The Spix Macaw

The small blue macaw, also known as Spix’s macaw, is a macaw that is native to Brazil. It was named after German scientist Johann Baptist von Spix, who obtained a specimen in 1819 on the bank of the Rio So Francisco in northeast Bahia, Brazil. The parrot is roughly 300 grams in weight and is a medium-sized parrot. Males and females have nearly similar appearances, with the exception that females are somewhat smaller. There are now no known wild survivors of the species, and it is classified under ‘Extinct in the World.’

Spix’s macaw was recently spotted in the Ro So Francisco valley in Brazil, primarily in the basins on the south bank of the river in the state of Bahia. Based on information from merchants and trappers, naturalist Helmut Sick expanded the likely range of the Spix’s macaw to include the northeastern and southern parts of the state of Maranhao in 1974. The lone bird discovered in Melância Creek in 1990 was studied in depth, generating valuable information about its environment. The Spix’s macaw had previously been thought to have a wide range in Brazil’s interior, covering a variety of habitat types, however evidence found in Melância Creek revealed that the Spix’s macaw was a specifically suited occupant of the forest galleries. Since much of the bird’s wooded habitat was removed before naturalists discovered the birds or the Caraiba nesting sites, much about the bird’s original range remains unknown. The ancient range is currently thought to have surrounded areas of the states of Bahia and Pernambuco in a 50-kilometer-wide corridor running between Juazeiro and Abaré along a 150–200-kilometer stretch of the Rio San Francisco.

In June 2018, the species’ population was estimated to be about 158 individuals, and a deal was struck between Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment and conservation groups in Belgium and Germany to repatriate 50 Spix’s macaws to Brazil by the first quarter of 2019. By 2021, the Spix’s macaw is planned to be released back into the wild. The Spix’s macaw reintroduction effort in Brazil includes the establishment of two protected sites in the state of Bahia: The Wildlife Refuge of the Spix’s Macaw in Curaçá and the Environmental Protection Area of the Spix’s Macaw in Juazeiro, as well as community outreach and the construction of a reproduction and readaptation facility. In August 2018, the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots in Rüdersdorf housed 146 of the world’s 160 Spix’s macaws. 120 of them came from Qatar, where they were moved following the death of Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Than, the preserve’s caretaker, in 2014, and the economic blockade placed in Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain in 2017. The Association’s objective is to produce around 20 macaws every year.