The Majestic Blue & Gold Macaws, Ara ararauna …
This plumage of this beautiful macaw presents the colors of the Ukranian flag. We are dedicating this page to the brave Ukranian people and indeed any people fighting for freedom …
The Blue-and-yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna), also known as Blue-and-gold Macaws, are found in the swampy forests of tropical South America. A larger variant from Bolivia is commonly referred to as the Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw.
They are sometimes included in a group commonly referred to as the “Blue Macaws“, which includes the closely related Lear’s Macaws (Anodorhynchus leari), Spix’s Macaws (Cyanopsitta spixii) and the Hyacinth (Anodorhynchus. hyacinthinus).
These macaws are the most commonly kept macaw species in the United States. They are fairly easy to obtain as they breed well in captivity, and are, therefore, one of the least expensive Macaws.
Their popularity in the pet trade has also had sad consequences. They have become extinct in several areas largely due to the fact that nestlings have been removed from their natural habitats, often resulting in the deaths of their parents as they tried to protect them.
Even though the Blue and Gold is currently considered monotypic (one single species), many question the validity of that and suggest the following changes be considered:
Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw (Ara ararauna) [Note: its common English name is also sometimes used for the Blue-throated Macaw] – Not a currently recognized subspecies, but lumped together with the nominate form as one and the same species. May warrant research and possible revision in the future.
The Bolivian variety is distinguished by:
their larger size. They are said to be bigger than the regular Blue and Gold Macaws; in fact, they are described as surpassing the average-sized Green-wing Macaws and sometimes even some Hyacinths plumage described as more “true blue” compared to the ” green-blue” or turquoise coloration of the regular Blue and Gold.
Note: This species is not recognized and the concern has been raised that this race was most likely the result of selective breeding (for size and color). Additionally, it was opined that there was a Blue-throated Macaw in the mix (ancestry). However, the latter doesn’t make sense, as the Blue-throated Macaw is actually a little smaller than the Blue and Gold. Therefore, hybridization to create a larger specimen should be unsuccessful.
Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis, formerly Araninde – suggested: Ara ararauna glaucogularis) – Joseph Michael Forshaw – an Australian ornithologist and one of the world’s foremost experts on parrots – stated that this macaw (found in the southern portion of the Blue and Gold’s range) could be a subspecies based on their similar appearance. Some physical differences include a slightly smaller size, a less extensive bare facial area, broader black tracings on the cheeks, and a blue throat patch that extends up to the ear coverts (feathers).
Note: This race was long disputed mostly because it was only discovered in recent history. Previously, it was considered an aberrant form of the Blue and Gold Macaw. However, in addition to their physical differences, there are no records of these two races interbreeding in areas where their ranges overlap, supporting the conclusion that these are two different species.
Natural Distribution / Range
Blue and Gold Macaws have an extremely large range.
They occur naturally from Eastern Panama in Central America south through Colombia (except the Cauca Valley and West Narino), east and south to Venezuela, Guayana, French Guiana and Brazil; and east and south through eastern and western Ecuador, eastern Peru and northeastern Bolivia.
Formerly they occurred in Paraguay, North Argentina, South East Brazil (last recorded in 1960s), West Ecuador and on the island of Trinidad (Nariva Swamp, last recorded in 1980s).
Introduced populations have established themselves in Mexico, Puerto Rico and in Southern Florida (Miami-Dade County).
Their declines have been attributed to habitat destruction, overhunting and capturing for the pet trade.
They inhabit lowlands up to 1,650 feet (~ 500 meters), making their homes in rainforests, riverside forests, open savannas, marshlands, and swamps.
Throughout the day, they are usually seen in pairs or small family groups high up in large trees. However, in the mornings and late afternoons they join large, noisy flocks as they fly to and from their feeding grounds. When alarmed, they usually fly into the air screeching loudly.
They are large members of the Macaw family, with a length of 76 – 91.5 cm (30 – 36 inches), and a wingspan ranging between 41 – 45 inches (104 – 114 cm). They weigh between 28 – 64 oz (0.8 – 1.8 kg)
Their plumage is vividly colored – with a mostly turquoise blue back and bright yellow underparts, although across their range some plumage variations have been noted, as some birds are described as being more orangey below – particularly on the chest. This may be a result of environmental factors, including diet.
