Last Updated on March 4, 2023 by Ali Shahid
A critically endangered macaw species, the blue throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis), lives only in a small area of north-central Bolivia called Los Llanos de Moxos.
Known locally as barba azul, or “blue beard” in Spanish, these vanishingly rare parrots are also known as the Caninde macaw and Wagler’s macaw. The blue-throated macaw appears similar to the much more common blue and gold macaw.
However, turquoise feathers on the neck and crown of the Blue-throated Macaw distinguish it from blue and gold macaws. Compared to blue and gold macaws, they are slightly smaller.
This species was thought to be extinct for years until 1992 when 50 of them were found in South America (Bolivia). Until 2010, the native population hunted the bird for feathered headdresses used in the dances of the “machetero”.
According to Bolivian law, this species was declared a natural patrimony in 2014. Approximately 350–400 individuals are believed to remain in the wild according to recent estimates of their population and range.
A combination of nesting competition, avian predation, low hatching rates, and a small native range contributed to its demise, with indigenous hunting as a contributing factor.
Although abundant in captivity, blue-throated macaws are critically endangered, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Origin and History of Blue Throated Macaw
Despite having a wild population of 500-1000 before the 1980s, the Blue-throated Macaw has become increasingly endangered in recent decades. In the period between 1980 and 1990, birds almost disappeared.
Within a few short years, they were rediscovered, and within a few more years they became pets, leaving a small population scattered across several habitats.
There are only two subpopulations of blue-throated macaws in northern Bolivia, which are distributed over an area of 3,320 square miles.
Two subpopulations of Ara glaucogularis inhabit two areas: one is located to the northwest of Trinidad (the capital city of Beni) and the other is located to the south of Trinidad.
The separation may have resulted from the historical occupation of the area by indigenous peoples who hunted blue-throated macaws for their feathers to be used in ornamental costumes. Recently, the wild-bird trade may have contributed to this separation.
Due to the high human population, blue-throated macaws in the vicinity are more likely to be caught. Human settlement in this area also caused habitat fragmentation and the loss of suitable habitats for this species.
Hence, Trinidad does not have blue-throated macaws. The exact locations and habits of these birds remain unknown. New breeding areas were discovered in 2017, raising hopes of better understanding macaw life cycles.
Motacu palm groves provide habitat for blue-throated macaws. The oldest of these groves dates back more than 500 years. Attalea phalerata palms are essential to Ara glaucogularis’ survival as they provide food and nesting sites more than any other type of plant.
In most cases, blue-throated macaws occur between the elevations of 200 and 300 meters. The majority of the blue-throated macaw’s habitat is devoted to cattle ranching.
However, habitats are not altered for agricultural use, due to the unsuitability of the land. It is accurate to state that cattle will destroy juvenile trees, but mature Motac palm trees are very hardy and have very little damage from cattle.
Additionally, this palm exhibits some fire resistance. Therefore, it is common to find Motac palm trees dominating forest fragments in the Beni Savanna.
There have also been reports of the birds nesting in royal palms located on elevated terrain in Bolivia formed by prehistoric human settlements.
The coloration of blue-throated macaws is very vibrant. Their throats, crowns, backs, wings, and tails are covered with vibrant turquoise-blue feathers.
There’s a stripe of yellow feathers on the ventral side of their body, wing, and tail between the blue crown and throat.
Blue-throated macaws have a sparsely feathered patch near the base of their large dark-colored bills with 5 or 6 horizontal stripes of blue feathers that allow them to be identified individually.
This patch of skin is predominantly white and has a pink tint near the bill. The area surrounding the eyes is white has black stripes and is separated from the beak by a featherless patch.
A mature blue-throated macaw weighs between 600 and 1000 grams and measures 85 centimeters in length and 0.9 meters in wingspan. Males tend to be slightly bigger than females, weighing roughly 800 g and 600 g, respectively.
In their first weeks, blue-throated macaw chicks are completely pink. Gray down develops as the birds age and is later replaced by full-grown, colored feathers. It is also important to note that the color of the iris changes with age.
As soon as the eyes open, a nestling’s eye color changes from black to brown. As the macaw ages, its eyes become gray, then white. The macaw’s iris changes from yellow to golden when it matures and becomes richer gold as it ages.
In elderly macaws, the iris has thinned out and the retina has shown through the pupil. To estimate the age of a macaw, one can use the continuum of the iris’ color.
A blue-throated macaw is quite similar to the more common blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna). Nevertheless, the colors of the feathers on the throat and the crown of a blue-throated macaw are the most distinctive characteristics.
A blue-throated macaw has 5 or 6 horizontal feather lines across its bare face, while a blue and gold macaw has 3. Compared to blue and gold macaws, the blue-throated macaw is smaller and its voice is higher in pitch.
