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Blue and Gold Macaw

Ara ararauna
Conservation Status: 
Least Concern on the IUCN Red List (but still a protected species under CITES and other international treaties).
Range: 
The northeastern parts of South America.
Habitat: 
Wooded areas, usually near water.

Macaws are very social parrots who are found in groups of around 20 to 30 birds. Larger groups will get together at clay licks in riverbanks. Their beak is adapted to eat seeds and nuts. It is helpful that they can eat nuts as few other animals can access such a variety of nuts. Macaws break the hard shell between their upper and lower beak, then use their tongue and palate to grind seeds so they can digest them. They eat seeds, fruits, nuts, and some vegetable matter.  Macaws have zygodactyl feet (2 front toes, 2 back toes) which let them hold onto their food and aids in climbing. They have a highly muscular gizzard to aid in the breakdown of extremely hard vegetable material.

They are great flyers, especially over long distances. Their long tail helps navigate in the forests by providing balance.

Blue and gold macaws can start laying eggs around 5 years old, and can lay until they are 35. They nest in holes at the top of tall, dead trees. The female lays one or two eggs, a day or two apart. While incubating them for the next 24 to 26 days, the male will feed her and defend the nest site.  On hatching, the young are altricial, needing parental care to survive. The female feeds the young by regurgitating partially digested vegetable matter and after about a week, the male joins in. By ten weeks, the young have their feathers, wings, and tail. Baby macaws have black eyes, but the color changes from black to grey to white to yellow as an adult. By six months, it is hard to recognize the young from the parents other than by eye colour.

They live around 40 years in their natural environment but 80 to 100 is more realistic when cared for by humans.  Blue and Gold Macaws live long past the age where they stop laying eggs. The macaws who can no longer reproduce are around to help teach the younger birds. Older birds know about food acquisition and predator avoidance, and they can convey that information to the younger birds.