Breeding

Macaw, Blue & Gold (Ara ararauna)

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Blue & Gold Macaw by Jim Hayward

Original homeland
The greater part of northern South America - from Panama in the north to the borders of Argentina in the south.

Natural habitat
Prefers lowland forest and palm groves (even swamp), usually laced by waterways or subect to seasonal flood.

Status in the Wild
Though under pressure through habitat destruction in accessible regions. It is said that Blue & Golds are still numerous in the remotest areas of their range.

Status in Aviculture
Commonly kept and bred.

Level of keepers experience
Despite the trend of recent years for raw beginners to start off with these large parrots, it must be emphasised that they are in no way suitable for the beginner. Experience with Dwarf Macaws or at least large Conures before attempting the large Macaws is advised, otherwise the Blue and Gold is the best of the large species with which to begin.

Hardiness
Very hardy, but need a large enclosed shelter.

Type of Accommodation
If Blue and Golds are to be kept in ideal circumstances, a great deal of space will be required and the aviaries will need to be built with substantial materials and be of sound construction. A large macaw can easily crush thin wire, and wood can be reduced to piles of splinters, so the heaviest gauge welded mesh should be used, with galvanised iron pipe or angle iron screwed or bolted together to make the framework. To stop neighbouring macaws from causing each other harm, solid partitions or double wiring should be fixed between adjacent flights. A perimeter walkway around the sides of the aviary, or aviary block, can be covered with a thinner gauge 1/2" x 1" mesh which will prevent sparrows and other small birds from entering. Large rodents and other predators will be foiled in their efforts to enter the aviary or attach birds hanging on the sides of the flights, but a 'rat skirt' must be dug in around the boundary of the entire aviary to prevent vermin burrowing in. Shelters can be made with brick or concrete block; if wood panelling is used, this must be covered with galvanised sheeting for protection. Concrete floors should be laid in the shelters, but if used in the open flights must incorporate some form of drainage system. an alternative to this on well-drained land is replacing topsoil with 6 inches to 1ft layer of pebbles or shingle (1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter). Like all psittacines, Blue and Gold Macaws can become infested with parasitical worms and should be de-wormed periodically as a precaution. If kept well hosed down, both concrete and shingle floors will lessen the occurence of worms, but concrete often encourages the growth of moulds and algae.

Type of Diet
The diet should be as varied as possible, and as well as a mixture of large seeds and nuts it should include: grain (e.g. shot and cooked wheat), pulses (cooking is advised, if given raw some beans can be toxic and may also contain a tryptopane inhibitor which creates digestive problems), a variety of vegetable (including scalded frozen peas, cooked root crops, raw carrot and greens), tropical fruits (mango, papaya, star fruit, kiwi, etc), cheese and small amounts of cooked lean meat or poultry, even white fish, budding willow or branches of other non toxic species, uncontaminated flowering and seeding weeds (e.g. chickweed, dandelion, sow thistle) and berries from the elder, hawthorn and rowan. Cuttlefish, grit and other suitable sources of calcium and mineral are necessary for the maintenance of the skeleton, digestion and egg production, and should be available at all times - as should clean fresh water. it is worth remembering that avocado is considering that avocaso is considered to be harmful to parrots.

Sexing
Sexing from appearance is difficult if not impossible, but of all the true pairs I have seen, the hens have alsways proved to be the partner with the smaller head and bill. Surgical sexing is generally employed to solve this problem.

Sexual Maturity
Attempts at nesting usually begin from four to five years old.

Nesting season in Britain
Attempts at nesting can be made at any time of year, from mid winter through spring, summer and autumn.

Type of nest
In their wild habitat, they are said to nest in the crowns of dead palms. Aviculturtists use a variety of nesting receptacles including large boxes, barrels, even metal drums and dustbins - sometimes set up high and other times just laid on the floor. An initial covering for the bottom of the nest can be made of soft sieved sand and rotted wood, but pieces of wood can also be placed or fixed inside the nest for the birds to gnaw and in so doing provide extra nest litter.

Usual number of eggs
Eggs may carry from two or four, but most usually three, which are generally laid with a couple or even more days between eggs.

Incubation period
From 25 to 28 days.

Usual number of young
Two or three.

Fledgling age
At the age of just over three months, the young are ready to fledge the nest. They resemble their parents, apart from their slighter build, dark irides and because of their short tails - marked difference from an adult bird's length of almost a yard.

Usual number of clutches
If left to breed naturally the length of the nesting/rearing cycle leaves time for only one clutch per year.

Nesting habits
Breeding pairs can be fierce in defence of their nest, eggs and young. Mating can be frequent and prolonged and is carried out as the birds sit side by side - in keeping with the habits of other South American parrots. Mutual preening is part of the courtship ritual, during which the cock regurgitates food for the hen and feeds her with a pumping action.

Special considerations
Would-be pet owners should be warned of the danger of being bitten; attainment of maturity and the eagerness to breed can be accompanied by belligerence. Never offer macaws food with the flat open hand, a grabbing action can mean that the upper mandible will dig into and tear the palm.

Noise factor
The raucous voices of macaws can cause rows with close neighbours and even legal disputes, so careful consideration must be given to this potential problem before purchasing such large parrots. Remember, if enthusiastic neighbours move away they may be replaced by others far less toleran of the ruckus made by a large collection of macaws, or even a single pet, at various times of the day.

Colour Varieties
Rare and beautiful examples of a Blue mutation have occurred in which all traces of yellow are removed from the plumage and replaced by white. There have also been examples with extensive yellow marbling, as well a a greyish coloured mutant. Colour varieties could be established - a Latino Blue and Gold with pure white, yellow and orange plumage, red pupils and flesh coloured bill and feet could happen and would be a wonderful sight.

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