Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman
Kiki St. H. asks about Millicinth macaw care,
We adopted a Millicinth macaw, Tupi, about a year ago following her owner’s death. She was previously used as a show bird doing tricks and greeting crowds. To keep her working she was kept hungry, fed dog biscuits every other day along with vitamin supplementation, and then clicker-trained using sunflower seeds. She was transported in a small metal box and housed without proper light or perching in a cage too small to turn around.
Her vet visit when she first came to live with us revealed she had at some point broken both a wing and a leg on her left side which had not been treated and so healed wrong, and her right leg is developing arthritis as she uses it to compensate.
She was suffering from malnutrition as well.
We have tried to help her stay calm. She is not caged, but has multiple custom-made tree stands, weather permitting she goes outdoors to get real sunlight, she has been on Harrison’s diet, she has lots of wooden toys, we hand-fed her for comfort and to get her health recovered for a while, we’ve tried clicker training but it upsets her.
The issues are still that she gets territorial, especially if our baby Greenwing is in the room.
She hunches down and screams, her eyes widen, and her heart races.
Right now we are just giving her her own space in a separate room.
She gets a little hormonal with me or her toys.
But it really looks more like anxiety to me.
She’s terrified of most people.
She constantly does a regurgitation motion with me (though the food goes into her mouth and then she re-swallows it rather than actually regurgitating on me) and she panics if I pull away.
She often intersperses it with a baby begging motions even though she always has ample food and I bring her treats of fruits or nuts or pumpkin throughout the day.
She’s a sweet girl. She doesn’t bite. She gets nippy/growly but only because she’s so on edge. And I talk sweetly and move gently and she lets me pet and cuddles her. She gives kisses and hides against me.
The vet recommended melatonin because she’s stressed and probably in constant pain.
But it hasn’t helped much with the overall anxiety.
I’m taking her back to the vet in a couple of weeks to go over everything again. Do you have any recommendations? Anything I should discuss with the vet while I’m there?
Thank you for your time and expertise.
My goodness, what a story and how terrible a life poor Tupi has had. How wonderful you are to take her into your home. It sounds like she suffered in many ways. Physically and mentally as well. Now she can recover as best she can under your care and love. Sadly, the damage has been done, and undoing it may not be possible.
The physical injuries can heal, but only so far. The mental damage may or may not be able to be overcome.
Learned anxiety is a tough one and we do not recommend drugs as they have their own side effects and can result in dependency which is a problem that is harder to resolve than the anxiety itself.
Even though she no longer has to perform she may miss the attention it brought her and as such you may need to work with her daily to help burn off the anxiety that is building up.
Daily provide her with foraging toys, drawers and small boxes that get filled with small treats, old books she can shred, paper towel rolls, (be sure to discard any piles of paper, etc daily so she doesn’t start to look upon them as nests) but give her a LOT to do. If you can find a baby soundboard that can be mounted to the stand or cage side, she may enjoy making sounds and noises. Hanging good strong bells she can reach and clang can be very therapeutic. Is there any background noise or music being played? There should be so she doesn’t feel she needs to be quiet.
Put her on a schedule. Daily you will feed her at the same time, give her treats at the same time. Move her to another stand at the same time. All of these timed things will help her to calm down as she anticipates them happening, not just hoping and wondering.
If she doesn’t appear to be in pain she should be encouraged to walk around the floor, perhaps after you and even up and down the stairs, try setting up a ladder horizontally or a wide branch and encourage her to walk back and forth across it to receive treats or praises. Hold her feet and lift her up and down fast enough to encourage her to flap her wings. Exercise will help with anxiety.
Please consider some of this and see if it helps.