Blue and Gold Macaw

A Striking Parrot That Loves to Talk

Blue and Gold Macaw
Kitchin and Hurst/Getty Images

Beautiful, captivating, intelligent, and majestic, blue and gold macaws have held a place as one of the most popular large parrots for years. These brightly colored beauties have so much more to offer than just a pretty face—they are full of personality as well! They are indeed one of the more recognizable birds in the world and a popular pet for people who can handle a large parrot that demands attention.

Common Names

Blue and Gold Macaw, Blue and Yellow Macaw

Scientific Name

Ara ararauna

Origin and History

In the wild, blue and gold macaws enjoy a wide range from Panama in Central America, extending into almost every country of northern South America. They have also been introduced in Puerto Rico.

Blue and golds typically live in the forests near rivers and swamps, though they can be found in savannas if tall trees are available. Most often seen in pairs, the macaws will gather in large flocks at certain times of the year and during morning and evening foraging for food.

Wild blue and golds are an endangered species. Much of their population decline has been due to habitat destruction, hunting, and trapping. Quite often, the young birds were taken directly from the nest, intended for the pet trade, and many of the defensive parents have died while protecting their babies.

Blue and gold macaws are considered monotypic, meaning there is only one bird that falls into the species. However, bird experts are debating whether this should remain as there are two variations which some consider subspecies. This includes the Bolivian blue and gold macaw, a larger bird with more of a true blue coloring than the typical turquoise. The other is the blue-throated macaw, who has a teal blue throat rather than a black one. 

Among the most popular and common species of macaws to keep as pets, blue and golds have been bred in the United States since 1935. Breeders are readily available and their prevalence makes them one of the most affordable large parrots.

Size

Blue and gold macaws are large birds and can reach lengths of up to 33 inches from the beak to the end of the tailfeathers. Their wingspan can reach an astounding 40 inches or more and they typically weigh over 2 pounds at maturity.

Average Lifespan

Like most large parrots, adopting a blue and gold is a commitment for a lifetime because they can live 60 or more years. Though most only live to around 30 years old, there have been stories of blue and golds living to 100.

In particular, one English macaw named Charlie was said to be born in 1899 and celebrated her 114th birthday in 2013. Her owner also claimed that Winston Churchill once owned her, but that has been disputed.

Temperament

Intelligent and sociable, the blue and gold macaw usually does well as a pet when the owners are dedicated, responsible, and well informed. They are large birds, and as such are capable of extremely loud vocalizations. Because of this, they may not be the best choice for those who live in apartments and condominiums, or who have small children.

When allowed to socialize with a variety of people, blue and golds do very well adapting to various situations. They're a popular headliner at bird shows and many owners take them out and about town with the help of bird leashes and car seats. Blue and golds can be just as welcoming to other birds as they are to humans.

Around the house, these macaws can be as friendly as a dog. They enjoy being near their owners and will often wander around looking for someone who can give them attention. Their sweet personality is sure to make you drop whatever you're doing for a little play time. Yet, they can also be quite content on their perch, watching the activity around them.

Blue and Gold Macaw Colors and Markings

Blue and gold macaws get their common name from their two most prominent feather colors. They typically have a green forehead, fading into a teal blue which covers the nape, back, tail, and wings. The chest and underside of the wings and belly are a bright golden yellow.

These birds have large black beaks and a black patch of feathers just underneath it. White patches of skin adorned with rings of tiny black feathers surround their eyes and cover much of the face.

The males and females are barely distinguishable because this is a monomorphic species. It's believed that the male has a flatter head and the female has a narrower beak, but the only way to prove the sex of this macaw is through surgical or DNA sexing.

Caring for Blue and Gold Macaws

Their sociability and even temperaments mean that blue and golds make great pets. Adding to that, their intelligence, willingness to learn, and talking ability only help make them more precious in the eyes bird lovers.

Like most parrots, the blue and gold thrives on attention from its owner and will form a strong bond with its family members. This is not to say, however, that the blue and gold macaw is for everybody. Indeed, this is a bird that requires extra special attention. 

They are quite large and must be provided with adequate space in which to live, play, and exercise. Not only that, but they are prone to ear-shattering vocalizations and contact calls, which are often unappreciated by close neighbors. Care must be taken to properly socialize these birds and to provide them with adequate mental stimulation so that screaming doesn't become a habit out of boredom. These are raucous birds that require plenty of space, a lot of time and attention, and a healthy diet.

The blue and gold is a fantastic bird for tricks. They learn quickly and aim to please, so training is relatively simple as long as you're consistent. A vocabulary of around 20 words and phrases can be learned as well and the clarity of their voice makes many people consider them one of the best talking parrots.

When blue and golds are kept in healthy, wholesome environments, they are normally a joy to have as pets. Those who are looking to add a blue and gold to their families, however, should do plenty of research before they buy a bird. You need to make sure that you can provide the kind of home that will be conducive to a healthy, successful ownership experience. Doing so will help ensure that both bird and you enjoy many happy years together. 

Feeding a Blue and Gold Macaw

Captive blue and gold macaws should be fed a varied diet consisting of as many different types of fresh foods as possible. Fresh vegetables, including leafy greens and root vegetables, are required as well.  

The bird's diet should be supplemented daily with a high-quality pelleted diet and some healthy seed such as flax, hemp, and chia seed. Do be careful to avoid treats that are high in fat because pet parrots can gain excess weight and even become obese.

Exercise

Blue and gold macaws are active birds, and they love to climb, swing, bounce, and chew. Owners should provide a minimum of two to three hours of playtime outside of the cage each day so the bird can stretch and exercise his muscles.

Strong toys are a must, as the blue and gold's beak is known to be destructive. These birds have powerful jaw muscles, so chewing and gnawing is necessary to keep them healthy and in shape. Provide chewable toys made of leather and extras on hand for back up. The more nooks and crannies in the toy, the better. That big beak loves to investigate those little corners and crack them wide open. 

The cage and perch should be big enough to comfortably house such a large bird, with lots of room to stretch his wings, hop and climb around, and keep himself occupied. Some owners even have a dedicated bird room. Do be careful, though, the blue and gold is known for being destructive in a home that is not completely bird-proof. They will chew almost anything, including electrical wires, jewelry, and furniture.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar species, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other macaw species profiles.

Source:

BBC News. Experts Quash Churchill Bird Rumours. 2004.