Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Information about the natural ecology and behaviour of the Spix's macaw is limited as research only began when there were merely 3 birds left in the wild (5). This parrot is relatively long-lived and feeds mainly on Euphoribacae plant species (4).
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Description

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

Range Description

This species was known for over 150 years, from small numbers of traded birds and a hunted bird taken by von Spix, until it was traced in 1985-1986 to near the rio São Francisco in north Bahia, Brazil. Only three birds remained and these were captured for trade in 1987 and 1988. However, a single male, paired with a female Blue-winged Macaw Propyrrhura maracana, was discovered at the site in July 1990. A female C. spixii was released from captivity in 1995 and initially paired with the male. Unfortunately, the female disappeared from the release site after seven weeks and is suspected to have collided with a power-line (Caparroz et al. 2001). The wild bird was still paired with the female P. maracana in January 2000 (Y. de Melo Barros in litt. 1999, 2000) but neither bird has been seen since the end of that year. In 2000, the total number of publicly declared birds in captivity was 60, but 54 of these were captive-bred (Schischakin 2000). The official captive population in 2012 totals 80 individuals, with a further c.13 in private ownership. There are occasional local reports, including from Serra da Capivara National Park, which provide some hope that the species may be extant (Tobias et al. 2006).

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Range

Palm groves of ne Brazil (n Bahia). On verge of extinction.

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Geographic Range

Spix's macaws were found in interior northwestern Brazil in small areas in southern Piaui, extreme southern Maranhao, northeastern Goias, and northwestern Bahia. However, they are now extinct in the wild and with the exception of a single male, exist only in captivity in: Walsrode Birdpark (Germany) - 4 birds, Loro Parque, Tenerife (Spain)- 2 birds, Naples Zoo (Italy) - 1 bird, Sao Paolo Zoo (Brazil) - 3 birds, Private keeper (Philippines) - 4 birds, Private keeper (northern Switzerland) - 18 birds, Private keeper (Qatar) - 4 birds, Private keepers (Brazil) - 20 birds, and other sites in the United States, Japan, Portugal, and Yugoslavia.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

  • Collar, N., L. Gonzaga, N. Krabbe, L. Naranjo, A. Madroño Nieto. 1992. Threatened Birds of the Americas. Washington, London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Juniper, A., C. Yamashita. 1991. The habitat and status of Spix's Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii. Bird Conservation International, 1: 1-9. Accessed April 19, 2004 at http://www.bluemacaws.org/spixart7.htm.
  • Loro Parque Fundacion, 1996. Cyanopsitta. PERMANENT COMMITTEE FOR THE RECOVERY OF THE SPIX’S MACAW: 40-35. Accessed April 19, 2004 at http://darwin.bio.uci.edu/~sustain/bio65/lec15/spix.html.
  • Ridgely, R. 1980. The Current Distribution and Status of Mainland Neotropical Parrots. ICBP Parrot Working Group Meeting: 241-242. Accessed April 19, 2004 at http://www.bluemacaws.org/spxart17.htm.
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Historic Range:
Brazil

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Range

Endemic to a small area in the northeastern corner of Brazil, a highly publicised and protected solitary male remained in the wild until October 2000 when he disappeared, never to be seen again. There is currently a captive population of around 60 birds, mostly in private collections, around the globe (5).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The plumage of adult Spix's macaws is dull blue with a faint greenish tinge on the breast and abdomen. The upperside of the back and tail are a deeper blue, the bare lores and cheeks are dark grey, the ear-coverts and forehead are pale grey-bluish. The underside of the tail and wing-coverts are dark grey. Their bill is blackish, smaller, and less curved than that of close relatives. Their irises are pale yellowish, and the feet are grey. Sexes are alike. They weigh 360 g and are 55 cm long, on average. Their wingspans are 1.2 m and their basal metabolic rates are 1.245 cm^3 oxygen/hour.

Fledglings and immatures have a shorter tail than adults and the upper mandible is horn-colored with blackish sides; the irises are brown.

Average mass: 360 g.

Average length: 55 cm.

Average wingspan: 1.2 m.

Average basal metabolic rate: 1.245 cm^3 oxygen/hour.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Yakan, S. 2000. "All About Macaws" (On-line). The Avian Web - All About Birds.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It apparently requires gallery woodland dominated by caraiba Tabebuia caraiba trees for nesting, but feeds mainly on two regionally characteristic Euphorbiaceae plant species. Breeding occurs during the austral summer. Two or three eggs are laid in the wild (up to five in captivity). The wild bird and the P. maracana apparently produced infertile eggs, although one experienced very early embryo death, subsequent DNA analysis revealing a hybrid.


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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At one time it was theorized that Spix's macaws prefer areas with groves of buriti palms (Mauritia flexuosa) because their diet includes nuts produced by these palms. However, before their numbers dwindled, the birds were observed in the Juazeiro/Curaco area which is an arid region of northeast Brazil called the Tabebuia caraiba woodlands, where very few palms can be found. The abundant plants in this area are known as caatinga vegetation and consist of thornbushes like the giant succulents (Euphorbiaceae), cactus such as the fachiero (Cereus squamosus), and diverse opuntia types, as well as tall craibeira trees that grow along the water courses.

The birds seem to favor the dead crowns of craibeira trees as perches which suggests that these are important nest sites for Spix's macaws.

The habitat of the Tabebuia caraiba woodland is distinctive as a result of the presence of three seasonal watercourses that provide necessary habitat for the growth of the craibeira trees, and thus, the existence of Spix's macaws. The trees grow at regular intervals of approximately 10 meters along the banks, with caatinga vegetation surrounding them. The pattern of the trees and vegetation, as well as the variability of the watercourses, creates a completely unique habitat that cannot be found anywhere else on earth. This, no doubt, contributes to the naturally small population of Spix's macaws.

Average elevation: 15 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest

Aquatic Biomes: rivers and streams

  • Roth, P., T. Pittman. 1990. Spix's Macaw - Cyanopsitta spixii. What do we know today about this rare bird?. Cage & Aviary Birds, 3 and 4. Accessed April 19, 2004 at http://www.bluemacaws.org/spixart1.htm.
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Inhabits caraiba (Tabebuia caraiba) gallery woodland along seasonal creeks (3) in the dry scrub zone known as 'caatinga' (5).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Spix's macaws are frugivores and granivores, eating the seeds of favela/faveleira trees (Cnidoscolus phyllacanthus) and pinhao-brabo trees (Jatropha pohliana), as well as the fruits of fachiero cacti (Cereus squamosus), zizyphus joazeiro cacti and pau-de-colher cacti (Maytenus rigida). The have also been observed eating the fruits of the very local licuri palm (Syagrus coronata).

In captivity, Spix's macaws are usually fed a variety of fruit, seeds, and nuts, in addition to important vitamin and mineral supplements that may be acquired by consumption of small amounds of tree bark and cactus meat not available in captivity. In order to hand rear macaws, making them more affectionate and trusting, they may be fed on porridge, egg, and small amounts of pre-cooked beef.

