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Choosing a Blue-Headed Macaw

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Until the middle 1990s, blue-headed macaws were unknown in aviculture. Blue-headed macaws are small green "mini" macaws found in tropical foothill habitats in western Peru, eastern Brazil and northwestern Bolivia. They inhabit partially open forest types including disturbed forests. Common locally, blue-headed macaws are usually found in pairs or small flocks.

Appearance and Personality

Blue-headed macaws (Ara couloni) are a blue-gray color. The beak is pale. The facial skin in grey and the eyes are bright yellow with red rings around the iris. The tail is long and tapered and is blue and green. Mini macaws are lively boisterous birds and require generous living space. Blue-headed macaws can live up to 30 to 40 years.

Macaws are playful and love to chew. They should always be provided with toys, especially wooden blocks that can be chewed, and branches from non-toxic trees.

Feeding

All macaws need plenty of energy for good health. Many of their natural foods, especially palm nuts are rich in oils, and calories. Macaws should be fed a formulated (pelleted or extruded) diet as a basis for good nutrition. The diet should be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables daily to add variety and psychological enrichment. Feed approximately 1/4 cup of pellets. Also offer 1/4 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables. Give one to two small such as almonds nuts as treats. Small amounts of seed may also be given as treats especially as rewards for good behavior. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet.

Grooming

Routine bathing or showering is vital to maintaining good plumage and skin condition. Birds can be misted and allowed to dry in a warm room or in the sun, or dried with a blow drier. An ideal way to bathe macaws is to put them in a cage outside, sprinkle them with the hose, and allow them to dry in the sun. Macaws are strong fliers. Most of the primary flight feathers (10 feathers closest to the tip of the wing) should be clipped to prevent flight. Clip only enough so the bird will glide to the floor.

Housing

Blue-headed macaws are adaptable and should do well in housing that is appropriate for other macaws of similar size. Macaws should have adequate space to move freely between two perches. Example of appropriate suspended cage size for blue-headed macaws is 3-foot by 3-foot by 6-foot or 4-foot by 4-foot by 8-foot. Cages should be suspended 3 to 4 feet above the ground. Cages for blue-headed macaws must be constructed of strong wire, although they are not as able to chew cages as the large macaws. Use 14 gauge welded wire, 1-inch by 1-inch for most pairs. Ideally pet macaws can also have a large cage outdoors for bathing and exercise.

Breeding

Blue-headed macaws have breed fairly well in captivity in Europe and South America. Breeding season is usually in spring and early summer, although some pairs will breed almost year round. Clutch size is usually 2 to 4 eggs. Incubation period is approximately 23 to 26 days.

Blue-headed macaws like vertical wooden nest boxes (about 12-inch by 12-inch by 24-inch). Macaws should be provided with plentiful chewing material. Pine shavings make excellent nest box bedding.

When breeding macaws, noise and proximity to neighbors must be considered. Mate aggression is uncommon in macaws. Pair bonds are strong but not necessarily life long.

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