Comparing and Contrasting the Macaw and African Grey
Thinking about buying a macaw or African grey parrot? Can’t decide which to get? The following article will attempt to answer all of your questions.
As a personal owner of each of these parrots, both at different times (so total attention was given to each), I have concluded that I enjoy the macaw more than the grey. Allow me to compare and contrast the following topics:
Both parrots unmistakably have the ability to learn “tricks.” Although the grey is far superior in the sense of intellect, I believe the macaw is easier to train. The lower attention span of the macaw invites the trainer to short 15-minute sessions. When training my macaw, Gracie, sessions were short and enjoyable. The grey’s sessions used to be (my brother took my grey Bubba when he moved out) around 30 minutes, even up to 45!
Sure, the African grey learns quicker, but a busy fella like me would rather spend his precious time devoted to his parrot playing with the bird, not extensive training. I am a new writer on this website, but will post some pictures and videos of my training sessions.
Anyone who has seen a macaw or an African grey knows the macaw is the Energizer Bunny compared to the grey. My blue and gold is about two years old and hasn’t stopped moving since she was born. Her cage is tremendous (40 x 32 x 67) but still too small! She is constantly hanging, flapping, rolling, bobbing, and flipping around, never in the same spot for more than a second. She doesn’t stop until 9 pm, when suddenly all movement ceases and she is out like a light in her top perch, in which a nuclear bomb wouldn’t disturb her peace!
Bubba, my grey, usually tends to be laid back, serene, and quite chatty. At times, he will have his energy bursts, but he is usually contempt with the gentle rock of his swing, watching the world go by outside, talking in full sentences as if someone was listening.
I don’t clip either of these parrots’ wings, and during the spring and summer we enjoy the great outdoors in our aviary that I built. The moment I let them free in the confined area, they both shoot like rockets, grateful for the exercise. After five minutes, Bubba is done and loiters on his branch from a tree I planted. I have to literally catch Gracie in order to stop her from flying around the aviary. I prefer the high-energy bird. It is indeed more enjoyable.
This category is strongly dedicated to the African grey. No other parrot I have ever encountered has such an ability to learn words, signs, movements, and conversation as this bird. In less than three years, Bubba has learned sentences at a time. He is even smart enough to copy the door-bell sound and the microwave alarm. The theory is that the bird must be thinking, “Upon hearing the sound, the human runs to the sound. So if I make the same sound, maybe the human will run to me!”
Don’t get me wrong; macaws are smart as well. In my two years with Gracie, she has picked up around twenty phrases/words, totaling up to around thirty or so words! Greys also have the ability to whistle, and Bubba shows off profusely during the day. Whenever I try to teach Gracie to whistle, she becomes frustrated and screams.
There isn’t a more beautiful sight than looking at all the different breeds of macaws. Although the African grey has shades of grey, with a red tail and such, it does not compare to the vibrancy of the macaw. Scarlet, Greenwing, Hyacinth, Buffon’s, Military, you name it (I don’t normally suggest buying hybrids). A fully stretched out, in-flight macaw is a gift from nature.
This can either be a pro or a con, really, depending on the owner. Macaws are very destructive parrots, destroying toys fairly easily. If left unsupervised, they will rip up your furniture! Gracie shreds through chunks of 2 x 4 I buy at the pet store as efficiently as an axe would.
African greys do have a nice size beak, but they aren’t nearly as destructive. You won’t have to replenish toys as often, and therefore you can save a few bucks (this still means each type of parrot needs plenty of toys to keep them busy and prevent feather plucking). I have found that African greys have the ability to entertain themselves by whistling, lounging, or looking outside. Sometimes, if I wouldn’t be home for a few hours, I would turn on the radio and prop it in front of Bubba, and that would satisfy him.
A bored macaw is a dangerous macaw. Its so sad to see these birds, or any bird really, with plucked feathers. In short, plenty of wood and leather toys with a close eye out of the cage can minimize any bird’s destructive habits.
Most people don’t fully comprehend why birds in general are such loud animals. First of all, birds are able to scream consistently for hours on end because they do not have windpipes. This means a bird will never be able to lose his or her “voice.” As long as there is oxygen to breathe in, there is plenty of yelling to be done!
They are so loud because they compete with any other noise to be the loudest. In the wild, the loudest, most beautiful songs attract the female mate. Any parrot owner who has put on the vacuum, blasted the radio, or something of the like knows just how competitive these parrots are.
Macaws are significantly louder than greys. A general rule to go by is the bigger the bird, the bigger the noise. An apartment building is not a smart idea for a macaw, and probably not even a grey. If you want one of these birds, be prepared for the screaming.
Both parrots are quite impressive in size. The macaw does have the size advantage. A macaw can be any size around 80 to 90 cm, depending on species. There are some smaller species of macaws, called mini-macaws, which are just about the same size as an African grey. Also, a macaw’s tail is significantly larger, measuring up to 18 inches! An adult macaw is able to maintain its tail well with a daily shower.
African greys, to most people, are just the perfect size. The tail is short and red, which doesn’t pose as a problem. You can also get away with a smaller cage than a macaw, which could save money.
Note: If you are worried about spending too much money, do not consider a parrot. Between toys, food, and accessories, be prepared to dish out thousands over the bird’s lifetime.
This might be the most important topic out of the eight I have posted. Before I talk about my experiences, let me tell you any bird can be taught not to nip, bite, scratch, etc. It takes time and patience.
African greys are well-known to be nippy. They are also mildly temperamental, and they do show signs of “a bad mood.” Most of the time, the owner will receive a little bite or a nip, rarely anything serious. Bubba only bit or nipped me when I tried to put him back in the cage for the day.
A macaw usually is a gentle and friendly parrot. However, macaws, in their playful manner, tend to play too rough and could do some damage with that monstrous beak. I once heard a rumor that there was a YouTube video of a macaw snapping a broomstick, but I cannot confirm that because I could not find the video. I do know, however, that a macaw can pack a serious punch.
A full-grown hyacinth can put out over 200 pounds per inch2. Gracie can snap a walnut to pieces with one easy chomp. My macaw has never ever bit me because she was mad—only when she plays a little too rough. Either one you choose, be careful of that beak until he or she is properly trained!
Make Sure to Do More Research on Your New Pet!
I hope I helped somewhat in your quest for knowledge of these wonderful animals. However, I did not include other important facts, such as breeding or health issues. So far, I have been blessed with healthy birds and do not choose to breed them, so I am less knowledgeable in those areas. I also did not post any specific diets for these birds, so be sure to check that out.