Practically given up for extinct, this bird is making the Comeback of the Century. The Spix’s macaw, also known as the Little Blue Macaw, is an endemic bird from the Northeast of Brazil which had been hunted, caged and smuggled so much that they made a children’s movie that conceptualized the problem. Like the animated feature, this saga has a happy ending, so far. Its main habitat is called “Caatinga” which is a dry tropical forest that borders streams and is unique to certain areas in Brazil. It’s no exaggeration to say that this species was given up for dead in all these areas. The last male bird was spotted in 1985 and by 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature officially declared the Spix’s Macaw extinct in nature. How could this happen? It’s simple: a loss of habitat combined with birding smuggling to different parts of the world wiped out this beautiful bird. Watch Rio and you’ll see that is actually parallels the sad true story!
Now for some good news. Although recognized as extinct in the wild, there were at least 37 individuals known to exist in the hands of bird collectors all over the globe. From this small population, the Brazilian government, conservation organizations and bird breeders from Qatar and Germany came together to work on revitalization efforts. Long story short, from these 37 individuals, conservation efforts have been able to slowly breed in captivity enough birds to release into the wild. First in June 2022, 8 birds were given their freedom in Caatinga groves in the Brazilian state of Bahia. This month, December 2022, a further 12 were released into the wild! All twenty of the birds have been released with either Blue-winged Macaws or Illiger’s Macaws in the hope that these other species will be able to “teach” the Spix’s Macaws how to become acquainted to a habitat that used to be second nature. A further 40 more birds will be released next year! All of these Spix’s will be tracked and monitored for progress.
Unfortunately, this is not a sure bet. The biome is fragile and so is simply releasing a bunch of individuals into the wild and hoping for the best. But the effort is worthwhile and it’s also important to inform ourselves of events like these and do everything in our power to prevent another man-made extinction from happening again.
Photo: Patrick Pleul
Movie Rio. Photo: Patrick Pleul
Photo: Martin Guth. Map: Red List of Threatened Species 2019
American Bird Conservancy.
Spix’s Macaws Re-Introduction Project
Map: Red List of Threatened Species 2019