The mischievous Blue and Gold Macaw is one of the large macaws. It has the scientific name of Ara ararauna. They are becoming increasingly popular as entertaining pets but are not for everyone. They are native to the rainforest areas of central and northern South America.
The blue and gold macaw measures between 90 and 96 cm in length (this includes the tail) and weighs between 900 and 1380 grams. It has a wingspan of a metre. As the name suggests, the bird is predominantly blue and gold. The back and tail are an iridescent turquoise blue with a rich cobalt blue on the wings. The breast and belly, flight feathers and underneath the tail are gold. The distinctive white facial mask has black lines, there is a black bib just below the lower beak which is black and the crown of the head is a rich emerald green. As the description suggests, this is one very colourful bird. It has yellow eyes and grey legs.
In the wild, blue and gold macaws come together at dusk. They preen and chatter, forming large, noisy flocks. As pets, they are also very noisy. They need plenty of wood to chew on so supply them with plenty of wooden toys.
The herbivorous macaw feeds on seeds, blossoms and fruit in the wild. As a pet, they can have an organic pelleted feed with additional fruit, vegetables and cooked meats. Cooked pasta, beans, sprouts, non-toxic flowers, seeds and nuts will give your bird an variety of food he is sure to appreciate. They need more fat in their diet than most parrots. Seeds and nuts can be put in food-finding toys, providing occupation and nutrients at the same time.
As pets, they can be very messy feeders, like many other pet species. Parrots often like to dip their food into their water bowl to soften it before eating. Water containers need to be cleaned daily to prevent a build up of bacteria.
Macaws mate for life and maintain a permanent nest site. Two to three eggs are laid in a clutch and the incubation period is 28 days. The mating period is during spring and may last for about six weeks. Young birds spend two to three years with their parents and are not sexually mature till six or eight years of age.
The main threat to the blue and gold macaw is habitat destruction. They are also poached for the black market pet trade.
The macaw requires a large, strong cage. A flight cage will encourage exercise and go a long way to keeping your bird healthy. The larger the cage the better. Perches of varying diameters and textures will help avoid arthritis and will help to keep the feet healthy. A sandy perch high in the cage as a night-time perch will help the parrot keep his nails trimmed. A metal grate on the base makes cleaning easier. Bathing and natural sunlight will keep the plumage healthy. If he spends some time in an indoor cage, place the cage in a high traffic area to help prevent boredom. This is not a bird for apartments as they are too noisy for confined areas.
Macaws are messy feeders. They need training and socialisation. Their bite is not to be dismissed as of no consequence. They can inflict a serious wound. But properly trained and looked after, they do make a friendly, sociable pet. They can be trained to talk and are acrobatic with a highly developed sense of fun and mischief and seem to enjoy amusing their ‘family’. They enjoy challenges and puzzles in their playthings. Toys need to be strong. Indestructible is probably too much to ask for in a macaw’s toy but look for natural materials and strong construction.