Macaws; I was Mesmerised from the Start!

"The Aussie Avi Hall of Fame"

Part I

The first instalment of my new series featuring Australian Aviculturists who have helped to shape our hobby.

Text by Simon Degenhard, photos by Simon Degenhard and MacawsAustralia

Like most bird lovers, and people in general for that matter, the first time that I laid eyes on a macaw in the flesh, or should I say feathers, I was simply mesmerised by its sheer beauty and not to mention its size! I was around 9 or 10 years old from memory and my dear mum had agreed to take me to check out one of Adelaide’s bird shops, Emblem Aviaries, as it was known back in the early 90’s. Upon arriving, I eagerly entered the premises, as excited as always when presented with such an array of birds to feast my eyes upon. And then there it was, a stunning and huge (compared to all of the other birds there) Blue and Gold Macaw; I was in total awe of this bird, it was just incredible! Such vibrant colouration, such a long tail and big beak, just so beautiful; I could’ve stayed there all day and just observed this magnificent creature. This was the beginning of a passion for this amazing group of parrots that has stayed with me to this day, some nearly 30 years later. I still very much admire the beauty and intelligence of these birds, and although I have never kept them at my home, I have had quite a bit to do with them, as many will already know. My involvement with ACTP and the Spix’s Macaw Project has been very well publicised and is something that I will be writing more about in the not too distant future, so stay tuned. As far as me personally keeping macaws goes, I am sure that this will happen when the time is right! Over the years I have had the great pleasure of visiting many, many breeders of macaws from all over Australia and the world. And I whilst I have certainly thoroughly enjoyed viewing the birds themselves, I have been equally fascinated by the differing methods employed by different breeders, whether they are situated within the same country or not. It is always very interesting to find out what methods of housing and feeding have proved successful for different species in differing situations and for different aviculturists. In Australia I have been fortunate to meet, get to know and become friends with a number of very experienced and successful breeders of macaws, who have all been very generous with not only their willingness to share their knowledge of their birds with me, but to also allow me to observe, and in many cases to photograph, their birds as well; I am very grateful for this. One breeder that stands out for me is a man that I met around 20 years ago, when another great friend, the late Harry Carr took me to visit him at his old property, which was situated in Oakville, some 30 minutes west of Parramatta, NSW. This gentleman was none other than the very experienced parrot, pheasant, peafowl, quail and waterfowl breeder, Craig McFawn. That visit proved to be the first of many and the start of lasting friendship between Craig and myself. Back then, Craig was breeding Blue and Gold Macaws very successfully and he certainly had aspirations to breed other species of macaws as well, and in particular Green-wings and Scarlets. Some years later the opportunity to move to a beautiful spot on the Mid-North Coast of NSW presented and with it came a chance to modify the aviary setup and seriously consider adding some new species. Since the move, Craig and his partner, Tracey Waddell founded “MacawsAustralia” and have not only continued and improved upon the success that he achieved with the Blue and Golds at Oakville, but they have also added both Scarlets and Green-wings to the collection and have since achieved great and consistent success with both of these species as well. All of their macaws are housed in sizable aviaries, within a beautiful plant-filled setting, making a perfect environment for the birds. They are fed a varied and nutritious diet including top quality dry seed, pellets, a variety of human grade nuts, along with sprouted seed and fresh fruit and veggies on a daily basis. This housing and diet combination obviously works, as the breeding results speak for themselves. Most of the macaws that Craig and Tracey breed become lifelong pets to bird lovers from all over Australia. Both are very strong believers in allowing the breeding pairs to incubate and parent start their young, only taking the babies for hand rearing at around 3 weeks of age. They feel, and I fully agree, that this method gives the babies the best possible start in life, far better than can be achieved through artificial incubation and hand rearing from day one, regardless of the hand rearing food that is fed or the experience of the hand rearer themselves. I am also a total believer in this, as from my experience parent started babies are generally stronger and overall better birds mentally and physically, and if they are to become breeders themselves, they generally commence breeding earlier and make better parents. Of course, with parrots there are always the occasions when artificial incubation and hand rearing from day one is absolutely necessary, but this is only ever done as a very last resort, if fostering the eggs or babies is not an option. With regards to the macaws, Tracey specialises in rearing them to become the best possible pets; they are lovingly reared in Craig and Tracey’s home, and socialised with other birds throughout the rearing process. Once at weaning stage they are also taken out of the house, on trips to local parks and even to places likes Bunnings etc in order to socialise them with other people as well, and this also coincides with harness training. All of the baby macaws that Tracey raises arrive at their new homes as fully socialised and fully harness trained birds, which gives them the best possible start with their new family, as they are already very confident, well-adjusted birds, that have been exposed to a variety of settings and situations; basically nobody that I have ever met puts in greater time and effort into producing such quality pet birds. Tracey is driven to produce such high-quality pet birds because not only does she want her customers to be completely satisfied with their new family member, but she also wants to ensure that the birds themselves are given the best life possible; a win:win situation, no doubt. Of course, Tracey’s amazing work in producing such fantastic pet macaws (and other parrots as well) has earnt her a very much deserved wonderful reputation amongst companion parrot owners from all across the country. And with such a reputation comes not only repeat business, but also countless referrals, meaning that it is generally necessary to put your name down on a waiting list if you wish to become the very proud owner of one of these magnificent birds from the MacawsAustralia stables. Along with the amazing dedication and service that is provided prior to the birds arriving at their new homes, also comes incredible after-purchase service; Tracey keeps contact open with all of her buyers, giving them the ability to draw on the decades of experience that is shared between Craig and herself. Tracey is always available to answer questions, offer advice and generally support the owners of all companion parrots purchased from MacawsAustralia. If you are looking for a pet macaw I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Tracey and Craig of MacawsAustralia as your first point of contact; for quality and peace of mind you simply cannot go past their babies. In all of my travels across Australia, I have not come across more successful and dedicated breeders of macaws than Tracey and Craig; two of Australia’s most experienced and knowledgeable Aviculturists. Just in case you are wondering, macaws are not the only parrots that are bred by Craig and Tracey, they also maintain a large collection of other species including Amazons, African Greys, conures (inc Queen of Bavaria), Derbyans, Cinnamon Moustache, Eclectus and Craig’s first love, exotic lories, of which they have many different varieties. Craig would have to be one of, if not the most, experienced and longest serving lory breeders in Australia, and his success over the past few decades is a true testament to his sheer passion for the birds and his unwavering dedication. Congratulations to both Craig and Tracey; two great Australian aviculturists who have given so much to our wonderful hobby.

