Blue and Gold Macaw

Ara ararauna

Order: Psittaciformes

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

Diet Requirements

  • In the wild, blue and gold macaws eat nuts, berries, fruits, and seeds. They do drink water, but they receive most of the water they need from the food they eat.
  • In captivity, they are fed Zupreem pellets, fruits, vegetables, sunflower seeds, and nuts.
  • Zoo Atlanta feeds Harrison’s parrot pellet, sun flower seeds, and fresh produce daily.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Need a lot of enrichment! Soak rawhide and wrap peanuts or other treats while it is pliable, wait until dry and give as a treat. Parrot safe bird toys, rolled up newspaper, phone books, large balls that can not be damaged/ingested, rearrange perching.
  • Training ideas for husbandry:
    • Voluntary nail trims can be done with a protected contact setting and a dremel
    • Towel training can be a good way to reduce stress during exams
    • Stepping onto a scale. A scale with a perch is a good option for macaws because they have such a long tail.
  • Bathtime can be great enrichment. At Zoo Atlanta we have access to a shower in the keeper area and our B &G likes to sit on a shower perch with the water running. He also likes a bath with a spray bottle after shows on hot days.


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

  • Wings should be clipped if your bird is not flight trained to prevent accidental fly offs. Hand-raised birds that did not fledge and do not have flight training may find themselves carried by the wind and not know how to come down from their landing spot.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Macaws tend to bond strongly with a single person and can become aggressive to others when that person is around. If bonding occurs, that person should take a step back to ensure that other keepers and trainers can safely work the bird. By having multiple handlers regularly you can assist in preventing such a strong bond from occuring.
  • To avoid getting bit, watching for precursors is extremely important. Reddening cheek pads, slowly bobbing heads, feathers rasied, head dipped downward, wings out-stretched, lunging foward, can all be signs that the bird would like you to move away. By doing so you teach your bird that they can politely ask you to leave, and they do not need to bite you to get you to do so.
  • When presenting a hand to ask the bird to step-up, present it outside of “striking” range, or the radius the bird can reach to bite you. Bring your hand closer only when body language tells you the bird would like to step-up.


Potential Messaging

  • Longevity makes them a challenging pet for most people
  • Seed dispersers
  • Drop feeders

Acquisition Information

  • Local parrot rescues can be great places to start. By sending a knowledgable keeper to choose the right bird for your situaiton, you can get a great, older bird for your program

Comments from the Rating System

  • Buffalo Zoo: Requires experience and commitment of time, but delivers a showy ‘wow’ animal with trained behaviors.
  • Downtown Aquarium, Denver: As with any parrot, fiding enough time to socialize and train the bird is the hardest part.
  • Henry Vilas Zoo: Beautiful bird; great to teach with; [Difficult to care for in terms of intelligence and personality conflicts, as well as destruction and NOISE] — aggressive
  • Philadelphia Zoo: All macaws require major time commitment, potential handler injury, since widely found in pet trade, not very impressive, question the cost-benefit ratio with all psitticines

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

They can be found over almost all of northern South America, from Panama to northern Argentina, and also in Trinidad. These macaws inhabit forests near rivers and swampy areas with palms. They avoid mountainous and coastal regions.

Physical Description

Males are larger than females, but both sexes look the same. The back and wings are blue and gold, the front of the body is yellow, and the top of the head is green. They have a bare facial area with black feathers lining around the eyes.
Blue and gold macaws are 34 inches long – about half of which consists of tail feathers. They have a wingspan of 41 to 445 inches, and weigh 2 to 3 pounds.

Life Cycle

Macaws build nests in the cavities of dead trees and palm trees. They may reuse the nest year after year – or even inherit the nest in which it was born. Large macaws almost never produce eggs before their 6th or 7th year, although they can display courtship rituals earlier to indicate they have bonded to a mate. Pairs mate for life.
Most macaws breed in the spring and early summer. Blue and gold macaws lay 2 or 3 white eggs, which they will incubate for 25 days. When they hatch, babies are born blind and featherless. Feathers grow in by 10 weeks of age, and juveniles fledge starting at 3 months of age.
In captivity, these macaws can live up to 70 years. Life span is less in the wild due to threats and habitat loss.


Blue and gold macaws are gregarious, social, curious, and playful. In the wild, they live in smaller family groups of up to 10 birds, but congregate at clay licks in large groups of up to 100 birds.

Threats and Conservation Status

The number one predators of blue and gold macaws are humans. Other potential predators include false vampire bats, ornate hawk-eagles, harpy eagles, goshawks, and falcons.
Throughout most of their range, the species is declining wherever they come in contact with humans. The species is extinct in many areas in Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, and Trinidad. Overall, however, this species is not listed as extinct – the only macaw species that can boast this. The pet trade and habitat loss are two major reasons why the wild macaws are declining in numbers.

Did you know…

  • Flocks and even individual birds can be heard for miles – their call can reach 150 decibels (the same noise level as a plane taking off, and almost as loud as a gunshot.)
  • They are said to be able to exert about 40 pounds of pressure with their beak, which is enough to take off a human finger.
  • Blue and gold macaws have been kept as pets for hundreds of years.




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Blank Park Zoo
  • Zoo Atlanta

Top photo credit: By TomFawls (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons