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Blue and Gold Macaw
Blue and Yellow Macaw, Bolivian Blue and Gold MacawFamily: Psittacidae Blue and Gold Macaw - "Simba"Ara araraunaPhoto © Animal-World. Courtesy: David Brough
The beautiful Blue and Gold Macaw is a champion of large Macaws in color and personality!
The Blue and Gold Macaw Ara ararauna is one of the most beautiful large parrots. It is a sweet tempered and affectionate parrot, and has one of the best all around personalities of the large Macaws. This bird makes a great companion for a single person. But it is friendly with everyone, including other birds, when it's well socialized. Although some Macaws are one-person type birds, the Blue and Gold is right at home in a family type situation as well.
This large parrot is also sometimes called the Blue and Yellow Macaw, or you may come across a larger variant from Bolivia called the Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw. The Bolivian variety is distinguished by its larger size and its coloring. On all these Macaws the colors are vibrant, but the Bolivian has more of a true blue rather than the teal blue seen in the average Blue and Gold. They all share the same wonderful personality and characteristics.
Simba, seen in the picture above, is a handfed Blue and Gold Macaw. He originally came to us at the age of about 4 months and then quickly became everybody's favorite, as is typical for a Blue and Gold Macaw!
The Blue and Gold Macaw is very adaptive. Whatever environment they are in, it becomes quite normal for them. If they are around many people, they will accept many people. When well trained and socialized, Blue and Gold Macaws enjoy participating in all sorts of outdoor and public activities with their owners. We've seen them attending public festivals on their owners arms. One woman regularly took her Macaw with her to Western line dance classes. Another woman would take her Blue and Gold horseback riding with her. There are bird leashes available so you can take your feathered friend wherever you go, and they just adapt. They ride well in a car on a bird car seat
This is a lively, bouncy bird that loves to play, climb, and interact. They need a couple of hours a day outside a cage to be happy. Blue and Gold Macaw's are eager learners. They can be taught a variety of tricks and they are frequently seen in animal behavior acts. They are also one of the best talking of the Macaws and can learn about 15 to 20 words or expressions. But like all Macaws this parrot has a loud call, and it may be quite vocal at times.
The Blue and Gold is one of the most readily available of the large Macaws. They are also one of the least expensive Macaws for sale. But like all Macaws, they do require good socialization and consistent training to make good pets. They bond very closely with their humans. They are very affectionate, and will want your attention regularly.
For more information about Macaw parrots, see:
Macaw Care Guide: All about Macaws
The Blue and Gold Macaw Ara ararauna is currently considered a monotypic species, meaning that it contains only one species. However, taxonomy is an ongoing science, and as experts learn more it could change. Here are a couple of Macaws that have raised questions:
- There is a variant of the Blue and Gold Macaw from Bolivia that is larger and more brightly colored. This Macaw is currently being called the Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw. Its blue coloring is more of a true blue rather than the blue green seen of the average Blue and Gold, and its size can rival that of some of the Hyacinth Macaws. Other than size and appearance however, they share the same personality traits and characteristics.
- The Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis, previously known as Ara caninde, is a species of question. Author Joseph M. Forshaw in his atlas, "Parrots of the World", mentions that this Macaw could be a subspecies of the Blue and Gold, Ara ararauna caninde. Current taxonomy however, identifies it as its own species. It is very similar to Blue and Gold, though slightly smaller and is found only in the southern population the Blue and Gold's region, and in a very restricted area. Other slight distinctions are a less extensive bare facial area, the black tracings on the cheeks are somewhat broader, and the blue band on its throat extends up to the ear coverts. It is also known as the Wagler's Macaw and the Canide Macaw.
Distribution The Blue and Gold Macaw Ara ararauna was first described by Linnaeus in 1758. It is also known as the Blue and Yellow Macaw, and a variant from Bolivia is referred to as the Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw. It is found across a vast region, from eastern Panama in Central America south across northern South America, extending to Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. It has been introduced into Puerto Rico.
The Blue and Gold Macaws have an extremely large range. It encompasses a terrestrial system of lowland riverside forests to open savannah lands. Though their habitats includes open marshlands, they favor rainforests, woodlands, and tall palms, especially along swamps and rivers.
In the wild they are seen in pairs, and fly in large flocks to and from feeding grounds in the early morning and at sunset. They are most often seen living high up in large trees, and nesting in the hollow trunks of dead trees. They feed on seeds, nuts, fruits, and possibly some vegetable matter. They seem to prefer the fruits of palms.