The blue wings have green tips. The crown and forehead are green. The chin or throat is dark blue to black.
The bare face is white, turning pink in excited birds and wrinkled as they age. This bare area is lined with small dark green ranging to black feathers.
The large bill is dark grey-black, hooked and strong enough to crush even larger nuts. The beak also comes in handy when climbing around the trees. The dark grey feet are zygodactylous (with 2 toes pointing forward and 2 toes pointing backward) – an adaptation that helps them grasp securely the branches as they perch or move around in trees.
The eyes are pale yellow in adults and dark in juveniles.
Exciting Mutations of the Blue and Gold Macaw have occurred. Please check out this website for photos.
Males and females look alike. However, some suggest that there are some clues – such as males tend to have flatter heads than females and females are said to have narrower beaks. However, these are very unreliable indicators and DNA / Feather or surgical sexing is recommended.
Immature birds resemble the adults, but can be identified by their grey-brown eyes.
The Blue and Gold Macaw resembles the Blue-throated Macaw . The Blue-throated can be identified by its blue throat patch, reddish facial skin and entirely blue wings.
Their natural diet consists of various seeds, nuts, fruits (particularly the fruits of palms), and possibly some vegetable matter. Their strong beaks are able to crack even the hardest nut shells and crush seeds.
They are also commonly observed consuming clay found at riverbanks, which allows them to digest toxins from ingested unripe seeds.
Breeding / Nesting
Blue and Gold Macaws reach reproductive age when they are about 3 to 4 years old. Once they have found a suitable mate, they are generally monogamous (paired for life). However, they may replace a mate that they have lost.
Most breeding activities occur between January through July (in the United States between March and September). They usually breed every 1 to 2 years.
In their natural habitat, they nest in the hollow trunks of dead trees or cavities (natural or excavated by other birds) in tall trees high up to avoid predation. In captive breeding situations, 35-gallon (135-litres) pickle barrels or horizontal nest boxes – sized about 16″ x 16″ x 48″ (41 cm x 41 cm x 122 cm) – have been successfully used.
The hatchlings weigh about 0.5 – 0.7 oz (14 – 20 g) and are blind, featherless and completely dependent on parental care. For the first week, the female alone feeds the young through regurgitation and after that time, the male will usually assist. About 10 days later, the young develop feathers.
Both parents are very protective of their young and aggressively defend them against intruders. The young fledge (leave) the nest when they are about 90 to 100 days old. By the time they start feeding on their own (wean), they weigh about 35 oz (1,000 g).
Calls / Vocalizations
Blue and Gold Macaws are quite vocal, and their contact or flock calls are loud, raucous, and sometimes harsh. Their loud communications are natural parts of their behavior and cannot be trained away in captivity.
Lifespan / Longevity – Oldest Recorded Parrot
Most resources list as the maximum age of a Blue and Gold Macaw to be up to 60 years; however, some rare birds have surpassed that (please refer to below paragraph). This being said, most only live 30 – 35 years.
The Oldest RECORDED Macaw is …
A female Blue and Gold Macaw named Charlie is reported to have hatched in 1899 and, accordingly, in 2011, she celebrated her 112th birthday. She is said to have once belonged to Winston Churchill. This Blue and Gold Macaw has gained fame for her anti-Nazi cursing. Charlie resides at Heathfield Nurseries, Reigate, Surrey in Great Britain.
However, a Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo called Cookie was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the oldest living parrot in the world. Cookie died when she was 83 years old.
(Note by BeautyOfBirds: This information was provided by a web visitor on 10/21/2017 who attended Cookie’s 83rd birthday celebration – unfortunately, his e-mail got accidentally deleted before we could respond to him, for which we apologize. (Thank you for the update / correction!)
Maximum age can most easily be achieved by captive birds that are well cared for. In the wild, eggs, chicks and some adults fall prey to birds of prey, such as Harpy Eagles, Hawk Eagles and Orange-crested Falcons, reptiles (snakes, for example) and humans, who hunt them for their feathers and meat.
They reach reproductive age when they are 3 – 4 years old, but they rarely produce young after the age of 35.
