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Is a Macaw the Right Pet for You – a Species-by-Species Review

Scarlet and Blue and Gold MacawsMany parrot enthusiasts view macaws as the ultimate avian pets.  Huge, personable, gorgeous and enormously intelligent, macaws seem to embody all that is desirable in a pet parrot.  However, macaw ownership is not to be undertaken lightly…while the rewards are great, there are many responsibilities and “downsides” to consider as well.

General Considerations

If you’ve ever been surprised by the volume of noise a budgie or lovebird can generate, consider what their massive relatives can do!  Macaw vocalizations must be heard to be believed.  I’ve observed Scarlet Macaws and others on Venezuela’s wide open grasslands, and have worked with them in huge zoo exhibits – even in these habitats, their calls were often deafening.  Highly social, it is in their nature to vocalize almost continually.  Read More »

Blue and Gold Macaw Natural History – the Wild Side of a Popular Pet

Blue and Gold MacawThe huge, stunningly-colored Blue and Gold (or Blue and Yellow) Macaw, Ara ararauna, is one of the most recognizable of all birds…size, color, intelligence (and voice!) make it impossible to ignore.  While it has long been bred in captivity, the natural history of this spectacular parrot is less-well known.  Please read on to learn about its life in the wild and the threats to its continued existence.


The Blue and Gold has the largest natural range of any macaw.  It is found from Eastern Panama east across most of Northern South America and south through Bolivia to Paraguay and Eastern Brazil.  Despite this, it is declining or extinct in some areas…Trinidad’s macaws disappeared in the 1960’s, but a new population has been re-introduced. Read More »

The Many Sides of the Blue and Gold Macaw

Blue and Gold Macaw in flightThis magnificent parrot, also known as the Blue and Yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna) is something of an anomaly – rare in places, extinct in others, well known as a pet yet awe-inspiring even to veteran bird-keepers.

Range and Status

The Blue and Gold Macaw’s huge range stretches from Central America (southern Panama) south through Columbia to Ecuador and Northern Peru and southeast through Venezuela to Trinidad, French Guiana, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and northern Argentina.

In some areas, an innate intelligence and adaptability, along with legal protections, have allowed it to remain the most commonly-encountered macaw.  Elsewhere, however, its fate has been grim…indeed, the species disappeared from Trinidad by the early 1960’s (but has been re-introduced, please see below).  Introduced populations thrive in Mexico, Florida and other places.

Habitat and Behavior

Blue and Gold Macaws favor forest edges, overgrown swamps and riverside palm stands, but they venture far afield while foraging.  In Venezuela I observed them well out over the llanos (flooded grasslands), with not a tree in sight.  In some regions they remain within thick forests during the dry season and spread out into open habitats as the rains arrive.

Like most parrots, these sociable birds utilize regular roosting sites, leaving at first light and foraging, sometimes at great distances, until sunset.  The sight of a flock of Blue and Gold Macaws, backlit by the setting sun as they approach their roost, is among the most spectacular to be seen in the American tropics.

These huge birds always remain close to their mates…even within large flocks, paired birds, flying so that their wings are nearly touching, are easy to distinguish.  As much or more so than any parrot, Blue and Gold Macaws thrive on company – single captives will languish without ample human companionship and stimulation.

Pet Pros and Cons

As pets, Blue and Gold Macaws have much to recommend them, but again they present us with two sides.  They are, without question, one of the calmest of the macaws, and most are quite playful even as adults.  When handled properly, they bond well with people and become most affectionate to their owners.  Many develop impressive vocabularies as well, and they speak in deep tones that befit their size.

However, in common with their relatives, Blue and Gold Macaws demand a great deal of attention, have extremely loud voices, and require huge cages or outdoor aviaries along with near-daily out-of-cage time.  Breeding birds sometimes undergo a drastic change in personality, becoming extremely aggressive to even long-favored caretakers.

Conservation Efforts

The Blue and Gold Macaw seems to be holding its own in some areas, while declining in others; its status in many regions has not been accessed.  It is listed on Appendix II of Cites.

As mentioned, the Blue and Gold Macaw disappeared from Trinidad in the early 1960’s, a victim of habitat loss and over-collection.  In 1999, conservationists based at the Cincinnati Zoo began the process of reintroducing this gorgeous bird to its former island home.  Supported by private, government and corporate funds, wild-caught macaws were released and monitored over several years.  Local people were recruited to observe and protect the birds, and to deter poachers.  The “new” Blue and Gold Macaws were adopted by local schools as a flagship species, and are now thriving.

Further Reading

Blue and Gold Macaw video from the Cincinnati Zoo.

Other Macaw articles on ThatBirdBlog:

An Overview of Popular Macaws

Observing Wild Scarlet Macaws 


Blue and Gold Macaw image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by TonyBrierton and Snowmanradio

Help…My Macaw Trashes any and all Bird Toys in Minutes!

We all know that highly social, intelligent birds such as parrots do not fare well when bored.  Excessive screaming, feather-plucking, pacing and other harmful behaviors quickly take hold when parrots are kept alone and left without stimulation.  Macaws are especially hard to accommodate – their incredible strength and boundless energy present a real challenge to owners seeking to keep them busy.  A spate of questions on this topic, posed recently by macaw owners, has prompted me to write this article. Read More »

The Scarlet Macaw – The Wild Side of a Popular Pet

Macaw in FlightThe Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is surely one of the most recognizable birds on the planet.  Images of this spectacular parrot adorn the brochures and T-shirts of travel agencies, zoos and aviaries worldwide.  Less well-known, however, is its natural habits and precarious existence in the wild.


At 33.5 inches in length, and with a wingspan to match, this deep red (or scarlet!), yellow-shouldered bird is one of the world’s largest parrots.

Its huge range extends from Oaxaca in southern Mexico through Central America to Columbia, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, and east to French Guiana.  Within this area, however, it is rare or absent from many locales, and may be extinct in El Salvador.  Feral populations thrive in Puerto Rico and Florida.
Read More »

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