Macaw, Blue-and-gold

Ara ararauna

Length: 34 – 36” (85 - 90 cm); weight 2 – 3 lbs. (900 to 1300 g); wingspan: approximately 41 – 45” (102 – 112.5 cm). It is vivid in appearance with blue wings and tail, dark blue chin, golden under parts and a green forehead. Its beak is black, and very strong for crushing nuts. The naked face is white, turning pink in excited birds, and lined with small black feathers.  The young are born featherless; but, at ten weeks, they are covered with feathers and the wings and tail have attained their full length. Baby macaws have black eyes, but the color changes over time from black to gray to white to yellow as an adult bird. At six months, it is hard to distinguish the young from the parents.








South America from Trinidad and Venezuela south to Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, and Paraguay. It barely extends into Central America, where it is restricted to Panama.


Tropical forests and woodlands

Life Expectancy

30 – 50 years in captivity

Sexual Maturity

3 – 6 years of age


In the wild, they eat a varied diet of fruits and nuts; in the Zoo, they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available parrot diet and fresh fruit.


IUCN – Least Concern; CITES – Appendix II


Blue and yellow macaws are generally seen in pairs but may congregate with others to form flocks of up to 30 birds. Paired birds fly close together with their wings almost touching. They undertake conspicuous daily flights from their roosting sites to scattered feeding grounds, but return to the roosting trees just before sunset by flying high above the forest canopy. Blue and yellow macaws are extremely wary; and, at the slightest sign of danger, will rise into the air screeching loudly. The blue and yellow macaws generally mate for life. Pairs nest in a tree hole and the female typically lays two or three eggs. The female incubates the eggs for about 28 days. On hatching, the young are blind and almost naked. The eyes open after 7-14 days. At first only the female feeds the young; but, after about a week, the male joins in. The young are fed by the parents’ regurgitation of partially digested vegetable matter. Chicks fledge from the nest about 120 days after hatching. After the breeding season, Blue and Gold Macaws begin to molt. The molt is gradual and takes place over several months.


Macaws use their beaks as an aid in both eating and as a “third foot” when climbing. Food is obtained using the strong beak that is also used to crush the seeds and to open nuts. They can exert tremendous pressure with their beaks. They certainly have the strength to remove a finger; but, fortunately, such an occurrence is extremely rare. Very hard nuts are cracked open after the macaw files down the thickness of the shell in one place using the lower part of the beak. The thick fleshy tongue is used to move the food around in the beak. Macaws have zygodactyl feet (2 toes that point forward and 2 toes that point backward). This arrangement is most common in arboreal species, particularly those that climb tree trunks or clamber through foliage.

Special Interests

In captivity, there are some foods which are toxic to birds and parrots as a group. Cherries and most other Rosaceae pits and seeds, avocados, chocolate, and caffeine are among the foods toxic to parrots. Chocolate and caffeine are not metabolized by birds the same way they are in humans. Rosaceae seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, and avocados contain persin, both of which are toxic compounds to birds. Safe foods include oranges, apples, grapes, peanuts, walnuts and sunflower seeds. It is a common myth that macaws will live 75 to 100 years; however, macaws are not as long lived as cockatoos. Their lifespan is typically up to 50 years with breeding age being up to approximately 30-35 years. A 40-year-old macaw shows definite signs of aging, and a 50-year-old macaw is very old. In flight, macaws reach speeds of about 35 mph. In the course of daily feeding, macaws allow plenty of seeds (while eating, as well as in their droppings) to fall to the forest floor, thus generating much of the forest growth. “Parrot Fever” of “Psittacosis” (Chlamydia psittaci) This disease is caused by a bacterial agent, Chlamydia psittaci, and is capable of causing respiratory disease in humans. It often presents itself as only “flu-like” symptoms (fever, headache, malaise), but the very young or old are more likely to be seriously infected. Members of the Psittacine and Columbiform Orders are most the frequent carriers that may or may not show signs of being infected. Methods of transmission include: dried feces - dust - aerosolization - breathed in - colonize respiratory tract and fecal-oral transmission. To avoid infection: 1.Carefully screen new birds; 2.Adhere to strict quarantine procedures; 3.Treat known infected birds immediately (definitive diagnosis in birds can be challenging); 4.Keep bird cages and areas free of fecal and feather dust build up



The U.S. Wild Bird Act forbids the commercial import of any bird listed by CITES which includes most parrots - endangered or threatened. This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion. Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion. The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion. For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. The species has been heavily traded: since 1981, when it was listed on CITES Appendix II, 55,531 wild-caught individuals have been recorded in international trade (UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database, January 2005). It is considered regionally extinct in Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago.

Jacksonville Zoo History

Except for possibly 1972-73, blue and yellow macaws have been part of the Jacksonville Zoo animal collection since 1969.


Emerald Forest Aviary