Description Blue and Gold Macaws are among the most beautiful of the Macaw Family. They are a striking turquoise blue from the neck going down their back and the tops of the tail feathers. The chest and legs consists of feathers of gold. There is a bare facial patch with very small lined feathers going across the face. Right on the top of the head, there is usually a patch of green. The feathers on the underside of the tail are the gold color. The beak is black.
The Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw is a variant originating from Bolivia. It looks just like the typical Blue and Gold, however, it is much larger. It is the size of a Green-winged Macaw Ara chloroptera and often can be as large as the Hyacinth. A mutation of the Blue and Gold Macaw has also been reported where the yellow coloring is absent creating a blue and white bird.
The Blue and Gold Macaw is a full size Macaw and can weigh over 2 lbs. Their length is 32 to 35 inches (86 - 89 cm) and the wingspan measures 41 - 44.5 inches (106 - 113 cm). The Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw is quite a bit larger. Their lifespan is known to be up to 60 years. The bare facial patch will age and wrinkle as the bird matures.
Care and FeedingIn the wild they eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits and plants, and things such as small lizards. There are name brand commercially prepared seed or pellet mixes for the Macaw. They can also eat anything nutritious that you eat and these foods should be offered. Most parrots enjoy eating with their family. They eat protein in the wild and they do like chicken. Avocado and chocolate are toxic to parrots.
They require bathing to keep their feathers from drying out. They are used to a humid climate and without bathing their feathers will dry out and become itchy causing them to chew on them. You can spray them down with room temperature tap water or a commercial bird bath. Many owners just take their Macaw into the shower with them. They make shower perches for Macaws.
See Macaw Care and Feeding for more information.
HousingA roomy cage is required, at least 2 1/2 by 3 feet. Because Macaws can be quite vocal, be sure the cage is in a room where the amount of noise the neighbors hear is a minimal as possible. A large sturdy perch needs to be mounted in the cage. Fresh fruit tree branches work great because they can chew on them as well, but then they will have to be replaced occasionally. Food and water dishes, along with a treat dish work best mounted above the perch at the side of the cage. A variety of toys for playing and chewing should also be provided. As alternatives to a cage, they can be kept in an outdoor aviary where the weather permits, and some people like to provide their bird with its own "bird room".
These Macaws need 2 - 3 hours a day outside their cage. The Macaw's cage is their territory and a play pen top is great, but it is still their territory. It is better to interact with this Macaw on top of a sturdy perch away from the Macaw cage. A separate, free-standing playpen works great for this. Sometimes they will get down and just walk around looking for you. But usually once they hear you they will walk directly toward you. Many birds can spend most of their time on a playpen or parrot perch. .
See Macaw Housing or more information.
Maintenance The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Weekly you should wash all the perches and dirty toys, and the floor should be washed about every other week. A total hosing down and disinfecting of an aviary should be done yearly, replacing anything that needs to be freshened, such as old dishes, toys and perches.
Social Behaviors In the wild the Blue and Gold Macaws are seen in pairs. During non-breeding season they will flock in large numbers to and from feeding grounds, and can be seen peacefully with other birds.
As a pet, the Blue and Gold Macaw is known to be a good family type bird. They are a gentle bird that will get along with more than one person, although they will probably have a preference in the family. But they are a typical Macaw and can be cranky at times and may prefer only one person or only one gender. To have a well-rounded bird that enjoys more than one person, make sure it is well socialized with lots of folks.
See Macaws Social Behaviors for information on developing a well rounded friendly Macaw.
Handling/Training The Blue and Gold Macaw adapts quickly. Once it becomes accustomed to a new environment and its keeper it is then ready to start bird training. Generally though, you should give a new arrival a few days to get use to you, your voice and its cage before trying to handle it. A hand fed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, as it is use to human attention.
With all parrots, taming and training takes trust and patience. Macaws are very intelligent making them easy to tame. They are also very adept at learning and quick to train. They excel best at learning tricks and small tasks. They are not as inclined to talk and mimic as some of the other parrots, notably the Amazon Parrots, but they can learn a few words or phrases. The Blue and Gold can develop a general vocabulary of about 15 or more words or expressions.
For information about handling and training your Blue and Gold Macaw see Macaw Training
ActivitiesFor the physical well being and psychological health of a Macaw Parrot, they must have plenty of opportunity to exercise and play. These are lovable pets and activities include interactive time with its keeper. Everything from petting, cuddling, and preening is appreciated, as well as performing and learning new tricks. But these are also very large, rambunctious pets that need a good sized space to play and climb around. Both climbing around inside a large cage, and providing a outside playpen offers them interest and variety.
