Tom O'Grady of Alstonville, Macaw breeder.
Tom O'Grady of Alstonville, Macaw breeder. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Breeding macaws comes with $20k a bird payout

BIRD enthusiast Tom O'Grady describes his penchant for breeding macaws as "a hobby gone mad".

Mr O'Grady keeps 27 macaws at his property in Duck Creek Mountain Rd, near Alstonville, apart from hundreds of other birds, mainly parrots, in aviaries near Ballina.

The large, colourful, playful birds with their long tails are a fascinating sight for visitors and their powerful beaks can crack any type of nut.

"Imports of macaws were stopped 15 to 20 years ago and I've sold birds to people in every state," Mr O'Grady said.

"Before the GFC (global financial crisis) a pair could fetch up to $30,000 but now it's more like $20,000."

Macaws eat fruit and vegetables, food pellets and a variety of nuts. They are fed twice a day and can live more than 50 years.

So do they bite?

Well, yes they can if not handled correctly.

Their beaks are capable of inflicting severe injuries, especially to the fingers or hands of young children.

"I'd rather be bitten by a mudcrab," said Mr O'Grady, a third-generation professional fisherman.

Macaws are native to Central America, especially Mexico, and South America.

Mr O'Grady's birds include one of three sub-species of scarlet macaw from Nicaragua.

He also has blue and gold macaws and green-winged macaws.

Twelve of the 17 species of the bird are known to be kept in Australia.

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