Ara ararauna, the Blue and gold macaw, is one of the most popular of all parrots which is no surprise. This large macaw is strikingly beautiful; its pure white facial patch is lines with jet black feathers. The gorgeous face topped with green forehead feathering and the bird’s bright gold chest is surrounded by a sea of blue. Yet, this bird is more than beautiful, the species has exhibited extraordinary intelligence, is playful and very trainable. If the bird were rare, it would fetch a king’s ransom.
As with all species of macaws for breeding to take place the birds must be of breeding age, healthy, bonded male and female and they must feel secure in their environment. If a pair does not breed and they have been set up for breeding for two years or longer, the environment should be examined to determine if the above criteria have been met.
These tropical birds can be bred easily indoors or outdoors. When bred outside the bird should have sheltered areas to protect them from the heat or cold. In cooler climates it is essential that tropical birds be slowly acclimated to the lower temperatures. When exposed to unfiltered sunlight macaws can sustain sunburns on their bare facial patches.
A major obstacle is having enough space for these big birds. The larger the flights the healthier it will be for the birds. I prefer suspended flights since they are easier to keep clean, however suspending a very large flight can be complicated and capturing the birds becomes difficult. The minimum size for a suspended breeding flight is 5 ft wide by 5 ft tall by 8 ft long (1.5 m by 1.5 m by 2.4 m).
Breeding pairs can become aggressive to the point of being dangerous. Safety must be the foremost consideration when setting up aviaries. Nest-boxes should be hung on the outside of the flight with a provision to easily block off the entrance in order to keep the parents out while checking babies or eggs. As with most species of large macaws I recommend a nest-box that is 18 inches by 18 inches by 36 inches (45.7 cm by 45.7 cm by 91.4 cm). Metal nest-boxes work well indoors. However, you should mount a thick piece of wood on the front of the box for a more natural appearance.
If nest-boxes are used outdoors choose materials that are good insulators like wood. The nest-box will remain cooler during summer months and stay warmer during the winter. These nest-boxes can be covered or lined in stainless steel wire to help prevent the birds from escaping or the eggs and babies from being injured if the birds chew through the wood. Mount the nest-box horizontally with an opening on the long side near the end of the box for the birds to enter and leave the nest. An opening of 10 inches by 8 inches (25.4 cm by 20.3 cm) is comfortable for any large macaw. Place an inspection door near the middle of the box on the opposite side from the entrance. The inspection door dimensions are not critical however it must be large enough to allow you to maneuver eggs and babies comfortably; I suggest 12 inches by 7 1/2 inches (30.5 cm by 19 cm).
Place natural hardwood perches of varying sizes throughout the flight. It is important that the wood is tough so that the perches do not need to be replaced often, disturbing the birds in the process. There should be one perch directly in front of the nest-box so that entrances and exits are easy for the birds. This helps to prevent eggs and babies from getting stepped on by the parents. I provide my birds with at least one perch that is three inches in diameter or larger. Large perches give the birds a stable area for copulating. The natural perches normally have raised sections however if the perch is very straight it should be fixed so that one side is higher than the other. The males prefer to stand on a high section of the perch when the pair copulates. Group most of the perches at each end of the flight to encourage flying.
Although, I have seen macaws breeding in flights that were only inches away from a neighboring pair, I recommend about three feet (one meter) or more between flights. This buffer zone allows the pairs to understand the borders of their territory and reduces stress and aggression between breeding pairs. A barrier that prevents inquisitive neighbors from seeing into each other’s nest-boxes can be helpful in reducing distress.
Feed a healthy diet year round. When you are certain that your birds are about to lay, or just after they lay their first egg, begin feeding them a breeder pellet. Do not feed breeder pellets year round. Breeder diets are designed to replenish the nutrients that are sapped from the parents’ body during egg production or while feeding chicks. They are richer in fat, protein, D3, calcium and other minerals. This insures that the needs of chicks, which have fast growing bones, muscles and feather production, are met. However once these needs are met the food is too rich for the parents and can cause disease.
Of all the large macaws the Blue and Golds are one of the easier species to breed. Some people would say, “They breed like chickens.” While that is overstated they are a good species for someone attempting to breed a large parrot for the first time. Most pairs will sit eggs well, hatch and feed their babies without issues and they may also make good foster parents. They may lay three to four eggs in a clutch. Generally all the eggs will hatch, even if the parents are not particularly experienced.