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore , Granivore )

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Cynopsitta Spixii has such a small population that is is nearly impossible to notice any impact on the community ecology. The macaws are shy birds that keep mainly to themselves, though may be aggressive if threatened. They consume the fruit of cactus trees and the seeds of faveleira and pinhao trees and could be effective seed dispersers. However, with such extremely small numbers, there is no noticable contribution.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

When threatened, especially in the presence of eggs or fledglings, Spix's macaws are known to lay on their side on the ground to draw attention to themselves. In addition, when acting aggressivly towards a competitor or predator, they employ their loud voice and large, flapping wings to scare the predator away.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Like many other species of macaw, Spix's macaws are masters of mimcry. They can mimic human noises - a so-called "talking" bird. Macaws are lively, noisy birds that rarely fly more than a few feet without letting out the "kra-ark" cry. Though they have rarely been observed in groups larger than two or three, it is suspected that at one time they traveled in flocks of up to fifteen birds, making this kind of constant oral communication an absolute necessity.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Other Communication Modes: mimicry

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The 28-year lifespan of Cyanopsitta spixii is considerably shorter than other, larger macaws, but similar to its closest relative, Illiger's macaws which have a lifespan of approximately 30 years. However, so many Spix's macaw eggs, fledglings, and adults have been taken illegally from the wild, that it is difficult to know their average lifespan. In addition, the birds travel in pairs or family units and take active roles in feeding their young and finding food for each other. Because of this, it is difficult to know how their small numbers in the wild have affected their lifestyle and longevity.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
29 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
20 to 33 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
28 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
28 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
28 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
27 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 27 years (captivity) Observations: One specimen was still alive after 27 years in captivity (Brouwer et al. 2000).
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Reproduction

Spix's macaws are monogomous and mate for life. It is suspected that when the macaws were more abundant, males competed for mates as well as for nesting spots. However, the birds are so rare that it is nearly impossible to observe natural behavior, particularly since it is thought that only one bird (a male) is left in the wild.

The wild male is paired with a female Illiger's macaw (Primolius maracana)- a bird of a different species. The pair can be observed in the evening at a traditional overnight roosting site used outside of the breeding season. At sunset, the male Spix's macaw accompanies the female to her roosting site, and then flies to his own resting place. The Spix's macaw and Illiger's macaw pair mate every year. However, their eggs are hollow and infertile (although the female incubates them normally) and the pair has been unable to produce young.

Mating System: monogamous

In the wild, Spix's macaws breed between November and March. A clutch is usually two to three eggs and is laid in the hollows of the dead crowns of craibeira trees. The same nests are generally reused each year - this makes them especially susceptible to poaching because the poachers can take note of the location of the nest and return each breeding season. Because they have extremely small crops, baby Spix's macaws require more frequent feeding than other young macaws. During this time, it is essential that the adult Spix's macaws are undisturbed, as they may injure or destroy their eggs.

Breeding in captivity has been achieved several times. In captivity, breeding begins in August and there is no courtship display. Rather, breeding is signalled by mutual feeding, longer periods of treading (often 5 to 10 minutes) and increasing aggressiveness towards the keeper. The clutch is 2 to 4 eggs (the same as in the wild) laid in two day intervals; not all the eggs are fertile. Incubation lasts 26 days, the chicks fledge in 2 months and are independent in 5 months. Juveniles reach sexual maturity in 7 years.

Breeding interval: It is suspected that Spix's macaws breed once a year.

Breeding season: Spix's macaws breed from November to March

Range eggs per season: 2 to 3.

Average eggs per season: 2.

Average time to hatching: 26 days.

Average fledging age: 2 months.

Average time to independence: 5 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 7 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 7 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization

There are usually two or three young per nest. They hatch with much smaller crops than other macaws of a similar size, so adults must feed their young much more often. Spix's macaws have a fledging period of 2 months, but once they have left the next, the young are still fed by parents for up to 3 months. In addition to food, the parents provide protection and are very aggressive during breeding season. If threatened, the birds have been known to lay on the ground on their sides to draw attention away from the nest.

Most of what is known about learned behavior and parenting in Spix's macaws is speculation, due to their rarity in the wild. In captivity, for example, the female macaw has been observed taking an active role in the flight-learning process. However, with only one male and no offspring produced in the wild, scientists must speculate that parents teach their young which seeds and nuts are good to eat as well as how to open them. In captivity, parents are very involved with the growth, learning, and development of their young which leads to specuation that macaws live and travel in a tight-knit family unit.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents

  • Collar, N., L. Gonzaga, N. Krabbe, L. Naranjo, A. Madroño Nieto. 1992. Threatened Birds of the Americas. Washington, London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Central Pets Educational Foundation, 2003. "Macaw - Spix's" (On-line). Central Pets.com. Accessed April 19, 2004 at http://centralpets.com/pages/critterpages/birds/parrots/PRT848.shtml.
  • Loro Parque Fundacion, 1996. Cyanopsitta. PERMANENT COMMITTEE FOR THE RECOVERY OF THE SPIX’S MACAW: 40-35. Accessed April 19, 2004 at http://darwin.bio.uci.edu/~sustain/bio65/lec15/spix.html.
  • Roth, P., T. Pittman. 1990. Spix's Macaw - Cyanopsitta spixii. What do we know today about this rare bird?. Cage & Aviary Birds, 3 and 4. Accessed April 19, 2004 at http://www.bluemacaws.org/spixart1.htm.
  • Yakan, S. 2000. "All About Macaws" (On-line). The Avian Web - All About Birds.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Cyanopsitta spixii

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

GCC---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------TACCATGCAGGT------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------AAAAAGGAACCATTTGGCTACATGGGCATGGTATGGGCAATACTATCAATCGGTTTCCTGGGGTTTATTGTATGGGCTCACCATATGTTCACAGTAGGAATAGACGTAGACACCCGAGCATACTTCACATCCGCCACCATAATTATCGCCATCCCAACAGGAATTAAGGTCTTCAGCTGACTA---GCTACACTACACGGAGGG---ACCATTAAATGAGACCCCCCTATACTATGAGCCCTCGGATTCATCTTCCTATTCACCATTGGAGGCCTCACAGGGATCGTCTTAGCAAACTCCTCACTAGACATTGCCCTGCATGATACATACTACGTAGTAGCACACTTCCACTATGTC---TTATCAATAGGAGCTGTCTTTGCCATCCTGGCAGGACTTACCCACTGATTCCCCCTATTCACCGGATACACCATGAACCAAACCTGGGCTAAA
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cyanopsitta spixii

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
D

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
de Melo Barros, Y. & Balfour, S.

Justification
Although this species exists in several captive populations, the last known individual in the wild disappeared at the end of 2000, and no others may remain, primarily as a result of trapping for trade plus habitat loss. However, it cannot yet be presumed to be Extinct in the Wild until all areas of potential habitat have been thoroughly surveyed. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild).


History
  • 2012
    Critically Endangered
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/14/1976
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Cyanopsitta spixii , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Spix's macaws are by far the rarest and one of the most protected birds in the world. They have no known subspecies, and have been reduced to only one wild individual. There are many causes for this near-extinction but Paul Roth has identified three main reasons for the rapid decline. 1) Hunting by the indigenous people of Brazil. 2) African bees introduced to the area occupy breeding spaces and often drive nesting Spix's macaws out or kill young macaws. They have been blamed, in part, for the low breeding yields. 3) Trapping activites are the most direct and harmful cause of Spix's macaw's declines. Because of the beauty of the birds, as well as their rarity, poachers and trappers have captured adults, fledglings, and removed eggs from nests for decades. They have been sold to local zoos or smuggled out of the country to foreign zoos and wealthy private owners. The price to purchase a pair of macaws in 1987 was already $40,000, and is probably double or triple the price today.

