Blue-Throated Macaw (Complete Specie Profile)

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Ali Shahid

With its beautiful blue and yellow feathers, the Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) is a stunning bird found in the palm-filled islands of northern Bolivia. This vibrant bird, which was once close to disappearing forever, plays a big role in its environment. It becomes food for other animals and helps spread seeds from the fruits it eats. 

People also love having this bird as a pet because of its striking looks and friendly behavior. Sadly, the Blue-throated Macaw is in real danger, with only around 350-450 of them left in the wild. Problems like losing their homes, being taken as pets illegally, and having their feathers used in traditional dances have pushed these birds to the edge. 

But there’s still hope. People are working hard to save and bring back their homes, and each year, more of these amazing birds are seen, showing how tough and strong they are.


General Overview of Blue Throated Macaw

FeatureDescription
Common NameBlue-throated Macaw
Scientific NameAra glaucogularis
Origin and HabitatEndemic to a small area of north-central Bolivia in South Americ
SizeAbout 85 cm (33 in) long including tail feathers
WeightAbout 900 g (32 oz) to 1,100 g (39 oz)
ColorationTurquoise-blue upperparts, bright yellow underparts, pale blue vent, blue throat
PersonalityHighly intelligent, outgoing, social, playful, strong personalities
Talking AbilityCan learn up to 15 words, not known for extensive talking ability
Care LevelRequires a large enclosure, socialization, consistent training, and several hours of daily play
LifespanUp to 50 years
Breeding FactsMate for life, sexually mature at 2-4 years, breed once a year, do not make their own nests
PriceRanges from $1,400 to $5,500
Places to BuySpecialized breeders, avian-specialty stores, some online retailers
IUCN StatusCritically Endangered (CR)

Habitat and Distribution

Blue-throated Macaws are facing a critical threat, mainly residing in the northern part of Bolivia, specifically in a place called Los Llanos de Moxos. This region, also known as the Beni Savanna, covers about 126,100 square kilometers and is a mix of grasslands, marshes, forest islands, and gallery forests. 

They prefer living in places like tropical savannas, grasslands, and gallery forests. They are often found in the forest islands of Bolivia’s Beni savanna, where they enjoy eating fruit from the Motacu Palm (Attalea phalerata). Sometimes, they’re spotted in groves of motacu palms, some of which are over 500 years old, and in holes of totai and royal palms.

Estimates suggest there are approximately 208-303 mature Blue-throated Macaws, although the exact number is a bit uncertain. In 2022, a record count found the highest number ever recorded at a single spot—228 individuals. It’s believed the species forms three separate subpopulations.

Even though these beautiful and smart birds are quite common in captivity, their wild population is in critical danger. Their main threats include losing their homes, being preyed upon by other birds, and having a limited natural habitat, worsened by indigenous hunting and being captured for the pet trade. There are ongoing efforts to conserve and boost the population of these amazing birds.

Physical Characteristics

Blue-throated Macaws are impressive birds known for their vibrant colors and large size.

Size, Weight, and Coloration Description:

This bird is approximately 85 cm (33 inches) long, including its tail, with a wingspan of about 90 cm (three feet). Adults typically weigh between 900 g (32 oz) and 1,100 g (39 oz), displaying a striking plumage. Their upper body shines in a brilliant turquoise-blue, slightly dimmer on the crown but intensifying on the rump. The underparts are mainly bright yellow, except for a pale blue vent. A notable feature is the bare facial patch, concealed by blue feather lines blending into a blue lower cheek and throat.

Sexual Differences and Identifying Males and Females:

Though the Blue-throated Macaw shows minimal observable sexual dimorphism, males are generally a bit larger than females, weighing around 750 g to 950 g. However, distinguishing between males and females based solely on appearance is challenging without genetic or surgical methods.

Distinctive Features: Blue Throat Patch and Turquoise Upperparts:

The bird’s namesake blue throat patch is a captivating feature, contrasting beautifully with its yellow underparts and turquoise upperparts. This unique coloration, especially the blue throat and cheeks, distinguishes it from other macaw species like the Blue and Gold Macaw, which features a black throat. 

The vivid turquoise-blue feathers on their throat, crown, back, wings, and tail make them visually striking in their habitat. Size, weight, distinctive coloration, subtle sexual dimorphism, and the remarkable blue throat patch all contribute to the Blue-throated Macaw’s charm.

Behavior and Social Structure

Social Behavior

Blue-throated Macaws are social birds, often spotted in pairs or small crews. They like forming committed couples that show strong bonds and affection, like preening each other. These birds also mingle with different species, such as the Blue and Gold Macaw. They usually do their living, eating, and nesting in trees, staying active during the daytime and sticking to a particular area. In the wild, they might get together in groups of 7 to 9 and sometimes bunk down in bigger flocks.

Breeding Practices and Nesting in Tree Holes

The Blue-throated Macaw gets down to breeding during the rainy season, from October to March. They fancy setting up nests in the holes of big, grown-up palm trees, especially the Motacú Palm. Lady macaws lay about two to three eggs in a clutch, and after roughly four weeks, the chicks hatch. It takes these little ones about three months to take their first flight. These macaws are big fans of their favorite nesting spots, often going back to the same spots year after year.

