The Blue-and-gold macaw (Ara ararauna) is a large South American parrot. It is a member of the large group of neotropical parrots known as macaws. These birds are popular in aviculture because of their striking color, ability to talk, ready availability in the marketplace, and close bonding to humans.
Blue-and-gold macaws have bright aqua-blue feathers on the top of their body except for the head, which is lime colored. The bottom, however, is a rich deep yellow/light orange. Their beak is black, as well as the feathers under their chin. Their feet are of a gray color, save for black talons. The birds have white skin, with their face having nearly no feathers besides a few black ones spaced apart from each other forming a striped pattern around the eyes. The irises are pale light yellow.
These macaws are native to Central and South America, and their range includes Venezuela south to Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, and also parts of Panama. They live in tropical forests, woodland, and savannas.
Blue-and-gold macaws form close-knit groups in the wild. They are gregarious and will spend time together with others in their flock, playing, bathing, and hunting for edible fruit in the forest. Macaws tend to enjoy being with their flock mates but during the breeding season, they do partner off to raise their young. These birds communicate with each other by loud screaming and squawking calls. Pairs will fly so close to each other that their wings almost touch. They are active during the day. When looking for food they may form small, noisy flocks in the early morning. By the middle of the day, they begin looking for shade. These macaws are extremely cautious and at the merest sign of danger, they take off into the air, screeching as they go.
Blue-and-gold macaws form monogamous pairs and mate for life. The breeding season is from January to July and they breed every year or second year. Nests are made high up in trees, usually in holes made by other animals. 2 to 3 eggs are laid and they are incubated for 24 to 28 days. The young hatch featherless and blind, feathers beginning to develop after 10 days. Fledglings become independent within 3 months. Both males and females look after the young and are very aggressive towards intruders when protecting their families. They gain sexual maturity when they are 3 to 4 years old.
The major threat to Blue-and-gold macaws is habitat loss due to Amazonian deforestation. They are suspected to lose a third of suitable habitat within their distribution over three generations (38 years). The other biggest threat is poaching and the illegal pet trade. 55,531 wild-caught individuals have been recorded since 1981 when their trade was restricted by CITES.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Blue-and-gold macaw total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are decreasing.
Blue-and-gold macaws are important seed eaters in tropical forests. They can have an influence on forest dynamics by eating and spreading seeds.