Collar et. al. (1992) recognize a fourth reason for the decline of Spix's macaws - habitat encroachment. The area in which the single male macaw resides is certainly large enough for his survival, but the destruction of the caatinga woodland that has been occuring in the push for more fertile farmland has doubtless had a great effect on Spix's macaw populations. Collar et. al. (1992) draw the connection between the clearing of woodlands containing the craibeira tree in Pernambuco, and the subsequent disappearance of the macaw in previous decades.

Spix's macaws are listed as 'Critically endangered' by the IUCN and are on CITES Appendix I.

While captive breeding appears to be the one thing that can save the Cyanopsitta Spixii from extinction, private ownership of the birds (which constitutes more than 75% of the population) is the greatest impediment to the breeding process. As Giles Wittell says in his article for The Times, "There is still hope for the Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), but only if Homo sapiens can stop squabbling over him. So far, however, the pattern has been the reverse. The rarer the bird has become, the more intense and acrimonious the human drama over its fate has become. It is a drama involving the good, the egotistical and the unimaginably rich, in which the true hero, the bird himself, often gets pushed to the wings."

To be fair, there are countless organizations and private contributors dedicated to saving the bird. Millions of dollars are put to use each year to keep the macaw in existence, and for now, the efforts have been successful, but only in captivity.

CITES: appendix i

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered

  • IUCN, 2003. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed April 19, 2004 at http://www.redlist.org/.
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Status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (7). 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).
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Population

Population
Any remaining population is assumed to be tiny (numbering fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals), based on the disappearance of the last known individual.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
The decline of Spix's Macaw has generally been attributed to two principal factors. First, long-term destruction of the specific gallery woodland habitat on which the species apparently depended, the result of the colonisation and exploitation of the region along the Rio São Francisco corridor during more than three centuries. Secondly, trapping for the illegal live bird trade in recent decades pushed the species towards extinction. In addition, the colonisation of the distributional range by introduced aggressive African bees, and the building of the Sobradinho hydroelectric dam above Juazeiro may have contributed, perhaps significantly, to the species's decline in the 1970s and 1980s. Direct hunting is considered a factor of minor importance in the overall decline, even though several reports of shooting are on record.

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

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II and is protected under Brazilian law. Ten years of protection, habitat restoration and a variety of on-going community conservation programmes, will pave the way for future reintroductions (Y. de Melo Barros in litt. 1999, 2000, Caparroz et al. 2001). IBAMA established the Brazilian government's Permanent Committee for the Recovery of the Spix's Macaw and cooperation between holders of birds resulted in annual increases in the captive population. This body is succeeded by the Working Group for the Recovery of Spix's Macaw (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2006), now overseen by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). This group is responsible for coordinating the captive breeding programme and there will be on-site reintroduction facilities later followed by on-site breeding facilities. The official captive population totalled 80 individuals in 2012, and important proportions of this are currently held by Al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP), Qatar and Loro Parque Fundación (LPF), Tenerife, Spain. Other official holders are in Brazil and Germany. Including birds not registered in the official programme, over 90 individuals are thought to exist in captivity worldwide. Successful breeding has occurred within some registered facilities, most recently in 2010 at AWWP and LPF. The latter has maintained the species since 1984 and in 2007 opened a new breeding centre for Spix's Macaws (Anon 2008a). A captive management and species recovery handbook is in preparation for this species. In February 2009 Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP) announced the purchase of the 2,200 ha Concordia Farm in Bahia state, Brazil, site of one of the last recorded sightings of wild Spix's Macaw, in October 2000 (Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation undated). Concordia Farm was also the base of the Spix's Macaw field project, largely financed by the LPF, which operated throughout the 1990s until completion in 2002, and release site for the only captive Spix's Macaw yet to be released back into the wild, in 1995. Concordia Farm abuts the 400 ha Gangorra Farm, previously purchased by a conservation consortium. It is planned to allow both farms to return to a more natural state by removing domestic livestock, with the long term goal of the sites proving to be a valuable habitat resource for future reestablishment of a wild population.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify a suitable release site for the potential annual release of captive-bred birds starting between 2013 and 2030 depending on the success of captive breeding efforts (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2006). Protect and improve habitat at the identified release site (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2006). Establish a well-resourced on site re-introduction facility at Praia do Forte under IBAMA ownership (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2006). Introduce captive-bred fledglings and ensure protection from trappers. Continue cooperation between holders of captive birds. Continue ecological studies to assess the need for habitat management (Snyder et al. 2000). Continue the community programmes.

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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 (5). 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 (5). The wild male had mated with an illiger's macaw (Ara maracana) and the pair successfully fostered illiger's macaw nestlings, which were introduced to them (5). This is an encouraging finding as wild illiger's macaws could, in theory, be used to foster captive-bred Spix's macaws in the same way (5). The future of the species 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 (6). While the loss of Spix's macaw in the wild was devastating blow to the conservation programme, if the different parties can cooperate, there is hope that a wild population can be successfully introduced.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of Spix's macaws on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Poachers and trappers trap Spix's macaws in the wild at little or no cost and sell them for up to $200,000. It is estimated that illegal trafficking in rare and endangered species generates $l0 billion to $20 billion a year - third only to drugs and black-market weapons.

Spix's macaws were hunted for food, especially in the Curaca region.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food

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Wikipedia

Spix's macaw

Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), also known as the little blue macaw, is a macaw native to Brazil. It is a member of Arini tribe in the subfamily Arinae (Neotropical parrots), part of the family Psittacidae (the true parrots). It was first described by German naturalist Georg Marcgrave, when he was working in the State of Pernambuco, Brazil in 1638 and it is named for German naturalist Johann Baptist von Spix, who collected a specimen in 1819 on the bank of the Rio São Francisco in northeast Bahia in Brazil.

The bird is a medium size parrot weighing about 300 grams (0.66 lb), smaller than most of the large macaws. Its plumage is various shades of blue, with a grey-blue head, light blue underparts, and vivid blue upperparts. Males and females are identical in appearance, the females being a little smaller on average.

The species inhabited riparian Caraibeira (Tabebuia aurea) woodland galleries in the drainage basin of the Rio São Francisco within the Caatinga dry forest climate of interior northeastern Brazil. It had a very restricted natural habitat due to its dependence on the tree for nesting, feeding and roosting. It fed primarily on seeds and nuts of Caraiba and various Euphorbiaceae (spurge) shrubs, the dominant vegetation of the Caatinga. Due to deforestation in its limited range and specialized habitat, the bird has been rare in the wild throughout the twentieth century. It has always been very rare in captivity, partly due to the remoteness of its natural range.

The IUCN regard the Spix's macaw as critically endangered and possibly extinct in the wild. Its last known stronghold in the wild was in northeastern Bahia, Brazil and the last known wild bird was a male that vanished in 2000. The species is now maintained through a captive breeding program at several conservation organizations under the aegis of the Brazilian government. It is listed on CITES Appendix I, which makes trade illegal except for legitimate conservation, scientific or educational purposes.

The Brazilian government department of natural resources (ICMBio) is conducting a project Ararinha-Azul with an associated plan to restore the species to the wild as soon as sufficient breeding birds and restored habitat are available.

