Acquired: Worked with pet (didn’t own)
Denver, Colorado, United States
Posted Dec 22, 2013
Baby is not my bird; rather, Baby is the iconic emblem of Pet World Lakewood, a lovely store that advocates sheltering and adopting birds rather than buying them, but still sells a small number of birds to serious bird people who want baby birds to train as companions.
Baby is a Blue and Gold Macaw, and I believe that he might have been the arch-nemesis of my cockatoo, Claire, who sadly had to be rehomed as the result of a divorce. I believe this because until the day I gave her to her wonderful new owner, I would take her to the pet store to get her wings clipped, and she would freak out when she heard Baby, hiss, and put her crest up. Claire knew Baby when she was a juvenile bird, as she was fostered for a year at Pet World (until she was ready to be weaned) and Baby is the resident bird, lives amongst the bird population, and is the owner's personal bird.
So why does Baby live at Pet World? Well, when the owner's kids were little, Baby lived at home with them. His daughter was very fond of Baby, and liked playing with him. Baby probably enjoyed the play time as well. However, one day, Baby got really temperamental and bit the owner's daughter. Baby didn't just nip her -- no. Baby bit off one of her fingers. She was 11 years old when this occurred -- not a little kid, not at an irresponsible age -- 11.
Therefore, Baby lives at the store, amuses and annoys the employees and owner now, and taunts the other birds and visiting customers.
Baby has been a bird full of personality ever since the first time I walked into their store in 2000. You see, it was my hobby to drive down to Pet World to play with the baby birds and be friendly with the people there. Therefore, I spent a lot of time talking with Baby. I was only ever brave enough to hold him twice, and he bit me both times. The last time, Baby went for my face. You see, the bird knew just by looking at me that he could threaten that he was the boss, and get his way. Once that dynamic is established in any bird to person relationship, the bird will probably always exploit that, and will always have it somewhere in the back of their remarkable bird brain.
Anyway, Baby talked incessantly, and I liked to talk back. I liked seeing what kinds of cognition Baby was natively capable of. Ever the linguist, I listened carefully every time Baby spoke to me, to try and discover his conversational cues or motivations. I learned a ton about Macaws this way, with Baby and a few others in other rescue organizations for which I volunteered, and decided that no matter how highly I thought of them, I would never own one. Here's why.
1. First and most obviously, Baby bit the finger off of a trusted companion. Other Macaws I worked with exhibited similar behavior and ended up in shelters. Sad, because these birds have a long lifespan, and either need to be wild, or need lifetime companions. I do not fully blame the people who lost a finger or an eye to these birds for having to say "enough is enough", but I don't blame the birds either. This is who they are in the wild. This is who these birds will often be in captivity.
2. Macaws are, shall we say, "clowny". They are funny, gregarious birds with a joking temperament. However, the fact that they are jocular and full of surprise, because they are so clever and calculating, can work against an owner in a lot of ways. Prized piece of jewelry? Count on a Macaw to nab it. Got a pet peeve? Count on a Macaw to hone in on it and do it all of the time. This is their entertainment, because they would have far more pressing things to handle in the wild, but having had all of those things taken off their hands, including long distance flight, they busy their minds with how best to handle you. Add a temperament that is fickle, at best, like Baby's, and what you have is a problem on your hands sometimes. Thus, Macaws are high on the list for abuse and maltreatment at the hands of their owners. This is a most unfortunate situation, and one I wished to personally avoid propagating.
3. Macaws are pretty well known for not being able to handle children well. Children, having high pitched voices, fast movements, and unpredictable behavior, spell out a native threat to a Macaw. Their primal nature is to see anything that exhibits these traits as an enemy or predator. I figured that if I was ever going to bring a child into my life (at the point in which I worked with Macaws I had none), that I would have to consider this fact, and any other person of childbearing age should take this into account too.
4. Macaws like to bond with one other person or bird. In the wild, they form lifelong mating pairs. Likewise, if you have a macaw, and it likes your mate/kid/roommate/whatever-other-live-in person you have around, expect it to see every other person who gives that person attention or affection as a rival. Add that to the fact that a Macaw has nothing better to do with its time than sit around and think about how to undo their target, and what you have is a recipe for getting bit a lot, or any number of other clever things that a Macaw can think up to do to you to chase you off.
For me, this spelled it out. I personally could never own a Macaw because of thees factors. There are people, however, who do, and who love them dearly, and God bless them for it. Know, though, what you are getting yourself into, volunteer to be a bird companion if you're really serious about having one, and please consider helping these poor creatures that end up in shelters with an adoption if you are a die-hard Macaw fan and a person with large bird experience, but please, whatever you do, do not go into the decision blindly.