Entry on the Spix's Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) in the Lexicon of Parrots published by Arndt Verlag, Bretten, Germany. This comprehensive work with images of every species and subspecies of parrot can be ordered on-line at www.arndt-verlag.com




Cyanopsitta  spixii  (Wagler 1832)


German: Spixara


Description: general plumage dull blue; breast and abdomen with faint greenish tinge; back and tail upperside deeper blue; bare lores and cheeks dark grey; ear-coverts and forehead pale grey-bluish; under side of tail and wing-coverts dark grey; bill blackish; iris pale yellowish; feet grey.


Immatures with shorter tail; upper mandible horn-coloured with blackish sides; iris brown.


Length: 56 cm (22 ins).


Distribution: northeast Brazil, formerly in southern Piauí and northwest Bahia; possibly also most southerly area of Maranhão, northeast Goiás and Pernambuco.


Habitat: flat country with caatinga-type thorn-bush vegetation and tall trees along water courses; possibly also open country with palms and isolated groups of trees.


Status: extremely endangered; wild population probably extinct; attempts are being made to reintroduce captive birds to rebuild population; was never common; causes for collapse of wild population trapping, hunting and possibly also introduced African bees taking over nesting sites.


CITES: classified CITES I on 07/01/1975


Habits: usually singly, in pairs or small family groups; were regularly observed along rivers; there conspicuous as they perched on top branches of bare trees; shy and unapproachable; occasionally observed with Illiger's Macaw (Primolius maracana); Spix's Macaw however dominant; drove Illiger's Macaw from preferred perches; flight with slow, deep wing-beats and reminiscent of large macaws; flight high over vegetation accompanied by continuous kraa-ark calls; roosting trees not used all year; occasionally macaws roosted in tall cactus or disappeared for several weeks from an area; apart from this day fairly routine; same flight path used to and from feeding places; long distances often covered.


Natural diet: mainly seeds of faveleira (Cnidoscolus phyllacanthus) and pinhao tree (Jatropha pohliana); in addition fruits and seeds of other types of vegetation e.g juazeiro (Ziziphus joazeiro) or bom-nome (Maytenus rigida); fruits of facheiro cactus (Cereus sp.).


Breeding behaviour: breeding season between November and March; nested in hollows of old craibeira trees (Tabebuia caraiba); same nest-holes tended to be used every year; eggs and young failed often because African bees killed brooding female or occupied nest-holes; also young taken from nest; clutch usually 2 to 3 eggs; nests also generally held two or three young; these appeared to need feeding more often as they had smaller crop than other macaws; egg measures 41.3 x 30.6 mm (1.63 x 1.20 ins).


Aviculture: lively and sometimes noisy bird; wild-caught initially shy and nervous, but mostly soon become accustomed to keeper; can be aggressive even outside breeding season; inquisitive and playful; if threatened lies on ground; provide regular supply of fresh branches and tree stumps as hard chewers; acclimatised birds hardy; can also be kept in groups outside breeding season; much enjoys bathing.


Accommodation: ideally very large aviary with adjoining shelter 3 x 2 x 2 m ( 9 x 6 x 6 ft); metal structure with very strong mesh essential; should be in quiet location as Spix's Macaws distracted and easily disturbed especially during breeding season; minimum temperature 20°C (68°F); inside area should have plenty of perches; tree stump 35 cm (14 ins) in diameter and 70 cm (28 ins) high with entrance hole 10 cm (4 ins) wide.


Diet: various fruit and vegetables (especially rose-hip, rowanberries, apple, plum, banana, cucumber, half-ripe maize and carrot): seed mix of safflower, hemp, sunflower, wheat, oats, canary grass seed and various millets; also sprouted in summer; soaked pigeon food; small quantities of pine-nuts; greenfood (chickweed, dandelion etc.); regular vitamin (especially D and B complex) and mineral supplements; small quantities of cooked beef; eggfood, porridge and rusk for rearing.


Breeding in aviculture: achieved several times; breeding begins in August; no courtship display; signalled by mutual feeding, longer periods of treading (often 5 to 10 minutes) and increasing aggressiveness towards keeper; clutch 2 to 4 eggs; not all eggs fertile; laid at two day intervals; incubation 26 days; fledging period 2 months; young fed by parents for up to 3 months after leaving nest; position nesting stump to allow inspection from outside aviary; adults sensitive to disturbance during breeding.