Alternate (Global) Names
Catalan: Guacamai ararauna … Chinese: ?????? … Czech: Ara ararauna … Danish: Blågul Ara … Dutch: Blauwgele Ara, Blauw-gele Ara … Estonian: ararauna (lasuuraara) … Finnish: Ararauna, sinikelta-ara … French: Ara ararauna, Ara bleu, Ara bleu et jaune, Ara bleu et or … German: Ararauna … Guarani: Gua’a sa’yju, Kaninde … Irish: Macá buíghorm … Italian: Ara ararauna, Ara gialloblu … Japanese: rurikongouinko … Norwegian: Blågul ara, Blågulara … Polish: (ara) ararauna, ara ararauna, ararauna, Arauna zwyczajna … Portuguese: arara-amarela, arara-azul, Arara-canindé, arara-de-barriga-amarela, araraí, ararauna, arari, Canindé … Russian: ?????????? ???, ?????????? ???, ????-?????? ??? … Slovak: Ara modrožltá, ara modro-žltá … Spanish: Guacamaya Azuliamarilla, Guacamayo Azul y Amarillo, Guacamayo Azulamarillo, Papagayo amarillo, Paraba azul amarillo … Swedish: Blågul ara
Further Macaw Information
- Macaw Information
- Photos of the Different Macaw Species for Identification
- Common Health Problems of Macaws
- Macaw Diet / Nutrition
Blue & Gold Macaws aka Blue & Yellow Macaws in Captivity (Breeders or Pets)
Blue and Gold Macaws are the most commonly kept macaw species in the United States. They are fairly easy to obtain as they breed well in captivity, and are, therefore, one of the least expensive Macaws.
The main attraction is their beautiful and exotic looks, as well as their affectionate and playful nature. However, these birds require a large home, considerable bird proofing of their environment, and a substantial level of commitment by their owners that most just cannot provide.
In the right hands, the make excellent pets that become very attached to and loving towards their owners. However, if their substantial needs aren’t met, they often turn into screamers, feather pluckers and biters. Behavioral guidance is needed to prevent bad habits from forming. This is not a bird for the inexperienced or half-hearted.
Blue and Gold Macaws as Pets:
Although popular as pets because of their striking appearance and ability to talk, they require much more effort – and more knowledge – from owners than more traditional pets such as dogs or cats. They are intelligent and loving, so for someone who can provide for their needs, they make good companion animals.
Even the best cared for, well-adjusted blue and gold macaw will “scream” and make other loud noises. Loud vocalizations and destructive chewing are natural parts of their behavior and should be expected in captivity. Usually they will make loud squawking noises if they are alarmed or excited. At night, they also commonly vocalize for 10 minutes as the sun is setting.
To some extent you can redirect chewing to toys, but a macaw left alone, uncaged in a room will likely redecorate. By providing a number of toys in cage, one can minimize the destructive chewing as the bird will focus chewing on those appropriate objects.
They require a set-up that allows them to chew as much as they want, toys to keep them busy, an area that is easily cleaned and maintained. Not a bird for most households, but a source of great pleasure, wonderful companionship (and, admittedly, the occasional heartache over destroyed furnishings) – for the right owner. If their needs are not met, they are likely to develop behavioral problems, such as excessive screaming or biting, feather plucking (please refer to the photo to the right) – in extreme cases, they may begin to mutilate themselves.
These birds come from a tropical climate and daily bathing opportunities should be available to them. Without some humidity in their feathers, they try out and can result in itching, which again can lead to feather chewing / destruction. If they don’t like to bathe, one can spray them down with room temperature tap water, or many owners simply take their macaws into the shower with them. Shower perches for large birds are readily available.
Blue and Gold Macaws, like all macaws, will chew on your furniture, electric wiring, jewelry – any item they can get hold of. This is natural behavior. In the wild, they will spend a substantial time of their days on trees “customizing their environment” — building nests, foraging for food, preening and interacting with their mates, and caring for their chicks. At your home, one of their primary activities will be chewing, exploring items (ANY item) with their beaks.
Bird proofing of areas they roam around in is very important, for their safety as well as yours (damaged electric wiring can result in fires).Bird owners usually find ways to hide cables or protect them with plastic tubing available at Home Depot (or like store).
Ideally, they should have a nice-size play area — some people even provide them with a bird room.
I received an inspiring e-mail from a Blue and Gold Macaw owner who expresses very clearly what it takes to provide a macaw with a healthy and stimulating environment. She describes what it is like living with her “Blu” – who developed into a wonderful pet due to all the attention and wonderful care he receives at his home.