Macaws are avid chewers, munching intently on anything they can get a hold of. When they are on a playpen, make sure they can't reach trim or any household items you don't want destroyed. Provide lots of toys and activities in the form of large link chains, bird ladders, parrot swings, ropes, and wood toys for gnawing and chewing. Rotate in new bird toys on a regular basis.
Providing regular interaction and lots of playtime. Having plenty of space and a large selection of toys and activities will help deter distress in your pet Macaw. It will also reduce the chance of your parrot developing undesirable behaviors like screeching, biting, and feather picking.
Sexing - Sexual Differences It is said that the males head is flatter and the females head is rounder, and the female beak is narrower than the males. However, There is no for certain way to distinguish the male Hyacinth Macaw from the female. In order to know whether you have a male or female, the bird must be sexed. DNA / Feather or surgical sexing is recommended.
Breeding/Reproduction Captive breeding in the United States has occurred since at least 1935. The Blue and Gold Macaw has been known to breed at as young an age as 3 years. Their lifespan for reproduction is long, several decades. The usual clutch consists of two or three eggs which incubate for about 28 days. The chicks will stay in the nest for about 3 months and are quite large when they fledge. Feed the parents plenty of green stuffs, corn-on-the-cob, carrots, protein, and fruit laced with food supplement while they are rearing the youngsters.
See Macaw Breeding for more information.
This Blue and Gold Macaw has also been crossed with other large macaw species to develop a number of hybrid Macaws. These include first generation (F1) hybrids like the Bluffon's Macaw, Caloshua Macaw, Catalina Macaw, Harlequin Macaw, Maui Sunset Macaw, and Miligold Macaw, and second generation (F2) and later generations hybirds such as the Blue and Gold Macaw x Calico Macaw, Catablu Macaw, and Harligold Macaw. It has not been hybridized with Mini Macaws.
Potential Problems It is definitely true that a Macaw parrot can make noise, but it is not often, and not without some provocation. Usually, if they make a loud squawking noise if they perceive something to be wrong or different. Maybe a car they don't recognize is coming to the home or the dog is loose. They are also known to make a large noise for about 10 minutes as the sun is setting. This is an alert to their flock to settle in for the evening.
A pet Macaw when well cared for will seldom become ill. Yet they can contract some diseases, and there some also things in the environmental that can cause illness. Behavior problems can also occur, resulting in feather plucking, biting, and loud screeching. Though it is often difficult to determine illness, some visible signs of illness to be aware of are:
- Ruffled plumage
- Drooping wings
- Sagging body
- Extreme mood changes
- Having no appetite
- Bulges in feathering
- Partially closed or watery eyes
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive saliva
- Dirty vent
- Any change in the feces not apparently diet related
Some of the more common illnesses are:
- Proventricular Dilation disease (Macaw wasting disease)
- Psittacosis (chlamydiosis or parrot fever)
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
- Feather picking - results of boredom, poor diet, sexual frustration, and lack of bathing
- Chewing flight and tail feathers by juveniles
- Beak malformations in chicks
- Kidney disease (gout)
- Toxicity - heavy metal poisoning
- Lipomas in older birds
If you notice any of these bird illnesses in your Blue and Gold Macaw immediately provide a warm, draft free, secure environment kept at about 86°F (30°C). Place food and water close to the perch where it is easily accessible. An ailing parrot should be taken to an avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
Behavior problems in a pet Macaw usually stem from something that is missing in the bird's environment. Some of the most common are lack of trust, becoming bored, or lack of interaction with people or other birds. When these things are missing that can lead to problems resulting in undesirable behavior. Try to develop a bond of trust and spend time with your bird to help avoid these problems. We have also had good success with Chet Womach's Parrot Training Course. He offers free 3-day introductory course so you can try it out before you buy anything.
Availability The Blue and Gold Macaw, sometimes called the Blue and Yellow Macaw or the Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw, is one of the most readily available of the large Macaws for sale. They are easy to obtain and they are also one of the least expensive Macaws.
- Animal-World References: Pet Birds - Exotic Birds
- Joseph M. Forshaw, Parrots of the World, Hancock House Pub Ltd. 2000
- J. Abramson, B.L. Speer, J.B. Thompson, The Large Macaws: Their Care, Breeding, and Conservation, Raintree Publications, 1996
- Roger G. Sweeney, Macaws a Complete Owners Manual, Barron's, 1992
- David Alderton, Parrots, Salamander Books, 1999
- Dr. David Alderton, The Atlas of Parrots of the World, T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1991
- David Alderton,, A Bird Keeper's Guide to Parrots and Macaws, Salamander Books, 1989
- Parrots, Buzzle.com, Copyright 2000 - 2010, 2011
- Don Harper, Practical Encyclopedia of pet Birds, Harmony, 1986