All About Blue and Gold Macaw

All About Blue and Gold Macaw
Meeting: Blue and Gold Macaw



Meeting Blue and Gold Macaw


Few birds are as iconic on a global scale as the Blue and Gold Macaw. Such is their impact that these birds, also known as Blue and Yellow Macaws, feature in films, documentaries, books, TV shows, on product packaging, posters and more. They appear in free-flight bird shows around the world, highlighting the beauty of our feathered friends and their perilous plight.

For many years leading up to legal importation, the Blue and Gold Macaw was exceedingly rare within Australian aviculture. With an injection of stock, and time, the number of Blue and Gold Macaws has increased through breeding to the point where this species is now plentiful in Australia. This article provides a brief overview on the keeping and breeding of the most common of the large macaw species within Australia.

SUBSPECIES


From time to time birds are described sold within Australia as Bolivian race and Gold Macaws. Though no subspecies of Blue and Gold has been identified, these birds are said to be larger, stockier birds, in some cases with a slight difference in colouration.

Debate remains around whether this is fact a true subspecies, however, there does not appear to be any scientific literature yet to support the existence of a Bolivian subspecies. The other issue is the inability trace the original imported birds and their ancestors to their origins in South America.

HABITS


The vocal level of a Blue and Gold Macaw and its destructive nature cannot be underestimated. It is imperative to do your homework prior to selecting this species or suffer the consequences, such as complaints from the neighbours. A good way to gauge noise output is to sit out of sight of an aviary housing a pair or an individual bird and listen either early morning or late afternoon.

SOURCING


With the rise in the number of breeders of Blue and Gold Macaws comes the opportunity to buy birds from a range of sources. Choosing who is best to buy from can be difficult, however, consulting an avian vet or breeders may help point you in the right direction. From there it is best to ask as many questions as possible and inspect the quality of the birds. It is also imperative to have birds checked by an avian vet where possible to ensure there are no issues with the birds you hope to acquire. An avian vet can conduct a number of tests and may offer a number of services. Many breeders sell their birds microchipped and with vet health checks.

HOUSING


There are no tricks to housing Blue and Gold Macaws. They will do well in either a well-built suspended or conventional aviary that protects them from the elements.

What must be taken into account though is the bird’s ability to fly and feel safe and secure. For aviary birds, a large and sturdy aviary is advisable because the powerful beaks of these birds will easily destroy anything flimsy. A minimum length of 6m will allow the birds to at least get some momentum. Large, sturdy perches made of hardwood such as Eucalyptus are ideal.

Predator proofing is essential and to prevent vermin, a rat-proof wall at ground level and use of smaller aperture, heavy gauge wire is advisable.

Many a Blue and Gold Macaw will hang from the wire during a rain shower and bathe. Locks may be required, as these birds have been known to break door clips and escape. Equally, a safety walkway is essential and a great place to position the nest box, as going into the aviary during breeding can be fraught with danger.

Pet bird owners may also want to invest in a larger outdoor aviary in addition to their inside cage. This allows the bird to get outside and benefit from the elements.

Some birds prefer to just climb about, but even an inside cage for a pet bird should be spacious and sturdy and allow the bird to spread its wings and move about.

Social Flocking


Parrots are for the most part social creatures and birds find flocking in captivity rewarding. It not only reduces boredom but allows young birds to bond and form pairs. It also allows established pairs to strengthen their bonds. The additional benefit for young birds is that it allows them to ‘become birds’ and sets them up to be better pets or breeders.

Flocking a mix of species can also have many benefits and works well, as long as sufficient perches and feed stations are provided. Two feed/water stations per pair of birds is ideal, and monitoring of the flock is essential, particularly when birds are moved in or out of the flock, as dynamics will change. The best time to establish a community housed in one enclosure is when all the birds are young.

Browse


Many species of plant are suitable browse for these birds, including Grevillea, bottlebrush, Eucalypts and golden cane palms. Attached to these can be the flowers and seed pods which the birds will chew and, with species such as Eucalypts, the birds will often preen the oil through their feathers.

Security


There are many ways to not only monitor your backyard but also your birds. You can, in many cases, dial in via your phone/ tablet from anywhere in the world and look at footage captured on security cameras.

Many of these cameras can also be attached to nest boxes and used to monitor pairs as they raise their young. This reduces stress for both the keeper and the breeding pair and allows many great insights into the world of our birds.


how to feed Blue and Gold Macaw
Feeding: Blue and Gold Macaw



How to Feed Blue and Gold Macaw


Blue and Gold Macaws enjoy a bountiful and diverse diet in the wilds of South America. Within aviculture it is critical for the birds’ wellbeing, and that of future generations of their progeny, that they receive a diet that is both nutritious and stimulating. As food varies seasonally in the wild, it is important to vary it within captivity. Many aviculturists will have a start-up base diet for their birds and add to it throughout the year.