Living with a Blue and Gold Macaw:
“I’ve had Blu for two years. I bought him from Pet Smart on his first birthday,May 5th 2004. Actually my 14 year old son begged me to buy him and Blu became my companion.
I knew nothing about parrots, so I read everything I could about them. To my surprise, he was more than I anticipated in upkeep; however, I took on the responsibility and it paid off.
From day one, Blu spent every day out of his cage, in a play area in my bedroom, taking showers with me daily, and going on car rides at least 3 to 5 days a week. He has become such a delight, but I wouldn’t recommend a parrot of this type to anyone who is not capable or willing to include him as an active member of the family. I include Blu in all activities I participate in daily. “EVERY DAY”, and keep him supplied with plenty of wooden chewables, pecans, walnuts, and other whole nuts in a shell at all times.
He eats what my other family members eat, and fresh berries and fruit are part of his staple diet. As a result, his colors are shining and magnificent, and he often reminds me he thinks so too. “I’m such a pretty bird” he says with a smile in his eyes, “I’m good”. And he is. He can be loud, but I control it to some extent by distracting him with “quiet conversation” and “soft voice levels”. He loves to cuddle, says he loves me after a drenching shower, asks for nuts “cracker” he says, any time he see’s anyone eating something “delicious” looking.
It amazes me how he uses the proper words for situations. For instance, he says “I’m a pretty bird: not “you are a pretty bird” like I tell him. He laughs when I trip or drop something, he smiles most of the day, and asks to go “bye bye” when he sees me getting ready to go somewhere. He tells me when he wants to go to sleep and back to his cage for the night, “night night”? he asks at the end of each day.
There is no doubt he is extremely intelligent because he speaks cognitively a large part of the time. He is a pain the in butt at times, but so are my other family members. Love him and he loves twice as hard. I never ignored him, or left him alone for more than an hour or two, so I’m not sure about how he would be if I didn’t. He goes on vacation with us, every time. (We like the “Weston” hotels, they always welcome us with no problem. I leave the rooms clean so it will stay that way. He’s cooky, loud, funny and loving. He’s my little “chicken” and it cracks me up when he acknowledges it too. “I’m a chicken” he boasts. “I love”! So do I.” (AvianWeb Note: Blu’s “mom” has sent me some photos – one of which is featured to the bottom right. But she sent me others that I think you may also enjoy. Please visit this website for additional photos of Blu).
Macaw ownership generally presents multiple challenges, such as excessive chewing – especially at certain stages in their life. They do discover their beaks as method of “disciplining us” once they are out of the “baby stage” and they can generally be somewhat naughty, and it really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before undesirable behavior has been established. Undisciplined macaws will chew on electric wiring potentially causing house fires.
They regard anything in your home as a “toy” that can be explored and chewed on; destroying items that you may hold dear or are simply valuable. Even a young bird that has not been neglected and abused requires proper guidance; this becomes even more challenging when it involves a rescued bird that may require rehabilitation. Not everybody can tolerate the natural loud call of a macaw and even though it can’t (or should not) be entirely eliminated, there are ways to discourage screaming / screeching in your pet macaw.
Overall, it is important to guide parrot behavior, but even more so if your feathered family member is a magnificent and powerful macaw.
- AvianWeb Resources: I put together web resources for you to help you understand your pet bird and properly direct him. Please visit the following website to learn more about parrot behavior and training.
In captivity, they need a varied diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, and a quality dry food mix.
Breeding / Nesting
In captivity, interbreeding is relatively common. First generation hybrids include Catalina Macaws, Harlequin Macaws, Bluffon’s Macaws, Caloshua Macaws, Maui Sunset Macaws and Miligold Macaws. Second generation hybrids are Catablu Macaws and Harligold Macaws.
Breeding pairs require access to large flights that are at least 50 feet (15 meters) long.
- Macaw Species Page
- Alternate (Global) Names of Blue and Gold Macaws
- Blue and Gold Macaw Distribution / Habitat (Range Map)
- Blue and Gold Macaw Taxonomy, Disputed Subspecies
- Blue and Gold Macaw Physical Description
- Blue and Gold Macaw Calls / Vocalizations
- Blue and Gold Macaw Lifespan / Longevity – Oldest Recorded Parrot
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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