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Blue-throated Macaw

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Is the Blue-throated Macaw right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Caninde Macaw; Wagler's Macaw

Scientific name: Ara glaucogularis

The basics:
The critically endangered Blue-throated Macaw, once better known to smugglers and trappers than to scientists, has faced an uphill battle for survival. It has been believed extinct in the wild on an occasion or two in the 20th century, with its most recent rediscovery occurring in the early 1990s. Like their bigger and better known cousin, the Blue and Gold Macaw, Blue-throated Macaws are bold, intelligent, and love to play. However, to avoid losing the species altogether, responsible people will be aware of and comply with all regulations regarding the legal trade of an endangered species. Most birds should probably be placed in the appropriate breeding programs. The first order of business is to save the species.

Although there are almost certainly far more Blue-throated Macaws in captivity than the remaining population of less than 300 birds in the wild, their wild home is swampy low-lying areas in the Beni department of Bolivia. With the official rediscovery of the wild species around 1992, the race was on to save the birds before the trappers had removed or killed them all. Fortunately, a reserve has been created, the Barba Azul (“Blue Throat”) Nature Reserve, which provides a home for the largest remaining population of these beautiful and intelligent birds.

Much of the area preferred by Blue-throated Macaws is flooded land useful only for cattle ranching, an activity that doesn't interfere with the macaws nesting there. One problem that caused the crash of the species was the removal of rotten trees, causing these smaller macaws to face more competition for fewer nestboxes. Today, ranchers and biologists have placed nestboxes in the wild, which the Blue-throated Macaws accept and use successfully.

The second problem is that smugglers are well aware of the rarity and value of the birds, and so the Blue-throated Macaws continue to be under assault by the illegal bird trade. Do not tolerate unethical activity. Know the source of your birds, and report it if you have any evidence of a crime, such as theft of a Blue-throated Macaw from the wild or a legal breeder.

Appearance:
These blue and yellow macaws can easily be distinguished from the much more common Blue and Gold Macaw because Blue-throats are smaller, have a large blue “bib” on their breast, and a blue forehead. The familiar Blue and Gold has a black under-chin and a green forehead.

Weight:
750 grams (26 oz.)

Average size:
85 centimeters (33.5 in.)

Lifespan:
60 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Blue-throated Macaw is admired as a spirited and intelligent pet. Don't make this beautiful bird a victim of its fine reputation. Most birds should be in breeding programs. If you do possess a bird that cannot be bred, educate yourself about the proper handling of macaws so that you can make owning this bird the joy it should be. They have a strong pair bond and should never be neglected, lest you spark problem screaming or plucking. They love to chew, and they should have a gym area where they can chew and play to their heart's content. Train your pet to step on and off your hand or perch on command, so you can easily move the macaw between play areas and the display cage.

Housing:
Most Blue-throated Macaws should be set up in secure walk-in aviaries as part of a breeding program. Smugglers are aware of the endangered species status of this bird, and you should invest in a high quality home security system, with the ability to monitor and record what's happening around the aviary. You also need to provide top-quality protection from pests ranging from disease-carrying mosquitoes to raccoons or other predators that might break in to destroy a nest. These birds chew, and they have been involved in some well-publicized escapes. You cannot spare any expense in providing safe, secure, easy to clean and service, living space for your Blue-throated Macaws.

If you do end up with an “odd” bird that can't be bred and is being held as a pet, keep in mind that the Blue-throated Macaw needs a huge, specialty cage that accommodates the long, graceful tail. A good minimum sized primary cage would be 40”w x 30”d x 60”h with no more than 1½ ” bar spacing. . Cheap wooden fittings and perches will be chewed-up matchsticks in less than a day. You should employ stout manzanita perches in areas where you do not want to change the perches very often. You should also have plenty of macaw-safe perches and toys for the bird to chew at will. Do not punish the bird for chewing these items to destruction, since you want your pet to chew them for good healthy exercise. Yes, you'll go through a lot of toys.

It is very important with a parrot of this size to provide a large playpen area that is away from the cage – NOT on top of the cage. At times, especially during hormonal surges, your Blue-throated Macaw can become very territorial about its cage, and you will want to have plenty of practice moving the bird to neutral territory where the macaw can play without feeling obligated to defend the area. They are powerful birds, and you want to establish yourself as kind but in control of the relationship from the very beginning. If you allow yourself to be intimidated, a Blue-throated Macaw can sometimes become aggressive. These birds go in pairs or, perhaps, small family groups in the wild, and it is not natural for them to spend a lot of time alone.

Diet:
The Blue-throated Macaw demands a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. There are several diets that work for this species. A good pellet-based macaw diet, with lots of chopped vegetables and fruits on the side, can be a good daily diet, but take care that this intelligent bird does not get bored with the pellets. Soak-and-cook, either from a vet or a commercial supplier, can be the answer, although it's more work than pellets. Many people like to create their own grain and legume based diet, which generally includes a mix of well-cooked beans and grains, including brown rice. As a practical matter, you will probably want to prepare the cooked diet in large batches, freezing what you're not using in a couple of days, and then defrosting it as you need it.

The wild diet of the Blue-throated Macaw includes a specialized palm nut, and this species can benefit from enjoying more nuts in the diet than some of the other macaws. Try walnuts, pecans, cracked Brazil nuts, pine nuts, and more. A macaw seed mix should be fresh enough to sprout, and you should offer the clean, green sprouts frequently.

A well-socialized Blue-throated Macaw may want to help you eat your dinner, which is fine if you eat a healthy diet that's rich in vegetables and whole grain, but never allow a macaw to sample avocado, chocolate, or undercooked meat or poultry.

Written by Elaine Radford

wonderful

intelligent nature, wonderful companion bird

challenging

big enough cage, conventional cage locks, heavy metal poisoning

interesting

Barbara Heidenreich, positive reinforcement training, great wood toys

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