention than they were getting as babies. She said to keep the level the same. Also that they do commonly favor someone in the house but if as babies everyone playes with them and they get socialized that's not usually a behavioral problem.

Darlene said...

Darlene
I am grateful for finding this website, We purchased a severe Macaw approx. 4 years ago when she was just a baby.(Just coming off of being hand fed) Being new to birds(Never having one) we were told all the wonderful things about this bird. Great talkers with a large vocabulary. Sweet and easy to take care of. Loving, smart, ect ect. This was true to some extent, she was a sweet bird who was content to both myself and my husband. She is now approching 5 years old. A few months ago my son who lives very far from me came to visit/ she flew at his shoulder and bit him, his reaction was to get her off and he knocked her off his shoulder. she hit wall and was a little frightened. She lost all her tail feathers, (Which grew Back). Never seeing this kind of behavior from her, I defended her actions as being, (She was going to land on his shoulder and was slipping, so she bit his neck to steady herself). Now she has decided that my husband is her enemy. She always had a good relationship with him. so again I defended her actions.
1. She has flown on his shoulder and bit his neck 2 or 3 times.
2. He was going down the steps and she was on my shoulder as I was following him. She (Rickie is her Name) few on his back and bit his neck again.
3. Yesterday he was getting ready for bed. She was sitting on the bed being very calm. All of a sudden she flew on his bare back and bit his back muscle.
4. She has flown at his face twice and bit his nose, breaking the skin and causing bleeding.
This is becoming very alarming. I'm glad I read your blog. It has really helped me to understand what she is doing. I wish I had not been lied to when we were purchasing a bird. We do love her, but I am at odds on what to do. We are taking her to get her wings clipped tomorrow and hope that settles her down. Any advice??

darlene said...

Darlene
Oh by the way, Rickie has chewed the bathroom door and ate the wallpaper. AND she was not lacking for any attention. We took her everywhere with us. She has a clear cage that we use. She goes to work with me( I own my own real estate Business) I have a cage for her there. I had to stop taking her, because she would not let me talk to anyone. HELP

Mary said...

Darlene,

I'm so sorry you're going through this with Rickie. Instead of leaving a ridiculously long comment, I wrote an entry here:

http://parrotmusings.blogspot.com/2010/01/more-on-severe-macaws.html

Please keep me updated!

Ren said...

I recently bought a severe, and she seemed to take liking to me, but still infact bites me. She has never attacked me like she has my other family members. Is there anyway of breaking this habit? Biting/Attacking?

Ren said...

Figured, I might as well give you an example. I was sitting on the couch, and Severe was on my knee, and my mom was sitting on the floor watching TV, my macaw climbs down from my knee, climbs off the couch, runs over, and attacks my mom. There was no teasing or threatening what-so-ever. She also lunged off the couch and bit my moms hip as well. Were trying to develope a way for her to go to anyone w/out biting or attacking. We've only had her for about a week, and I know that's not long, but, I've been reading nothing but negative things about "Severe's" and its worrying me. Will she be able to become a family bird? She's 10 yrs. old btw.

Anonymous said...

My love affair with my Severe is going on 20 years now. Severe's are not for everyone. They are aggressive, noisy and do have a nasty streak. They are also very funny, sweet, lovable and intelligent animals; but they like to be in charge and it is a constant battle.
All the problems that are discussed here have come up. We have found the following to be key to managing severes and being a good bird parent.

1. Never ever let them roost anywhere above you head, and that includes being on your shoulder. Any bird that is permitted to do this will try to assume the top bird position in the household, which is natural as you are usually viewed as one of the flock.

2. Always provide many toys, diversions, and much out time.

3. Fresh food should available daily in addition to the pellets, seed diet. Meal times should be on schedule every day. Birds are like small children, things quickly fall apart if they do not have a routine.

4. One on one time with their beloved human is necessary on a daily basis.

5. They are aggressive and will attack outsiders, those who are not part of their flock. They will also bite you if they see something that alarms them, this is only to alert you to a crisis. To avoid these attacks on visitors make sure your bird is on a perch and unable to reach your guests. If your bird is alarmed by the visitor put him away in his cage, he will feel more secure.

I have more to add and will do so later.

Nicola

Shelli Joye said...

Nuggles is now 10 years old and we got him within a year of his hatching. At first he would only bond with one of us and bit my finger rather hard early on, though it was my fault for sticking my finger close to him... but one day I was changing his food and he jumped off the top of the cage onto my shoulder. I was sure I was about to lose an eye, when he started rubbing his head against mine and tangling himself in my hair. Since then he has been bonded equally to both of us. He's not much of a talke,r though he did learn to say Hello and "Night night!", which he becomes rather insistant on when it gets dark and he expects to have is cage covered...

He does have a very loud squawk when he wants, but usually it is reserved for when he hears one of our cars drive up. it seems he can differentiate quite well between the sounds of car engines!

The only time I was bitten really hard was when he was on my shoulder in the kitchen (he rides around on both of our shoulders from time to time, especially when we are fixing his food, and sometimes outside in the garden...). My daughter visiting from London (we live in San Francisco) ran up to me rather quickly, not realizing I had Nuggles on my shoulder... to my surprise he bit ME! really hard, on the shoulder...still have a scar bump there!

