I Left On Vacation & My Parrot Starved Himself

I got my blue throated macaw, whom I call "Jinx", back in October 2008. He lived with me in Orlando for less than a month before I took my first traveling trip (via airlines) with him to Seattle, Washington for Halloween (I love spending holidays with my flock!)  

Photo by David Location: Lacey, Washington Stealing the Bandana: Blue Throated Macaw "Jinx" 

He took the travel part well, as he went with the rest of my flock who was used to the venture. And I only spent 2-3 days in Lacey before heading back to Orlando again. While in Lacey I introduced Jinx to other birds (a 20 year old blue and gold macaw, a 6 year old cockatiel and an 11 year old African Grey).

Then in November he traveled to Daytona Beach, Florida for a weekend among staying happily in Orlando (home plate). Mid way through November, he traveled with me all the way from Florida to Idaho! What a trooper, he really is... I got him used to even more people (my parents, friends and other family members on that side of the country) which was a lot of fun. He also got to work a ton on his flying abilities.

He was weaned by Christmas onto organic pellets and lots of veggies (though still hand feeding even though he was eating on his own. If he took the formula, he got it, if he refused it, then he ate on his own instead that day but it varied) which I spent in the US Virgin Islands on the island of St. Thomas...sadly, without Jinx. I honestly thought he would do OK with not seeing me for a couple weeks but I was wrong...

He refused to eat for 24 hours. 

I left him in the care of a vet; I always use a qualified vet for any of my boarding (a.k.a. bird sitting) needs. So I knew he was safe, but they called me very worried that he wasn't eating anything and it stayed that way for 24 hours. Luckily, it ended after 24 hours as Jinx realized it's no fun to be hungry and maybe he can eat without seeing me for a day. Although it was flattering it was also scary and even with all the traveling, desensitization and more, he still wasn't OK with my leave of absence.

If you know you have a vacation coming up and you're fearful your parrot won't react well, try doing some of the following in order to prepare your parrot for your leave:

  • Experiment with leaving for a morning, afternoon or night
  • Slowly lengthen the amount of time you're gone
  • Reward your parrot immensily for reacting well
  • Whenever you leave, make sure your parrot has plenty to do to keep him occupied (foraging toys)
  • Make sure your bird has social outlets (other birds, familiar people)

I was warned by Jinx's breeder that this might happen, but it was more likely to occur during the hand feeding process from going from feeding from his breeder to me. Fortunately, that wasn't a problem (and if it had been, I was only a drive away from the breeder). I didn't think twice about him not eating on his own when I was gone - and it came as a real shock. But apparently (according to Jinx's breeder) this is VERY common in blue throated macaws so keep that in mind if you are thinking about bringing one into your family.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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