You've noticed your macaw scratching her head and picking at her feathers, but that doesn't necessarily mean she's got a case of fleas. Birds scratch now and then just to relieve an itch. It's best to err on the safe side, though, and see the vet if you have concerns.
Unlikely But Not Impossible
Hookbill birds like your parrot can have problems with parasites, but the culprits typically aren't fleas. Parrots don't commonly get fleas, but they can if they're allowed on the floor or the ground outdoors where the little vampires are known to hang out. Neither scenario is likely because, as a good parrot parent, you wouldn't dream of letting your bird on the floor or ground where dangers other than parasites lurk.
Parasites that are more likely to cause your parrot problems are ones like feather lice and bird mites. These troublesome little bugs spread when birds have physical contact with one another, so having more than one bird in the family may increase the odds of parasites plaguing your feathered family. However, even a bird who is an only child can become the unwitting and unwilling host to bugs.
Signs of a Parasite Problem
Parasites are all small, but not too small to cause noticeable signs. Feather lice are visible in the webbing of the feathers. They look like dark spots, and clusters of them might appear to be bits of mud. Mites are very tiny, but some are large enough to be seen without magnification and look like specks of pepper. Even if you can't see the bugs themselves you'll notice your parrot exhibiting signs that there may be a parasite problem. If your parrot ruffles her feathers more than normal, preens more than usual and is restless, she may be plagued with the little blood-sucking insects. Parasites can also cause noticeable feather damage and skin irritation, too.
Treating for Pests
Birds are extremely sensitive to chemicals like insecticides and medications that aren't made specifically for them, so if you suspect your parrot is suffering from mites, lice or other parasite don't try to diagnose and treat her yourself. Take her to see her avian vet to get an official and accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendation. The doctor will prescribe a treatment that is sprayed or sprinkled on your bird and will probably have you disinfect your bird's cage and perches, too. An effective way to prevent parasites is to give your parrot access to daily bathing. Whether you provide her with a dish of water to play in, mist her with a spray bottle or take her in the shower with you, she'll enjoy splashing around and preening afterwards, and the bath will drown the pests and wash them away.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images