Ara araraunablue-and-yellow macaw

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Geographic Range

Ara ararauna (blue-and-yellow macaws) can be found throughout subtropical and tropical forests, woodlands, and savannas in South America from Venezuela to Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay. Blue-and-yellow macaws are also found in Mexico and are restricted to Panama in Central America. (Juniper, 1998)

Habitat

Blue-and-yellow macaws are found mainly in rainforests in swampy and riparian areas. They nest high in trees to avoid predation. (Juniper, 1998)

Physical Description

Blue-and-yellow macaws are from 81 to 91.5 cm long, weigh from 0.9 to 1.8 kg, and have a wing span of 104 to 114 cm. They are vibrantly colored, with blue on their backs and wings, yellow under parts, green forehead feathers, and green tips on the end of their wings. Their under-wing coverts and breast are yellow-orange and they have black beaks, throat, and legs. Their eyes are yellow and their facial area consists of bare white skin with several black feather lines around their eyes. (Low, 1983)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    900 to 1814 g
    31.72 to 63.93 oz
  • Range length
    81.28 to 91.44 cm
    32.00 to 36.00 in
  • Range wingspan
    104.14 to 114.3 cm
    41.00 to 45.00 in

Reproduction

Blue-and-yellow macaws form monogamous pairs that mate for life. (Juniper, 1998)

Blue-and-yellow macaws reach sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years of age. Their breeding season is during the first half of the year and they breed about every 1 to 2 years. Nests are found high up in tall trees, mainly in cavities already made by other animals. Females lay 2 to 3 eggs and incubate them for 24 to 28 days, after which the young hatch blind and featherless. After 10 days the young begin to develop feathers. Within 3 months fledglings become independent.

  • Breeding interval
    Blue-and-yellow macaws breed every 1 to 2 years.
  • Breeding season
    Blue-and-yellow macaws breed from January through July.
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 3
  • Range time to hatching
    24 to 28 days
  • Range time to independence
    10 (low) days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 4 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 to 4 years

Blue-and-yellow macaw males and females care for their young through providing for them and protecting them. During their first week after hatching, only the female will feed the young through regurgitation, afterwards the male will also feed the young. Both parents show extreme aggression towards intruders in order to protect their young.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The life span of blue-and-yellow macaws in the wild can be up to 50 years while their breeding age ranges from 30 to 35 years. They can also live up to 50 years in captivity. (Low, 1983)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    30 to 35 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    30 to 35 years

Behavior

Blue-and-yellow macaws are mainly found in pairs but can congregate in groups to form flocks. When in pairs, they fly close together with their wings almost touching. When foraging they may join small, noisy flocks during the early morning, by midday they begin to search for shade. Blue-and-yellow macaws are extremely wary, at any sign of danger they fly into the air screeching loudly. (Juniper, 1998)

Home Range

Home range sizes are not reported. (Juniper, 1998)

Communication and Perception

Blue-and-yellow macaws communicate by loud vocalizations or flock calls. They also have highly developed visual acuity. They have very complex social behavior and vocalizations, as do all macaws. (Low, 1983)

Food Habits

Blue-and-yellow macaws mainly eat seeds, nuts, and fruits. They use their strong beaks to break open nut shells and to crush seeds. In some cases, they consume clay found at riverbanks which allows them to digest the toxins from unripe seeds that they may have ingested. (Ragusa-Netto, 2006)

  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

Known predators include harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja), hawk eagles (Nisaetus cirrhatus) and orange-breasted falcons (Falco deiroleucus) that attack while the birds are in flight. Humans are also predators because they hunt these birds for the pet trade, food, and feathers. ("Bird Life International. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.", 2010; Low, 1983)

Ecosystem Roles

Blue-and-yellow macaws are important seed predators in tropical forests, they may influence forest dynamics through seed predation and dispersal.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Blue-and-yellow macaws are popular as pets because they are beautiful, behaviorally complex, and have the ability to mimic words and sounds. They are intelligent, social animals who are great companions and become close to their owners, if handled well. (Juniper, 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Although these birds are rewarding companions, their large size, behavioral complexity, and longevity requires a large home and extensive commitment. Their removal from native habitats also often results in deaths of parents in order to obtain fledglings and destruction of important nesting trees. The illegal pet trade results in much destruction. (Juniper, 1998)

  • Negative Impacts
  • household pest

Conservation Status

Ara ararauna is considered least concern by the IUCN due to their large geographic range. The population trend is declining but not enough to reach vulnerable status. Populations are considered greater than 10,000 adult macaws and a decline of less than 10% over the past 10 years is evident. Ara ararauna is extinct in Trinidad and Tobago but conservation efforts have reintroduced these macaws on Trinidad. Between 1999 and 2004 wild caught macaws from Guyana were brought to Trinidad and placed into pre-release flight cages. Fourteen birds were released, 9 survived and produced 12 chicks within three mating seasons. Upon a second release, 12 macaws acclimated into pre-existing groups and produced 14 chicks within three mating seasons. Habitat degradation in South America from pollution, development, and logging is also affecting populations of blue and yellow macaws. (Plair, 2008)

Contributors

Kristina Catania (author), Florida State University, Emily DuVal (editor), Florida State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

2010. "Bird Life International. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species." (On-line). Accessed March 17, 2010 at www.iucnredlist.org.

Juniper, T. 1998. A Guide to Parrots of the World. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Low, R. 1983. Amazon Parrots. London: The Bailisk Press.

Plair, B. 2008. Ornitologia Neotropical. Behavioral monitoring, of Blue-and-yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna) reintroduced to the Nariva Swamp, Trinidad, 19: 113-122.

Ragusa-Netto, J. 2006. Ornitologia Neotropical. Dry fruits and the abundance of the Blue and yellow macaw (Ara ararauna) at a cerrado remnant in central Brazil, 17.4: 491-500.