I'm a painter and home most of the time and have gotten used to talking with him and hearing his various low level mutterings and macaw sounds....

Anyway, my main point was to refute the impression some have made here that a severe macaw can never bond with two people. Nuggles has definitely bonded with both of us....

Shelli

Mary said...

Hi Shelli,

Thanks for the comment! I'm glad that you guys have such a great relationship with Nuggles -- she is very lucky to have found a great home!

Through the internet, if you read the above comments, I've been able to find a few people that have a severe macaw that is tame to more than one person in the house (though some have qualified that "of a sort" -- I want to know more as I think I could put that kind of qualification on the relationship Rocky and I share).

I hope you realize how lucky and rare your experience is, and I hope it continues on throughout the rest of Nuggles's life! She is in a much better position than most severe macaws, as if you ever have to rehome her (not sure how old you were when you got her, but a good chance she will outlive you) she will be much better treated if she is tame and friendly to everyone. That is one of my biggest fears for Rocky -- he shouldn't outlive us, but what if we die young? It pains me to think of someone abusing him again because of his behavior.

In any case, congratulations! I have a severe macaw at the rescue where we volunteer who loves me, and there really is something special about these guys; they just tend to do very poorly in captivity.

remilama said...

I have a male severe macaw who is 19 years old named Buddy. We brought him into our home when he was 9 and it was a bit of a rocky start. I do agree that they bond very strongly to one person. He is without a doubt my bird although he is friendly to the rest of the family. He picks who he likes and dislikes very quickly and will not change his opinion. He is very smart and has a huge vocaulary. He learns things almost immediately and for someone who isnt experienced in training birds it could be a disaster. Bad habits are learned just as quickly as good ones. The thing about him that stands out most from other birds i've worked with is his independant humor. He laughs often about human mishaps (such as stubbing a toe, or dropping an egg) without anyone else laughing. I will laugh til I cry once he gets going. He is not a destructive or messy bird, but can be very demanding and obnoxious at times. He is a very independant thinker and can be very bullheaded. He wants what he wants when he wants it and if he doesnt get it he will let the whole neighborhood know he is displeased. We used to correct his lil outbursts with a spray of water from a squirt bottle, but now i just show him the bottle and leave it in plain sight, no squirt necessary. His devotion and willingness to please me, along with his sense of humor is unmatchable. He has bonded to me completely and will never leave our family. I do not recommend this breed as a first bird, as he can be difficult and test his boundries often. He is what his name says, my buddy and there is a bond between us so strong i firmly believe that he would search for me if we were ever seperated. To anyone who is thinking about bringing a severe into their home, as with many large birds, it is a commitment for better or worse. Rehoming a severe macaw can be very traumatic. I love my little Buddy and of all the breeds I've gotten a chance to work with, he is the most personable, free spirited bird and by far my breed of choice.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely ignorant when it comes to talking about severe macaws. I have owned one for 3 yrs and he is the total opposite of everything you described in your "thoughts". He willing goes to everyone I hand him off to and is most def. not a one person bird. Most people like yourself sterotype severes which is not fair. As long as you treat them like you are suppose to they will be AMAZING birds for a family as long as they are educated on how to handle them. There are no birds that should be classified as "not family friendly" because every single bird is different with their own personalities. As long as they are raised correctly then they are like I said AMAZING pets.

And for STEPHANIE's concern about all macaws they make great pets you just need to pick the right bird for you. When you go shopping for a parrot you will find one that bonds with you no matter the type!

Mary said...

Anonymous of 9/20/10:

I debated whether to respond to you, but since this is a post that has been receiving a lot of attention, I figured that I should for those that may read this after you; I suspect you are a drive-by commenter and will not post again.

It is comments like yours that lead people down the path to frustration with their severe macaws. According to your comment, it sounds like your experience is 3 years with a severe macaw that is a baby. You still don't know that severe's personality -- he's a baby. I sincerely hope that he remains tame to everyone, but would be interested to hear back if you still have the bird in 10 years. (Most people keep their parrots less than 5 years before losing interest and selling the bird or surrendering him to a rescue.)

I have been volunteering at a parrot rescue for over 7 years now and have a ton of experience with severe macaws. I've also owned an adult severe macaw for over 4 years and lived with him on a daily basis.

If you read my blog, instead of becoming defensive about one post that is intended to help people decide if a severe macaw is right for them, you will see that I do talk about the good things about them.

The problem, as I talked about in this post, is that they are difficult birds, and the adults are almost always one-person birds.

You say that your experience is completely the opposite -- I wrote this: "if someone goes in with their eyes open and truly makes a commitment, a wonderful relationship can be had" -- does that mean you don't have a wonderful relationship with your severe? Or maybe I am telling the truth and not sugarcoating things and you are just extremely defensive?

Actually, given the unfair attack on me being ignorant about parrots (which is so far from the truth, it's laughable) I suspect you either own a pet store that sells birds or are a macaw breeder.

Macaws do not make good pets for most people. Most people do not have the attention span and devotion these wild animals need.

