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Big, bold, and beautiful! Aptly named, the Blue-and-Gold Macaw is among the most popular parrots worldwide. It is a native of Central and South America but most widespread in South America.
These charming and famous beauties, identifiable by their blue and yellow vibrant colors, offer more than just majesty. As pets, they make the best compatriots—intelligent, colorful, charismatic, and musical.
In the wild, they appear like any parrot going about its business: cracking nuts, chatting loudly, hanging out with friends, and being intimate. But, there is more to them than meets the eye; explore with me all the nitty-gritty details about this awe-inspiring bird.
Blue-and-Gold Macaw at a glance – Bottom Up Front
The Blue-and-Yellow Macaw is a large parrot with a distinct blue back and yellow underparts. Its whitish face turns pink with excitement.
They make wonderful pets. But, because of their loud chattering, especially in the evening, are unsuitable pets in close-knit neighborhoods like apartments.
Still, you may fall in love with it owing to its colossal personality, entertaining chatterings, and up to 70 years lifespan while being easy to feed and maintain.
|Common Name||Blue-and-Gold Macaw
|Scientific name||Ara ararauna|
|Origin||Central and South America|
|Natural Habitat||Lowland forests, marshlands, palm forests, and areas close to water sources|
|Conservation status||Least Concern onthe IUCN Red List|
|life expectancy||80 years|
|Diet||Nuts, seeds, insects, berries, fruits, vegetables|
|Sexual maturity||Three – four years|
|Number of eggs||Two – Three|
|Incubation period||25 – 28 days|
|Fledgling age||Three months|
|Clutches per year||One|
How to Identify Blue-and-Gold Macaw: Physical Characteristics
Also known as the Blue-and-Gold Macaw, the Blue-and-Yellow Macaw is hard to miss. They are among the largest South American parrots measuring 30-36 feet long and weighing up to 1.8 kilograms. A wingspan of 41-45 inches and a long tail make them quick fliers.
It has a refulgent blue and yellow plumage, which gives it its name and makes it easy to identify.
The upper part of its body, together with the wings, is turquoise blue. Its underparts, extending to the neck, is yellow. The blue wings are green at the tips, while its crown and forehead are both green.
Color variations across the range of Blue-and-Gold Macaw are notable. For instance, macaw birds in Trinidad and the Caribbean have more orangey underparts than others. Scientists suggest diet and environmental variations often lead to color variations in parrots.
Besides its distinctive colors, the Blue-and-Yellow Macaw has a bare white face lined with black or dark green feathers. Its face turns pink with excitement and wrinkly with old age.
Juveniles are slightly different from adults though both have the same coloration. Adults are bulky with pale yellow eyes, while juveniles are smaller and have gray-brown eyes.
They have conspicuous, large, dark gray hooked beaks that are well adapted to crush even the largest nuts effortlessly.
Like woodpeckers, toucans, and other parrots, Blue-and-Gold Macaw have zygodactyl feet. The first and fourth toes point backward while the others point forward. This unequaled foot formation enhances their grip.
While the blue and gold macaw have no subspecies, you can easily mistake it for the blue-throated macaw or the Bolivian Blue-and-Gold Macaw.
At a distance, they look alike. But, closer observations reveal the subtle differences in their plumage and size. For instance, you can tell a Blue-throated Macaw by its blue throat patch, entirely blue wings, reddish facial skin, and smaller size. They list as a separate species of the macaw family.
The Bolivian Blue-and-Gold Macaws have true blue plumage and exist as a large morph. Because this bird is not considered as a macaw species, it’s thought to have been bred selectively for color and size.
Where Do Blue-and-Gold Macaws Live? : Range and Habitat
Blue-and-Yellow Macaws are natives of South and Central America but are more widespread in the southern regions of its range. They breed naturally from eastern Panama through east and south Colombia to Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, and French Guiana. You will also find them along eastern Peru, east and south through eastern and western Ecuador, northeast Bolivia, and parts of Paraguay and Panama.
They inhabit lowlands up to 1,600 feet occupying various habitats, including riverside forests, rainforests, woodlands, open savannahs, swamps, and marshlands.
During the day, Blue-and-Gold Macaws rest in high trees to cool off and avoid predators, then roost at night in naturally occurring cavities or those created by other birds or small mammals.
Food availability solely controls the habitat of these equatorial birdies. They have specific roosting sites and often travel up to 25 kilometers in search of food and back in the evening.
