The blue and gold macaw is a large parrot native to South America.
Experience Woburn Safari Park’s free flying bird demonstration, see these magnificent parrots soaring and swooping in the Birds in Action Amphitheatre. Learn about these intelligent birds, how they adapt and survive in the wild.
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|Distribution:||Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia|
|Habitat:||Forests, savannahs, marshlands and swamp forests|
|Height:||85 - 90 cm (from beak to tail). Wingspan 106-113 cm|
|Weight:||900 - 1200 grams|
|Lifespan:||Up to 80 years|
|Threats:||Habitat loss, hunting, pet trade and introduced species|
Scientific name: Ara ararauna
Blue and gold macaws are very expressive, communicating through sight and sound. They show emotion by vocalizing, flashing their eyes (voluntary narrowing their pupils), blushing and cocking their head. Other forms of communication include fluffing of the feathers, bowing, shaking of tail feathers, head bobbing and raising of the wings. They also use flock calls which are loud vocalizations to communicate.
These large macaws are ultramarine blue above, mostly golden-yellow below, with a long tail and green forehead. They have a black beak and a round chin and cheeks, the naked skin of cheeks is pinkish-white with lines of very small, isolated black feathers.
Adult female and male blue and gold macaws are similar in size, weight and colour. All species of macaws are monomorphic, which means that there are no obvious differences between the sexes, not even by their plumage or physical indicators. Young macaws will have dark brown pupils while an adult bird will have white rings around the pupils. To determine the gender of adult birds, a blood test or DNA test could be taken.
Seeds, fruits, blossoms, buds, leaves, berries, nuts and sometimes bark are principal known food items. The Macaws are structurally adapted with their massively powerful bills (beaks) exploiting various palm nuts. They have the ability to manipulate food items, moving them with their feet, testing them with their dry tongues, and tossing food around in their beaks.
A wide range of parrots visit earth banks to take mineral rich soil; here they congregate in very large numbers. Visiting clay banks to take mineral deposits has a very important function as this helps neutralise the toxic effects of poisons ingested from fruits or plants.
Blue and gold macaws reach reproductive age when they are about 3 to 5 years old. They display courtship rituals to indicate they have found a suitable mate; they are generally monogamous (paired for life). However, they may replace a mate that they have lost. Most breeding activities occur from January to July and they usually breed every 1 to 2 years. In their natural habitat, they nest in the hollow trunks of dead palm trees or cavities (natural or excavated by other birds) in tall trees high up to avoid predation. Females lay between 2-3 eggs and will be incubated for 25-29 days.
The hatchlings weigh about 14-20g (0.5-0.7oz) and are blind, featherless and completely dependent on parental care. For the first week, the female alone feeds the young through regurgitation and after that time, the male will usually assist. About 10 days later, the young develop feathers .Both parents are very protective of their young and aggressively defend them against intruders. The young leave the nest when they are about 90 to 100 days old. By the time they start feeding on their own, they weigh about 995g (35 oz.).
Today the blue and gold macaw is listed on CITES as Appendix II (meaning these birds are least concern in the wild). The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as 'uncommon'. Parrots at risk in the wild face a wide range of pressures. The main sources of threat arise from habitat loss, hunting and introduced species. Bringing a new species into the habitat can cause problems for native wildlife because of predation and competition for food. Collection of birds for the live pet trade has been a major threat for many species of parrots. Their high level of intelligence, the potential for tameness, bright plumage, and the ability to mimic human voices have led to the parrot’s popularity as cage birds.
Zoos and other institutions seek to maintain captive populations in order to safeguard against possible extinction in the wild. This breeding is sometimes well coordinated and is orchestrated through the use of studbook keepers. Other breeding is undertaken commercially to meet demands of the pet trade, sometimes to the extent that species have self-sustaining, captive populations that no longer need to be increased with wild-caught birds (for example budgerigar, cockatiel, and several species of lovebird).
There are unfortunately drawbacks to captive breeding. Some of the species are at such low levels that trapping for captive breeding would only worsen their wild status. Captive breeding may do nothing to reduce the pressures which have rendered a parrot species scarce. Habitat loss, illegal capture or the effects of introduced predators may continue meaning if successful breeding is achieved in captivity, there may not be a wild habitat to release the parrots into.
There is another macaw species, which is very similar to the blue and gold macaw; it is the blue throated macaw.
Parrots are intelligent birds. They’ve been estimated to have the learning capacity of a three to five year old child.