What's best for everyone involved -- potential parrot owners and, more importantly, the parrots themselves, is people being truthful about what parrot ownership entails. That way, the people who are ready to make the commitment know what they're getting into, and the people looking for an easy pet can get a dog or cat.

Good luck with your severe macaw down the road -- with an attitude like yours, your bird is going to need it.

Anonymous said...

For your information I have been working with all types of parrots for ten years now and I have never met two birds that are excatly the same. The fact I'm trying to point out to you is you can't sterotype any birds. It purely depends on the owner and that particular bird.

And by opposite I mean the experience that I've had with my severe's behavior. If someone goes to by a bird it should just purely depend on that one bird. Some parrots scream your ear off and others dont. IT JUST DEPENDS ON THE BIRD ITSELF!

Your blog is completely bias towards the bad behaviors that some severe's might possess. And I EMPHASIZE MIGHT!

Since I've been dealing with parrots for these many years I have dealt with many adult severes and many adult macaws for that matter and each are very different and most even wild caught are amazing and sweet even as adults.

You should not put a label on any parrots. It just depends on the owner's completely and weather or not they can handle caring for a parrot and that goes for EVERY PARROT NOT JUST SEVERES!

And I will definatly not be giving up my severe and anyone who does get rid of their parrots should've never became bird owner's in the first place. It just mentally messes with the bird.

By the way I only have an "attitude" toward people who think they know everything about parrots like you when you clearly DON'T! Dont be mistaken I dont know everything either but what I do know is that every parrot is different in every way including their personalities and behaviors and thats just what it is! No bird should be steortyped.

For people who are researching birds should mainly discuss that particular bird with the people who know them best which would be the store or pet owners know that bird better than a blog.

Before you buy a bird period you should do your research on parrots in general and make sure that you are ready to make a commitment to any bird!

Mary said...

Nowhere have I said that I know everything about parrots -- in fact, I make it a point to say that these are my experiences, and I frequently talk about how each bird is an individual. I learn more from these guys every day.

By blog, do you mean this one entry, or are you talking about the entire blog? Because they are both quite balanced. There are many entries where I talk about how funny/wonderful he is. But I'm not going to exclude the bad. That's how people make bad mistakes and get in over their heads -- by only hearing the good. Note the qualifying words I use, and talk about how it is my experience.

I must say that a store generally does not know more about the parrot's personality, especially if that parrot (as most in pet stores are) is a baby. Almost all parrot babies are sweet. They change.

I suspect you either own or work in a pet store and therefore are promoting parrot ownership in order to increase your revenue. I have no financial interest in anything parrot (other than the money that I spend on them, but that isn't affected by other people's parrot ownership.)

My concern is for the birds. You talk about people doing research -- how are they supposed to do that? Only talk to the person trying to sell them a bird (someone with a financial interest?) Or should they talk to pet owners about what it's like to live with that kind of bird? Maybe talk to a lot of people with adult individuals of a species and see if there are specific behavior traits that are common?

While no parrot is exactly the same, there are similar characteristics among the individuals of a species -- if you've been working with (adult) parrots for 10 years, you would know that. It's to everyone's benefit if the person chooses a species of parrot that fits in best with their family; not just one that the pet store says will fit in because they're trying to make a quick buck.

I'm not sure why I'm bothering except for others who may stumble upon this.

I do know what I'm talking about -- I have spent years working on behavior with parrots. I have helped dozens of parrots to stay in their homes through behavioral counseling with their owners. I have several parrots that were quite abused in their former homes that are now extremely happy. I just don't understand why you're attacking me -- unless you have a financial interest in promoting severe macaw ownership.

Anonymous said...

First off if it was a responsable pet store they would know each parrot individually like the one I purchased mine from. I am in no way a pet store owner or anything of the type but I have worked in one many years a while ago and I have studied animal behaviors including parrots. That is the main thing that attracted me to them. The most important thing that you should look for is if they took the time to hand feed them, and if they handle them day to day as the store my severe came from did ( this was not petsmart or petco but an actual parrot specialized store )

When I did work with parrots in a store I knew each and everyone and I knew their personailties and their frequent behaviors. Yes, while some birds may show common behaviors others DON'T. For example, I have dealt with three double yellow headed amazons. Most people have the misconception that amazons are extremely aggressive which is absolutely not the case with all. Only one would like to try to bite you which I did correct with him but the other two had no problems with biting. And each of the amazons were different ages.

In No way shape or form am I trying to make a quick buck because it doesnt matter to me weather or not people go out and buy a severe. But you can not just sit there and say that ALL severes become one person birds (for the majority) and are bitters/nippy.

And for your personal information I am in no way attacking you but clearly just stating the facts that while SOME MAY possess similar characteristic MOST DO NOT!

Im sure you know most of what your talking about but It just isnt fair to severes in general to say those things about them when each one is like i said "DIFFERENT". Which is the case with all parrots!

Anonymous said...