Habits and Lifestyle
In the wild, macaws form close-knit groups for companionship. They will bathe, hunt, play and flock together in groups. You’ll spot them in pairs or small flocks during the day and large flights during morning hours or late afternoon.
Macaws often forage for food in the morning and late afternoon before returning to roost in the evening.
During breeding seasons, young adults pair off into monogamous relationships. In courtships, brightly colored males have higher chances of acquiring a mate.
Courtship is a simple affair involving mutual preening and the cock feeding the hen. After mating, the lovebirds establish a nest in the crown of a dead palm tree.
Blue and gold macaws have direct flights and move their wings in slow, shallow wing beats. They can only fly forward and upward but never backward. When landing, they drop their feet and tail downward and use their wings to slow down.
In a group of these tropical beauties, you can tell a bonded pair from how close they fly to each other. They fly so close to each other that their wings nearly touch.
Talking, Speech, and Vocalizations
If you ever want a talking pet, you will never go wrong with the Blue-and-Gold Macaw.
In reality, macaws do not talk but mimic human speech and sounds. They are quick learners and can pick up a vocabulary of up to 20 words or more.
Despite their outgoing personality, macaws are loud, communicating through loud vocalizations, screeching calls, and screaming. They screech-call each other at the sense of danger and at dawn before they go foraging.
Males vs. Females
Blue-and-Gold Macaws are sexually monomorphic species. Both males and females are very similar, making it hard to differentiate sexes through physical appearances.
Birders and pet owners rely on DNA, feather, and surgical sexing as the surest ways to determine their sex.
Females are slightly smaller, but this attribute does not differentiate the sexes.
Courtship and Breeding
Blue-and-Gold Macaws are monogamous and mate for life—if only humans could learn the true meaning of love from these birds. But in case of the death of a partner, the survivor may select another mate. Due to this sexual behavior, I recommend you keep a pair or an even number of birds. Keeping a single bird makes it very lonely and stressed.
Blue-and-Gold Macaws become sexually mature at three or four and breed within a year’s first half. The breeding season for Blue-and-Yellow Macaws begins in January and ends in July. They breed every one or two years.
Typically, a female lays two or three eggs and incubates the eggs for about 28 days. The hatchlings are featherless and blind and grow feathers after ten days. It takes chicks ten to 13 weeks to develop their plumage fully.
As typical birds with no gender roles, both males and females care for young ones. The female feeds the young ones through regurgitation for one week. After that, both parents actively provide for and protect the hatchlings.
Fledglings grow rapidly and become independent within three months.
Sadly, the macaw’s clutch size has a low survival rate because of dominance and competition for food. Macaws feed the strongest chick more often, while the weakling starves to death. The dominant chick has a higher chance of living because it can aggressively reach out for food from its parents.
To ensure a better survival rate, conservationists collect extra eggs and leave one for the macaws to incubate. They then put the collected eggs in incubators and fed them.
The lifespan of an adult Blue-and-Yellow Macaws depends on whether they’re in the wild or in a loving home.
An adult macaw can live up to 30 to 35 years in the wild and even longer as a well-cared-for pet. With a lifespan of up to 80 years in captivity, you will surely have a lifetime companion whose chances of outliving you are high.
Humans are the biggest threat to Blue-and-Gold Macaw and other parrots. Besides destroying parrots’ natural habitats, man hunts them for the pet trade, food, and beautiful feathers.
Natural predators for macaws include Orange-breasted Falcons, Harpy Eagles, and hawk-eagles. To these birds of prey, macaws are a delicacy easily hunted during flight.
Snakes, including boa constrictors and anacondas, also hunt the macaws while resting or feeding in trees and on the ground.
At home, pets like cats and dogs pose a threat to the macaws and other birds.
As stated earlier,Blue-and-Yellow Macaws have a wide range. The species is not yet listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Their extent of occurrence is less than 20,000 square kilometers, and their population has declined less than 30% decline over three generations or ten years.
Ara ararauna is classified as Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Its population trend is decreasing but not it has not declined enough to attain the Vulnerable status.
Habitat loss from deforestation, poaching, and the illegal pet trade has made this species extinct in some places. However, conservation efforts, including the artificial incubation of macaws’ extra eggs, have helped to boost their populations.