Monogamous blue-throated macaw pairs form small groups and live together. At one point, 70 individuals were known, but these birds are not often seen in large groups as other macaw species.
Most likely this is due to blue-throated macaws being extremely rare and so rare that they rarely form large groups. When mating, blue-throated macaws tend to preen one another’s feathers and perch close to each other.
There have been instances when blue-throated macaws have been observed interacting with blue and gold macaws (Ara ararauna). They mainly fly, however, they can walk, climb, and maneuver along branches. They typically stay in one area during the day.
Blue-throated macaws that have been raised and socialized properly make friendly, outgoing, and cuddly companions. In some ways, they are like cockatoos, seeking attention and being easy to tame.
Compared to other macaws, the Blue-throated Macaw seems more affectionate and cuddly. The Blue-throated Macaw is a bird that is incredibly active, athletic, mischievous, playful, and silly.
It is an extremely enjoyable and challenging companion to have. A study finds that Blue-throated macaws are capable of cooperative tasks without coordinating.
A Blue-throated Macaw loves anything mechanical, disassembling switch plates, thermostat covers, and anything else. Therefore, they should never be left unattended. The Blue-throated Macaws tend to be somewhat jealous and bullish.
Rather than toward people, they are more attracted to other birds who are seeking the attention of their favored person.
Speech and Vocalization
The Blue-throated Macaw communicates primarily through sound. Upon sensing danger, they emit an extremely loud alarm call and immediately take flight. The blue-throated macaw is also known for its low caw as a means of communication.
According to Kyle, a blue-throated macaw chick was almost fledging and was being encouraged by its parents’ caws.
Blue-throated macaws of the opposite sex have been known to be attracted to “caller” bait birds, suggesting acoustic communication is a feature of their breeding process. Communication can also be done through the sense of touch.
Mates are frequently seen preening their chicks and showing affection for each other. The blue-throated macaw perceives its environment using a variety of sensory inputs, including audio, visual, tactile, and chemical.
There is usually only one breeding season for blue-throated macaws, but the bird is capable of producing another clutch if eggs or nestlings are lost. Egg clutches typically consist of one to three eggs and are incubated for 26 days.
Upon hatching, nestlings weigh approximately 18 grams and fledge between 13 and 14 weeks of age. When a macaw fledges, it remains fully dependent upon its parents for food until it is able to forage on its own.
The young blue-throated macaws are observed to stay with their parents for up to a year after this occurs. This will result in the parents skipping a whole breeding season. Blue-throated macaws reach sexual maturity at the age of five.
The blue-throated macaw nests in the cavities of palm trees, primarily Attalea phalerata, but it is also known to nest in other palm species. Typically, dead palm trees are preferred nesting sites since large insects hollow them out after they have died.
Breeding pairs of blue-throated macaws will usually search for different nest locations every year rather than remain at one nest for consecutive breeding seasons.
It will often compete with blue-and-yellow macaws, green-winged macaws, scarlet macaws, woodpeckers, toco toucans, barn owls, bats, and bees for tree nesting holes. Land clearing in the range of this species has reduced the number of suitable nest trees.
Many macaw species eat seeds and nuts, but the blue-throated macaw does not do so to the same extent. Instead, they consume primarily fruit from large palm trees.
Most of their food comes from Attalea phalerata, but they will eat Acrocomia aculeata and Mauritia fleuxosa as well. It has been observed that macaws consume the mesocarp of ripe and near-ripe fruits, as well as drink the liquid.
The blue-throated macaw plays an important ecological role in dispersing seeds. Besides eating the nuts of the Motac palm, macaws prefer it as a nesting and roosting tree.
The parrot is known for being a sloppy eater, often dropping about half of the food that it picks up and transports over a long distance.
Due to their sloppiness and their affinity for Motac palm nuts, they are effective seed dispersers in the Amazon forest ecosystem, particularly for Motac palm.
As per the IUCN Red List, there are approximately 350-450 mature Blue-throated macaws in the world. Currently, the IUCN Red List classifies this species as Critically Endangered (CR), but its population has not declined in recent years.
A blue-throated macaw’s greatest threat is humans. There was a steep decline in population during the 1970s and 1980s when more than 1000 wild birds were caught and exported. In 1984, live bird exports were banned.
However, the wildlife trade continues to pose the greatest threat to the species. The habitat of the blue-throated macaw is also threatened by ranching operations. The trampling and grazing of cattle can stunt tree growth and prevent trees from growing.
It is also common for ranchers to burn savannas each year as a means of improving grassland pastures. However, recent research indicates cattle won’t affect the bird’s population right away.
In the study period 2007–2012, there were either constant or decreasing numbers of active breeding pairs depending on the site, but no new breeding pairs were detected. Hatching failure accounted for the majority of egg losses.