I just bought a three year old severe and am new to the game. I helped my sister with her birds, Grays etc for a year and learned a lot. My Severe will go to any one who says step up. He talks up a storm from step up to ab ra ca dab ra. Only squawks if I go out side and then not very loud. Loves my wife and does not mind the dog. I hope that all you have said is not true for all Severe Macaws as this is the best bird I could ever hope to get. Like you say we will see. Most important is that not just Macaws but all Birds should be researched and if you have kids I think I would wait for a bird such as one that could hurt your kids as much as a Macaw that can take a chunk out. Thirty years they say a Severe should live so at forty or fifty you should be fine I would hope but things do happen. My bird is a rescue bird and I did buy him at a pet shop. Don't know his name or sex but I took him/her to the vet and had him checked out , sexed, nails clipped and a chip. New cage toys etc and after all this the bird acts very happy and will step up any time I ask him too. In fact he says step up and holds his foot up so I go to the cage and let him on my finger. He loves his head scratched and will let anyone do it. If I had read this post I never would have bought this bird. As of now and only been a week I'm sure I'm in for some surprises but I hope that by the way the bird acted towards my wife and I at the store and up till now it will not change. Yes I know it is still a baby but by the right training and both of us involved I'm hoping it will work out ok. I have read, read and read some more and have learned what too do and what not to do. Kids are grown and on there own and my wife and I work at home so we have the time to spend with our new family member. I feed one day and she feeds the next, I give treat and so does she, we mix it up and it will stay that way as long as it works. I am glad right now that I didn't read your post first and hope to prove it wrong. I'll update in six months. Capt Jay

Mary said...

Hi Capt Jay,

Nothing would make me happier than for you to prove me wrong!

I love severe macaws so much and it makes me so sad, to see the way that most are treated.

Good luck to you, your wife, and your new companion!!!

Julie J. said...

I have just one question. Do you allow your birds to wonder your house unsupervised? Im just asking because in your blog it says that Rocky gets a hold of your fish tank stand, molding, etc.

Ester T. said...

In response to what you said in your blog:
"I joined a severe macaw board and asked if anyone had a mature (preferably over age 10) severe macaw that was tame to more than one person in the house. No one responded affirmatively. I had the lady who runs the rescue where I volunteer ask her many bird contacts if anyone had ever heard of this happening, but no one had. Same thing with my vet. Maybe there's one out there somewhere, but I've been unable to find one."

I actually have a female severe macaw and she is going on 17 years old and she is amazing and acts the exact same way as when we bought her. I absolutely love her! She will go to everyone and loves to talk. Also she barely bites and only does when she gets absolutely scared!

You wanted to find one well we have one!!

Ester T.

Mary said...

Julie J -- they are never completely unsupervised (except for the rare occasions when someone escapes from their cage), but we do what I consider "light supervision." We try to give them as much autonomy as possible in a captive environment. That means that they can choose where to go within the acceptable rooms (kitchen and living room). We are always in these rooms if they are out, and keep an ear open for trouble. When a bird first joins our flock, we do heavy supervision until we have a good idea that they understand the rules -- this can take 3 weeks or 6 months and even under heavy supervision, home destruction has been known to occur (we are outnumbered 5 parrots:2 humans and both humans are not always home!)

My biggest concern is actually parrots inflicting damage on each other rather than on my house, so that's why everyone is about the same size and can fly/escape.

I probably gave you a longer answer than you were expecting, but if I didn't answer your question fully, please let me know!

Ester T. -- thanks for letting me know! I knew there had to be some out there somewhere (and other commenters have said similar things, though their responses were more qualified than yours).

I am so happy that you guys still have such a great relationship and I wish more severe macaws found that.

I still have hopes of winning Rocky over so he is as tame to me as he is to Thomas. Four years in, we've made progress, but we're not where I want to be yet. Hopefully someday I will be able to say the same as you!!!

Thanks again!

Ester said...

Mary,

"other commenters have said similar things, though their responses were more qualified than yours"

What excatly does your comment implying?

Ester T.

Ester T. said...

Mary,

"other commenters have said similar things, though their responses were more qualified than yours"

What excatly is* your comment implying?

Ester T.

Mary said...

Ester, you said:

"Mary,

"other commenters have said similar things, though their responses were more qualified than yours"

What excatly is* your comment implying?

Ester T."

I meant qualified in the accounting sense, and I'm sorry if it was unclear or that I was implying that your answer was unqualified (not at all the case!)

From Mirriam-Wenster: limited or modified in some way

I meant that your answer implied that your severe macaw is tame to everyone in the house, without exceptions, whereas other people said that their severe macaws were tame, with exceptions (qualifications.)

For example, Lucinda wrote: "Maco is really not a one-person bird. He is happy with me, my husband and my daughter. Sometimes it's hard to tell who is favorite is. On the other hand, he dislikes, and will attack, the other two members of our family as well as any visitors." so he is tame to more than one person, but with more exceptions than you.

Or Jan who wrote: "Max had decided he is not going to let anyone talk to me UNLESS he was on my shoulder. As soon as anyone started a word, he would out squawk them. This includes and more to the truth, especially my husband. Max is most assuredly my bird. The irony of this, is that due to my work schedule, my husband was actually around him most. However, he remains true to me."

Hope this is clear -- no offense intended at all. I wasn't even considering the other meaning of the word "qualified" when I used it!

Caryn said...

