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Learn to recycle, reduce, reuse and revere with Environmental Resources from Gale

Spix's Macaw

Cyanopsitta spixii

Status: Endangered, FWS
Status: Critically Endangered, IUCN
Listed by FWS: June 14, 1976
Family: Psittacidae
Description: A large parrot.
Habitat: Dry tropical forest.
Food: Fruits, seeds, flowers, foliage.
Reproduction: Lays eggs in a tree-cavity.
Threats: Habitat loss and hunting.
Range: Brazil


Spix'smacaw, also known as the little blue macaw, is a beautiful, medium-sized parrot. It has a body length of about 22 in (56 cm), and is colored predominantly blue. The back, wings, and upper side of the tail are a darker blue, the breast and abdomen are slightly tinged with green, and the underside of the tail is dark gray. The forehead and ear coverts are gray, tinged with blue, and the remainder of the head and neck are grayish blue. The bill is gray-black and the legs are dark gray.


Spix'smacaw feeds on seeds, fruits, and other plant matter. It is normally found in pairs, although it has been observed in flocks of up to 15 birds. Breeding is reported to occur from November to March, but is variable with the timing of the rainy season. The number of young is two or three. In captivity, the incubation period is 26 days, and the fledgling period is two months. The young are fed by the parents for up to three months after fledging.


Spix's macaw is associated with a type of tropical forest known as gallery woodland. It prefers stands in which mature caraiba trees (Tabebuia caraiba) dominate, within the caatinga or dry scrub zone of the Brazilian interior. The caraiba tree is important for nesting and roosting; the birds habitually roost on the same branches and reuse breeding cavities.


Spix'smacaw is a local (or endemic) species of the arid interior of east-central Brazil.


Spix'smacaw is on the very brink of extinction in the wild. Even when originally described in 1819, it was considered a rare bird. Between 1819 and the mid-1980s, Spix's macaw was recorded only twice in published sources. At the beginning of the 1900s, its wild population was estimated at only about 30 pairs. By 1985, no more than five birds were reported remaining in the wild, and in 1986 only three remained. By 1987 all known birds had been captured or had died, and Spix's macaw was considered extinct in the wild. In 1990 a single bird was discovered living in the wild, at a site in northern Bahia. In 1992, the known captive population was 27 individuals. The single most immediate threat to this species in the recent past has been trapping for the caged bird trade; because of its rarity, extravagant prices have been offered for this macaw. Most of the surviving Spix's macaws are privately owned, and the owners have not been cooperative in helping to preserve the species through an enlarged breeding program. Additional threats to wild birds include hunting as food, which has been a danger to all edible wildlife in interior Brazil and may have been a problem for this species in the past. A hybrid strain of African bee, which may compete for traditional macaw nesting holes, has been reported to attack incubating macaws. Habitat destruction over the centuries is almost certainly a major factor in the rarity of this species. It is estimated that there are only 18 sq mi (30 sq km) of suitable woodland habitat remaining. The habitat of this rare parrot is favored for the cultivation of subsistence crops such as maize, and it is fast disappearing.

Conservation and Recovery

Spix's macaw is a protected species, and any international trade is banned by CITES. Nevertheless, illegal trapping and trading are a constant threat. Searches for Spix's macaw have been made in areas of suitable habitat, but without success. Nevertheless, additional searches are necessary. Attempts have been made to bring together the private owners of captive birds to establish guidelines for breeding, but this has met with little success. If the remaining wild bird can be protected, it may ease the introduction of captive-bred birds, including a mate, into the wild. The conservation of remaining gallery woodland is essential if birds are to be released to the wild in the future. A local education program has been successful, and there is now great local pride and interest in the species.

Source: Beacham's Guide to International Endangered Species, Gale Group. 2001.

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