Feeding Your Macaw

LAST UPDATED 26 October 2021

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarians, Dr Nicole Su BSc BVMS MANZCVS (Unusual Pets) and Dr Emilee Lay BSc Vet Hons BVSc

Macaws are one of the most majestic animals that you can have at home, and all that beauty and intelligence requires a lot of care and maintenance. Macaws need a high quality, balanced diet to support their health throughout their long lives, and as they are not fully domesticated, also need a highly varied diet similar to what they would eat in the wild. 

The Macaw Diet

Wild Macaw diets are often high in fat but remember Macaws spend up to 70% of their waking hours foraging for food in the wild, and that includes fruit, leaves, roots, nuts, bark, and even clay! 


Pellets can make up to 40% of your Macaw's diet. Pellets come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colours and in some cases are breed specific. While feeding a quality nutritionally balanced pellet can help round out your macaw’s diet, the majority should be as close to the wild-type diet as possible. 

Fruit and Vegetables

Suitable fresh fruit and vegetables include pumpkin, sweet potato, leafy greens like spinach, celery, and bok choy, apple, carrot, peas, capsicum, and pear. Avocado, onion, garlic, and ginger are toxic to birds. Fresh food can be cut up into “chop,” which can then be refrigerated for up to a week, or can be fed as whole pieces of fruit and vegetables. As part of normal macaw behaviour is foraging, whole pieces are best to feed. Pumpkin, cucumber, and cobs of corn with the husk on are great options. As macaws have evolved to eat a large variety of foods, at least 5 varieties of fresh food should be offered on a regular basis, and ideally 10! 

Another great option is to grow fruit trees and vegetables in the aviary itself! Many dwarf fruit trees will easily fit within a macaw-sized aviary. Celery, kale, capsicum, and cabbage can be easily grown in pots or off the ground

Seeds and Nuts 

Dried seed can be sprouted, which reduces the fat content and increases the vitamin content. Sprouted seed can be fed once the little sprouts start to turn green, usually in 2-3 days in warm weather. 

Fresh grass seeds are also a great addition when they are in season during the warmer months. Grass seeds are ready for picking once they start to form firm seed heads, and bunches can be hung in the aviary or cage for your birds to forage from. They also make a great environmental enrichment option, promoting natural behaviours. Consider growing some in a pot and letting your birds enjoy them! 

Nuts such as walnuts, macadamias, and peanuts are treat foods, and should only be given in small amounts. Macaws can have the equivalent of a walnut 4 times a week. For extra fun, give them the nut unshelled! Other suitable treats include seed sticks, and sweeter fruits like berries, peach, grapes, and banana. Treat foods can be given twice a week. Seed sticks should be removed after an hour, and placed back in the next week, as birds will selectively choose to eat these treats over healthier foods, just like us! Remember to remove seed sticks which have been contaminated with faeces. 

Feeding Accessories for Macaws

Metal feeding bowls are better than plastic bowls, as plastic bowls accumulate tiny scratches throughout their life, which then harbour harmful bacteria and are difficult to clean. It is best to get uncomplicated bowls and dishes, and avoid hooded dishes or feeders with multiple components as they don’t stop your birds from being messy, and they’re impossible to clean. Consider adding bird specific cleaning disinfectants to your home routine to help maintain freshness when sprouting seed and general cleaning of feed containers and cages. 

We recommend having 3-4 sets of dishes and bowls for your birds so they can be easily cleaned and replaced twice a day. They also allow you to easily mix foods. For example, seed and pellets can be mixed up with vegetable and fruit chop. 

Multiple fresh water stations should always be available, and avoid placing food and water feeders under perches, as they are more likely to become contaminated with waste.

Using Food as Enrichment

Parrots forage for large amounts of time in the wild, and it is easy to create similar opportunities for pet birds. A plastic cat litter box can be filled partway with dry leaves, hay, or shredded paper, and their daily ration of dry seed can be sprinkled over, providing hours of entertainment!

Snuffle mats designed for dogs and cats are also a great way of getting birds to forage and look for their food.

Food puzzle toys are fantastic for parrots as they have excellent problem solving skills! We stock some excellent parrot-specific toys, and several food puzzle toys designed for dogs are suitable for parrots too. Getting 3-4 different toys allows you to use them in rotation - you’ll be surprised at how quickly your parrot figures them out! 

Finally, natural foliage acts as a beautiful enrichment item, and fresh fruit and vegetables can be hidden amongst the leaves. Do ensure that natural branches and leaves are hosed off and thoroughly sun-dried before using.



Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Feeding Conures, Caiques and Amazon Parrots

Common Bird Illnesses and How to Avoid Them

Why Your Bird Should Be Eating Pellets

How to Sprout Seed For Your Birds

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