Where is there a forum dedicated just to severe macaws that you mentioned? I recently lost to aspergillosis my beloved severe Sydney and went into deep mourning. She was my lovey buddy. I just got from a rescue a juvenille severe that so far is very sweet, but I know what these birds are capable of. With raising a severe a second time around, I would like to find a good community of just severe owners.

Mary said...

Hi Caryn,

I wish a good community existed that I could direct you to! The group I mentioned in this post has not existed for about a year now. (I had made my inquiry on that board back in 2006 when we first took Rocky in.) I did join a severe macaw yahoo group, but it is not very active or helpful. With most of these parrot groups, people get really excited when they are anticipating their baby parrot/for the first few months they have the bird, but then monotony sets in and few people continue to participate.

I'm so sorry on the loss of your severe, and wish you luck with your new one! She is very lucky to have been adopted to someone with severe experience. With your attitude toward her, I'm sure you guys will find success.

Best of luck, and I wish I had some place to direct you -- if you start something, let me know and I will join!

Saemma said...

Thank you for sharing. It helps to learn and read about other severe macaw owners experiences.

Anonymous said...

I have a 7 yr old severe macaw and he was given to me by a 16 yr old who said he screamed and all he did was bite, can I tell you just after three weeks he loves all of my kids and my other three parrots.At first I thought I can't keep him but I gave him a chance and he is the sweetest bird and looks for me all the time but he will sit and entertain himself or talk to the other birds.My daughter is 2 1/2 and he loves to watch Elmo with her and sings and dances to it we adore him.

rottieprincess said...

Hi and thanks for a great blog! I really wished I came here before I just adopted a 6 year old female Severe, KC.

As much as I hate "stereotyping" any type of animal (I have a rottie that is the sweetest thing in the world), I must say the behaviour I have read about Severe describes KC to a "T".

I would like to say our family is animal and parrot savvy, growing up with several birdies, a Congo African Grey, a Sun Conure, a Maroon Belly Conure, bunnies, hamsters, cats, fish, a prairie dog, and rottweilers. My husband has grown up with Sun Conures, Cherry Headed Conures, African Greys, Cockatiels, dogs, bunnies, hamsters, cats, horses, goats, etc.

Anyways, its 1 week in, and although KC has definitely bonded to me, she is very nasty to others in the house. She will actually go out of the way to "chase" and bite others.

Thank goodness she hasn't used her flight to attack. She has climbed up and bit my husband on the neck several times.

I was definitely hoping for a family bird, but now, I am just hoping she doesn't cause too much damage!

KC was a rescue, so I am not giving up. She can be so loving and sweet, its hard to see that she would ever have a nasty side!

Anyways thanks everyone for any tips, suggestions, etc.

Anonymous said...

Just found this post during a search. Excellent advice. I have a severe macaw though not by *choice* but because I was babysitting him and they didn't take him back. He's my first bird ever. I am his 4th home and he's pretty much completely plucked. That's how I got him. He was a SCREAMER and if I left the room, he would SCREAM AND SCREAM AND SCREAM until I returned. He had to be sitting on me all times. His diet was horrible so I gradually changed his diet to pellets. He was fed cheese before coming to stay with me. I couldn't wait to return him as he drove me nuts. I never wanted a bird, didn't like them but liked to see them in the wild, enjoyed seeing them in the wild. Never wanted one. I knew he could bite and knew how bad his bites could be (though he had not yet bit me). But he seemed so attached to me in such a short time. A friend said something to me that changed my decision to keep him. She said "it would be so cruel to send him away when he has finally found a home he loves. He doesn't have a choice as to where he lives or how he's treated." So I kept him.

It's now been 9 years and he's a changed bird. He no longer screams, in fact I thought something might be wrong with him because he rarely even does contact calls. I don't keep him caged much except for when I'm not home. While I have been bit, I have learned to read the signs -- took me a while since he is my first experience EVER with any bird. He does get carried away with his beak when playing. He's a loving bird and gets along with the other birds here (yes, since him, I've added some birds that I rescued (budgies, parrotlet & a couple of pigeons). He's even developed the bad habit of going to the other bird cages and opening them up and letting them out so I have to chase them down and put them back in their cages. He shares his food with the budgie and allows them to perch on his perch near him.

I don't let anyone handle him because he still is a one person bird and if I'm around, he will bite them. He will now allow a couple of my friends handle him but only if I'm not within sight.

He's scared of sticks because his second home used to hit him with a stick when he screamed. His third home kept him caged and covered a lot because of his screaming. I inadvertently did the right thing by ignoring his screaming so he eventually stopped (I actually bought ear plugs and used them when he was out of control with his screaming). Because he was kept caged and covered all the time, I did not cover his cage nor did I keep him in the cage at all when I was home. Now he goes to his cage on his own to hang out.

He is my only experience with a severe macaw but if he's any indication of what a severe macaw can be like, I would never recommend a severe to anyone. I can see why people would give them up. I didn't because (1) I have never rehomed an animal in my life, and (2) it was not his fault that he had a crappy life. It us us humans that took his species and forced them to live in cages, inside homes, etc. We took away what would be natural to them.

I love this severe macaw. He will never ever be rehomed unless I die before him. I don't want him to ever experience being hit or living in the dark to keep him quiet. That was the first 15 years of his life. He's now 24 years old, been with me for 9 years.

