Blue and Gold Macaw

By Rani Iyer

Scientific Name: Ara ararauna

The blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna) is one macaw you can’t miss. For one thing, its dazzling color is like the sun. Second, the bird is big—their wingspan is about three and a half foot. That is a great achievement for a bird that is born featherless. Third, anyone who has been near macaws knows how noisy they can get.

Swamps, rainforests, and forests are homes to these birds. They are naturally found in South America and Panama in Central America. One population lives in Miami, USA. Although they are not

threatened in the wild, the forests they live in are fast disappearing. This means smaller populations of the magnificent birds survive in the wild.

Blue and Gold Macaw. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
That is bad news for the blue and gold macaw because they love to congregate in flock of about 30 birds. After this ‘morning meeting,’ the pairs fly away to feed in their feeding ground. At sunset, they return to their roosting trees. The macaws buddy up for life, they home in pairs, usually in a tree hollow.

The blue and gold macaws are extremely wary. They screech and rise into the air at the slightest sign of danger. These birds aren’t helpless. Their legs are strong, but their beak is even more powerful. They can ‘chew up’ wood, crack nuts open, crush seeds, and bite off chunks of clay from the swamp using their beaks. And when needed, they also use their beak as their third leg!

People love the blue and gold macaw. They are colorful alright. But, even more entertaining is their impish behavior, acrobatic skills, ability to talk, and being very playful. The macaws are very expressive and can show their emotions by cocking their heads, vocalizing, flashing their eyes, and blushing. The birds also communicate by fluffing the feathers, raising their wings, prancing, bowing, shaking their tail feathers and head bobbing.

The blue and gold macaws make good pets--as long as they are not taken from their home in the wild. They love company and can be trained to perform tricks. Give them lot of sunshine and lots of time outside the cage. Macaws live up to 40 years! That is serious long time commitment for a pet!

Teacher resources: Rainforest birds

Cooperative learning for classroom

Identify macaws by their feathers


  • May I use graphics from for my projects? Yes, you may provided that you don't remove the mongabay label from the images. You may use information from the site for class projects and can cite mongabay as the source.
  • Is this web site credible? Mongabay is the world's most popular source for information on tropical forests. The site is highly acclaimed by a number of the world's leading tropical scientists. Mongabay Founder Rhett Butler has published several scientific papers.
  • Can I interview the founder of mongabay for my school project? Unfortunately Rhett is not available for interviews. However he has answered some common questions on the Rainforest Interview page.
  • Do you have any games or activities? Currently there are a few on the resources page.
  • How can I help save rainforests? Some ideas are listed at Rainforest Solutions.
  • Where can I learn more about rainforests? Check the main rainforest site.