Consultation with a Scarlet Macaw
Suddenly Very Fearful

by Sally Blanchard


A few consultations were really easy and it was almost a waste of time to travel to them. A couple called me about their Scarlet Macaw. “Suddenly” he seemed to be terrified of just about everything and had been that way for almost a week. He sat in his cage in a straight, stretched posture and rarely moved. He was on total alert. They often fed him in the kitchen where they ate and when he was in there with them, he seemed fine. I drove about 60 minutes to get to their home. The minute I walked into their home, I was pretty sure what was wrong with the macaw. Many parrots tend to be neo-phobic to some degree but will eventually get used to something if it is introduced gradually. Some just want nothing to do with a new toy or won’t eat food they haven’t tried before, while others become virtually terrified of a new object in their environment whether it is a new painting or new piece of furniture near their cage. In this situation, there was a painting near the cage. It was a modern abstract with red, white and black slashes of paint. I asked them how long it had been on the wall in that room. They had just been to a gallery that weekend and bought it and hung it near the macaw’s cage the next day.

 

The r­e­lationship between the macaw’s behavior and the painting had not occurred to them. I asked them to move the painting out of the living room. As the man took down the painting and it disappeared into another room, the scarlet shook all of his feathers out, breathed out and relaxed. This and other similar situations showed me that parrots are much more threatened by new items in and near their cage territory than new items placed in areas that they visit but aren’t perceived as their territory. The couple had just placed the painting on the wall near the cage without realizing the terrible effect it would have on their macaw. I told them that they should hang it in an area where the macaw wouldn’t see it and bring the bird in on a daily basis and talk to him about the painting and reassure him that it was safe and he would be ok with it closer to him. If they had spent time safely acclimating him to the wild painting, he probably would have be OK with it in his cage area. As it was, he had no idea what it was all about and I think it looked something like a window to hell for him. I don’t know if the painting was moved near him again, but if they followed my advice, the macaw would have had a far more positive response to it.


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