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 So 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 totalled 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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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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Range

Palm groves of ne Brazil (n Bahia). On verge of extinction.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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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

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 cm3.O2/g/hr.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • 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

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

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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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

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

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

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: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous

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

  • 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.
  • Collar, N., L. Gonzaga, N. Krabbe, L. Naranjo, A. Madroño Nieto. 1992. Threatened Birds of the Americas. Washington, London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • 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 --

Download FASTA File

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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
2015

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Symes, A.

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
  • 2013
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • 2012
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Threatened (T)