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Planning for the Spix Macaw’s Return to the Wild

SpixaraMy experience with reintroduction programs for creatures ranging from spiders to Guam Kingfishers has convinced me that the good intentions of conservationists, standing alone, are never sufficient to ensure any creature’s long-term survival.  Conservation must make economic sense to people living in the habitat where the work is being done, and they must also genuinely favor the animal’s return.  Today I’d like to highlight a program that is doing an excellent job at laying the groundwork for the return of the Spix Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) to Brazil.

Gone but not Forgotten

Extinct in the wild since 2000 and represented by less than 100 captive individuals, the beautiful blue Spix Macaw is among the rarest of all birds.

Recently, representatives of the group Parrots International visited Curaca, Brazil (Bahia State), the former habitat of this bird, in order to access reintroduction possibilities.  A Loro Paraque Foundation project that had been in place in Curaca had been cancelled 4 years prior, but the area’s tiny schoolhouse retained the name given it by local children at that time – The Spix Macaw School.

Children’s Concern Sparks Groups to Donate

Children in the area remained concerned about birds – fearing the researcher’s truck held bird-poachers, 3 youngsters stalked it for several miles in the broiling sun, and spied on its occupants!  Moved by the concern evidence by this action, Parrots International supplied the school with the funds it needed to remain in operation (located in one of Brazil’s poorest sectors, it was about to be closed).

Other groups joined the effort, and soon the school was provided with nighttime electricity (to allow for much-needed adult classes), an upgraded toilet and supplies.  In order to assist adults in attending evening reading and writing classes, meals are also supplied.

In addition, 4,000 acres of prime Spix Macaw habitat, known as the Gangorra Farm, has been purchased by Parrots International and the Lymington Foundation.

Practical Conservation

This program presents a fine example of an effective strategy – public support for the macaws was obviously strong, but the practicalities of life in a poor, rural area would likely have prevented effective action.  By attending to some basic needs of both adults and children, and placing important habitat under private ownership, Parrots International and its partners have set the stage for what may someday be a successful reintroduction program for the magnificent Spix Macaw.

Further Reading

Learn how to help this and other species via donations, purchases or volunteer action here.

Video of Spix Macaw breeding program.


Spixara image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Robert01

The Sisserou or Imperial Amazon – Largest, Most Colorful and Rarest Amazon

Imperial AmazonAmazons are among the most popularly-kept and parrots, yet among their ranks we find some very rare and little-studied species.  Interestingly, the largest and most spectacularly colored of the Amazons is hardly known at all to parrot enthusiasts.  I think it’s important to highlight the rare members of well-known bird groups, as anything we learn concerning the habits and needs of common species may be of use in helping their less-fortunate relatives.  Today I’d like to introduce the Sisserou, also known as the Imperial or Dominican Amazon (Amazona imperialis).


Clad in bright blue, green, purple and red, the Sisserou is considered by many to be the most spectacularly-colored of the Amazon Parrots.  The effect of its gorgeous plumage is heightened by the bird’s size – at 18 inches in length and with a wingspan approaching 3 feet, it is the largest Amazon.  Read More »

Conservation Action Brings Yellow-Eared Parrot Back from “Extinction”

Finally, some good conservation news!  Believed extinct until 81 individuals were found in the Columbian Andes in 1998, the Yellow-Eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis) is now recovering nicely.  Thanks to an intensive, country-wide conservation program, the population now numbers over 1,000.  In fact, the International Conservation Union (IUCN) has downgraded the species from “Critically Endangered” to “Endangered”, an action that is all-too-rare these days.

Cooperative Efforts

Although the bird’s recovery is believed largely due to the efforts of 3 major conservation organizations – Fundacion Pro Aves, American Bird Conservation and Fundacion Loro Parque, over 180 individuals, 47 organizations and numerous local communities also played a vital role.  Their spectacular success will no doubt be very useful in serving as a template for recovery efforts aimed at other species of birds.

Survival Problems and Solutions

PalmsThe Yellow-Eared Parrot faced, in addition to the usual dangers that decimate rare species, a unique threat – it nests almost exclusively in the Wax Palm.  This palm, which is also Columbia’s National Tree, is much valued for use in certain religious services of the Catholic Faith, and is itself in danger of extinction.  Fortunately, the Catholic Church became an enthusiastic supporter of the parrot recovery plan, and is working hard to reduce Wax Palm usage.

The creation of the 10,000 acre Parrot Conservation Corridor, and an ambitious nest box installation program, is also key to this Yellow-Eared Parrot’s continued survival.

Further Reading

Please see my article Religion, Psittacines and Palms for info on the conservation of this species and the Golden-Plumed Parakeet in Ecuador.

Natural history and conservation info is available in this Birdlife International article.


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