Blue-and-Gold Macaw: Suitability as Pets
The Blue-and-Yellow Macaw thrives well in captivity and is famous as a pet worldwide. It is an intelligent, social animal with a great personality. If you handle it well, it can become a great companion. As a bonus, chances of growing old together are high thanks to its lengthy lifespan.
Blue-and-Gold Macaws demand plenty of time, care, and effort. Most people overlook this fact and end up frustrated. You must muster all the knowledge, commitment, and patience to handle a Blue-and-Yellow Macaw.
A conducive environment is a big deal for the big Blue-and-Gold Macaws; they must feel secure in it. A quiet, unpolluted environment that encourages their wild instincts and behavior is ideal. This factor is so crucial that they can’t breed if they’re chafed.
- Blue and gold macaws are omnivores. Although they’re usually willing to try out anything, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are their best delicacies.
- Here are helpful tips for feeding your macaw bird.
- Feed your bird at least once a day and offer treat snacks about three times throughout the day.
- Provide clean water in clean bowls daily.
- Include a formulated pelleted or extruded diet in your bird’s meals.
- Supplement your bird’s meals with fruits and vegetables interchangeably.
- If seeds are a primary meal for your bird, supplement vitamins and minerals in soft food daily.
- Do not hand feed hatchlings if you lack experience. Leave it to a breeder or a vet.
- Provide a high fat and protein diet to fledglings. Give them approximate amounts of 10-12 percent of their body weight.
After the bird, its cage is the second biggest investment you should make.
The minimum height of your bird’s cage should be thrice its length from the head to the tip of its tail. Increase it accordingly if the cage is to host more than one bird. The bigger the cage, the better. Set it up at eye level or the height of your chest.
Get a square or rectangular cage with strong, stainless steel, unbendable bars. Galvanized and plastic coated bars are a big no for these macaws since they’re hazardous if gnawed on.
Set up perches of varying diameters in the cage for the bird to exercise its feet. Use branches from fruit trees like apple or pear since these macaw birds like chewing on things. Add toys to keep them occupied as well.
On good days, place your macaw bird outside in its cage for sunlight. Always ensure the bird has access to some shade. If they’re indoors throughout, provide ultraviolet light.
Build them an aviary where they can fly freely and exercise. In the aviary, put up an area where your pet birds can sunbathe and shelter.
Breeding in captivity
Out of all the pet macaw species, the Blue-and-Gold Macaws are the easiest to breed. Although an exaggeration, some owners have stated that these macaws breed like chickens.
As with any bird, for breeding to happen, your macaw birds should be of sexually mature, healthy, and comfortable in their environment. I cannot overstate that the male and the female need to have a bonded relationship.
Typically, Blue-and-Yellow Macaws in the wild breed during specific times: a year’s first half. In captivity, however, these beauties breed almost all year round.
The decision to breed these parrot species indoors or outdoors depends on you. If you choose to breed them indoors, provide adequate space. If you opt to breed them outdoors, set up a sheltered area to protect them from heat and cold. These these parrots get sunburns from unfiltered sunlight.
The pair will lay up to four eggs, incubate, and feed their hatchlings instinctively even if it’s their first time. As long as there’s adequate food, parenthood comes naturally and effortlessly for these tropical birds. In the bargain, they make the best foster parents.
Nest Box Construction and Positioning
The new mom and dad need a nest box to raise their hatchlings. Nest boxes must be big enough to comfortably accommodate both parents and their chicks.
While metal nest boxes function well indoors, wood nest boxes work well outdoors. You already know that Blue-and-Gold Macaws are chewers; make sure the wood you choose for the nest box has no toxins and pesticides. I like my macaw nest boxes with stainless steel wire to avert chewing and prevent injury to chicks when parents chew on the wood.
Mount nest boxes horizontally and place an inspection door on the opposite side from the entrance point. The inspection door should be large enough for your hand to reach the chicks.
Similarly, create a provision to skillfully lock out the parents from the nest box daily so you can check on the hatchlings. Just remember to be cautious; parents aggressively defend their young towards their young ones.
Care of Chicks
Macaw parents usually care for their young ones. Even so, you need to check the welfare of the hatchlings every day.
Find out whether they feed correctly, are healthy, and if they’re hitting their milestones. Provide fresh food and water daily. And, do not hand feed chicks if you lack the expertise. Seek the help of an avian vet if things seem blurry.