Taxonomy[edit]

Arini

macaws&



















Nandayus



Aratinga solstitialis






Aratinga leucophthalmus



Aratinga aurea






Guarouba











parakeets



Phylogeny and relationships of macaws and allies[3] (bullet items = recognized macaw genera; thick line=multiple clade levels compressed for brevity - for full cladogram see Arini)

Spix's macaw is the only known species of the genus Cyanopsitta. The genus name is derived from the Ancient Greek kuanos meaning "blue" and psittakos meaning "parrot".[4] The species name spixii is a Latinized form of the surname "von Spix", hence Cyanopsitta spixii means "blue parrot of Spix".[4] The genus Cyanopsitta is one of six genera of Central and South American macaws in the tribe Arini, which also includes all the other long-tailed New World parrots. Tribe Arini together with the short-tailed Amazon and allied parrots and a few miscellaneous genera make up subfamily Arinae of Neotropical parrots in family Psittacidae of true parrots.[5][6]

In 1638 Georg Marcgrave was the first European naturalist to observe and describe the species; however, it is named for Johann Baptist von Spix, who collected the type specimen in April 1819 in Brazil, but gave it the misnomer Arara hyacinthinus not realizing till later that the name collided with Psittacus hyacinthinus, the name assigned to the hyacinth macaw described by John Lathan in 1790.[7] Spix's mistake was noticed in 1832 by German Professor of Zoology Johann Wagler, who realized that the 1819 specimen was smaller and a different color than the hyacinth macaw and he designated the new species as "Sittace spixii". It wasn't until 1854 that naturalist Prince Charles Bonaparte properly placed it in its own genus, designating the bird Cyanopsitta spixi [sic],[8] based on important morphological differences between it and the other blue macaws.[9] It was listed as Cyanopsittacus spixi [sic] by Italian zoologist Tommaso Salvadori in his 1891 Catalog of the Birds in the British Museum.[10]

Naturalists have noted the Spix similarity to other smaller members of tribe Arini based on general morphology as long ago as Rev. F.G. Dutton, president of the Avicultural Society U.K. in 1900: "it's more like a conure" ('conure' is not a defined taxon – in Dutton's time, it referred to the archaic genus Conurus; today those would be among the smaller non-macaw parakeets in Arini).[11] Brazilian ornithologist Helmut Sick stated in 1981: "Cyanopsitta spixii...is not a real macaw"[Notes 1]. (Sick's remark was in the context of an article on Lear's macaw, a larger blue macaw. He recognized, as Spix had not 150 years before, that C. spixii is notably different from the larger macaws).

The morphology-based taxonomy of C. spixii, intermediate between the macaws and the smaller Arini, has been confirmed by recent molecular phylogenetic studies. In a 2008 molecular phylogenetic study of 69 parrot genera,[13] the clade diagrams indicate that C. spixii split from the ancestral parakeets before the differentiation of the modern macaws. However, not all of the macaw genera were represented in the study. The study also states that diversification of the Neotropical parrot lineages occurred starting 33 mya, a period roughly coinciding with the separation of South America from West Antarctica. The author notes that the study challenges the classification of British ornithologist Nigel Collar in the encyclopedic Handbook of the Birds of the World, volume 4 (1997).[6] A 2011 study by the same authors which includes key genera of macaws further elucidates the macaw taxonomy: the clade diagram of that study places C. spixii in a clade including the macaw genera which is sister to a clade containing the Aratingas and other smaller parakeets. Within the macaw clade, C. spixii was the first taxon to diverge from the ancestral macaws; its nearest relatives are the red-bellied macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata) and the blue-headed macaw (Primolius couloni).[14]

Description[edit]

A juvenile in captivity. Note white stripe along top of beak and pale-grey bare facial skin

Spix's macaw is easy to identify being the only small blue macaw and also by the bare grey facial skin of its lores and eyerings.[15] It is about 56 cm (22 in)[15] long including tail length of 26–38 cm (10.2–15 in).[16] It has a wing length of 24.7–30.0 cm (9.7–11.8 in).[15] The external appearance of adult male and female are identical;[15] however, the average weight of captive males is about 318 gm (11.4 oz) and captive females average about 288 gm (10.2 oz).[16] Its plumage is grey-blue on the head, pale blue on the underparts, and vivid blue on the upperparts, wings and tail.[17] The legs and feet are brownish-black. In adults the bare facial skin is grey, the beak is entirely dark grey, and the irises are yellow.[15] Juveniles are similar to adults, but the bare facial skin is pale grey, the irises are brown, and they have a white stripe along the center of the top of the beak (along the culmen).[15]

Behavior[edit]

Diet[edit]

In the wild, the most common seeds and nuts consumed by Spix's were from Pinhão (Jatropha pohliana var. mollissima) and Favela (Cnidoscolus phyllacanthus). However these trees are colonizers, not native to the bird's habitat, so they could not have been historical staples of the diet.[18]

Its diet also included seeds and nuts from Joazeiro (Ziziphus Joazeiro), Baraúna (Schinopsis brasiliensis), Imburana (Commiphora leptophloeos or Bursera leptophloeos), Facheiro (Pilosocereus piauhyensis), Phoradendron species, Caraibeira (Tabebuia caraiba), Angico (Anadenanthera macrocarpa), Umbu (Spondias tuberosa) and Unha-de-gato (Acacia paniculata). Reports from previous Spix's macaw researchers seem to add another two plants to the list: Maytenus rigida and Geoffroea spinosa. Combretum leprosum may also be a possibility.[16]

Reproduction[edit]

Captive bred Spix's macaws reach sexual maturity at seven years of age. A paired female born at the Loro Parque Fundación laid eggs at the age of five years, but these were infertile.[19] It is suspected that late maturity in captivity may be due to inbreeding or other artificial environmental factors, as other parrots of similar size reach sexual maturity in two to four years. In the wild, mating involves elaborate courtship rituals, like feeding each other and flying together. This process is known to possibly take several seasons in other large parrots, and it may also be the case for the Spix's. They make their nests in the hollows of large mature Caraibeira trees, and reuse the nest year after year. The breeding season is November to March, with most eggs hatching in January to coincide with the start of the Caatinga January to April rainy season. In the wild, Spix's were believed to lay three eggs per clutch; in captivity, the average number is four eggs, and can range from one to seven.[16] Incubation period is 25–28 days and only the female performs incubation duties. The chicks fledge in 70 days and are independent in 100–130 days.[16]

The mating call of Spix's macaw can be described as the sound "whichaka". The sound is made by creating a low rumble in the abdomen bringing the sound up to a high pitch.[16] Its voice is a repeated short grating. It also makes squawking noises.[20]

Its lifespan in the wild is unknown; the only documented bird (the last wild male), was older than 20 years. The eldest bird in captivity died at age 34 years.[16]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Various accounts relate that the birds were more common in Pernambuco than in Bahia through the 1960s but not later.[21] Spix's macaw was most recently (1974–1987) known in the Río São Francisco valley, in northeastern Brazil, principally in the basins on the south side of the river in the State of Bahia. In 1974, ornithologist Helmut Sick, based on information from traders and trappers, extended the possible range of the Spix's macaw to embrace the northeastern part of the state of Goias and the southern part of the state of Maranhao.[22] Other ornithologists reporting the bird in various parts of the state of Piaui further extended the range to a vast area of the dry interior of northeast Brazil.[18]

Study of the lone bird discovered at Melância creek in 1990 revealed substantive information about its habitat. It had been previously assumed that the Spix's macaw had a vast range in the interior of Brazil embracing several different habitat types, including buriti palm swamps, cerrado, and dry Caatinga. But the evidence collected in Melância Creek indicated that the Spix's macaw was a specially adapted inhabitant of the disappearing woodland galleries.[23] Ornithologist Tony Silva mentions that "where Caraibeiras have been felled, as in the Pernambuco side of the São Francisco River, the species has disappeared".[24]