If you are in the market for a gorgeous top-quality pet macaw, or any of the other species that are bred by Craig and Tracey, then please do not hesitate to head on over to the MacawsAustralia website

Baby macaws bred by MacawsAustralia.

Isn't this just too cute; macaw love!

One of the baby Blue and Golds enjoying a trip to Bunnings; taking the babies on trips such as this prior to them leaving for their new homes helps to ensure that they are very confident and well adjusted birds capable of settling into their new environment with minimal stress for both the bird and the human(s).

Some of the gorgeous baby macaws bred and raised by Craig and Tracey.

A stunning baby Blue and Gold Macaw being harness trained and introduced to the outside world.

A gorgeous young Green-winged Macaw being harness trained.

A gorgeous baby Blue and Gold Macaw bred and lovingly reared at MacawsAustralia.

A beautiful breeding pair of Scarlet Macaws at MacawsAustralia.

African Greys are a species that Tracey adores working with; their intelligence is incredible.

Derbyan Parrots have always been a favourite for both Craig and Tracey; they have been consistently successful with this stunning species for many years now.

Craig has always loved Yellow-shouldered Blue-fronted Amazons.

Eclectus Parrots have featured in the collection for many, many years.

Craig has kept and bred Chattering Lories for close to 3 decades, making him among the most experienced breeders of this species in Australia.

Red-breasted Black-capped Lories; Craig has worked with this subspecies for 2-3 decades now, with a goal of ensuring that they remain as a pure subspecies in Australian aviculture.

A baby Red-breasted Black-capped Lory bred by Craig at Oakville.

Craig bred Mandarin Ducks for many years and is among those who are credited with establishing the species in Australian aviculture.

Another stunning species that Craig was privileged to work with at Oakville was the Carolina Wood Duck.

For many years, Craig was also one of Australia's most successful breeders of Javan Green Peafowl.

During his years at Oakville, Craig put a huge amount of work into developing a stunning line of reverse pied Peafowl; they were hands down the best examples of this mutation that I have seen in Australia.

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