Blue-throated macaws are large colourful parrots native to Bolivia. They are one of the rarest in the world. Their upper parts are turquoise-blue, slightly duller on the crown and brighter on the rump. Underparts are largely bright yellow but the vent is pale blue.
Read about Blue-throated Macaw, whose distribution, habits and other related facts are described by Pritish Kumar Halder
These birds have bare facial patch obscured by blue feather-lines merging into blue lower cheek and throat, separated from the crown by narrow yellow stripe and bare pink skin around the base of the large, black bill. Despite being plentiful in captivity, these beautiful and intelligent birds are critically endangered in the wild and are protected by trading prohibitions.
Blue-throated macaws are found in a small area of north-central Bolivia, known as Los Llanos de Moxos. They inhabit tropical grasslands, flooded savanna, forest islands, and corridors of forests along waterways.
Habits and Lifestyle
Blue-throated macaws are social birds; they are most frequently seen in pairs, but also gather in small groups of 7 to 9 individuals and sometimes may roost in groups of 70. Their main mode of locomotion is flying, but they are also able to climb trees, maneuver along branches and walk on the ground. These birds are active during the day and usually, stay in one general area. Blue-throated macaws communicate mostly by sound. When they suspect danger, they emit a very loud alarming call and promptly fly off. These birds also communicate with each other with quiet caws.
Diet and Nutrition
Blue-throated macaws are herbivores (frugivores) and eat primarily fruit from large palms. They eat the mesocarp from ripe and nearly ripe fruit and also drink the liquid from very immature fruit.
Blue-throated macaws are monogamous and form strong long-lasting pair binds. They usually breed once a year but if the eggs or nestlings are lost, they may produce a second clutch in the same breeding season. Blue-throated macaws usually nest in cavities of palm trees preferring dead palms as they are hollowed out by large grubs after the tree has died.
Breeding pairs don’t reuse old nests and will usually search for different nesting sites every year. The female lays 1 to 3 eggs and incubates them for 26 days. The chicks altricial; they hatch helpless, naked, with closed eyes and weigh approximately 18 g. The nestlings fledge at 13 to 14 weeks but remain dependent upon their parents for food until they are capable of foraging by themselves. They usually stay with their parents for up to a year. During this time, the parents will skip an entire breeding season. Blue-throated macaws reach reproductive maturity and start breeding at about 5 years of age.
Blue-throated macaws have a very small population and are on the verge of extinction in the wild. These beautiful birds are threatened by nesting competition, avian predation, and a small native range, exacerbated by indigenous hunting and capture for the pet trade.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Blue-throated macaw population size is estimated to be around 250-300 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are stable.
Blue-throated macaws help to disperse seeds of fruit they feed on and also act as an important food source for local predators.
- In 2014 the Blue-throated macaw was designated by law as a natural patrimony of Bolivia, where it is known as barba azul, which means ‘blue beard’ in Spanish.
- Until 2010, Blue-throated macaws were hunted by natives to make feathered “Moxeño” headdresses for “machetero” ritual dances.
- On the face of the Blue-throated macaw there is a sparsely feathered patch of skin near the base of the bill that has 5-6 horizontal stripes of blue feathers; these are unique for every Blue-throated macaw and can be used to individually identify adults.
- Adult Blue-throated macaws have yellow irises and the juveniles have brown irises. The eye color of a nestling is initially black and changes to brown soon after the eyes open. Between 1 and 3 years old, their eyes will turn grey, and then white. As the macaw matures, the iris turns yellow and the amount of gold increases with age after 10 years.
- Blue-throated macaws live in a very small range and every breeding season nest in new cavities. For this reason, they often compete for nesting-holes in trees with Blue-and-yellow macaws, Green-winged macaws, Scarlet macaws, large woodpeckers, toco toucans, barn owls, bats, and even bees.
- When Blue-throated macaws need to clean their beaks after eating fruits, they do that in Tabebuia trees and cause some damages to the branches with their hard beaks.