Closely related to other mini macaws, the blue-headed macaw or Coulon’s macaw is a rare South American macaw that’s named for its stunning blue markings. With its small size, vibrant colors, and affectionate personality, the blue-headed macaw is a popular pet bird that can provide years of love and companionship to a dedicated owner. Find out everything you need to know about keeping and caring for the blue-headed macaw.
|Common Names:||Blue-headed macaw, Coulon’s macaw, mini macaw|
|Scientific Name:||Primolius coloni|
|Adult Size:||15.6 to 16 inches long from head to tail, 7.3 to 10.4 ounces in weight|
|Life Expectancy:||30 to 35 years in the wild, 50 years in captivity|
Origin and History
Named in honor of Swiss naturalist Paul Louis Coulon, the Coulon’s macaw, or blue-headed macaw, is endemic to southwestern Amazonia and the east Andean foothills. Most wild birds are found in Peru and parts of Brazil and Bolivia. Their preferred natural habitat is the humid lowland forests along rivers and swamps.
Though once commonly found in the wild, habitat destruction and the exotic pet trade have made the blue-headed macaw a threatened species. Now, the declining wild population is estimated to be between 9,200 and 46,000 individuals.
The capture of wild individuals for the pet trade is a huge problem for conservation. The blue-headed macaw is rare in captivity, leading to many wild birds in the illegal pet trade.
Like other macaws, the blue-headed macaw is a social and affectionate bird that takes well to captivity and handling. These birds often get attached to their owners and become excellent companion animals.
Keeping an exotic bird can be time consuming and expensive, however. Large birds like the blue-headed macaw require a lot of time for play and socialization, regular veterinary visits, and plenty of environmental enrichment.
Speech & Vocalizations
The blue-headed macaw is known for its quiet, purring call while in flight. At rest, the macaw makes soft nasal sounds, squawks, and shrieks. Though the bird can be loud and rowdy at times, it’s less boisterous than the popular blue-winged macaw. Generally, these birds are considered moderately noisy for the macaw group. Some individuals may attempt to mimic human or ambient noises.
Blue-Headed (Coulon’s) Macaw Colors and Markings
Renowned for its distinctive coloration, the blue-headed macaw has green plumage with vibrant blue markings on the forehead, crown, and sides of the head. The flight feathers are also blue with yellow underneath. The edge of the wing and coverts are a combination of blue and green. Some individuals have a deep maroon tail that fades to green and blue near the tip. The bill is black and ivory, fading into a black or gray area near the eyes. The bird’s eyes are yellow and orange.
Most blue-headed macaws will have these general colors and markings, though individuals may have more striking color contrast. Some individuals may have muted colors or less blue.
Caring for the Blue-Headed (Coulon’s) Macaw
Blue-headed macaws are hardy birds and excellent for beginner bird keepers. They can grow up to 16 inches and require large cages with plenty of branches, vines, a water basin, and a secure lock to avoid escape. The bottom can be lined with coconut husk, bark, wood shavings, or puppy pads to absorb urine. Your cage should be kept out of high-traffic areas and away from direct sunlight to reduce stress.
Blue-headed macaws are social birds and may live up to 50 individuals in the wild. In captivity, the macaw may benefit from having a partner or two in a large cage or aviary. If you’re planning to keep a few birds together, you need to provide a large enough cage for each bird to have its own space and avoid territorial behaviors.
Birds bond with their owners, so before choosing to bring home a blue-headed macaw, be sure you can devote several hours to your bird’s handling, exercise, and enrichment. You’ll also need to clean the cage regularly and provide food and water for optimal health. Ideally, the water basin should be cleaned and filled with fresh water twice daily.
Though blue-headed macaws are a hardy species, your bird must have an examination from a qualified avian veterinarian every six months. During the exam, your veterinarian will check for bacterial or parasitic infections and vaccinate against common diseases. Birds also need nail and wing trimming.
Common Health Problems
Though a generally healthy and hardy species, the blue-headed macaw is prone to several health problems, such as:
Diet and Nutrition
The blue-headed macaw’s diet consists of greens, seeds, nuts, and fruits. Insects may make up a small portion of the diet, especially with younger birds. Captive birds should have a high-quality seed mix that contains a variety of oat and hemp seeds, millet, sunflower and safflower seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Most captive birds need mineral supplements. Clay licks contain a high concentration of minerals and satisfy your bird’s mineral needs while protecting against naturally occurring toxins in the diet. You can supplement with hemp seeds, which contain a range of trace minerals, a complete amino acid profile, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Wild macaws travel miles in search of food, shelter, and mates. Captive birds get less exercise than their wild counterparts, which can lead to conditions like heart disease, obesity, stress, and behavioral problems. You can keep your bird healthy by providing it with as large a cage as possible and plenty of environmental enrichment, such as toys, swings, ladders, and multi-level perches. If possible, give your bird an aviary for some free flying time or get a flight harness and allow your bird to fly outside. You can teach your bird tricks to give it mental and physical exercise.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Blue-Headed (Coulon’s) Macaw
Blue-headed macaws are available through breeders, specialized pet stores, or rescue organizations. Because of its rarity, the macaw can cost between $1,000 and $1,500. The price can vary according to the gender, age, appearance, and health of the bird.
If you prefer to adopt, blue-head macaws are often available through bird adoption or rescue groups. With their long lifespans, birds often outlive owners and end up in a rescue. Whether you purchase or adopt, be sure to get a veterinary checkup and quarantine your bird to avoid spreading disease throughout your collection or human family members.
The blue-headed macaw makes an excellent pet for beginner and experienced bird owners alike. Like other macaws, the blue-headed macaw boasts stunning colors and plenty of personality in a smaller package, making it one of the most popular and coveted birds for pet owners. Whether you’re looking to get your first macaw or want to add a beautiful and social bird to your collection, the blue-headed macaw is an excellent choice.
- Related Read: Ruby Macaw
Featured Image Credit: Danny Ye, Shutterstock