I wouldn't buy one but I would take a rescue. They are very difficult birds. I learned to deal with him by trial and error. Fortunately, he was very forgiving of my errors. And most definately, severes are NOT the choice of a first time bird owner, LOL.

Anonymous said...

I have two severes a female and a male one I bought the other was a rescue they are both wonderful birds,it's not the birds it's the owners, it's like anything else they need love and care you can't just get one and stick it in a cage.I also have a grey and an amazon and they are all good together but I do supervise them so don't discourage people from getting them.they just need love and attention beautiful loving parrots.

doug said...

ok i have to get on the band wagon too and post...lol...my wife and i have 10 parrots...we just took in a 23 yr old male severe...you have described him to a T...he is a handful but so cute...at first i could not get close to him and my wife suggested using a feather of his to rub his beak through the cage...as silly as this sounds it worked for her amazon and has worked for cody to the point if i am quick i can pet him without getting bit...my wife actually has even better luck than i...cody has been rehomed twice and now is in his forever home...he and i tease each other with the feather and receipt paper rolls (tug of war), i always let him win...i can now pick him up with a glove and take him outside on my shoulder and he preens me...he is coming along quite nicely...time, patience and love is the answer for these birds, but in all honesty i think the feather contributed the most...you sure know your birds...thank you for the post...i have bookmarked you and will be back to let you know how i make out...oh one other thing i have him in the sun room next to the kitchen and have to share my meals or he never shuts up...lol

doug haines

xyz said...

Our Amelia is a love. We feel really lucky to have adopted such a sweet girl, and every day is an adventure with her.

I'm concerned because 1. She's just over a year and is therefore still a baby and 2. There seems to be a very limited amount of "severe macaw specific" information out there.

I'm grateful for your post, and am hoping you can point me to some books or resources that are specific to Severes.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I have a female Severe, probably a little over three years old and she is a challenging keep. She is generally quiet, preferring to whistle and “talk”, she is playful, rambunctious, curious and is developing a large vocabulary. In general she is an intelligent and well behaved bird, submits to a leash relatively willingly, grumbling only when I put the tight collar around her neck and seems to enjoy going out and meeting new people. Oddly, she is particularly tolerant of very elderly women. She enjoys car rides and walks. I see a lot of similarity between her personality and a Sun Conure I had for many years except the impact of the behavior is exaggerated by the Severe’s larger size.

Insomuch as her relationship with me, it would be hard to ask for a better bird except she is rough when she plays. On occasion she seems to delight in challenging me. She will take a beak full of forearm flesh and bite down uncomfortably hard, look me eye to eye and wait. I will say stop it and she will bite a little harder, stop again and harder yet. If I try to physically remove her beak she will bite still harder. She knows what cage means and will generally let go if I mention it. She also enjoys sneaking up my back, (I know she’s coming) and nipping my ears until I reach back and grab her and tickle her as she slides down. She will lie on her back grabbing my fingers with her claws and biting playfully but harder than I think most people would be comfortable with. She has very little concept of gentle and in general I would say she is too rough for most people to tolerate especially when she gets excited. I would not feel comfortable allowing her to be handled by a child or most adults for that matter. Depending on one’s concept of a family pet, I don’t think she would qualify except for a select few individuals who can tolerate being gnawed on like a soup bone.

Now the seriously bad stuff, she seems to regard my wife as a rival. She assumes a challenging open beak posture whenever my wife comes around. If my wife walks into her comfort zone, within two or three feet, I am likely to get bit. These are usually a nervous warning bite followed almost immediately by a hard scrapping bite that frequently breaks the skin creating little half moon cuts. My wife, who has only limited interest in birds resents the bird’s hostility. She also resents the responsibilities that goes with parrot ownership and the high level of attention and interaction that parrots demand. She finds it limiting that we cannot go on trips together without finding someone to board the Severe and our other two conures.

This is not a bird that will be happy sitting passively in a cage or on a stand watching the world go by. If one is in the market for a large, bossy, overly bonded, jealous, rambunctious, one person bird that wants to stick to you like Velcro, then a Severe might be right up your ally. I treasure mine but it’s easy to see why so many Severes find their way to rescue centers. I think it is beneficial to bring up the negative aspects of Severe, or parrot ownership in general for the benefit of the birds as well as their potential owners. I find many people naive concerning parrot ownership.

Anonymous said...

Question, has anyone ever returned a Severe to a previous owner for boarding? The bird had an excellent, intensely bonded relationship with its previous male owner who lived in another city an hour or so away. I was considering asking the previous owner if he would be interested in boarding the parrot for a week because I know she would be treated well and likely get lots of attention. They have been apart for about nine months. I was wondering how a severe responds to situations like this? Thanks

Anonymous said...

