Blue and Gold Macaw – The Right Parrot for You?

Recognizable for its vibrant and eye-catching colors, the blue-and-gold macaw is one of the most popular pet parrots.

These birds are full of personality and their beauty is unmatched.

They are so prized for their colorful feathers that indigenous tribes used to make intricate tapestries using the bright turquoise and gold feathers.

Are blue and gold macaws good pets? A blue and gold macaw can make a good pet for someone who has experience caring for parrots or a beginner who has done their research and is aware of the time and resource commitment. All macaws can be loud and improper care can lead to destructive behavior. 

However, an owner who can commit their time to training and playing with their blue-and-gold macaw will gain an affectionate family member.

These birds can be social and comical when they are comfortable in their home. 

Blue and Gold Macaw Facts

Before deciding if a blue and gold macaw is the right parrot for you, it is important to learn the basic facts about them.

Appearance & Size 

Like their name suggests, blue-and-gold macaws have blue feathers on most of their body and gold feathers on their chest.

There is a small patch of green feathers above their beak. They have black beaks with white “naked” skin on their cheeks.

Below the beak is a “beard” of black feathers. 

The average blue-and-gold macaw is 35 inches long and has a wingspan up to 45 inches. They can weigh 2-3 pounds.

Males and females looks similar, so genetic testing is necessary to determine the sex. 

There are two varieties or subspecies that look slightly different. The Bolivian blue-and-gold macaw is larger and has deeper blue feathers.

The blue-throated macaw has teal blue feathers on the throat instead of black feathers. 

Temperament & Personality

Macaws have a reputation of being loud and having a bit of attitude. The same is somewhat true for blue-and-gold macaws.

With proper socialization and time spent with their family, these birds have a calm and fun disposition.

They can be affectionate and loving to those they see as members of their flock.

Many of these macaws form strong bonds with the humans they spend the most time with. 

Intelligence & Trainability

Blue-and-gold macaws are extremely intelligent animals. They enjoy figuring out enriching puzzle treats and exploring their surroundings.

Their intelligence can get them into trouble, as their exploration can sometimes be seen as mischief. 

These birds are easy to train if you put in enough time with them. They enjoy learning and working with people.

You can commonly see blue-and-gold macaws in bird shows and at zoos because of their ability to learn and perform.

Vocalizations

The most well-known vocalization for macaws is their loud, ear-piercing screams. Even a macaw with excellent care will still be a loud animal.

They are not suitable for apartments and condominiums due to their loud volume. 

Either through training or repetition, blue-and-gold macaws can learn to repeat 20 or more phrases.

They have a clear voice that makes them one of the best “speaking” parrots.

They may randomly say phrases they’ve learned, but many birds seem to understand the meaning of  some of the phrases they say.

For example, some may only say “good morning” when they first see you in the morning. 

We cover the interesting concept of a parrot’s scope of understanding in our article “Can Parrots Have a Conversation.” Be sure to check it out.

Blue and Gold Macaw Lifespan

Blue-and-gold macaws can live over 70 years with proper care; however, the average lifespan is closer to 30 years.

Appropriate nutrition is the number one contributor to a long life for a macaw.

Blue and Gold Macaws in the Wild

A pair of wild blue-and-gold macaws sitting on a branch communicating with each other.

While they are popular in the pet trade, blue and gold macaws are still seen frequently in the wild.

Native Region & Habitat

These macaws are native to Central and South America. Specifically, they can be found from Panama south to Bolivia and Paraguay.

There is an introduced population in Puerto Rico. A group of released pet blue-and-gold macaws have formed a successful breeding colony in south Florida. 

Blue-and-gold macaws are found in forests and woodlands. Usually, the birds will forage close to water sources when they are available.

They are typically found in pairs, but groups will form to forage.

Diet

Wild macaws live an active life and are flying regularly. Therefore, they require a high-calorie diet to keep them fueled.

Wild blue-and-gold macaws eat a high-fat diet consisting of seeds, nuts, plants, and fruit. 