Once the chicks check the independence box, separate them from their parents and begin training immediately.
Training Blue-and-Yellow Macaws
Like regular pets, Blue-and-Gold Macaws need training to enhance communication and mutual understanding. Again, correcting behavioral issues in trained birds is easier than in untrained birds.
All teaching processes require patience, time, understanding, and commitment. But first, the birds must be comfortable around you and in their environment.
You’ll need to dedicate up to 30 minutes daily, spaced out in three ten-minute sessions, to train your parrot. Understand that some tricks and commands will take longer than others.
Positive reinforcement during training will hasten the process. Use seeds, nuts, and affection as a reward.
Training schemes for your blue and yellow bird include:
- Taming: Ara ararauna parrots are originally wild birds that bite a lot. You’ll need to tame them from biting people through operant or conditional conditioning methods. Most accredited zoos and aquariums in the US currently accept the science behind these taming techniques.
- Common Tricks: Both you and your bird will derive pleasure from common tricks you’ll teach your bird. It’ll also boost its tameness, social interaction, and general well-being. Your macaw parrot can learn to talk, sing, wave, take a bow, turn around, dance, fetch, play dead, and sit on your shoulder. You can also teach them complex maneuvers like skateboarding, roller skating, and bicycle riding.
- Flight Tricks: The tricks you can teach your equatorial pet bird include targeted flight, retrieve flight, fetch flight, and flying through hoops. You require expertise to train these tricks.
- Potty Training: The idea of potty training your macaw parrot may seem implausible, but it’s not. Still, you’ll have to try it once your bird gets fully accustomed to having training periods.
- Note: Do not punish or use negative reinforcement on Blue-and-Yellow Macaws. It may cause hostility, avoidance, fear, indifference, and escape.
Even with your impressive patience levels, your macaw pet will annoy you by hook or crook. Here are some rules to help you navigate transgression impassively.
- Speak and issue commands to your bird in a gentle, soft tone. In case of unwanted behavior, reprimand them but keep it short.
- Do not hit your bird; even the slightest force can result in injury or fatality.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a frown; be expressive. Your parrot will pick up your distaste for its actions through your body language.
- Don’t withhold feeding or neglect cleaning the cage for any reason. It may result in emotional and physical distress.
- Never hold a grudge against your bird for too long. Blue-and-Gold Macaws are intelligent and sensitive birds. They can sense displeasure.
- Encourage time out. After you convey dissatisfaction with misbehavior, sit it in its cage or perch shortly to reflect on its actions. Afterward, go back and interact with it playfully. This shows your bird that you are no longer irate and it’s now a good bird.
Controlling Screaming in Blue-and-Yellow Macaws
Loud, annoying screams are typical of all parrot species. The Blue-and-Gold Macaws aren’t an exception.
But why do these beauties scream so much?
Besides being natural screamers, fear, jealousy, and attention seeking are common reasons for cries in Blue-and-Gold Macaws. If you’ve watched a screaming macaw before, you’ll notice pacing, biting, puffing up, stalking, skin/feather picking, and fierce staring during screams.
Mental stimulation always works well to reduce this type of behavior. Keep your bird engaged with safe toys, provide enrichment, and reward good behavior. Again, eliminate and contain reasons for screaming.
Blue-and-Gold Macaw Common Health Issues
As a bird owner, it is pressing that you are abreast with the common ailments that can affect your revered pet.
But first, let us identify signs and symptoms of disease infestation in macaw pet birds:
- Aggression with no particular triggers.
- Raspy or noisy breathing sounds or mouth breathing.
- Lethargy and irritability.
- Weight loss.
- Poor feeding habits
- Appetite loss.
- Excessive drooling.
- Watery or swollen eyes.
- Change in droppings or diarrhea.
- Repeated head bobbing.
- Disheveled or unusual feather appearance.
Second, let us delve into common ailments within the Ara ararauna species:
- Excessive feather plucking – Usually, there is more than one reason for feather plucking. However, overstimulation, overactivity, anxiety, and stress result in feather plucking in Blue-and-Yellow Macaws. If not treated early, it may become habitual.
- Overgrown beaks – Your bird’s beak will overgrow because, unlike in the wild, it doesn’t have many chances to wear it down. But, this isn’t the only reason. Another reason is viral, parasitic, bacterial, metabolic, and nutritional diseases.
