14 Year old macaw suddenly started biting

by Amanda
(Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)

Hello, My question is regarding my 14 year old blue and gold macaw Chico. I have raised Chico since he was a baby, hand feeding him, bathing him, etc. For 14 years I have been the person he has 'bonded' to, and have always been able to handle him without any serious biting issues. Recently, (for almost 6 weeks now), Chico will not let me touch him. He lunges at me and has bitten me twice now very hard when I've attempted to handle him. I do not understand his actions as I feel I have done nothing(obvious to me),to warrent this behaviour. (I've never physically harmed him). I'm wondering if it has to do with the fact that I've been working more than usual, and therefore have spent less time with him, however when I have had busier periods in the past, this has never seemed to be an issue with him.

Basically, I'm wondering if there are any explanations as to why Chico would suddenly have no interest in letting me pet him, stepping up and why he appears so angry.


Confused Parrot Owner

Comments for 14 Year old macaw suddenly started biting

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Feb 09, 2011
Hormonal Male Macaws
by: Deb Tindall

You are not alone! My 14 yr old green-winged macaw has started doing the same thing. Had a vet look at him to see if it was physical - the answer I got was that macaws do not have a breeding "season", they can breed all year around. With days getting longer, weather changes, possible molting (which will also make them cranky I was told) he probably is going through a hormonal phase. I don't have an answer as to how to bring him out of it. I was told that there may be some supplements that might minimize the hormonal flux, but I haven't had a concrete list given to me. The vet also said to watch the amount of fatty foods you give him - nuts and such high in fats - that triggers their system that they are well-fed and ready to be a good provider. I also noticed my macaw's face is a little flushed around the corners of his beak is where it is most noticeable - so I just talk to him and keep my distance and don't try to handle him, but keep the verbal going so he doesn't just feel like he is being abandoned by his bonded person. I do make him get off his food dish and walk over to the side of his perch so he doesn't grab me when I feed him otherwise he is so territorial right now it gets dangerous! Another sign of hormonal flux is that he will bite the perch or cage or whatever is near him or shred whatever to show you how strong he is and how he could build you a nest. I don't know how long it will last - one breeder told me her male never came out of it and is now a full-time breeder instead of the cuddler he was when he was younger. So - get him checked by a vet to rule out any health problems, then just read whatever you can about male aggression.

Feb 09, 2011
14 year old bird suddenly aggressive
by: Tracie

Since others have already answered this, my only suggestion is to read some of the training articles on my Parrot Training page and see if you might get some ideas on how to replace the unwanted behavior with something else.

It takes a lot of time and patience to train a bird to replace a behavior you don't want, with something beneficial for both of you. Hang in there, I am sure you can do it.

Feb 09, 2011
Macaw suddenly aggressive
by: The Avian Vet

This is a complicated issue and I cannot tell you why he is doing this without a more thorough history. Certainly a change in routine or schedule could be a contributing factor. Hand feeding your own bird will certainly lead to this type of behavior, although I expect to see it before 14 years. I have attached an article that may help explain why I would suggest this.

Unweaned Baby Parrots

I too own a Blue and Gold that began a similar behavior at around 4 years of age. I did not know better at the time and regret hand feeding him now that I know more.

Many things will contribute to biting such as improper cage placement within the home, say if the cage is in an isolated room instead of a high traffic area; or letting the bird play on top of his cage; or letting the bird ride on shoulder; or not clipping his wings; or having a cage that is too small, the cage needs to be at least 3x4; or not having enough light in the room; or a sick bird will also behave this way. I recommend that you have your bird examined by an avian veterinarian, then make an appointment with a behaviorist like Barbara Heidenreich and provide more detail about what is going on.

Dr B

Feb 08, 2011
14 Year old macaw suddenly started biting
by: Linda

Amanda, this is a very difficult problem to offer advice about, and I'll do my best. Sometimes when you see sudden changes with birds it can mean they do not feel well and need to be examined by an Avian Vet. I would suggest this before taking any further steps with training people or behaviorists. In fact, they will require your bird be examined first to rule out physical causes for this behavior. Birds cover their illnesses and/or pain and will often react with anger and aggression. Parrots have roughly the emotional/mental development of 4-5 year old human children, and as we all know, children this age have an easier time telling Mommy where it hurts. So, first, have him examined by Avian Vet. Have the vet do a throat swab to check for bacterial infections and have some blood work done to see if there are any problems with kidney, liver, thyroid or parathyroid functions. The blood work will include a CBC which can sometimes tell if there is a viral infection present because antibodies are formed in abundance as well as white blood cell count would be elevated.

Once he has a clean bill of health or any physical issues are diagnosed and treated then you'll need to do some searching for training information. A parrot behaviorist could also do you a lot of good. They'll want a complete history on how bird is fed, what kind of cage and perches and toys he has as well as any changes that have happened in environment. A new pet, moving the cage, a new person, any and all of those things can cause a bird to become off center and insecure. Since he is a bit older, maybe time away from you is now becoming a problem for him. A radio tuned to a soft music station can sometimes sooth the bird if problem is being alone too much. TV is not a good idea because of all the flashing plus birds see mostly pixils unless they are very far away from it.

I would take him to Avian Vet first and then go from there. Also food is important. Parrots need not eat ANY people food because most of our foods are full of salt, sugar and fat all of which cause problems with birds. All seed diets cause serious problems as bird ages because they are very poor nutrition. We recommend organic pellets and only 10-15% in fruit and veggies a few times a week. Here is a link about how to go about changing from seeds to pellets written by an Avian Vet as it takes time:

Switching Birds to Pellets article

Organic pellets and Bird bread mix are carried here. Feed no cheap pellets because they are full of preservatives, dyes and pesticide/fertilizer residue and are not worth money people spend on them. (I am not suggesting you are doing this.)

Please let us know what the Avian Vet has to say, and how things are going. We are here to support you and your bird and are happy to answer questions anytime.


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