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Endangered?

Blue-and-gold macaws are not currently endangered, but their population is declining.

Over the years, they have lost habitat due to deforestation, and many individuals were captured for the pet trade.

Prior to captive breeding, most pet macaws were wild caught as chicks. Chicks were stolen from their nest and rarely survived the transport to the United States. 

How Many Blue and Gold Macaws Are Left in the World?

Organizations have not been able to conduct an accurate count of remaining blue-and-gold macaws in the wild.

However, their population is estimated to be over 10,000 individuals.

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Protected?

There is not a worldwide protection for blue-and-gold macaws.

Individual regions and governments have put protections in place for the birds living in their jurisdiction. It is also illegal to import macaws into the United States. 

Caring for a Blue and Gold Macaw: Requirements

Now that you are informed about wild blue-and-gold macaws, learn more about their care in captivity to determine if they are the right pet for you.

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Good for Beginners?

Macaws are not recommended for beginner pet or bird owners.

In order to be a suitable owner, beginner macaw owners should do plenty of research and be committed to the time and resources necessary to properly care for a blue and gold macaw.

Ideal Diet

A balanced diet is the best contributor to a blue and gold macaw living a long healthy life.

Since companion macaws are not as active as wild macaws, they do not need a high-fat, high-calorie diet.

A captive blue-and-gold macaw should eat vegetables, fruit, pellets, and some nuts and seeds. You can find the recommended diet and feeding guidelines here.

Basic Equipment & Supplies

The most important, and usually most expensive, piece of equipment for a macaw owner is a large cage.

These birds should be housed in a cage no smaller than 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

This is a minimum requirement, and a macaw will always enjoy as much space as possible.

Toys and perching are other important supplies for your blue-and-gold macaw.

Macaw toys are essentially made to be destroyed by their strong beaks, so they constantly need to be replaced.

Since macaws won’t be spending all day in their cage, multiple perches throughout your house will give your bird a place to hang out with you when out of the cage. 

Don’t forget that birds too need to bathe themselves. While equipment for this isn’t costly and may be as simple as a large bowl, routine bathing is important for their overall health.

Staff at the Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital provided me with the following advice for macaw bathing:

Most birds enjoy daily bathing, and spend a great deal of time keeping the feathers in prime condition.

Some will bathe in a dish or bowl, some prefer a shower or bathing under the faucet. Another idea is to offer the bird a large handful of wet lettuce leaves.

If the bird resists any form of bathing, a daily misting with clean water will help encourage normal grooming.

Plain water is best for misting and bathing. If feathers become unusually soiled, mild baby shampoo, followed by careful rinsing can be used.

Exercise Needs

Captive macaws are prone to obesity and obesity-related illnesses if they are not active enough.

Blue-and-gold macaws should be given a minimum of 2-3 hours of playtime outside of their cage.

Many macaw owners keep their birds out whenever they are home, allowing them to roam and explore the home. 

Macaws have exceptionally strong jaws that evolved to help them break into hard nut and seed shells.

In captivity, they require enriching toys that they can chew to keep their jaws strong and their beak in good shape. 

Mental Stimulation

As highly intelligent animals, it is important to keep the minds of blue-and-gold macaws stimulated regularly.

Allowing them to play freely and explore their environment (with supervision) is a great way to keep their mind engaged.

There are also many options for puzzles and toys the birds can enjoy while they are in their cage.

A bored and understimulated macaw can lead to destructive behavior and chronic stress.

Daily Interaction

Socialization is extremely important for a bird that is used to living in a social flock.

To have a well-socialized adult macaw, it is important to begin socializing a blue-and-gold macaw chick with as many people early in life.

Macaws will see their family as their flock and enjoy spending time with them. Loneliness can lead to chronic stress and health problems.

Blue and Gold Macaw Training and Behavior

A blue-and-gold macaw perched on a trainer's hand.

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Easy To Train?

Yes, blue-and-gold macaws are easy to train. These are highly intelligent birds that enjoy learning and working with humans.

