Macaw Body Language: 7 Signs All Is Not Well

sick macaw

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Understanding body language is essential to build connections and interact better with other people. The same goes for your pet friends and family.

If you learn how to read their cues, you can improve your bond with your Macaw.

More than that, macaws hide their illnesses; that’s why reading the macaw’s body language is especially important when there’s something wrong. 

Let’s talk about some of the cues your Macaw will show when all is not well.

1. Sudden eye pupil movement

Eye contraction or pinning 

You may notice your macaw rapidly contracting its pupils unexpectedly.

This reaction called eye pinning usually shows that your bird is very emotional.

It could be that they are overwhelmed with positive or negative emotions. 

Eye pupil contraction usually means your bird is likely feeling very aggressive or threatened and is trying to establish territorial dominance. 

If you notice the sudden eye movement combined with excessive ruffling, it typically shows high levels of aggression, and you may want to leave the bird alone for a little while. 

Pinning and dilation

If your bird is eye pinning combined with pupil dilation in rapid succession, it typically shows that they are nervous or uncomfortable. 

They might display this behavior if you introduce a new bird or if they feel caged.

Macaws need to spend some time outside of the cage interacting with you and their surroundings.

They don’t do well if you keep them in a cage all the time. 

2. Unusual feather movement 

Fluffing for long 

All birds fluff their feathers, and macaws are no exception – it’s a part of their grooming routine.

However, if your bird fluffs for an unusually long time, it could be a sign that it requires medical attention. 

How do you know what’s too long? Try to get familiar with your bird’s routine.

You will typically notice your Macaw grooming and fluffing and roughly around the same time each day for a short amount of time.

If your bird fluffs for a significantly longer time than usual, it could be a cry for help. 

Tail fanning

When the macaw fans its tail, it may signal that the bird is excited or feeling aggressive and ready to pounce.

Check for other aggressive signals like side swaying or foot tapping.

If you notice this kind of behavior, your bird may need some time out of the cage. 

Tail fanning may also show that your bird is not feeling well, especially if it goes on for a long time while the bird is at rest.

Birds don’t have a diaphragm as humans do. So there’s nothing that separates the chest cavity from the rest of the body. 

When the bird’s respiratory system is working overtime, the tail typically moves in response. 

Elevated head feathers

When your macaw parrot elevates its head feathers, it typically indicates either aggression or contentment.

The bird will raise its head feathers as a show of menace to appear more threatening. 

Raised feathers alone may be difficult to read, but combined with other movements like constricted pupils, it’s typically a sign of extreme aggression.

You may want to approach with caution, so you don’t get bitten.

3. Excessive aggression 

Foot tapping

Macaws, like other parrots, love to dance. But if the bird keeps tapping one foot in the same position, it’s a signal that it’s trying to assert its territorial dominance. 

Be wary if you notice the one-legged foot tap, it might not be safe for you. Be especially careful if the foot-tapping is combined with extreme noises. 

Typically when the bird is growing more aggressive, it will make deafening noises to scare and intimidate as it tries to assert dominance. 


Biting is usually a sign of aggression. It could mean that the bird is trying to prove territorial authority. 

In less extreme cases, it could be a sign that your macaw needs to exercise its beak.

If the bird displays no other signs of aggression, buy some chew toys for your bird. ( It will save your furniture). 

4. Staring

Macaw birds tend to stare when they are craving attention.

Staring may typically be combined with a lean forward, head bob, or a lifted foot.

These are signs that the bird craves some attention and needs a pat or wants to be lifted. 

Understanding the attention-seeking cues helps you respond faster and appropriately.

This helps to reassure and strengthen your relationship with your bird. 

Macaws typically need lots of attention; otherwise, they spiral into self-destructive behaviors.

5. Heavy breathing 

Macaws retain some of their inborn survival tactics designed to protect them in the wild.

This usually involves not showing that they are sick to protect themselves from prey. 

One of the main signs that your bird is sick is usually heavy breathing or panting.

Take the bird to the vet if you notice any changes in breathing patterns. 

Also, watch out for other signs of sickness like tail drooping.

If you notice a combination of these tell-tale signs of illness, treat it as an emergency and seek medical care for your macaw. 

6. Feather plucking 

Macaws are generally social birds that thrive on attention.

They love to be carried around and showered with pats and affection.

If the bird feels attention deprived, it may start to pluck its feathers. 

When your macaw starts to pluck out its feathers, you need to increase your interactions with the bird. Play, talk and spend time with it more often. 

Avoid leaving it caged all the time. Macaws behave like small children a lot of the time and need lots of attention to thrive.

7. Drooping wings

Macaws like to flap, and they are generally playful. If you notice your bird drooping its wings and showing signs of inactivity, that’s usually a sign that it’s not feeling well. 

Macaws hide their illnesses, so keep an eye out for any signs that show something’s not right.

If the wings are drooping and your bird’s feathers are continuously ruffled, seek emergency care. 

Macaws may ruffle their feathers as a way to hide weight loss.

While ruffled feathers aren’t always a sign that something’s wrong, if it goes on for a few days combined with other signs, don’t ignore it. 

Taking care of your macaw bird

Macaws are usually fun, friendly birds that love to interact and enjoy human connection.

Like all other birds, they sometimes show aggressive behavior or biting. They will also take great care to hide their illnesses.

Study your bird and take a leaf from these cues so you’ll pick the early warning signs. 

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