The idiom “bird brain” is actually unfair—birds are actually very smart! They can hide seeds in places hundreds of miles apart, and still be able to find them several months later. They can distinguish shapes, colors, and even our language. Some of them can master over a hundred words!
And macaws are one of the smartest birds around. It’s just a matter of having the patience to teach them, and find out what skills they’re eager to learn. Some can mimic phrases, others are good at acrobatics.
The first step to training, though, is taming. Birds need to trust you before they will be open to your tutoring. Build your bond. Play with them, hold them, and make sure they’re well taken care of. Then, they’ll actually be eager to please you!
You should also have consistent training sessions, at least one hour a day, everyday. Repeat tricks several times. For example, if you want your macaws to say “Hello, pretty!” then greet them with that each time you approach the cage.
It’s also best if only one person in the household acts as the “master trainer”. You should be the one to introduce the trick, and spearhead the first few sessions. Other family members can reinforce it once it’s been established.
You should also make sure that you conduct your training sessions in a quiet and uncluttered room. Birds are smart, but can easily be distracted—even by the sight of the curtains rippling from the breeze of the fan. You should also turn off the radio and television and lock the door.
Since macaws can get very territorial, and may not like the idea of being brought into an unfamiliar room, you can bring their cage with you so they can still see their “home”. This can help calm them down.
Always teach your macaws one trick at the same time. For example, if the lesson is saying “Hi pretty!” don’t suddenly shift gears and initiate a lesson on hopping on your finger.
Don’t forget to praise your macaws when they successfully accomplish a trick. Nor should you start screaming at them when they’re slow to catch on. Be patient. If they become terrified of your tantrums, they’ll completely lose interest in the lesson and just try to get away from you.
Pet owners say that male birds are easier to train than females, but if you get a female when it’s very young, it will be open to picking up tricks.