During the 85-day nestling period, half of the breeding attempts for Blue-throated Macaws produced at least one fledging, on average two. From all known wild nests combined, 4.3 nestlings fledged per year on average.
Every time a pair attempts to nest, approximately 65% of its initial reproductive investment is lost. According to estimates from 2007, the population ranged between 250 and 300 individuals.
Approximately 155 birds were counted in one place ten years later — a record number. According to IUCN, the number of blue-throated macaws in the wild is somewhere between 350 and 450.
The blue-throated macaw is an endangered species with a very small population. It is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The species is also listed in Appendix I of CITES.
Since Bolivian law protects blue-throated macaws from trapping, trapping is prohibited. While trapping ceased in the 1990s, there remain a low number of wild individuals, with estimates ranging between 110 and 130 individuals.
A recent survey conducted by the Loro Parque Fundacion and the Armonia Association has increased these estimates to about 350 to 400 birds. In addition, land purchases contribute to the cause.
Approximately 20 birds were protected by a private reserve created in 2008. In recent years, Barba Azul Nature Reserve has doubled in size to become one of the most important foraging and nesting areas in the region.
Approximately half of the known breeding pairs of blue-throated macaws reside in a 1.5 million-acre reserve established in 2017.
Additionally, traditional headdresses used during indigenous celebrations are being replaced with artificial feathers. Many volunteers and staff members at the World Parrot Trust monitor the nests so that the chicks are protected from predation.
In addition, chicks are checked periodically to make sure they’re healthy and getting enough food. Whenever necessary, a formula supplement is given to the chick.
Nest boxes have been built, nest sites have been improved, and local landowners have been helped. A Bird Conservancy partnership with World Land Trust-US, Loro Parque Fundacion, and Association Armonia created the blue-throated macaw reserve in 2008.
With the expansion of 2,800 acres in 2010, the reserve now covers 11,500 acres. Research indicates that the Bolivian bird is on the rise as a result of conservation measures and a decreased trade in caged birds.
However, blue-throated macaws are not yet out of danger. According to the IUCN, there has been almost an 80 percent decline in the population of these macaws in the last three generations. This indicates that there is still work to be done to ensure its survival.
Blue-Throated Macaw Care
The Blue-Throated Macaw’s skin and feathers should be regularly bathed to maintain their health. Alternatively, spritz your bird with water to moisturize and clean its feathers. Some birds may need beak, nail, and wing trimming.
Only properly trained individuals should perform these procedures safely. There is a great need for plenty of space for these birds to move around. It is recommended that their enclosure be at least 5 feet by 5 feet by 8 feet in size.
A larger enclosure will result in a happier bird. Some people keep their birds outside in a room.
In this situation, your bird will have plenty of space, but make sure it is kept away from children and pets. In addition, you must ensure that it is not capable of escaping or injuring itself.
Blue Throated Macaw Health Problem
There may be several health problems that they experience. In captivity, they need good care and regular checkups. This makes them healthy and allows them to live healthy lives.
- Avian Borna Virus
- Chlamydiosis or Psittacosis
- Cloacal and oral papillomas
- Feather picking
- Bea Malformation
- Viral, Bacterial, and Fungal Infections
- Heavy Metal Poisoning or Toxicity
- Gout and kidney disease
It is imperative to take proper care of the birds to prevent health problems from occurring. If not treated properly, some of these disorders may lead to serious health consequences. Infections and allergies can cause serious health problems for parrots.
From Where You can get a Blue-Throated Macaw
A Blue-Throated Macaw can be adopted if you come across someone who took on too much by taking one in. Whether a bird is adopted or purchased, the setup and maintenance costs can easily add up to hundreds of dollars.
Blue-throated macaws are expensive, costing $1500-3000. The average lifespan of a blue-throated macaw is 50 years and above. So if you are considering getting one get ready for the long-term commitment.
If you want a bird that is healthy, captive-bred, and ethically raised, look online for reputable breeders.
Reproductive Parameters in the Critically Endangered Blue-Throated Macaw: Limits to the Recovery of a Parrot under Intensive Management
Yamashita, Carlos, and Y. Machado de Barros. “The Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis: characterization of its distinctive habitats in savannahs of the Beni, Bolivia.” Ararajuba 5.2 (1997): 141-150.
Hesse, Alan J., and Giles E. Duffield. “The status and conservation of the Blue-Throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis.” Bird Conservation International 10.3 (2000): 255-275.
Tassin de Montaigu, Cannelle, et al. “Blue‐throated macaws (Ara glaucogularis) succeed in a cooperative task without coordinating their actions.” Ethology 126.2 (2020): 267-277.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2018: Ara glaucogularis is listed as Critically Endangered under criteria A2bcde.
The Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis: characterization of its distinctive habitats in savannahs of the Beni, Bolivia
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.