What Do You Do If Your New Baby Parrot Isn’t Eating?

Last month we got Kailani, a Catalina macaw. She was supposed to be 6 months old and weaned- so I decided to get her – she would be perfect to tame and make a part of our family or make her family-friendly and desirable.

Catalina Macaw

It is a good thing I brought her home – we quickly noticed that she wasn’t eating – she wasn’t weaned. She didn’t seem to know how to eat, how to hold her food or anything! She didn’t even seem all that hungry, a stage that parrots go through when they are getting ready to wean and they lose their ‘baby fat’. In a home that didn’t know what to look for or didn’t have the habit of weighing a new parrot on a gram scale every day, she could have lost too much weight (since they hide it by fluffing their feathers) and she could have gotten in trouble.

I posted on my Facebook page (FB/ParrotBliss) and several people replied that macaws take a while to wean, up to another month or so – which helped to hear. The vet had looked at her feet (because one toe is pointed the wrong way, but said the toe is ok) and said that it sounded like I would need to do some hand-feeding, but didn’t mention for how long or anything- so my FB fans gave me a better idea of what to expect!
I strongly believe in fulfilling needs – if a baby is hungry, human or animal, it should be fed. Letting any creature go hungry does not teach it to eat, it only teaches it that no one is caring/helping. I do my best not to over-feed. There are guidelines for how much a baby parrot should be fed and when they are weaning, the amount decreases because their crop (where they hold their food- not a stomach, more like an esophagus-pouch) shrinks. So I do my best to just fill their crop.  Incredibly, I am finding that my baby Amazons and Kailani seem to have signals triggered when I feed them because after they get formula, they all go and eat some on their own!
Truth be told, Kailani is still taking formula. However, it is less that in had been and she is feeding herself – and the floor – every day. The floor has gained more weight than she has, but they are both progressing well. We’re on-course now because she has learned to eat, is starting to eat more and more for herself and now it is just a matter or time and providing the loving support that will help her transition well. Patience is important with parrots- and the bigger the pscittacine (scientific name for the parrot family), the longer their development takes. People mistakenly think that developing faster is better. However, the opposite is true: developmental stages that gain as much as possible translate to healthier, more balanced, more intelligent and happier results. It means more work for the keeper…. but the time put in when a parrot -or child- is young is like putting money in the stock market and then earning dividens for ever after.