The blue and gold macaw or blue and yellow macaw is a large-sized member of the intelligent, colorful parrot family, with a lifespan that can reach over 50 years. Native to the Central and South American rain forests where their bright plumage is excellent camouflage, macaws are kept as pets throughout the world, according to Australia's Perth Zoo. All of these facts make the macaw an excellent species to train, providing you and the parrot with hours of entertainment and bonding experiences as you grow old together. Like most species, including humans, training is best started early in life, but the birds can learn at any age.
Bond and Socialize
Clip the outer primary flight feathers of the bird's wings, which will grow back. Have a vet take care of this for you if you are new to the process.2
Choose a softly lit and quiet room with carpeting or rugs to avoid distractions and keep the bird (especially a youngster) from crash-landing during lessons.3
Talk to the bird in a soft voice and hushed tones throughout your training session to maintain the calm while letting it get used to you, advises Avian Web.4
Don a sturdy pair of gloves while training your bird. Protect your forearms with a long-sleeved shirt and keep your face out of striking distance until you are certain the macaw is comfortable with you.5
Open the bird's cage door and offer a treat. Offer the treat from your hand or place it on a perch stick held in your hand to avoid the blue and gold macaw's strong beak. Purchase a tall perch stand for this step in the training, as the safest option to avoid a sharp beak.
Train to Step Up
Repeatedly offer small food bites with the treat, placed farther away on the perch, to encourage the bird to climb on in order to reach the treat, says Jill M. Patt, DVM. Patiently repeat this step until your macaw feels safe and natural climbing onto the perch stick and settling there for a short time.7
Pet your bird's head gently when you feel safe doing so. Give it another treat or scratch behind its neck in the place where its parents preened and groomed it. Say "I love you" while doing this to create positive associations and begin language learning. Repeat until comfortable.8
Pick up your macaw and place it on your shoulder or forearm or the perch outside but near its cage. Repeat this and all steps often -- in short sessions -- throughout the day.
Establish Safe Areas
Pick up the macaw gently with cupped hands when it flies off and floats to the ground due to clipped wings.10
Place your bird back on the perch or your forearm or back in the cage. Pet and talk to it gently all the while. Repeat often each day to establish trust with your bird and reinforce the lesson that the safe zones, where it should spend most of its time, are your shoulder, your arm, the perch near its cage and the cage itself.11
Conduct repeated 5-minute training and bonding sessions soon after waking and before going to sleep. Schedule the same times each day to keep your bird's interest and build trust. Add midmorning or midevening sessions if possible.
Teach to Talk
Speak, sing and whistle to your bird as much as possible and it will begin to talk back to you.13
Choose a name for your macaw that has vowel sounds with a hard consonant beginning or ending each syllable so it can more easily learn and pronounce it.14
Say your bird's name to it clearly and repeatedly, with upbeat emphasis, while giving a treat and at feeding times.15
Notice how your macaw seems to ask for food, or other key things, in its native tongue. Say the English word back to your macaw at those times while pointing at the item, much like human parents do when teaching babies to talk. Say "good morning" and "good night" at appropriate times and your bird will soon understand and respond or repeat.16
Associate words with actions. Say the word "scratch" when you scratch your bird's neck. Repeat, and as your macaw picks up these words, add more. End these specific vocabulary-teaching sessions as your bird begins to pick up words "on the fly" while you are just going about normal daily activities.
Discourage and Replace Negative Behavior
Teach your macaw as you would a toddler, advises Liz Wilson, CVT. Give praise and positive reinforcement when it does something good. Tell it "no" in a stern voice, and then ignore and withdraw attention -- which is similar to giving a very short "time out" -- when your macaw does something undesirable.18
Continue normal activity after the short interval, repeating the "time out" the moment your bird starts the undesirable act again.19
Replace undesired actions with better ones. Give your macaw a toy to chomp on when it begins loud squawking, for example.