Much remains uncertain about the extent of the bird's original range, because most of its woodland habitat was cleared before naturalists observed either the birds or the Caraiba nesting sites. The historical range is now believed to have encompassed portions of the states of Bahia and Pernambuco in a 50 km (31 mi) wide corridor along a 150–200 kilometres (93–124 mi) stretch of the Rio São Francisco between Juazeiro (or possibly Remanso) and Abaré.[21] Previous observations of the birds from further west are very difficult to explain but conceivably stem from either escaped captive birds or more likely the misidentification of another species such as red-bellied macaw (Ara manilata).[18]

The Caatinga vegetation of northeastern Bahia (which hosts the Spix habitat) is stunted trees, thorny shrubs and cacti, dominated by plants of the family Euphorbiaceae. This macaw lived in the hottest and driest part of the "Caatinga" within Caraiba, or Caribbean trumpet tree (Tabebuia caraiba) woodland galleries. The Caraibeira constitutes a microclimate within the Caatinga. The existing galleries are fringes of unique woodland extending a maximum of 18 metres (59 ft) to either side along a series of seasonal waterways at least 8 m wide in the Rio São Francisco drainage basin.[18] All T. caraiba woodland was recorded in the middle and lower levels of the creek system where fine alluvial deposits were present. The character of the galleries is tall (8m) evenly spaced Caraibeira trees, ten per hundred meters, interspersed with low scrub and desert cacti. Large mature trees of this species (and apparently no other) provided the nesting hollows of the Spix Macaws, as well as shelter and their seedpods, food for the species.[18]

Notable among the seasonal waterways are Riacho Melância watershed 30 km south of Curaçá, where the last known wild Spix's macaw nest was located, adjacent Riacho Barra Grande, and Riacho da Vargem ~100 km to the north near Abaré all in the State of Bahia south of Rio São Francisco. In 1990, these were all that remained of what was once believed to be a vast filigree of creekside Caraibeira woodland extending 50 km into the Caatinga on either side of the Rio São Francisco along a significant stretch of its middle reaches.[25] There is also one confirmed site, since cleared, along Brígida Creek on the north shore of Rio São Francisco in Pernambuco.[26]

History[edit]

Plate from Spix's 1824 description. It has the bill of a juvenile

The species appears to have been seen and described - "MARACANA Brasiliensibus, avis Psittaco planè similis (cuius & species) sed maior, plumae totius ex gryseo subcoerulescunt, clamat ut Psittacus. Fructus amat, Murucuia imprimis. ("Brazilian parrot, bird very similar to Psittacus[ African grey parrot ] but larger, the entire plumage is ashy-bluish, calls like a parrot. Fruit it loves, especially Passionfruit.") - by the German naturalist Georg Marcgrave when he worked in Pernambuco in 1638.[27]

Spix's macaw is named for German naturalist Johann Baptist von Spix, who collected the first specimen in April, 1819 near the São Francisco River in the vicinity of Juazeiro[28] [29] [Notes 2] Recent authorities cite the type locality as Curaca,[33][34][35] but others say the locality can't be known with certainty.[36][Notes 3]. Spix wrote: "habitat gregarius, rarissimus licet, propre Joazeiro in campis riparüs fluminis St. Francisci, voce tenui insignis" ("it lives in flocks, although very rare, near Joazeiro in the region bordering the rio São Francisco, [and is] notable for its thin voice").[28]

The next reported sighting of the bird wasn't for 84 years, in 1903 by Othmar Reiser of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, 400 kilometres (250 mi) west of Juazeiro at Lagoa de Parnaguá (lake at Parnagua) in the State of Piaui. (What we now know about its habitat and probable range casts doubt on this observation[37]) Reiser had also seen one in captivity at a railway station in Remanso. These observations resulted in an early supposition of a vast potential range for the species in the dry interior of the northeast.[23]

With the passage of the Brazil Wildlife Protection Act in 1967, Brazil forbid the export of its wildlife, and in 1975 became a party to the CITES treaty. These actions barely impacted the illicit bird trade, but Spix owners were forced underground (consequently complicating the later effort to initiate a captive recovery program).[38]

The bird was not studied in the wild until the 1970s. In 1974, Brazilian ornithologist Helmut Sick observed groups of three and four of the birds near Formosa do Rio Preta in northwest Bahia flying over buriti Palms (Mauritia flexuosa).[39] As recently as 1980, Robert Ridgely (ornithologist) stated that "there is no available evidence indicating a recent decline in numbers." Beginning around 1980, at the very height of the illegal bird trade, traders and trappers removed dozens of Spix's from the wild, and by the early 80s, it was generally believed to be extinct in the wild.[40] Naturalist Dr. Paul Roth conducted field surveys of the bird in the Curacá region from 1985 to 1988. Roth found only 5 birds in 1985, three in 1986, and only two after May, 1987.[41]

Two of the birds were captured for trade in 1987. A single male, paired with a female blue-winged macaw, was discovered at the site in 1990. A female Spix's macaw released from captivity at the site in 1995 was killed by collision with a power line after seven weeks. The last wild male disappeared from the site in October 2000.[17] The species probably became extinct in the wild late in 2000, when the last known wild bird was no longer seen.[17] No sightings of this macaw have been made in the wild since 2000. While the IUCN Red List views its status as Critically Endangered and possibly extinct in the wild,[1] ornithologist Nigel Collar of Birdlife International, the authority for the IUCN Redlist of birds now calls this bird extinct in the wild.[37]

Extinction in the wild[edit]

The bird was already rare by the time of Spix' discovery of it in 1819 following 100 years of intensive burning, logging and grazing of the caatinga. Centuries of deforestation, human encroachment and agricultural development along the Rio Sao Francisco corridor following European colonization of eastern Brazil preceded its precipitous decline in the latter part of the 20th century. Naturalists surveying its known remaining native habitat in the Curaçá region have estimated that it could have supported no more than about 60 birds at any time in the last 100 years.[42] Contributing factors were the anthropic introduction of invasive and predatory species of black rats, feral cats, mongooses and marmoset monkeys which prey on the eggs and young,[43] and goats, sheep and cattle which destroy the regenerative growth of the woodland trees, particularly the Caraibeira seedlings.[18]

Other recent evidence has shown that anthropic changes that occurred on the northern shore of the São Francisco River, such as a broad scale conversion into agricultural lands and flooding following the construction of Sobradinho Dam starting in 1974, have changed the flora structure and displaced the Spix's macaw away from that portion of its original range.[26]

The final decline of the species in the 1970s and early 80s is attributed to hunting and trapping of the birds, unsustainable harvesting of the Caraíba trees for firewood, the construction of the Sobradinho Dam above Juazeiro starting in 1974 that submerged the basin woodlands under an artificial lake,[26] and the northward migration of the Africanized bee, which competes for nesting sites.[25]

Caraiba grows very slowly; most of the trees are 200–300 years old, and there has not been any regenerative growth for the last 50 years. In addition, 45% of the Caatinga dry forest in which the woodland galleries are embedded has been cleared for farms, ranches and plantations. Climate change resulting in desertification of significant parts of the Caatinga has permanently reduced the potential reclaimable habitat.[44]

Conservation[edit]

