Extract on Lear’s Macaw from the The Current Distribution and Status of Mainland Neotropical Parrots

by Robert S. RIDGELY published in Conservation of New World Parrots(Pages 240-1), the Proceedings of the ICBP Parrot Working Group Meeting on St. Lucia in 1980.

(Website editor: I acquired these Proceedings from a book stall at the Parrot Society show at Sandown earlier this month (April 2000). They are interesting in providing a very concise exposition of the level of knowledge on the Blue Macaws at the time.)

Lear’s (Indigo) Macaw (Anodorhynchus leari)

Range: Restricted to interior northeastern Brazil, where its exact distribution was long a mystery. For over a century it was known only from captive birds about which no more was known than that they came from "Brazil. " Sick and Teixera (1980 and this volume) provide some details concerning their exciting discovery in 1978 of a small population of this macaw in the Raso da Catarina in northeastern Bahia, to the east of the known range of A, hyacinthinus. Possibly the region harbors other populations of A.leari, but to date its extreme remoteness and aridity have prevented thorough searching. It is difficult to explain why A. leari inhabits such a small and seemingly inhospitable and unproductive area--no other macaw, and indeed few parrots, are sympatric with it (Sick and Teixeras 1980). Its distribution would certainly appear to be relictual, and the species could even be declining due to natural causes.

Habitat: Found in exceedingly dry and sparse caatinga woodland, it roosts and nests on canyon walls.

Status: The Lear’s Macaw is clearly extremely rare. The Raso da Catarina population probably numbers no more than 100 birds, perhaps fewer (H, Sick, pers. comm.). As far as is known, and assuming that A.glaucus is extinct, the species is the rarest and most endangered neotropical parrot. Through happy coincidence, the area where the Lear’s Macaw was found happened to have already been part of an established federal reserve. Thus in theory the bird should be protected, though the fact that it had gone undetected here leads one to suspect that governmental presence here was slight.

It is more than possible that the Lear’s Macaw may now be more endangered than ever, simply because its general whereabouts are now known: each macaw is worth at least $10, 000-20, 000 U.S, and the reserve will now need to be rigorously protected from bird trappers. Its enlargement to include more of the species’ presumed range is also to be hoped for; the ICBP Parrot Working Group passed a resolution to that effect in April 1980.

A few Lear’s Macaws are still in captivity in collections around the world, though most or all were exported at least 1-2 decades ago (J. Forshaw, pers. comm.).

Summary: Extremely rare, with a restricted range in a remote part of northeastern Brazil. Its total population is certainly very small, and the species may have been declining for some time--human impact on it in this wild uninhabited region would seem to have always been minimal. Great vigilance will be required to protect this species. An effort should be made to determine if other populations exist; I understand that this is now being done (H. Sick, pers. comm.). Accorded "endangered" status in the Red Data Book (King 1979), Listed on Appendix I of CITES.

Latest News

  • Tuesday 9th July 2024

    There is a short interesting article in the July 2024 issue of the German magazine "Papageien" about the setting up of a nature conservation centre for Spix’s Macaws  in the São Paulo zoo. Under the guidance of biologist Fernanda ... Read More »


 " Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret "

( If you drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will soon find a way back)

Horace (65-8 BC)