Blue and Gold Macaw

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Is the Blue and Gold Macaw right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Blue and Yellow Macaw

Scientific name: Ara ararauna

The basics:
The Blue and Gold Macaw is an impressive beauty that is often considered to be easier to handle and less neurotic than the other large macaws. As a consequence, this intelligent, adaptable bird is one of the most popular macaws kept in captivity.

This macaw is a very widespread species,found throughout northern and central South America, with its original range extending from Panama in Central America, east to the island of Trinidad, and down south to Bolivia and Brazil. Unfortunately, the species was extirpated in Trinidad. A re-introduction program has been initiated, but the progress is uncertain. Perhaps it is too soon to know if it will be successful. They seem to like wet, humid tropical or subtropical forest, or nearby partly open areas. They often fly in pairs, making them a thrilling sight to see as they skim over the treetops.

You could only confuse this huge long-tailed blue and yellow parrot with the critically endangered Blue-Throated Macaw, but the popular Blue and Gold Macaw has a black (not blue) throat and a green (not blue) forehead.

1040 - 1285 grams (37 - 45 oz.)

Average size:
86 centimeters (34 in.)

50 years

Behavior / temperament:
Blue and Gold Macaws are inquisitive and playful. They seem to be much more confident and not as fearful or nervous as some of the other macaw species, such as the Scarlet. Daily loud vocalizations, especially ‘flock calls’, and destructive chewing are natural parts of their behavior and should be expected and enjoyed by their owners. While they don't have a great reputation as talkers, they can learn a few words, and some Blue and Golds have very human voices for those few words they do deign to speak. So don't hesitate to try to teach your pet to call you by name.

Sometimes the human laugh is an easy sound for them to learn, so have fun with them. They are intelligent and loving, so for someone who can provide for their needs and respect their normal macaw behaviors, they make good companions. Please bear in mind that if you see one Blue and Gold Macaw in the wild, you almost always see its mate. Like most other macaws, they are highly social, with a strong pair bond. Do not leave this bird alone and neglected. They may seem more independent than some other birds, but the truth is, they really long for companionship and thrive on your attention.

A single Blue and Gold 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. Many captive Blue and Golds rarely or never fly, so it's more important to have room to encourage them to climb than to worry about a long horizontal flight. The cage should be a professionally constructed, powder-coated metal. 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. A macaw is not a cheap date. Although not considered to be a classic diva like a Scarlet Macaw, a Blue and Gold Macaw will still expect you to lavish some money on its lifestyle.

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 and Gold 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, even a Blue and Gold 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.

If you must set up the bird in an outdoor aviary removed from the family, talk to another macaw breeder and then carefully go through the appropriate steps to set up the bird with a friend or a mate. An outdoor aviary needs to be carefully designed to protect your birds from thieves, nuisance animals that can threaten a bird such as raccoons, and special netting to protect from mosquito-borne disease. An added twist is that these strong, intelligent birds might figure out a way to let themselves out of the aviary and then become confused or lost. Before you design the aviary, talk to someone who has done it before.

Like the other South American macaws and conures, the Blue and Gold 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 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.

Small, high carbohydrate seeds like millet can be included in the mix. Don't laugh. Macaws do have the patience to crack tiny millet seed, and these seeds are low in fat, so if you have an overweight bird, you can still allow them the pleasure of cracking seed, without loading them down with lots of fat. Unless the bird is very overweight, the Blue and Gold Macaw will benefit from up to 20% nuts in the diet, especially nuts in the shell that the bird can enjoy cracking for itself.

A well-socialized Blue and Gold 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. While several species of macaws, including the Blue and Gold, have been seen at the clay licks taking salt, today's modern diets already have plenty of salt. Don't salt the macaw's food or provide supplemental salt except on the advice of an avian vet.

Written by Elaine Radford


wonderful companions, clumsy goofballs, affectionate bird, greatest joy, great companion macaws


screams, anger issues, HUGE poops, seasonal hormonal behaviors, behavioral challenges, big beak lunging


large enclosure, experienced bird owner, long lifespan, long tails, magnificent wing spread

Helpful Blue and Gold Macaw Review

Blue and Gold Macaw

From Elise N Oct 17 2014 8:40AM


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