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).
Training and Behavioral Guidance:
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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