Breeding the Blue-headed Macaw



Found in palm groves, marshlands and river edges of the forests of eastern Peru, western Brazil and northern Bolivia, the Blue-headed Macaw (Ara couloni) is uncommon throughout most of its range. In 2006, Birdlife International suggested it to be rare with a declining population. The Blue-headed Macaw has also been uplisted to endangered in the 2007 IUCN Red List. It is listed on CITES Appendix I.

The Blue-headed Macaw is a small, mostly green bird with the head, primary flight feathers and primary coverts being blue. The tail feathers are maroon with blue tips. The bill is a grayish horn color and the small bare skin patch around the bright white- yellow eye is grey. It measures 16 inches (41 cm) in length and weighs 250-320 grams.

Blue-headed Macaws Come to Houston

In March 2005, the Houston Zoo received two pairs of Blue-headed Macaws from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Wildlife Survival Center on St. Catherine's Island (St. Catherine's Island). The birds consisted of a proven pair (a wild-caught female and a male that was captive bred at the Fundacion ARA, A.C. in Mexico-now closed), their female offspring that was hatched at St. Catherine's Island and a captive bred male which was hatched at Fundacion ARA. After an initial quarantine period, all four birds were placed on public exhibit in the Fischer's Bird Gardens.


The outdoor exhibit measures 10.5' x 14.5' with a height of 11' in the night shelter section and up to 10' feet in the outdoor section (the roof portion of the wire slants downward towards the front of the exhibit to allow for better viewing by the zoo guests). The outdoor section of the exhibit is well planted with hibiscus (Hibiscus ssp), Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) and Bamboo Palm ( Chamaedorea seifrizii). The substrate of the outdoor section consists of soil covered by a thick layer of "filter sand" (gravel approximately .5-2mm in size) which allows for easy daily cleaning by raking and sifting.

In addition to the plants, several oak branches were strategically placed throughout the exhibit to provide for various perching areas.

The exhibit allows visibility for its inhabitants to view the inhabitants of the neighboring enclosures: King Vultures (Sarcophampus papa) and Collie's Magpie Jays (Calocitta colliei) on one side and a pair of Cuban Amazons (Amazona leucocephala leucocephala) on the other. All four Blue-headed Macaws remained together on exhibit in the enclosure until May 2007, when the younger pair was sent to another facility. Houston Zoo remains home to the proven pair.



The Blue-headed Macaws, along with the rest of the bird collection, are fed daily each morning. Their daily diet consists of Mazuri Parrot Breeder pellets, chopped fruit (apple, papaya and grape) and chopped vegetables ( corn, squash, carrot and sweet potato).

Rotational food items are provided weekly and include blueberries, cheese, raisins, peas and thawed frozen mixed vegetables. Additionally, sunflower seeds, peanuts and mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts and filberts) are provided for enrichment.