Little blue macaw
The Spix's macaw - also called the Little blue macaw - no longer lives in the wild and is by a long way the world’s rarest macaw. It is a small, elegant parrot with delicate blue-gray plumage, bright blue wings and tail, and an ash-blue crown. Around the eyes there is an area of dark grey featherless skin. Male and female adults look similar, the female being slightly smaller. Juvenile Spix’s macaws typically are dark blue, with pale skin around their eyes.
Spix's macaws are native to Brazil in the interior and northeast, where populations occurred in north-east Bahia (Juazeiro) and southern Piaui (Parnaguá). Today they exist only in captivity in different parts of the world, mainly in private collections. Their natural habitat was Tabebuia caraiba gallery woodland beside seasonal creeks, in ‘caatinga’, the dry scrub zone.
Habits and lifestyle
Spix's macaws tended to travel in small family groups or pairs, hunting for food along the seasonal rivers, and nesting and roosting together in treetops. The Spix’s macaw in the wild was sedentary, and during the day it was active, moving according to food resources and availability of nesting. It would also move in response to rainfall. These birds are shy, and they would fly off when an intruder approached. They are masters of mimicry and can mimic human voices and so they are a "talking" bird. Macaws are noisy, lively birds that make their "kra-ark" cry almost every few feet they fly.
flock, company, pandemonium
Diet and nutrition
Spix's macaws were granivores and frugivores in the wild, eating seeds from pinhao-brabo trees and favela/faveleira trees, as well as fruit from fachiero cacti, pau-de-colher cacti and zizyphus joazeiro cacti and. They sometimes ate from the licuri palm, a local tree. In captivity, these birds are usually fed a range of seeds, fruit and nuts, as well as important mineral and vitamin supplements through consumption of small quantities of cactus meat and tree bark.
Spix’s macaws are monogamous, mating for life. It is thought that when this species was more abundant, the males competed for females as well as nesting spots. The breeding season in the wild was between November and March. Breeding begins in August for these birds in captivity. 2-3 white eggs are laid, two days apart, though in captivity, often 4 to 7 eggs are laid. Incubation is for about 25 to 28 days, and just by the female. The male regularly feeds her during this period. When the chicks hatch they are almost naked, with just a little down covering them. They are fed by both parents, and they fledge at about two months old. They stay with their parents for a further three months before leaving the nest. Sexual maturity is reached in 7 years.
November-March (in the wild); starts in August (in captivity)
The Spix’s macaw is extinct in the wild, due to habitat loss, persecution and the illegal pet-trade. It lived in a very restricted range, and destruction of the Caraiba woodlands meant almost total loss of the bird’s nesting habitat and was instrumental in its extinction in the wild. They have also been relentlessly trapped for the illegal cage-bird trade.
Today Spix’s macaws exist only in captivity, and, according to the Wikipedia resource, the number held in captivity has reached 110 birds. This species is classified as critically endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List.
Fun facts for kids
- The Spix’s macaw is named after the Johann Baptist von Spix, the German naturalist, who, in 1819, collected a specimen from the banks of Brazil’s Rio São Francisco in northeast Bahia. At this time, the Spix’s macaw was already rare.
- The movie Rio was inspired by a pair of macaws which, in the year 2000, apparently vanished after escaping from captivity in the year 2000.
- Spix’s macaw parents protect their chicks aggressively during breeding season. When threatened, the birds will lie on their side on the ground to draw an intruder away from the nest.
- A macaw’s beak is strong enough to easily crush a Brazil nut—and also a person’s knuckle.
- Most macaws have black or gray eyes when young, these changing to yellow or brown as they mature.
- A macaw’s tongue is slightly scaly, dry and inside it is a bone, making it an excellent tool to break open and eat its food.
- In 1990 a pair was found in the wild consisting of a male Spix’s macaw and a female blue-winged macaw. Unfortunately they disappeared in 2000.