Blue and Yellow Macaw

Tropical Rainforest

Location in Zoo

Tropical Rainforest
31-35 inches
31-35 inches
1.9-2.6 pounds
1.9-2.6 pounds

3-4 years
3-4 years

Geographic Range

They are found in the tropical and subtropical forests and swamps of South America, including the countries Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru in the west, Panama and Venezuela in the north, and throughout Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to the east, and Brazil and the northern half of Bolivia in the southern part of the range. Extinct in Trinidad. The population in Panama is isolated from the rest of the range, and is found in the southern part of Panama, ranging into northern Columbia and a small portion along the Columbia/Venezuela border in Venezuela.

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Ara ararauna

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
24-28 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
35 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
80 years


Least Concerned
Habitat Loss


The upper parts and back of the Blue and Yellow Macaw is blue, darker on the flight feathers and tail than the rest of the body. The forehead is green-blue, and underparts of the bird starting from the side of the neck are yellow, but under-tail coverts are a dull turquoise. The throat is black, and borders white facial skin, with black streaks around the eyes. Eyes are a yellowish-white, except for immature birds that have a gray or dark eye. The legs are a gray color, the bill and are black.

Species Specifics

There are no confirmed subspecies of the Blue and Yellow Macaw, however, there exists a larger morph called the Bolivian Blue and Yellow Macaw, which has a more true-blue coloring than the Blue and Yellow Macaws. The Bolivian Blue and Gold Macaw is not recognized as its own species and is theorized to have been selectively bred for size and color.Joseph Michael Forshaw, and Australian ornithologist and one of the world's foremost experts on parrots, suggested that the Blue-throated Macaw may be a subspecies of the Blue and Yellow Macaw based on the similar coloring and range. The Blue-throated Macaw exists in a very restricted area of the Blue and Yellow Macaw's southern range, and has blue-green feathers on the throat and forehead, less facial skin and more extensive facial markings. It is also smaller in size. Currently, the Blue-throated Macaw is listed as a separate species because there is no evidence for interbreeding with the Blue and Yellow Macaw where their ranges overlap.

Physical Characteristics

The flight pattern is slow, shallow wingbeats. They can fly up to 35 miles per hour.



Blue and Yellow Macaws prefer swampy tropical and subtropical forest habitats, and riparian areas.


The world population of Blue and Yellow Macaws is not quantified, though large enough to be considered Least Concern on the IUCN. The home range of a Blue and Yellow Macaw can reach up to 15 miles, and is based on food availability. Roosting areas will have a high population density as large families roost together.


Blue and Yellow Macaws eat seeds, grains, nuts, and fruits. They may consume clay from riverbanks to help digest toxins from unripe seeds.

Ecological Web

The Blue and Yellow Macaw plays a role in seed dispersal and thus shaping the forest. They are preyed upon by Harpy Eagles, Hawk Eagles, and Orange-breasted Falcons while they are in flight.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Blue and Yellow Macaws use the morning to forage for food in flocks of up to 25 individuals. During midday, the birds seek shade high up in trees in smaller flocks or pairs. In the afternoon, they return to foraging before returning to large family roosts for the night.


Sometimes, Blue and Yellow Macaws congregate at riverbanks to ingest clay; this helps eliminate toxins that they acquire by eating unripe fruits and seeds.

Social Behavior

Blue and Yellow Macaws roost in large family groups and are often seen flying in pairs, even while with a larger flock. Flocks form in the late morning and afternoon, while traveling to and from feeding grounds and foraging. The largest flocks form when the birds congregate at riverbanks for clay, and will be mixed species flocks. Smaller flocks and pairs rest in trees when not feeding.

Reproductive Behavior

Blue and Yellow Macaws reach maturity between 3 and 4 years old. Once they find a mate, they form bonded pairs that stay together until one of the mates dies. If a mate dies, they may find another. Bonded pairs remain together year-round. Breeding season begins in February and lasts until April, though there is slight variation on this throughout their range. Pairs will leave the flock to find a nesting site, usually a cavity in a tall tree, made by another animal. Pairs will breed either 1-2 years.


2-3 eggs are laid in a breeding season, and incubated by the female for 24-28 days. The chicks hatch blind and featherless, completely dependent upon the parents. After about 10 days, their feathers begin to develop. The female feeds the chicks through regurgitation for the first week, and afterward, the male begins to take on feeding duties as well. After 3 months, the fledglings become leave the nest. They will remain with the parents for 3 weeks before becoming fully independent.



The Blue and Yellow Macaw is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN. On CITES, it is listed on Appendix II. The global population has not been quantified, and though the species appears to be in decline, it does not approach the threshold for Vulnerable on IUCN.


The historical range of the Blue and Yellow Macaw includes all of its current range, plus Trinidad and Tobago in which the species is now regionally extinct. Not much more is known of historical population and range.CITES updated the status of the Blue and Yellow Macaw from Appendix III to Appendix II in 1981.

Current Threats

Our Role

The Oakland Zoo has partnered with ARCAS, which works to end the illegal pet trade in South America and rehabilitate affected animals.

How You Can Help

If you are interested in having a parrot as a pet, do extensive research before deciding. Parrots are long-lived birds, and may outlive many humans. They require lots of stimulation, enrichment, and attention. If you are determined in getting a parrot, please consider getting a rescued parrot as opposed to a young/baby parrot to avoid the risk of getting a parrot that was smuggled from the wild (a very traumatic experience for birds) and supporting the illegal pet trade. The Oakland Zoo is a conservation partner to Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, a good organization to adopt from.

See how we are taking action for macaws here.

Fascinating Facts

The white skin patches on the face may blush to pink when excited.

The blue color seen on the feathers of the Blue and Yellow Macaw is not actually a pigment, but the effect of light scattering off the structure of old keratin molecules in the feather.

Macaw and other parrot chicks altricial, meaning that they hatch helpless and completely dependent upon parental care to survive. The opposite, a precocial chick, is a chick that hatches needing little or no parental care at all. Whether a chick is precocial or altricial depends upon the species, not the individual.

While most birds can move both upper and lower parts of their beak, parrots have more flexibility in the upper beak than other birds. This increases their crushing and grinding power when breaking open and eating touch nuts and seeds. It also allows them to use their beak as climbing tool along with their feet.

The tail of a bird acts as steering wheel while flying; the Blue and Yellow Macaw has long tail feathers, which help it navigate and balance while flying in the forest habitats in which it lives.

The coloration of the Blue and Yellow Macaw can be considered a type of camouflage called countershading, where the bird is camouflaged both above and below. While looking up, you may see the underside of the Blue and Yellow Macaw, which is yellow and bright, like the sky. If you are looking down upon the bird, you'll see the blue-green feathers of the back which blend in with the forest below.