In the middle 1980's, by the time fieldwork to locate and understand the habitat of the Spix was completed, it was apparent that the Spix must be nearing extinction in the wild.[45] Conservationists realized that a captive breeding program would be necessary to preserve the species. At a meeting in 1987 of conservationist groups including IUCN at Loro Parque (one of the original Spix holder's) in Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain), only 17 captive Spix macaws could be located.[46] Without the attendance of most of the captive Spix holders or involvement of the Brazilian government, little was accomplished.[47]

In 1990, the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA, Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) established the Permanent Committee for the Recovery of Spix's Macaw, called CPRAA, and its Ararinha Azul Project (Little Blue Macaw Project) in order to conserve the species.[23] At that time, the known captive population of Spix's stood at 15, and one in the wild. Early 1990 was the low point for conservation of the Spix.[48] The Permanent Committee was dissolved in 2002 due to irreconcilable differences between the parties involved. In 2004 a committee was re-formed and re-structured under the title of "The Working Group for the Recovery of the Spix's Macaw".[16]

In the decade from 1990, the Loro Parque Foundation financed the field program to protect and study the last wild male, to protect and restore key habitat, and other important actions.[49]

In 1997, the Loro Parque Foundation returned the ownership to the Government of Brazil of all the Spix’s Macaws held in its facilities.[50] Between 2000 and 2003, most of two large collections of Spix at Birds International in the Philippines and the aviaries of Swiss aviculturist Dr. Hammerli were purchased by His Excellency Sheikh Saud bin Muhammed bin Ali Al-Thani of Qatar and became Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation. Under the Sheikh were instituted exemplary standards of animal keeping, veterinary care, animal husbandry and stud book records for the conservation of the Spix's.[51]

In 2007 and 2008, two farms totalling 2780 hectares (6870 acres) in Curaçá, State of Bahia, Brazil were purchased by the Lymington Foundation (with contributions from ACTP and Parrots International) and Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation. These compose a small but important part of the natural habitat of the Spix, in the vicinity where the last known wild Spix nest existed. Efforts to clear the habitat of introduced predators and restore the natural Caraibeira seedlings and important creek systems are ongoing on the land.[16]

In May 2012, Brazil's ICMBio formulated and published a 5-year National Action Plan (PAN) for conservation and reestablishment of the species in the wild. Highlights of the plan are to increase the captive population to 150 specimens (expected by 2020), build a breeding facility in Brazil within the Spix's native habitat, acquire and restore additional portions of its range, and prepare for its release into the wild between 2017 and 2021.[26] Pursuant to the plan, in 2012, the Brazilian government established NEST, a private aviary near Avaré, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil as a breeding and staging center for eventual release of the Spix into the wild. Birds formerly housed at the Sao Paulo Zoo as well as Loro Parque Foundation and other conservation organization were rehomed at NEST. The Spix's at NEST are owned by the Brazilian government and managed by Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation.[52]

Captive population[edit]

The existing captive population is descended from just 7 wild caught founder birds,[53] which are believed to have all come from just two wild nests that existed post 1982:[18] pairs originally owned by Birds International in the Philippines, Dr. Hammerli in Switzerland, and Wolfgang Keissling (Loro Parque), and a male from the São Paulo Zoo.[53]

In the years since 1987 when naturalists, conservationists and later IBAMA/ICMBio started tracking the Spix, only two sets of birds unknown in 1987 have ever been discovered: Dr. Hammerli's in 1991, and a single male bird in Colorado, U.S. in 2002. There is no evidence that any others not known in 1987 still exist (though see a cryptic reference to black market dealing in the birds in 1995.)[54]

As of June, 2013 there are approximately 96 Spix's macaws in captivity. 83 of these are participating in an international breeding program managed by the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), the Natural Heritage Branch of the Brazilian Government.[53] Most of these are managed at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP), which purchased the population of Birds International and most of the birds in Dr. Hammerli's Swiss collection. Other Spixs are located at Loro Parque Foundation, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP) in Berlin, Germany, NEST and Lymington Foundation in Brazil. At three of these five conservation organizations (AWWP, ACTP and NEXT), a captive breeding program is guiding Spix's macaw a step closer to re-establishment back to its natural habitat in Brazil.[55] (The male at Lymington is too old to breed, and the female at Loro Parque Foundation cannot be used for health reasons).[56][57] The status and locations of 5 Spixs sold to private owners from Dr. Hammerli's Swiss collection in 1999 are unknown but presumed to be still alive;[58] they are the likely source of the approximately 13 Spixs in the hands of private owner(s) in Switzerland.[53]

Institutions / LocationsMalesFemalesUnknownTotalBred in captivity
Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP), Doha, Qatar243646437
Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP), Berlin, Germany43075
Loro Parque Foundation (LPF), Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain01016
Lymington Foundation (LF) São Paulo, Brazil10010
NEST, Avaré, Brazil370100
(private owners), Switzerland ? ?~13~13~8
Total3247179656

Note: table data based on 'Al Wabra ICMBio data from June 2013' and 'Watson, R. (Studbook Keeper) 2011. Annual Report and Recommendations for 2011: Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)'.

Health and reproduction[edit]

The captive population suffers from very low heterozygosity[59] – the original wild caught founder birds were few, closely related in the wild and intensively inbred in captivity – resulting in infertility, and high rate of embryo deaths (at AWWP, only one in six eggs laid is fertile; only two-thirds of those hatch).[53]

For unknown reasons, originally suspected to be bloodline related, captive specimens seemed to have delayed sexual maturity. The youngest pairs to lay fertile eggs were 10 years of age. Other captive breeding issues are that, possibly because of inbreeding, many more hens than cocks are hatched, at least twice as many.[59]

All or nearly all hatched chicks in the breeding program are hand raised by experienced staff, to reduce the risk of losing a scarce live chick (only about one out of ten viable eggs laid hatch).[16] No chick has been lost through weaning.[53] Non-invasive DNA testing of plucked feathers has been introduced to sex the chicks. The sex of chicks is not determined until they have featheration (one to two months).[60]

Parrots choose their own mates, so the best genetic pairings may not be possible. Artificially created "pairs" may groom and associate with each other as if they were a pair, but in fact are not mates, and it may take several seasons to determine this. An additional complication is that infected birds are not paired with uninfected birds, because of the risk of spreading viral diseases.[53]

Artificial insemination[edit]

Newest developments in captive breeding programs of this species involved assisted reproduction techniques in the Spix's macaw:

In the 2009–2010 breeding season, a research collaboration between Loro Parque Fundación of Tenerife, Canary Islands and the University of Giessen in Germany used a new technique developed for semen collection and tested in many other parrot species on the Spix's macaws. However, artificial insemination was not used in this case.[61]

Scientists from the University of Giessen of the working group of Prof. Dr. Michael Lierz, Clinic for Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish, developed a novel technique for semen collection and artificial insemination in large parrots.[62] The research team used artificial insemination for the first time ever in the Spix's macaw at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation in 2012.

