Out of the Blue

| April 11, 2014

The Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis) is about 33 inches (84 cm) long, including the length of its tail feathers, and has a wingspan of approximately 36 inches (91 cm). It weighs about 21–35 ounces (595-992 gr). Upperparts are turquoise-blue, underparts are largely bright yellow but the vent is pale blue. The bare facial patch is obscured by blue feather-lines merging into blue lower cheek and throat; bill is black. Blue-throated macaws are most frequently found in monogamous pairs. Their main mode of locomotion is flying, but they are also able to climb trees, maneuver along branches and walk on the ground. They usually breed once a year; clutch consists of one to three eggs that are incubated for 26 days. Young macaws are fully dependent upon their parents for food, even after they fledge and are capable of foraging by themselves. After weaning occurs, it has been observed that young Blue-throated macaws will stay with their parents up to a year. Blue-throated macaws reach sexual maturity at about five years of age.

Since the Spix macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) went extinct in the wild in 2000, the Blue-throated macaw is now the rarest species of macaw in the world. It is currently considered critically endangered and is protected by trading prohibitions. Blue-throated macaws face many challenges in the wild. First, their habitat in the Beni Department of Bolivia is incredibly small (35,000km2/13,500mi2). Second, the wild population is believed to be anywhere from 50-250 and possibly only 115-130 birds. There are several organizations and facilities working to reintroduce this species to restore their historic ranges in the wild.

Here at DWA we have six macaws of two different species; the Scarlet macaw (Ara macao) and Blue-throated macaw. Our Blue-throated macaw pair has been with us here at the aquarium since 2007. Our female, affectionately dubbed by one of her keepers as “Bobby” for her bobbing behavior when happy, will be eight years old this year. Our male, known as “Chuck” for his karate-like leg movements, will be 10 years old next month. This past January they began to behave differently; more protective of one another and of their nest log. Breeding behavior was seen and noted by keepers. The pair laid eggs, but the first couple of eggs were found cracked. Keeper observations revealed that the female was removing the eggs from the nest and breaking them. One of these eggs was saved, repaired and incubated by the nursery staff. Defying everyone’s expectations, the egg developed and on February 13, an early Valentine’s Day present for us, hatched out. “Olivia,” named for her species’ country of origin in Bolivia, is now six weeks old and being raised by nursery staff and keepers. She is a happy, healthy and quickly growing baby. Olivia’s hatching marks the first Blue-throated chick here at the DWA and we are excited and hopeful for her future and that of her wild counterparts.

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