- Beak and feather disease – Difficult to control; this disease spreads through direct contact with infected birds, nest boxes, feathers, dander, or feces. Isolate infected birds and maintain strict hygiene.
- Respiratory tract disorders – Fungal and bacterial infections in your bird’s airways or respiratory tract are common. Preventive measures like upholding good ventilation, hygiene, and nutrition will keep these disorders at bay.
- Kidney and Urinary tract infection – Like humans, the Blue-and-Gold Macaws suffer from kidney and urinary tract diseases. The primary culprits are injuries, malnutrition, infections, gout, stones, and renal failure.
- Macaw Wasting Syndrome/Proventricular Dilatation Disease – This disease can be fatal and result from a contaminated environment or contact with droppings from an infected bird.
Tips for Caring for Blue-and-Gold Macaws as Pets
In captivity, Blue-and-Gold Macaws are sensitive birds; conditions in captivity don’t always match those in the wild. Any little discomfort causes these macaws stress. You must provide optimum care.
Here are some tips to care for these precious pets:
- Do not buy a second-hand cage for your bird. It may have lingering disease-causing microorganisms.
- Purchase a big cage for your macaw parrot. Your bird should be able to spread its wings comfortably inside the cage.
- Purchase a sizable travel carrier for your bird. It should always be clean and ready to use.
- Pick out the best location for your bird’s cage. A place that is neither too hot nor too cold and with good ventilation.
- Do not place the cage in the kitchen.
- Give your bird at least 2 hours outside its cage every day.
- Clean your bird’s cage, toys, and perches every two days. You can line the cage’s floor with a shelf sheet or paper for easy cleaning.
- Feed your parrots a highly nutritious diet. Consult an avian vet before you feed them anything outside their rounded-up list of foods.
- Blue-and-Gold Macaws are innately playful. Provide toys and chewable treats to keep them occupied. Rotate toys often; don’t use the same toys every day.
- Find out your bird’s bathing preferences and provide them accordingly. Do not bathe them by force if they prefer to do it alone.
- Have an avian vet’s contact information and your bird’s details on standby in cases of emergency.
- You must bird-proof your home to prevent accidents and injuries. Prevalent mishaps include flying into a fan, getting burnt, ingesting unsafe food, and flying into a pool of water.
- Use a harness whenever you let your Blue-and-Gold Macaw outside. It can easily fly away and get lost.
Blue-and-Gold Macaw: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: No. Blue-and-Gold Macaws rank as Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Its population is decreasing, but they’re neither extinct nor near extinct.
Answer: A conducive and healthy environment is everything if you want to raise a thriving Blue-and-Gold Macaw. Again, provide a nutritious diet, maintain cleanliness, reward good behavior, spend quality time together, and bird-proof your home.
Answer: The number of words you can teach your blue and gold macaw depends on how much time you have, how experienced you are and what age of bird you are training.
Blue-and-Gold Macaw are very intelligent birds, making them an excellent choice for teaching. They can learn up to 20 simple words and phrases.
Answer: Blue-and-Gold Macaw screams can drive you up the wall. If you have a blue and gold macaw that screams constantly, you may fix it by:
Keep Treats Handy: The first thing you should do is keeping treats handy at all times. This way, your pet will know there’s always something good waiting for them if they stop screaming or ask nicely.
Making Sure Your Macaw Is Happy: The best way to stop a blue and gold macaw from screaming is by ensuring your pet is happy. You should provide plenty of toys, cage accessories, and other items that will help keep your bird entertained during the day. If your pet gets bored easily, try changing their routine by regularly plaw objects in theircing ne environment.
Answer: Blue-and-Gold Macaws are omnivores. They eat various fruits, nuts, seeds and berries, insects, small reptiles, and small mammals. I do not know blue and gold macaws to be picky eaters; they will try almost anything you give them.
Before feeding your bird anything other than its usual diet, please consult an expert or avian vet.
The Remarkable Blue-and-Gold Macaw
I’ve owned several parrots. Although the Blue-and-Yellow Macaw is hard to keep healthy and happy, I love its alluring personality and cunning intellect.
They make wonderful pets, but they are even better companions. While you may be interested in getting yourself one, you must understand what it demands.
I hope this guide has given you a good overview of the Blue-and-Gold Macaw. Thanks for reading it. If you have questions, please let me know in the comments section below.
- IUCN Red List
Looking for more interesting readings? Check out:
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