A-z - Animals

Are Blue Macaws Extinct?

Keep reading to watch this amazing video

Macaws are New World parrots, which means their natural range is in the Americas. Specifically, macaws are found in the Caribbean as well as in Central and South America. The blue macaw lived historically in Brazil, but is the blue macaw extinct?

Spix's little blue macaw is one of the smallest macaws on earth. They are of medium size compared to all other extant parrots.

They are one of the "four blues," a related blue macaw species. This connection began when they were exhibited as a group in Berlin in the early 20th century .

As the name suggests, these small parrots are all blue in color. Although other blue macaws exist, the Spix's lesser blue macaw is often referred to as the blue macaw. They are also the smallest blue macaws.

It's not just macaws facing extinction. Almost half of all parrot species on the planet are at risk, with 25% of them critically endangered. That being said, are blue macaws extinct?

Are Blue Macaws Extinct?

blue macaw extinct 1
Spix's little blue macaw isn't extinct.

©Danny Ye/Shutterstock.com

No, Spix's little blue macaw isn't extinct.

Extinct in the wild, they remained in captive populations until the last known wild individual disappeared in 2019. There is believed to be a captive population of around 55 individuals spread across Europe, Brazil and the Middle East. Today, the captive population is close to 300.

They were declared extinct in the wild 11 years after the last known living animal disappeared. After 22 years from their native habitat, reintroduction efforts resulted in the release of eight adults into the wild. Another release is planned for the near future.

Read more  Frog Poo: Everything You Needed to Know

Efforts to reintroduce the species will continue over the next few decades. Three babies were born in the wild in 2021, which is good news for conservationists. However, this is no guarantee that blue macaws will once again have stable wild populations.

It is difficult to reintroduce animals into the wild because it takes years to develop the skills of wild animals. Captive animals do not have the opportunity to develop these skills during adolescence. This makes them more vulnerable to natural deaths such as predation and starvation.

If Spix's little blue macaw went extinct and disappeared from the face of the earth, its genome has been sequenced. This means that it may be on its way to extinction if all hopes of reintroduction are lost.

How did the blue macaw become extinct in the wild?

Spix's little blue macaws live in the same types of vegetation that domesticated animals eat. About 300 years ago, cows and goats were introduced into their homes, causing the blue macaw population to decline.

Desertification began in already dry areas as domesticated animals ate natural vegetation. This means habitats are unable to regenerate themselves and become functional deserts, losing the biodiversity they once had. The introduced animals also ate eggs and juvenile blue macaws, which helped reduce their numbers.

The little blue macaw is also used in the pet industry. At one point, this harvest was ferocious enough to help reduce their numbers drastically. They are desirable birds, whether hunted or kept in captivity, because the hue of their beautiful blue plumage changes depending on where on the body it originates.

Where Do Blue Macaws Live?

The Spix blue macaw is endemic to Brazil.

©Danny Ye/Shutterstock.com

The blue macaw is endemic to the Rio São Francisco watershed in northeastern Brazil. The area is part of an area known as caatinga, which is a wooded desert. These birds live exclusively in the creek system that flows through the Caatinga.

Read more  Hermit Crab Lifespan: How Long Do Hermit Crabs Live?

Their main habitat is the slow growing caraibeira tree. Adult trees of this type can be up to 300 years old.

The degradation of the blue macaw's habitat has greatly reduced the number of these trees while damaging their environment. As a result, the trees have not regrowth for more than 50 years.

Little blue macaws use these trees almost exclusively as their home and food source. Deforestation and desertification of its natural habitat continued for a century before it was discovered in the early 1800s. By the time people became aware of their existence, these birds were already rare.

What is a Macaw?

Macaws are true parrots found in the Caribbean, Central and South America. There are 19 different species of macaws on the planet. The "Big Four" of the macaw world are the Spix's Macaw, the Hyacinth's Macaw, the Teal Macaw and the Lear's Macaw.

These birds are known for their vocal abilities. Because they are social animals, they are capable of complex vocalizations that allow individuals to pick out specific birds from large groups. Because of this, macaws can create human words, and some have been trained to speak sentences.

These parrots have strong curved beaks as they feed almost exclusively on hard nuts and seeds. Which nuts or seeds a particular species eats depends largely on their immediate environment.

Macaws are the largest flying parrots. Although there are other larger parrots, they cannot take to the sky.

Macaws are very long-lived and many people keep them as lifelong pets as they can live up to 60 years old.

What is a Hyacinth Macaw?

most expensive bird
The Hyacinth Macaw is the largest species of macaw.

©iStock.com/jpenner

The Hyacinth Macaw is sometimes called the Blue Macaw. They are the largest of the macaw species, reaching a length of 39 inches, with an average weight hovering around 3 pounds. They have a wingspan of up to 4 feet.

Read more  What Do Otters Do to Baby Animals? A Look at Their Impact on Wildlife

If you're trying to buy one as a pet, they'll average around $5,000 to $12,000, as they're extremely rare in captivity. They live to around 50 years old.

This bird has a larger range than Spix's little blue macaw. It is found in a variety of habitats in central and eastern South America.

Classified as a vulnerable species, the macaw faces the same problems as Spix's little blue macaw. Deforestation and the pet trade pose the greatest risks to its sustainability as a species.

Next:

  • Saw an alligator biting an electric eel with 860 volts
  • The 15 Deepest Lakes in America
  • Watch rare coyotes and bobcats now

More from AZ Animals


featured image

Hyacinth Macaw Flying
Close up of Hyacinth Macaw in flight, South Pantanal, Brazil.

© Dgwildlife/Shutterstock.com


about the author


I'm a fact-driven creative with a love of history and an eye for detail. After a high school career focused on STEM, I graduated from UC Riverside in 2009 with a BA in Art History. Telling complex stories with real information in an accessible way is my gift. When I'm not writing for AZ Animals, I'm doting on my 3 cats while watching documentaries and listening to Romance Language music.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is a Blue Macaw?

Macaws are New World parrots, which means their natural range is in the Americas. Specifically, macaws are found in the Caribbean as well as in Central and South America. The blue macaw historically lived in Brazil.

Spix's little blue macaw is one of the smallest macaws on earth. They are of medium size compared to all other extant parrots.

Are Blue Macaws Extinct?

No, Spix's little blue macaw isn't extinct.

Extinct in the wild, they remained in captive populations until the last known wild individual disappeared in 2019. There is believed to be a captive population of around 55 individuals spread across Europe, Brazil and the Middle East. Today, the captive population is close to 300.

Thanks for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the 10hunting.com editorial team.