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A macaw's diet is based on the natural region from which it originates, including Mexico and Central and South America, as well as many island groups in the Caribbean sea region. Since they are tropical forest birds, a macaw's diet can involve a wide variety of foods including nuts and seeds, as well as various fruits and insect species. Tropical birds like macaws also tend to consume clay on a daily basis in the wild, which protects their digestive systems from the ingestion of poisonous seeds and allows them to consume such seeds for nutritive value. Variations on this type of clay can be purchased for a pet macaw and including it in a macaw's diet in captivity will help to prevent diarrhea, detoxify their bodies, and provide trace minerals that they require for health.
Small pets like tropical birds often get much less exercise than in their natural environment, and this often means that their dietary requirements can be somewhat simpler. Since the level of exercise for a caged bird is much less than that of one in the wild, a macaw's diet can be centered around a variety of seed sold for pet birds. It is recommended, however, that a macaw's diet be supplemented with nuts such as macadamias or peanuts which have the fat and protein that they may not get in sufficient quantities from seed. A macaw's diet in the wild also includes the leaves and stems of plants, and, as pets, they enjoy a variety of both fruits and vegetables.
One of the main dietary foods for macaws in the wild is the flesh of the palm fruit, which is high in vitamin E compounds. To substitute for these vitamins, a macaw's diet can include supplements sold through pet supply stores. It is also common for birds like macaws and parrots to be fed grains such as cooked rice or corn by pet owners in the native regions from which they are captured. As tropical birds live in an environment full of a wide variety of food sources, they are also known to enjoy common foods in the human diet such as pasta and cooked chicken.
As a general rule, a macaw's diet can be quite versatile as, unlike many other types of birds, they tend to not be very fussy eaters. They may in fact enjoy prepared salads and boiled vegetables as much as their owners do, and they are known to prefer variety in their diet. One of the unique characteristics of macaws in general is that they can become a bit anti-social if they are fed a boring, routine diet. They also need a good supply of water so that tasting exotic foods can be done in a safe manner.
Among certain categories of food that can be harmful and toxic in a macaw's diet are the avocado skin or leaves as well as foods with caffeine in them, high amounts of salt, or chocolate. Other vegetable-based foods that are considered unhealthy for a macaw's diet include varieties of cabbage and iceberg lettuce. Parsley, which is a treat for some exotic pets like cockatiels, is also not recommended for macaws.