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The blue-and-yellow macaw (Ara ararauna), also known as the blue-and-gold macaw, is a large South American parrot with blue top parts and yellow under parts. It is a member of the large group of neotropical parrots known as macaws. It inhabits forest (especially varzea, but also in open sections of terra firme or unflooded forest) and woodland of tropical South America. They are popular in aviculture because of their striking color, ability to talk, ready availability in the marketplace, and close bonding to humans.
The blue-and-yellow macaw (Ara ararauna, Linnaeus 1758) is a member of the genus Ara (Lacepede 1799), one of six genera of Central and South American macaws. The species name is derived from Tupi ara onamatopoeia macao: macaw; Tupi arara: parrot +una: dark or black, hence "dark parrot/macaw".
These birds can reach a length of 76–86 cm (30–34 in) and weigh 0.900–1.5 kg (2–3 lb), making them some of the larger members of their family. They are vivid in appearance with blue wings and tail, dark-blue chin, golden under parts, and a green forehead. Their beaks are black. The naked face is white, turning pink in excited birds, and lined with small, black feathers. Blue-and-yellow macaws live from 30 to 35 years in the wild and reach sexual maturity between the ages of 3 and 6 years.
Little variation in plumage is seen across the range. Some birds have a more orange or "butterscotch" underside color, particularly on the breast. This was often seen in Trinidad birds and others of the Caribbean area. The blue-and-yellow macaw uses its powerful beak for breaking nutshells, and for climbing up and hanging from trees.
Distribution and habitat
This species occurs in Venezuela and south to Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. The range extends slightly into Central America, where it is restricted to Panama. The species' range formerly included Trinidad, but it became extinct there by 1970 as a result of human activities. Between 1999 and 2003, wild-caught blue-and-gold macaws were translocated from Guyana to Trinidad, in an attempt to re-establish the species in a protected area around Nariva swamp. A small breeding population descended from introduced birds is found in Puerto Rico, and another has inhabited Miami-Dade County, Florida, since the mid-1980s.
The blue-and-yellow macaw generally mates for life. They nest almost exclusively in dead palms and most nests are in Mauritia flexuosa palms. The female typically lays two or three eggs. The female incubates the eggs for about 28 days. One chick is dominant and gets most of the food; the others perish in the nest. Chicks fledge from the nest about 97 days after hatching. The male bird's color signals readiness for breeding. The brighter and bolder the colors, the better the chance of getting a mate.
Conservation and threats
The blue-and-yellow macaw is on the verge of being extirpated in Paraguay, but it still remains widespread and fairly common in a large part of mainland South America. The species is therefore listed as Least Concern by BirdLife International. It is listed on CITES Appendix II, trade restricted.
Blue-and-yellow macaws are popular as pets because of their vivid appearance and ability as a talking bird; however, their large size makes accommodation problematic, and they tend to require more effort and knowledge from owners than more traditional pets such as cats or dogs. They are very intelligent and social birds, thus for people with basic training skills, they make great companion parrots.
Even the most well-tended blue-and-yellow macaw will "scream" and make other loud noises. Loud vocalizations, especially "flock calls", and destructive chewing are natural parts of their behavior and should be expected in captivity. Due to their large size, they also require plentiful space in which to fly around. According to World Parrot Trust, an enclosure for a blue-and-yellow macaw should, if possible, be at least 15 m (50 ft) in length.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Ara ararauna". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- ffrench, Richard; O'Neill, John Patton; Eckelberry, Don R. (1991). A guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd ed.). Ithaca, N.Y.: Comstock Publishing. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2.
- Krishnan, Karunya. "Macaws on campus 'awesome' but noisy." The Miami Hurricane. 2009.
- Alderton, David (2003). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Caged and Aviary Birds. London, England: Hermes House. p. 235. ISBN 1-84309-164-X.
- "Blue and Gold Macaw (Ara ararauna) | Parrot Care". World Parrot Trust. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
- Doane, Bonnie Munro & Qualkinbush, Thomas (1994): My parrot, my friend : an owner's guide to parrot behavior. Howell Book House, New York. ISBN 0-87605-970-1
- Hilty, Steven L. (2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
- Forshaw, J.M. Parrots of the World. New Jersey. T.F.H. Publications Inc. 1978. ISBN 0-87666-959-3
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