In the 2013 breeding season veterinarians and scientists from Parrot Reproduction Consulting,a German veterinary practice focused on parrot reproduction medicine and Al Wabra developed new specific strategies for semen collection and artificial insemination of the Spix’s macaw. These resulted in the world's first egg fertilisation and first chicks of the Spix’s macaw as a result of assisted reproduction, performed at Al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation. Two chicks were produced and the first chick was called "Neumann" after Daniel Neumann, the veterinarian who performed this inseminations.[63]

Aviculture[edit]

Illustration of glaucous macaw (foreground) with Spix's macaw in Hamburg, 1895

The bird was exceedingly rare in aviculture, the few being held by wealthy collectors rather than privately as pets. A trickle of Spix's appeared in captivity starting in the late 1800s. The earliest known specimens were three held by the London Zoological Society between 1878 and 1902.[64]

One of the few accounts of the Spix in captivity was given by Rev. F.G. Dutton, president of the Avicultural Society U.K. in 1900: "I have not yet seen a good-tempered Spix"..."My Spix, which is really more a Conure than a Macaw, will not look at sop of any sort, except sponge cake given from one's fingers, only drinks plain water, and lives mainly on sunflower seed. It has hemp, millet, and canary, and peanuts, but I do not think it eats much of any of them. It barks the branches of the tree in which it is loose, and may eat the bark. It would very likely be all the better if it would eat bread and milk, as it might then produce some flight feathers, which it never yet has had. But I expect it would not eat any sop, even if I gave it nothing else."[65]

The bird remained rare and highly coveted. The first captive breeding occurred in the 1950s in Brazil, in the aviaries of the late Alvaro Carvalhaes, an aviculturist from Santos. He hatched numerous chicks, some reports say as many as 24, one of which ended up at the Naples Zoo (Italy), where it remained alive until the late 1980s. Most of his birds died of poisoning in the 1970s. Some of these birds were the likely source of rumored Brazilian Spix owners in the 1960s and 1970s.[66]

Bates and Busenbark say that the bird was intelligent and affectionate, talked some, and had no worse proclivity for screaming than Amazons. They also noted that the Spix were spiteful to other birds.[67]

In October 2002, a Spix named Presley was discovered in Colorado, and repatriated to Brazil. It was the last Spix ever to be discovered, which had not been among those known in 1987.[68] Because all known specimens of the Spix's macaw are now in a conservation program run by the Brazilian government, there are now no sources from which the bird may be obtained for the pet trade.[citation needed] Presley died on 25 June 2014 outside São Paulo, at the approximate age of 40.[69]

The Spix is one of the "four blues", the four species of all blue macaws formerly seen in captivity together including the hyacinth macaw, Lear's macaw, and glaucous macaw (extinct).[70]

Popular culture[edit]

In the animated TV series Noah's Island, the "Born to be Wild" episode focuses on Noah, the main character, bringing a breeding pair of Spix's macaws to his island from the Amazon rainforest, in the hope that they will breed. At first, the two Macaws are both very aggressive and fight with each other, but they eventually make up and fall in love.[71]

In the opener of the Gorgo episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Crow finds that his head crown has become a nesting spot for two Spix's macaw eggs. Later in the episode he reveals that the eggs have been taken away by Egg Protective Services after he accidentally made an omelet in front of them.[72]

In the 2011 animated movie Rio, the main characters Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) are the supposed last pair of Spix's macaws in the world (although they are referred to as Blue Macaws). The movie even references their extinct-in-the-wild status and at one point ornithologist Túlio Monteiro mentions the species' scientific name.[73] In its 2014 sequel Rio 2, it is revealed that they are not the last pair at all, but in actuality other Spix's macaws are thriving secretly in the Amazon rainforest.[74]

