In preparing this article I was struck by the fact that the scientific name given for this species in all my books is Ara auricollis, whereas the latest literature refers to the as Primolius auricollis. The fact is that my personal collection of books on parrots is ten to twenty years old. There is a saying in English that is not easily translated, “A Yellow-collared Macaw is a Yellow-collared Macaw no matter what you may call it.” Just be aware that they have been put in a different family from the large macaws.
The Yellow-collared Macaw, also known as the Yellow-naped Macaw, is one of the “Mini Macaws”. They have the typical bare facial patch of the larger Macaws, and although they are less than half the size of the large Macaws, their behaviour is very similar. One does not have to have the large aviaries that are needed for the large Macaws to house them, thus making it easier to accommodate them. This makes Mini Macaws very attractive to aviculturists with limited space.
I am not going to try and describe their colour and appearance here. Rather I would recommend to the reader that you look at the accompanying photographs. The pictures give a more accurate description than a thousand words.
When breeding birds I always find that it is useful to know in what kind of environment they are found in nature. Not that we can reproduce that environment in our aviaries, but at least we know what to expect if our weather should be very cold, very wet or very hot. The good thing about these Macaws is that they are found in a variety of habitats, which means that they are adaptable. The area where they are found is in south-western Brazil, north-western Argentina and eastern Bolivia. There is also a large isolated distribution in central Brazil south of the Amazon River. The climate in these areas varies from humid forests to dry deciduous woodland and grassland with scattered trees. This species is locally common and unlike so many other macaws, and for that matter other species of parrots, they are increasing in numbers where they exist in the patches of forest surrounding new farm land.
Our pairs bred in suspended aviaries that were 900mm x 900mm x 2.7m long. An aviary of this size was able to accommodate the breeding pair and two or three young until they weaned. In our case this only happened once or twice, the rest of the time we pulled the babies for hand rearing. As we had several nests of babies we used to wean them all together to avoid them becoming imprinted on their human feeder. This seemed to work well as we had no problem getting our babies to breed when they were old enough. If they are intended for pets they can be hand fed by their owner and then they make the most delightful pets. They are friendly and playful, but can be noisy at times as they have a loud voice.
Surprisingly, Rosemary Low in her book “Parrots their care and breeding” states that “Very few breeding success have occurred with this species, making it the most rarely bred of all the Ara Macaws in captivity.” As that information was written twenty to thirty years ago we must realise that most breeders, at that time, would have been working with wild caught birds, which we know can be difficult to breed. We found that captive bred babies that were properly socialised before pairing them when they matured bred well for us. Different breeders will have different experiences but on the whole they are getting easier to breed.
Interestingly, I believe that free choice of partner leads to better breeding results, when this can be done. For instance, twenty years ago when I bought my first three pairs of imported birds, I made up three pairs and after placing them in suitable aviaries waited for them to breed. Nothing happened. Before the next breeding season I put all six birds in one aviary and it was not long before we had three bonded pairs, but not as I had paired them. The three pairs were then placed in breeding aviaries and all three pairs bred that year. Here in South Africa our season is August to November, although some pairs have been known to breed at other times.
Our nest boxes were made of untreated pine. They were 450mm x 250mm x 250mm with an entrance hole of 80mm which they modified! Because they enjoyed chewing so much we lined the inside of the nest boxes with welded mesh wire. This increased the life of the nests dramatically. However, there is always a danger that a bird might get a toe stuck between the wire and the box. Other breeders have reported this happening.
In nature Yellow-collared Macaws feed on oil palm seeds, nuts, seeds and fruits of forest trees. Possibly because the areas in which they are found are remote there is little in the literature on their feeding habits. However, like the larger Macaws they need a diet high in energy containing nuts and sunflower seed. Macaw pellets or a macaw formulated food along with as much fruit and vegetables as one can give will prepare them for the breeding season.
This is an excellent species to work with and they remain popular with breeders and the pet trade. One can usually depend on two to three babies per clutch and if you have Ringnecks to hatch eggs you can remove the eggs as they are laid, thus getting an extra clutch from each pair. Some breeders remove the eggs and incubate them successfully. However, incubating and hand rearing from day one requires experience and time, which is not always possible for those who still go out to work each day.