Our Severe prefers to be left at home as long as she has a visitor. We have a freind who looks just like my husband who comes and Annabelle adores him. We took her to our old vets house when we first had her because we were gone for two weeks. She seemed much more stressed at being in an unfamiliar environment than being mostly by herself (we'll go for up to two weeks with lots of visits and surprises to find and treats). We also set the clock radio to come on twice a day at "singing time". Maybe since it's her old owner though, your bird would be happy. Maybe he would visit your bird at your house? That would probably be ideal in my opinion. By the way this is Cristiane (with a different login). I do have to write back with an update. Annabelle is 3.5 years old now and she is our joy. She is pretty much our kid. If you don't have the time though, it's a HUGE responsibility. She brightens our lfe so much. Mary was right, she was ALWAYS sweeet as a baby and now she definitely has her moods. But we see them coming generally. BAd weather definitely affects her. She is also a two person bird. I don't think myself or my husband alone would be the kind of caregivers she deserves. They really need a lot of attention!

CB said...

Our Severe prefers to be left at home as long as she has a visitor. We have a freind who looks just like my husband who comes and Annabelle adores him. We took her to our old vets house when we first had her because we were gone for two weeks. She seemed much more stressed at being in an unfamiliar environment than being mostly by herself (we'll go for up to two weeks with lots of visits and surprises to find and treats). We also set the clock radio to come on twice a day at "singing time". Maybe since it's her old owner though, your bird would be happy. Maybe he would visit your bird at your house? That would probably be ideal in my opinion. By the way this is Cristiane (with a different login). I do have to write back with an update. Annabelle is 3.5 years old now and she is our joy. She is pretty much our kid. If you don't have the time though, it's a HUGE responsibility. She brightens our lfe so much. Mary was right, she was ALWAYS sweeet as a baby and now she definitely has her moods. But we see them coming generally. BAd weather definitely affects her. She is also a two person bird. I don't think myself or my husband alone would be the kind of caregivers she deserves. They really need a lot of attention!

Anonymous said...

Our Severe prefers to be left at home as long as she has a visitor. We have a friend who looks just like my husband who comes and Annabelle adores him. We took her to our old vets house when we first had her because we were gone for two weeks. She seemed much more stressed at being in an unfamiliar environment than being mostly by herself (we'll go for up to two weeks with lots of visits and surprises to find and treats). We also set the clock radio to come on twice a day at "singing time". Maybe since it's her old owner though, your bird would be happy. Maybe he would visit your bird at your house? That would probably be ideal in my opinion. By the way this is Cristiane (with a different login). I do have to write back with an update. Annabelle is 3.5 years old now and she is our joy. She is pretty much our kid. If you don't have the time though, it's a HUGE responsibility. She brightens our lfe so much. Mary was right, she was ALWAYS sweeet as a baby and now she definitely has her moods. But we see them coming generally. BAd weather definitely affects her. She is also a two person bird. I don't think myself or my husband alone would be the kind of caregivers she deserves. They really need a lot of attention!

Anonymous said...

I thought of something else to add. Our parrot also, like the post above, loves to play practical jokes. This includes biting you if your hands are busy, looking at you and laughing (a little mean spirited at times). But, she bonds to both of us, I'm thinking maybe because she spend most of her baby time with me and prefers me if she's afraid and my husband if she's playful (though usually him). But she never reacts to either of us as a threat as some other people have reported. I also never let her on my shoulder unless I expect to have my ear nipped. I don't think it's very funny while she finds it very entertaining.

Anonymous said...

My severe is a big plump gal, slightly larger than normal according to those who supposedly know. She seems to enjoy catching me in compromising circumstances. She has occasionally caught my finger through the bars of her cage where she holds it tightly. When I try to pull it away from her she bites down with roughly the equivalent pressure that I pull away with. When I quit pulling she quits biting but continues to hold me captive. I usually have to look for an object to distract her with to get loose. She frequently gives my ears little teasing nips that aren't uncomfortable at all. But on occasion she will catch an earlobe and hold it captive. If I try to slip a finger between her beak to open it she will bite harder. It's like she's saying, got you now... She's constantly exploring new places to nip and if she nips somewhere sensitive and I happen to jump or flinch, she immediately goes back to try it again, it's like she's making note of my vulnerabilities for some later throw down, scary.

Anyway, I had considered setting up some old PCs and monitors to Skype visit while I was out of town. My wife thinks I'm crazy and ultimately said don't worry about it, she was going to visit our son for a week of the holidays and I could stay and tickle that aggravating hen to my hearts content." That's fine, a week was longer than I wanted to visit anyway. We'll come to some type of sitter arrangement eventually. Thanks for the reply

Anonymous said...

We have had a Severe Macaw for 17 years. He too is hard headed and loves the sound of his own voice. he is incredibly intelligent and often uses this to lure in his prey (any human he hasn't met before) by tickling himself and making sweet kissing noises as soon as anyone other than myself or my mum put their hand anywhere near him he will bite. Having said all of this he is an incredibly loving bird towards the people he knows and trusts. It takes a long long time to earn the trust from an older severe. Once something has happened to them they NEVER forget.My bird JoJo will let me do anything to him i can check him all over clip his nails he hasn't bitten me in over 14 years. I will never allow my children near him and my husband has tried to gain his trust he will now allow him to tickle his tail but he is ever ready to turn and bite when he has had enough. These birds are not for novice handlers and you have to have a fair amount of knowledge of bird behaviour in order to understand their subtle cues and avoid a nasty bite. I think its crazy some of the breeders promoting these as good family pets. They are definitely NOT for young children!!!