The daily provision of fruit and vegetables, fresh water, soaked or sprouted seed and a pellet and/or seed mix will assist in keeping the birds healthy. Dried fruit mixes can be fed, however, they are high in sugar and this needs to be taken into account. Nuts in shell can also be fed, and there are a wide range of nuts suited to these birds, such as almonds, pecans and Brazil nuts.

Suitable fruits and vegetables include chilli, capsicum, carrot, watermelon, corn, passionfruit, peas, grapes, beans and beetroot. Some weed species, such as dandelion, can also be fed, as well as the fruits of some palm species. To cut down on boredom, some keepers will hide chunks of food or nuts around the aviary, which means the birds have to search for their food throughout the day. Some will give whole pumpkins for the birds to destroy, or branches covered in flowers and berries.


how to breed Blue and Gold Macaw
Breeding: Blue and Gold Macaw

 

How to Breed Blue and Gold Macaw


The Blue and Gold Macaw is not a difficult species to breed and will begin breeding as early as three years of age. A good diet leading up to, and during, breeding is essential and can assist in the prevention of metabolic bone disease in the young.

A nesting receptacle, such as a reinforced nest box, is best positioned in the walkway and attached to the aviary to make inspections easier.

Alternative nesting receptacles include wine barrels, and large metal drums with open tops and wooden planks attached inside. As mentioned earlier, nest box cameras can be attached. These must be positioned in areas where the birds cannot access the wires or cameras, because they will destroy them.

Wood shavings or sawdust make an ideal nesting material and will be turned over by nesting birds. The addition of chew blocks is important and allows the female to chew while sitting in the nest. Leading up to breeding—during which 3–5 eggs will be laid—the signs that a pair are ready to breed become quite apparent.

Pairs begin to disappear into the box or become extremely agitated and aggressive should someone come too close. A warning is often given during which the birds hold out their wings while their cheeks turn a shade of pink. During this time it is best to make oneself scarce and allow the birds to focus on breeding.

Incubation of the eggs usually takes 26–28 days and, with the plentiful supply of Blue and Gold Macaws now on the market, a number of breeders are allowing their birds to parent-rear. This has many benefits to both chicks and parents and is extremely rewarding. If eggs or chicks are to be pulled early, then pairs may double or even tripleclutch.

The Blue and Gold is certainly one of the most prolific macaw species.

MUTATIONS


The word mutation can cause quite a stir with purists, who prefer a species to be left untouched, so to speak and, to a degree, this is understandable. Many species are no longer found in a pure wildtype state (not split for a mutation or a visual mutation itself) within Australian aviculture. As such, we must maintain pure species aside from mutation breeding.

Contrary to the view of some, mutations are not all developed in captivity and, over the years, a number of mutations of the Blue and Gold Macaw have been photographed in the wild, including Opaline, Lutino and Blue.

As with any species commonly kept and bred within aviculture, a number of mutations have now begun to appear and are currently being worked on both here in Australia and abroad. They will, of course, take some time to establish and in years to come we will begin to see combinations of the various mutations.

A few of the mutations currently being, or reportedly being worked on, include Isabel (Faded), Spangle, Pied, non-sexlinked (NSL) Lutino, Dilute, Cinnamon, Opaline Blue and Dark Factor/Greygreen.

View images of more mutations in A Guide to Macaws as Pet and Aviary Birds by Rick Jordan and Mark Moore, published by ABK Publications.

PET BIRDS


These birds have one of the sweetest natures of any macaw, however, they are not suited to every situation. Firstly, they are loud. Secondly, they are destructive.

Leaving a pet bird alone, out of its cage in the home, is fraught with danger and may see a lot of damage done. And lastly, they are large birds and, as such, are not suited to units, townhouses and many small suburban situations. The potential owner must ensure that they do their research prior to taking on one of these birds as pets.

As the price falls, the market is opened up to a wider scope of people and a great deal of vetting is required by breeders to ensure the birds they breed and sell are going to homes where they will receive the best possible care. 

Free-flying is conducted by a number of pet owners, and many videos on YouTube™ display free-flying parrots. You should learn the practice from an experienced free-flyer and bird behaviourist. It is also important to recognise the potential hazards within the environment and take steps to minimise. Even the most experienced free-flyers encounter escapes due to predator spooks.

CONCLUSION


The Blue and Gold Macaw is a striking creature that makes a beautiful pet or aviary bird. They are now readily available and at a price-point making them more available to purchase. Despite this, they deserve proper care and attention. Thorough research must be conducted before investing in these birds. The fact that these birds are so readily available now is thanks to a great number of dedicated breeders.
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