January 15, 2021

Ever wondered what it’s like to have a big parrot in your home? 

Gilligan the Macaw

by Ailigh Vanderbush


Life with a Macaw. It’s a lot like having a really smart toddler for 60 years.  You think I’m kidding?  I have a blue and gold macaw, not the largest of the macaw species, but she is 29 and is expected to live until she is over 60.  I am also not her first or even second home, but I hope to be the last.  I love her dearly, but I kind of fell into being her guardian.  I know what to expect and I am prepared, but it wasn’t so much of a choice as it was what I needed to do for her.  

Most macaw homes start their day early, as macaws and most other parrots like to get up with the sun.  In the wild the fist thing they do is to greet each other- like the old tv show The Walton’s.  Most humans just hear screaming.  I’m pretty lucky as Gilligan will stay nice and quiet until she hears us moving around.  Each morning she gets her fresh “chop” to eat.  Chop is amazing for their health and would really be good for my health too.  But to make chop for a month takes about one full day.  Steeping the beans, cooking the beans, cooking the quinoa, the lentils.  Chopping massive amount of peppers, orange vegetables, leafy greens and some fruit.  Mixing it all together, cooling it down, and finishing by separating it all into small container and placing it in the freezer.  Its exhausting, but it must be done.

Macaws like routine and need about 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night, so we have to stick to our normal routine, or she is very unhappy and can scream to let me know.  After she eats, I leave the door to her room open so she can see what is going on inside the house and out her window.  Late in the afternoon I take her outside to her “outside cage” where she gets sunlight and something different to see.  This is also when I clean her cage.  Her paper is changed, and I wipe the cage down daily.  Once a week her cage gets power washed.  I make sure she has a variety of toys – wood for chewing, rope for preening, a box for fun and her various perches are clean and placed to her liking.  I must make sure her food and water bowls are clean and closed securely as she is intelligent and can easily escape her cage if motivated.

Towards the end of the day I move her inside to her stand in the living room so she can hang out with us and be part of the family.  As the sun goes down, she starts to repeat “cracker” with more and more insistence.  You see “cracker” means food and she loves her food.  When its time, I move her back into her cage for the night with her macaw kibble, which has been strategically placed in a box or wrapped in a paper sack.  She enthusiastically forages for her meal and settles in for the night.   

It really is a lot of work for just one macaw and if you are not committed then it isn’t the right choice for you.  On top of all the above care, she is a macaw and her beak could literally take off my finger.  I have worked hard to gain her trust and thankfully I am able to hang out with her and help her preen.  All of this is worthwhile you see because she trusts me.  She makes these little adorable macaw noises at night that make me giggle every time.  I love that she screams “cracker” when she sees any food.  I love that I must work hard and think creatively to make her life better.  I love the little weird things we do together and when we sing together.  I cannot imagine my life without her now. That is life with a macaw.


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