Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)

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Spix's macaw
IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered CRITICALLY
ENDANGERED

Top facts

  • One of the rarest birds in the world, Spix’s macaw is believed to have become Extinct in the Wild and now probably only remains in captivity.
  • In 1990 a single wild male Spix’s macaw was discovered paired with a female blue-winged macaw, but both individuals disappeared in 2000.
  • There are still occasional unconfirmed local reports of Spix’s macaw sightings in Serra da Capivara National Park.
  • Spix’s macaw is relatively long-lived, estimates suggest it could reach 20 to 30 years of age in the wild.
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Spix’s macaw fact file

Spix’s macaw description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusCyanopsitta (1)

Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) is one of the world’s rarest birds, believed to have become extinct in the wild as of 2000 (4) (5). This elegant parrot has delicate blue-grey plumage, fading from the bright blue tail and wings to an ashy-blue crown (5). There is an area of featherless, dark grey skin around the eyes. Juvenile Spix’s macaws are typically dark blue in colour, but the skin around the eye is pale (2).

Also known as
little blue macaw.
Spanish
Guacamayito Azul, Guacamayo de Spix.
Size
Length: 55 - 57 cm (2)
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Spix’s macaw biology

Information about the natural ecology and behaviour of Spix’s macaw is limited, as research only began when there were merely three birds left in the wild (4). This parrot is relatively long-lived and feeds mainly on Euphoribacae plant species (5). Spix’s macaw breeds during the summer months, and lays up to five eggs in captivity (5).

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Spix’s macaw range

Endemic to a small area in the northeastern corner of Brazil, a highly publicised and protected solitary male Spix’s macaw remained in the wild until October 2000, when he disappeared, never to be seen again. As of 2002, there was a captive population of around 60 Spix’s macaws around the globe, mostly in private collections (4); by 2010, this had increased to around 71 individuals, with an estimated total of about 120 including birds not registered in the official captive programme (5).

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Spix’s macaw habitat

Spix’s macaw inhabits caraiba (Tabebuia caraiba) gallery woodland along seasonal creeks (6), in the dry scrub zone known as ‘caatinga’ (4).

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Spix’s macaw status

Spix’s macaw is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3). This species is currently known only from captive populations, with the last known individual in the wild having disappeared at the end of 2000. The species is therefore thought to be extinct in the wild, but it cannot yet be classified as such until all areas of potential habitat have been thoroughly surveyed. If any populations remain, they are likely to be tiny, and for these reasons the species is classified as Critically Endangered (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Spix’s macaw threats

It is thought that the destruction of caraiba forest and other human activities over the last 500 years are largely responsible for the decline of the Spix’s macaw. More recently, trapping for the illegal bird trade has driven this parrot to extinction in the wild (4) (5).

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Spix’s macaw conservation

Until 2001, the Spix’s macaw recovery programme was coordinated and implemented through the Permanent Committee for the Recovery of the Spix’s Macaw (CPRAA), composed of the Brazilian government, scientific advisors and Spix’s macaw holders (4). While the solitary male remained in the wild he was the subject of a number of study programmes, and valuable information on the natural ecology and behaviour of this species was obtained (4). The wild male had mated with a blue-winged macaw (Primoliismaracana) and the pair successfully fostered blue-winged macaw nestlings, which were introduced to them (4). This is an encouraging finding as wild blue-winged macaws could, in theory, be used to foster captive-bred Spix’s macaws in the same way (4). The future of Spix’s macaw depends on the success of the captive-bred population and its possible reintroduction into the wild. There have been recent problems, however, leading the Brazilian government to suspend CPRAA in 2001, due to internal conflicts (7). While the loss of Spix’s macaw in the wild was a devastating blow to the conservation programme, if the different parties can cooperate, there is hope that a wild population of Spix’s macaws can be successfully reintroduced.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

An excellent selection of articles on Spix’s macaw is available at:

For more information on Spix’s macaw and its conservation, see:

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Authentication

Many thanks to Yves de Soye (11/7/02), Director, Loro Parque Fundacion for revising the text.
http://www.loroparque-fundacion.org/

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2006)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (October, 2002)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. De Soye, Y. (2002) Pers. comm.
  5. BirdLife International (December, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=1546
  6. Juniper, A.T. and Yamashita, C. (1991) The habitat and status of Spix's Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii. Bird Conservation International, 1: 1-9. Available at:
    http://www.bluemacaws.org/spixart7.htm
  7. Kiessling, W. (2001) The Spix's Macaw Recovery Committee will be restructured. Cyanopsitta, 60: 1. Available at:
    http://www.bluemacaws.org/spxart20.htm
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Spix's macaw  
Spix's macaw

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