Anne Lee said...

Hi Mary,

Thanks for your sharing, it definitely opened my eyes in owning a Severe Macaw or living with one. I treasured this type of post because I am more interested to read about the experience of the owner in regards of living with a parrot because it gives me a better picture to foresee what might happen in the future, then only I can fully educated and aware and prepared myself. Again, thanks for taking your time to write/share your experience.

However, your experience will not scare me away from getting one as I said before, it just made help me better prepared to share my life with these intelligent parrots.

Anne Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I've been raising/breeding parrots for over 20 years, which I realize will not make me popular with your readers. However, much of what you wrote I totally agree with. I am one of the rare breeders who tries to always be as honest as possible with my customers and potential customers, often talking someone out of a bird I am selling because after speaking with them I realize that species is not a good match for them. I have said, over and over again, that while each bird is a unique individual, there are species specific personality traits that you can usually count on. I have also found that the personality of a bird often changes, some times drastically, once they hit sexual maturity. This happens at different ages with different species, but usually somewhere around 5+ years of age. I once had the sweetest Black-Headed Caique who totally turned on me to the point where I was afraid to touch her. My very first handfed parrot was a Hahn's macaw, and I had a similar experience with him.

Currently I have 3 Severe Macaws: Sancho, a 25 year old female, and a mature pair, Sadie & Saber. I actually found your article because Sadie & Saber who are newly set up to breed, seem to be about to start laying, and I was looking into the approximate breeding season for Severes. I want to first say that after my own experiences with them, I am not at all surprised at your findings, or those of the people who commented on your article. I am however, alarmed, and sad, because I wonder if I can, in good concience, allow them to reproduce after reading about people's experiences.

As a breeder, I can tell you that it's not really possible to give accurate information about a species of bird unless you have personally kept at least one bird of that species, from the time it was a baby, well into adulthood. And although I have kept, raised and sold dozens of species of parrots, I have only kept a small handful of birds as my personal pets. The rest, I can give general advice only. I usually encourage people to join a Yahoo Group on that species of bird, and talk to people who have adult birds that can give fist hand information they can rely on.

Regarding my Severe experience: Sancho was given to me about 8 years ago because her first owners felt that her behavior was causing them to give her less attention than she deserved. They had her from the time she was a just weaned baby. She had for many years had a good relationship with both husband and wife, but now that the husband had retired and was able to spend a lot more time with her, she had come to see the wife as the enemy. This manifested itself in biting, attacks and constant screaming from the minute she got home from work. They were keeping her closed in a bedroom every evening, and felt terribly guilty.

When I got her, she quickly bonded to me. But she was so obnoxiously loud, that I moved her into my outdoor aviary. This works quite well, because the noise doesn't disrupt my home, and she has lots of other birds to chatter with. I see her several times a day, and she is absolutely my FAVORITE bird EVER! I LOVE her so much, I can't even explain it. She is the only adult bird I've ever had that I can do anything with, touch her anywhere, hold her in my arms like a baby and kiss her all over. It's amazing, because most adult birds would never allow this. As long as she lives outside, I think things will work out and this will be her forever home.

(Exceeded limit...Part 1)
California Parrot Lady

Anonymous said...

(Part 2)

Years ago, when I first got her, I had bought a male who was to be her mate, Saber. Saber loved Sancho, but she totally ignored him, and truly acted like she didn't even see him! Several months ago, I came across an adult female, Sadie, and purchased her for Saber. They are in a beautiful, large aviary up near my house. This aviary has 2 sections, and the other houses my pet Scarlet Macaw. Anyway, Sadie & Saber have only been together for about 3 months, and bonded quickly. That's when their true personalities really showed. The two of them are the MOST AGGRESSIVE birds I've EVER OWNED! Feeding them is tricky, as they dive bomb me and try to bite my fingers as I swing the feed door open and try to feed & water them. I'm afraid if there's ever an emergency and I need to go into the cage (walk-in aviary) because one of them is sick or injured, I will be badly attacked. I've had large macaws and cockatoos who were not tame, and I was never afraid to walk into their cage for cleaning and replacing toys and perches. This is a first, and I am NOT new at this...just shaking my head and wondering what I just got myself into. After reading everyone's experiences, if they give me babies, how can I possibly recommend them to anyone? I'm afraid I need to rethink letting them reproduce, and that makes me really sad.

There are only 4 other species that I've chosen to never breed: Moluccan Cockatoos because they are the most often given away parrot species, and can have such behavioral issues, Caiques because of my personal experience with their personality, and Patagonian and Nanday Conures, because of their extreme noise level. These are species I would have difficulty selling because I would have to disclose what I consider to be huge negatives.

Anyway, as I wrestle with how to proceed, I do thank you, and everyone who responded, for educating me and others who read this.

California Parrot Lady

Anonymous said...

My severe is 15 years old. I've had him for 10 years and he is very good with me. He will go to my husband as well. We are his fourth home and we are his forever home. He has been through family changes and easily adapted. I think macaws sometimes need changes and time to mature. I sadly had to find a new home for my blue and gold of 11 years recently. He is doing wonderfully and adores his new owner. Parrots are amazing and intricate. If you want one be ready for anything.