Macaw Musk - - - by Liz Davies (aka "Mom")


When I was doing my research before adopting my large macaw, I came across two books that had references to odor given off by Blue and Gold macaws in particular.  One book described it as ďstenchĒ (that author had some pretty harsh things to say about large macaws as pets, so perhaps his attitude was showing), but the other described it as a "distinct but not unpleasant odor".  The second book went on to say that although not much is known about the purpose of the odor, it seemed to be a characteristic of healthy adult Blue and Gold macaws (neither book mentions this as a characteristic of other macaws).

When I visited our breederís aviary for the first time, I do remember noticing a slight musky smell in the area, but since I didnít actually come into direct contact with any of the birds, I didnít realize it was them I was smelling.  And, of course, I didnít want to offend or embarrass anyone, so I never asked ďWhat is that smell?Ē 

Birds do have a distinct fragrance to them.  I have 5 different parrot species living with me now, and can attest that they each have a very slight odor.  Each birdís smell is slightly different.  I can only smell the small parrots when I am very close (sometimes I nuzzle the backs of their necks with my nose).   The large macaw is the one most noticeable.  I can smell her from several feet away, even after a bath.

Other parrot owners have reported that they've noticed their birds have a scent, too - so it's not just me!

I love to bury my nose in the feathers on the back of Jesse's neck and take a long, slow "snnniiiiiffff"!

Maybe my nose is especially sensitive.  Not everyone seems to notice it (some do, some donít).  But itís there, and after Iíve handled the bird, I can detect it on me and my clothes.

Cats and dogs give off a slight odor which most people donít find offensive.  Parrots are the same.   Pionus parrots, for example, are reputed to have an especially pleasing smell.

Birds supposedly donít have much sense of smell Ė but once youíve been close to a healthy macaw, you start to wonder a bit.  With keen hearing and sight, why would nature omit the olfactory?  Iíve never seen a parrot ďsniffĒ something, but we do know their respiratory systems are very sensitive.  Perhaps they ďsniffĒ all the time, but because we donít hear it and they donít do it like a mammal would, we donít recognize what they are doing.