Getting Along with Humans and Being Pet-Pal Friendly

In captivity, Blue-throated Macaws are known as chill, friendly, and curious, enjoying hanging out with people and fellow birds. They make gentle and loving pets, especially if hand-fed from a young age. But, because of their smart and active nature, they need a good chunk of social time and a daily stint outside their cage. Their mood can change, and like any parrot, they might act out if they don’t get enough attention or mental challenges. They aren’t super noisy, making them a good fit for places where neighbors are close.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Dietary Habits

The Blue-throated Macaw has a unique taste, leaning towards a fruity diet, with a particular love for the fruit of large palm trees. They go for the mesocarp from ripe and nearly ripe fruits, and they’re not shy about sipping on the liquid from very young fruits. Their go-to palm species for a snack is the Attalea phalerata, but they’re also open to munching on fruits from Acrocomia aculeata and Mauritia flexuosa palms. Beyond fruits, these macaws spice up their menu with nuts, seeds, and other plant goodies, keeping their diet diverse.

Seed-Spreading Pros for Motacú Palms

A big deal in the Blue-throated Macaw’s life is its role as a seed-spreader, especially for the Motacú palm (Attalea phalerata), a VIP in their habitat. They’re like the ecological superheroes in a mutual agreement with the palms, spreading their seeds around without actually chowing down on them. This not only keeps the macaws well-fed but also boosts the habitat’s defenses against threats like deforestation and cattle ranching.

Adaptation for Nibbling on Nuts

Equipped with some seriously strong beaks, the Blue-throated Macaw is all set for a nutty adventure. Their beaks are tailored for cracking open tough shells, giving them access to the tasty stuff inside. This knack comes in handy, especially when their menu includes palm fruits and nuts. But these beaks aren’t just for munching; they’re multitasking tools for handling objects, climbing, and getting hands-on with their surroundings.

Role in Captivity

Adored Companions with Challenges

Blue-throated Macaws have won the hearts of bird enthusiasts due to their gentle and loving nature, making them a sought-after choice as pets. Their intelligence and curiosity add to their charm, but these qualities come with certain needs. These birds thrive on mental challenges and physical activities to ward off boredom and potential behavior problems. While they make delightful companions, their owners must be ready for the commitment required to meet their demanding but rewarding needs.

Longevity and Health Matters

In captivity, Blue-throated Macaws have the potential to live over 50 years, though not many reach this impressive age. Their well-being can be challenged by various health issues like bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, feather picking, and the risk of heavy metal poisoning. Maintaining their health requires regular vet check-ups, a well-balanced diet, and a healthy lifestyle, ensuring a proactive approach to prevent and address potential health concerns.

The Crux of Enrichment and Social Bonds

For Blue-throated Macaws living in captivity, enrichment and social interaction are vital elements for their overall happiness. Daily doses of social time and opportunities to explore and play outside their cages contribute significantly to their well-being. Owners play a crucial role in keeping these birds mentally stimulated, preventing behavioral issues that may arise from lack of attention. Providing a variety of toys and activities becomes essential, ensuring a fulfilling and engaging environment for these cherished companions.

Population Threats and Conservation Status

The Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis), a critically endangered species native to the Beni Savanna in northern Bolivia, faces significant challenges to its survival. Recognized as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the population estimates fluctuate, with recent figures suggesting approximately 420 – 480 mature adults remaining in the wild.

Despite this uncertainty, the primary threats include habitat loss, illegal pet trade, and the use of feathers in traditional dances. Deforestation poses a severe risk as suitable nesting trees are reduced, particularly the preferred Motacú Palm, which is vital for both food and nesting.

Historically, the pet trade and poaching were major contributors to the decline of Blue-throated Macaw populations. Although trapping for the pet trade is now illegal, risks persist. Local hunting for feathers, once a threat, has been curtailed through the use of artificial alternatives.

Conservation efforts have been underway to protect the Blue-throated Macaw, including the establishment of reserves like Barba Azul and Laney Rickman, and the implementation of the Nest Box Program since 2005. The American Bird Conservancy has played a crucial role in supporting these initiatives. Despite ongoing challenges, signs of progress emerge.

The species’ population trend has shifted from “declining” to “stable,” with a notable record of 155 individual sightings in 2007 at the Barbara Azul Nature Reserve. Over 15 years of conservation programs led by Asociación Armonía have resulted in 76 Blue-throated Macaw chicks successfully fledging from artificial nest boxes, offering hope for the species’ recovery. The success of these conservation endeavors relies on generous donations and collaboration with international partners.

Blue-Throated Macaw for Sale and Price

The Blue-throated Macaw is available for purchase in the United States, with prices varying between $1,400 and $5,500 depending on the breeder or aviary. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the endangered status of these birds. Acquiring them as pets should be done with careful consideration of their conservation and ethical aspects of owning such a rare species. 

Prospective owners must understand the responsibilities associated with caring for a large, long-lived, and socially intricate parrot. This includes providing substantial attention, ample space, and enriching environments to meet the specific needs of these extraordinary birds.

Conclusion

A Blue-throated Macaw symbolizes the delicate balance and enduring power of nature in the conservation movement. As a critically endangered species, it is vital to sustain and intensify conservation endeavors, addressing challenges like habitat loss, illegal trade, and the impacts of climate change. Individuals can contribute to these efforts by supporting conservation initiatives, promoting sustainable practices, and raising awareness. 

Education plays a pivotal role in empowering people to make informed choices that positively influence the survival of this majestic bird. The collective actions of individuals, communities, and organizations globally are essential to ensure the thriving existence of the Blue-throated Macaw for future generations. By persistently working together, we can contribute to a hopeful chapter in the ongoing story of this remarkable species.

References:

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

Author

  • Dr. Anees Ashraf

    He is a veterinarian by profession currently working in a vet clinic. He loves to treat and breed parrots to produce different mututions.

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