In a 2008 episode of Law and Order SVU the bird was included in an international animal smuggling ring. It was found in the purse of a victim who had been mauled by a tiger. References were made to the extreme rarity of the bird and the potential value of it and other endangered species.[75]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sick's full remark was: "The Indigo Macaw is the only true macaw in that region. The Little Blue Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), which is another endemic from Northeastern Brazil, is not a real macaw, and is not present in this region."[12]
  2. ^ Juniper [30] says "It was here [on the bank of the Rio Sao Francisco near Joazeiro] that he [Spix] shot a magnificent long-tailed blue parrot for their colllection." But George Smith[31] says: "Among the several unique avian specimens that were brought to him[Spix] by his anonymous collectors was a small blue macaw". Juniper sites his source generally as;[32] the Smith article cites no sources.
  3. ^ The holotype is now stored in Zoologische Staatssammlung München (ZSM), Germany.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2013). "Cyanopsitta spixii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Spix, Martius (1824–25). Avium Brasiliensium Species Novae, Vol.1 plate XXIII. 
  3. ^ Tavares, Erika (2006). Figure 2. Baker, A.J., Pereira, S.L., & Miyaki, C.Y.. "Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of Neotropical parrots (Psittaciformes: Psittacidae: Arini) inferred from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA Sequences". Systematic Biology (55): 454–470. 
  4. ^ a b Jobling, James A (2012). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  5. ^ Joseph, Leo; Toon, Alicia; Schirtzinger, Erin E.; Wright, Timothy F. and Schodde, Richard (2012). "A revised nomenclature and classification for family-group taxa of parrots (Psittaciformes)". Zootaxa 3205: 26–40. 
  6. ^ a b del Hoyo, J., ed. (1997). Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 4. Barcelona,Spain: Lynx Editions. pp. 280–339. 
  7. ^ Ellis, Richard (2004). No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species. New York: Harper Perennial. p. 270. ISBN 0-06-055804-0. 
  8. ^ Bonaparte, Charles (1854). Revue et magasin de zoologie pure et. 2 6: 149. 
  9. ^ Juniper, pp. 19–23
  10. ^ Salvadori, Tommaso (1891). Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum. Volume XX: Catalog of the Parrots, or Psittaci in the Collection of the British Museum. Illustrated by Keulemans, John Gerrard. p. 150. 
  11. ^ Dutton, Rev. F.G. (1900). "President, Avicultural Society U.K.". The Avicultural Magazine. 
  12. ^ Sick, H. (1981). "About the Blue Macaws Especially the Lear's Macaw". In Pasquier, RF. Conservation of New World Parrots ICBP Parrot Working Group Meeting (Technical Publication 1). St. Lucia: Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 439–44. ISBN 9781199061096. 
  13. ^ Wright, T.F.; Schirtzinger E. E., Matsumoto T., Eberhard J. R., Graves G. R., Sanchez J. J., Capelli S., Muller H., Scharpegge J., Chambers G. K. & Fleischer R. C. (2008). "A Multilocus Molecular Phylogeny of the Parrots (Psittaciformes): Support for a Gondwanan Origin during the Cretaceous". Mol Biol Evol 25 (10): 2141–2156. doi:10.1093/molbev/msn160. PMC 2727385. PMID 18653733. 
  14. ^ Kirchman, Schirtzinger, Wright, Jeremy J. (2012). "Phylogenetic relationships of the extinct Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) inferred from DNA sequence Data". The Auk 129 (2): 197. doi:10.1525/auk.2012.11259. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f Forshaw, Joseph M. (2006). Parrots of the World; an Identification Guide. Illustrated by Frank Knight. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09251-6.  plate 70.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Spix Macaw Fact File 2010". Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation. 
  17. ^ a b c "Species factsheet: Cyanopsitta spixii". BirdLife International (2008). Retrieved 24 July 2008. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Juniper, T.; Yamashita (March 1991). "The habitat and status of Spix's Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii". Bird Conservation Intl 1 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1017/S0959270900000502. 
  19. ^ "News from the Loro Parque Fundación Parrot collection". Cyanopsitta 99 (Loro Parque Fundacion). 2011. p. 11. 
  20. ^ "Spix's Macaws: Physical Description, Behavior and Calls / Vocalizations". 
  21. ^ a b Collar, et al. (1997). Threatened Birds of the Americas. Smithsonian Institute Press. ISBN 1-56098-267-5. 
  22. ^ Sick, Helmut (1989). Ornitologia brasileira, uma introducao. Universidada de Brasilia. ISBN 85-230-0087-9. 
  23. ^ a b c Juniper, T. (2002). "The Spix Macaw Recovery Programme". Proceedings 5th International Parrot Convention. 
  24. ^ Silva, Tony (1989). A Monograph of Endangered Parrots. Silvio Mattachione. ISBN 0-9692640-4-6. 
  25. ^ a b Roth, Paul (1990). "Spix's Macaw – Cyanopsitta spixii. What do we know today about this rare bird?". Caged Bird (3/4). 
  26. ^ a b c d ICMBio. "Executive Summary of the National Action Plan for the Spix's Macaw Conservation". Retrieved 2012. 
  27. ^ Marcgrave, Georg (1648). Historia Naturalis Brasiliae. Willem Piso. pp. 205–207. 
  28. ^ a b Spix, Martius (1824–25). Avium Brasiliensium Species Novae 1. p. 25. 
  29. ^ von Helmayr, C.E.; der Abhandl, K.B. (1906). "II Kl. XXII Bd. III Abt.". Revision der Spix'schen Typen Brasilianische Vogel. Akademie der Weissenshaften. pp. 563–726, Taf. 1, 2. 
  30. ^ Juniper, p. 19
  31. ^ Smith, George (May 1991). "SPIX'S MACAW Ara (Cyanopsitta) spixii.". Parrot Society Magazine XXV: 164–5. 
  32. ^ J.B. von Spix & C.F.P. von Martius (1823–1831). "Book seventh, Chapter II". Reise in Brasilien auf Befehl Sr. Majestät Maximilian Joseph I. König von Baiern in den Jahren 1817-1820 gemacht und beschrieben (in German) 2. München: Verlag M. Lindauer. 
  33. ^ Arndt, T. (1986). Enzyklopädie der Papageien und Sittiche. Horst Müller-Verlag. 
  34. ^ Silva, T. (1989). A Monograph of Endangered Parrots. Silvio Mattachione. 
  35. ^ Juniper & Yamashita (1990). "The Conservation of Spix's Macaw". Oryx (24): 224–228. 
  36. ^ Collar, N. (1992). Threatened Birds of the Americas. Smithsonian Institution Press. 
  37. ^ a b Donald, Collar, Marsden, Pain (2010). Facing Extinction: the World's Rarest Birds and the Race to Save Them. Poyser. pp. 200–208. ISBN 0-7136-7021-5. 
  38. ^ Juniper, p. 31
  39. ^ Sick, H. and Teixeira, D.M. (1979). "Notas sobreaves brasileiras raras ou ameacadas de extincao". Publiçacões avulsas Museu Nacional (Rio De J.) (62): 1–39. 
  40. ^ Silva, Tony (1994). "Breeding the Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) at Loro Parque, Tenerife". International Zoo Yearbook. 
  41. ^ Roth, P. "Spix-Ara. Was wissen wir heute über diesen seltenen Vogel". Papageien (3/90 and 4/90). 
  42. ^ Schischakin, Natasha. "The Spix's Macaw Conservation Programmme A Non-extinction Story". Loro Parque Foundation. Retrieved June–Sept 1999. 
  43. ^ Juniper, p. 239
  44. ^ Bertram, Wende. "Climate Change, Adaptation and Desertification Control". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  45. ^ Juniper, p. 31,81
  46. ^ Juniper, p. 161
  47. ^ Juniper, p. 164-65
  48. ^ Juniper, pp. 169-71
  49. ^ "World’s rarest parrot: cause for optimism". Cyanopsitta 40 (Loro Parque Fundacion). 1996. p. 10. 
  50. ^ "IBAMA dissolves the Spix’s Macaw Recovery Committee". Cyanopsitta 66 (Loro Parque Fundacion). 2002. pp. 18–19. 
  51. ^ Szotek, Mark (Sep 10, 2009). "Sheikh goes from collector to conservationist in effort to save the world's rarest parrot". Mongabay. 
  52. ^ "Spix Macaw Project Update". Retrieved June 2013. 
  53. ^ a b c d e f g "Al Wabra ICMBio Spix Presentation Jan. 2012". Retrieved Jan 2012. 
  54. ^ Christy, Bryan (2008). The Lizard King. Twelve. p. 111. ISBN 0-446-58095-3. 
  55. ^ Vastag, Brian (4 July 2011). "Qatari sheik takes endangered bird species under his wing". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  56. ^ Robinson, Emily Lott (2012). "Revisiting Rio Star Presley: Is there hope for the Spix’s Macaw?". www.parrots.org. 
  57. ^ "Spix’s Macaw Project Update". 
  58. ^ Juniper, pp. 213–214
  59. ^ a b Watson, Ryan (July 2007). "Managing the World's Largest Population of Spix's Macaws". 33rd Annual Convention of the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), Los Angeles. 
  60. ^ "Blue for a Boy?". Loro Parque video documentary. BBC. 
  61. ^ "Developing a New Insemination Technique". Loro Parque. 
  62. ^ Lierz, Michael; Reinschmidt, Matthias; Müller, Heiner; Wink, Michael; Neumann, Daniel (2013). "A novel method for semen collection and artificial insemination in large parrots (Psittaciformes)". Scientific Reports 3. doi:10.1038/srep02066. 
  63. ^ James, Bonnie (22 May 2013). "Qatar efforts give hope to rare parrot species". Gulf Times. 
  64. ^ Juniper, pp. 25-26
  65. ^ Dutton, F.G. (September 1900). "The Feeding of Parrots". Avicultural Magazine VI (71): 240–5. 
  66. ^ Juniper, p. 30
  67. ^ Bates, Busenbark (1978). Parrots and Related Birds. TFH Publications Inc. ISBN 0-87666-967-4. 
  68. ^ Vedantam, Shankar (Dec 24, 2002). "A Rare Bird Flies Home For Good". Washington Post. 
  69. ^ "Extremely rare blue parrot discovered in a Colorado home 10 years ago dies in Brazil". Daily Mail. 29 June 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  70. ^ Juniper, pp. 55–80
  71. ^ "Born to be Wild". Noah's Ark. 1997.
  72. ^ "Gorgo". Mystery Science Theater 3000. 1998.
  73. ^ director Carlos Saldanha (2011). Rio (motion picture). Brazil: Blue Sky Studios. 
  74. ^ director Carlos Saldanha (2014). Rio 2 (motion picture). Brazil: Blue Sky Studios. 
  75. ^ Law and Order SVU Episode "Wildlife". Original air date 11/18/2008

Cited texts[edit]

  • Juniper, Tony (2002). Spix's Macaw: The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird. NY, NY: Atria Books. ISBN 0-7434-7550-X. 
  • del Hoyo, et al.(eds) (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol.4, Family Psittacidae (Parrots), N.J. Collar, pp-280-479, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain ISBN 84-87334-22-9
  • Donald, Pain, Marsden & Collar (2010) Facing Extinction: the World's Rarest Birds and the Race to Save Them T. & A. D. Poyser ISBN 0-7136-7021-5

Further reading[edit]

A note on the references. There are only about a dozen original ornithological research papers devoted exclusively to the Spix written in the last 40 years. Most are collected at www.bluemacaws.org. A comprehensive natural and conservation history through late 2002 is available in Juniper's Spix Macaw book. More recent information is available in periodic reports about the parrots at Loro Parque and Al Wabra. Most other material is derived.

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