The blue and gold macaw is a large parrot with aqua blue feathers across the back and yellow feathers covering the underside. The feathers on the top of the head are green. While their colors may appear to stand out they blend in with colorful fruits and flowers in the rainforests they call home.
Around the eye and to the base of the beak is a patch of bare white skin. When excited this patch can turn pink and they appear to blush. This is colored white. Running across this patch are lines of black feathers. The shape of these is unique to each macaw and can be used to tell them apart.
On the face is the large beak which is curved and used to help crack open nuts and seeds. This beak is colored black. Their beak acts as a third foot when climbing to help them move through the forest.
Their feet and toes are colored black. They have zygodactyl feet which means that two toes face forward and two face backwards. This is an adaptation to assist with climbing trees and holding on to items.
Their body measures between 76-86cm (30-34in) long and their wingspan is 1.1m (3.6ft) across. Their weight varies from 0.9-1.3kg (2-3lbs).
The blue and gold macaw is a herbivore. They feed on a range of plants, fruits, berries, seeds and nuts. Their large beak allows them to break in to seeds and nuts that other birds would not be able to access.
Macaws assist the growth of the forest by dropping seeds to the forest floor and excreting them in their feces.
Some of the foods which blue and gold macaws ingest are toxic. To allow them to eat these foods they gather at deposits of clay and will eat this. It is believed that the clay neutralizes the poison.
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South America is the native home of the blue and gold macaw. Here they can be found throughout Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela. The population in Trinidad and Tobago is now extinct.
They make their home in woodlands, savannas, palm swamps and forests. Typically they live along streams and rivers.
Breeding season varies by range though is typically in the first half of the year.
Pairs of macaws are monogamous and will remain together for life. Brighter colored males tend to have better success in finding a mate.
A pair of macaws will create a nest in a tree hollow often in the trunk of a palm tree. Often these hollows have been formed by other animals.
In to the nest a female will deposit two or three eggs. These eggs are incubated for up to 28 days by the female. The male remains with the female and both will work together to defend the nest.
Once the chicks hatch they are blind and featherless. Typically only one chick will survive to adulthood.
The chicks are fed with regurgitated food. During the first week this is almost exclusively performed by the females though after this both parents will share the duties.
Fledging takes place between 10 and 13 weeks old. After fledging they will remain with their parents for a further 6 months to learn how to survive in the forest.
Sexual maturity is reached between 3 and 4 years old.
Most of their time is spent in their pairs. Pairs may come together to form flocks though. When in flight the pairs will be close together with their wings almost touching.
When danger is spotted the flock will take the skies and begin to screech loudly.
Their call is loud, shrieking ‘rraa-aarr’ or ‘kurr-rakk.’ In captivity they can be trained to make vocalizations which sound similar to human speech.
In flight they can travel at speeds up to 56km/h (35mph).
Predators and Threats
The main predator of the blue and gold macaw is birds of prey such as the harpy eagle.
Humans affect their population through hunting and habitat loss. They are hunted both for food and feathers. To feed the pet trade they are often victims of the illegal wildlife trade.
As they typically only raise one chick successfully some conservation efforts involve removing additional eggs and artificially incubating them. They then release the additional chicks.
The blue and gold macaw is one of the 17 macaw species.
Blue and gold macaws are a popular pet species across the globe.
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