Blue and Gold Macaw Profile

Ara ararauna

by Sally Blanchard

» Also known as Blue and Yellow Macaw
» Ranges throughout the Amazon Basin of South America, Venezuela and southern Panama.
» It is endangered in Paraguay and on the island of Trinidad. It is stable in the rest of its population. 
» 30 to 34"
» Most popular and common companion.

The Blue and Gold macaw has been holding its own as the most popular companion macaw for many years. When they are well socialized and nurtured throughout life, they are exceptional birds. If their potential is developed, they are intelligent, highly affectionate, and a consummate companion. They tend to be the most outgoing clowns of the large macaws. They are very expressive birds and some can be excellent talkers with clear enunciation. I once bird sat for a young Blue and gold who did a whole repertoire around his caregivers arguing — some of the words were clear, the rest was enthusiastic gibberish. The woman’s voice with whiney and manipulative and the man’s voice was loud and arrogant. After the macaw was comfortable with me, he strutted around his cage imitating their disagreements.

Blue and golds are very good learners when they have a good teacher. They can be extremely interactive and they enjoy time spent in your face; especially learning new behaviors and fun tricks with praise as their best reward. They also love ambient attention with you nearby involved in something else but taking the time to stop and talk to them from time to time about what they are doing and what you are doing.

As with many macaws, blue and golds love to play games. Years ago I visited a woman who had a blue and gold. The woman and I were talking and the macaw was sitting quietly on my knee behaving herself. Suddenly without any warning, the bird threw her head up into my face and squawked loudly. There was no aggression and it was clear to me it was one of those special macaw games ... perhaps a test to see if I would freak out? How can you not? It was such a surprise. If you do freak out, she is likely to continue to play this game just about every time you relax. I presume if you showed no reaction, she would stop but that is next to impossible.  I thought about it for awhile, and decided to play her game with her. She was quietly sitting on my knee and I suddenly threw my face at her and yelled, BOO! I thought she was going to jump off of my knee but, in truth, she really liked that I returned her game and we became great friends.

    While some people think that blue and golds don’t need as large a cage as the other large macaws, these birds usually have a lot of energy that dictates as large a cage as possible. A good size playgym  or two (they love hanging playgyms!) is also very important for these playful acrobatic macaws.  

The very first blue and gold macaw that I ever met was the companion of a couple who lived next door to a friend of mine. They had purchased the bird on a trip to South America and brought him back with them. The macaw had lived with them for several years but was young when they purchased him. The woman was a dog groomer and had done some dog training so she taught the macaw to do quite a few delightful tricks that are usually tricks that people teach their puppies. The macaw loved to do his tricks for people and I enjoyed watching them on several occasions. The couple lived in a house with a large front porch and the three of them would sit outside on summer evenings. When an audience arrived, the bird would jump down on the floor to do his tricks. The first was the classic roll over with the woman doing a cue that involved her making a circle in the air with her hand. After he finished that trick, she would throw a wadded up piece of paper to the other end of the porch and the macaw would run and get it, run back and drop it in front of her feet to enthusiastic praise. The macaw also learned to wave and shake hands with his foot and to cover his face with his wings and spread his wings on command. He also learned to turn in a circle on cue and went for walks on a converted dog leash.  All of this might not seem very remarkable if it happened today but this was in the mid 1970s and back then many people who had parrots kept them in their cages and didn’t really interact with them physically. Most of the parrots were wild-caught and not everyone knew how to tame them or keep them tame ... even if the birds were young imports. This remarkable blue and gold certainly gave me a new perspective about the possibilities of a relationship between people and their parrots. Without knowing him, I might have started with very different concepts about companion parrots.

The second blue and gold I met belonged to a man who adored the bird and interacted with him in many positive ways. I’m not sure that I have met a macaw that talked as well since. In fact I haven’t met a lot of any kind of parrot that talked as well as this blue and gold did. This wild-caught macaw had an extensive vocabulary and many of his words and expressions were right on target as far as being appropriate to the situation. 

    I think that properly raised and behaviorally maintained macaws are the gentlest of all of the parrots and the blue and gold can be the sweetest of all macaws. With a good teacher, blue and golds can be excellent students. After talking with many people, I think rescue blue and gold macaws are fairly easy to win over when they go to a new home. Over the years I have known many wonderful macaws of this species. When they are well-loved, these birds enjoy playing games with the people in their lives. Sometimes they initiate play and it is important to recognize that they want to play and aren’t exhibiting aggressive behaviors.

    Blue and golds have been the most popular companion macaw now for many years and for the most part they deserve their reputation as a wonderful friend. These birds can become overly excited at times, but if the people in their lives slow down their energy, the birds slow down as well. As with all parrot companions, they are what you make them. The first two blue and golds I met both received a lot of instructional interaction from the people in their lives. With the domestically-raised baby blue and golds, that interaction combined with quality early socialization is what makes these macaws such wonderful companions 




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