They are commonly seen in pet shows and can learn many tricks and vocalizations.

4 Tips for Training Success

  1. Keep training sessions short, but do them frequently.
  2. Start simple – stepping up onto a hand or perch is an easy and useful behavior.
  3. Use a favorite food item only as reinforcement during training sessions.
  4. Don’t be afraid of your macaw. One bite or bad session does not mean the end of your relationship.

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Good Talkers?

Yes, some consider blue-and-gold macaws to be the best “speaking” parrot.

They have a crisp voice that can match words identically to a human and can learn over 20 words and phrases.

Interested to know what other parrots are known for their talking ability? You’ll find our list of the best parrot talkers here.

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Friendly?

Blue-and-gold macaws are friendly when they have been properly socialized. After being around many humans for their entire lives, some macaws act like a feathered dog.

They will follow people around and enjoy sitting on a lap or shoulder.

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Cuddly?

Yes, a properly socialized blue-and-gold macaw will enjoy spending time cuddling with their owner. They enjoy head scratches and being included in family activities.

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Aggressive?

If they are not properly socialized, a blue-and-gold macaw can be aggressive. It is also possible for them to bite.

Owners should make every effort to introduce and socialize their macaw with as many people as possible, starting at a young age.

We provide reasons why macaws may bite, warnings signs to watch for, and tips to stop this behavior in this article.

How To Teach Your Macaw Not To Bite

A two-fold approach is best when training your macaw to stop biting. The first part is known as the extinction method. Ignore all incorrect behaviors, in this case biting.

A negative reaction, such as yelling out angrily, can be reinforcing enough for a macaw to bite again, so it is important to react as little as possible.

Additionally, reinforce your macaw with treats and words of praise (positive reinforcement) when they do the correct behaviors.

During activities where your macaw would normally bite, such as changing out food bowls or cleaning the cage, reward your macaw when they do not bite. 

For older macaws who have been adopted or were not well socialized when they were younger, it is important to work at the speed of the macaw.

Don’t push them to train or step up on your hand until they are ready.

The blue-and-gold macaw will appreciate you spending time with them and talking with them until they feel comfortable to socialize more with you.

Are Blue and Gold Macaws Loud?

Yes, macaws are naturally loud birds. This can be exacerbated by boredom or loneliness.

Keep your blue-and-gold macaw happy and engaged in their surroundings to minimize outbursts.

Texas Aviary & Exotic Hospital provided this advice in regards to macaws “screaming.”

This is normal vocalizing behavior of the bird and it may be unrealistic to expect it to change.

The bird will consider the humans in its home as its social contact, and want to maintain the “communication” it would normally have with other birds.

Try using this time to interact with the bird. The best attitude is to let the bird have its social noise and accept it as part of keeping a bird as a pet. 

Blue and Gold Macaw Potential Health Concerns

Blue-and-gold macaws suffer from similar health concerns to most parrots. They can begin feather plucking and skin picking if they suffer from chronic stress.

Macaw wasting disease is a viral infection that can be deadly. Inadequate nutrition can lead to obesity, nutrient deficiencies, or fatty liver disease.

Popular Blue and Gold Macaw Hybrids

  • Bluffon’s macaw (crossed with a Buffon’s macaw)
  • Caloshua macaw (crossed with a hyacinth macaw)
  • Catalina macaw (crossed with a scarlet macaw)
  • Harlequin macaw (crossed with a greenwing macaw)
  • Maui Sunset macaw (crossed with a red-fronted macaw)
  • Miligold macaw (crossed with a military macaw)
  • Harligold macaw (crossed with a harlequin macaw)

Is a Blue and Gold Macaw Right For You?

Now that you are informed about the natural history and care requirements of blue-and-gold macaws, you can decide if this parrot is right for you.

If you can provide a balanced diet, a safe environment with stimulating socialization, and don’t mind some ear-piercing screams, a blue-and-gold macaw can be an excellent companion for you.

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