Article entitled Specimens of Lear's Macaw in the Zoological Museum of Amsterdam

by K.H.VOOUS. Published in L'oiseau et la revue française d'ornithologie in 1965.

Helmut Sick, the discoverer of the Lear's Macaw in 1978/9 was most indignant about the suggestion by Voous in the following article that the Lear's Macaw was a hybrid of the larger Hyacinthine macaw and the similar-sized Glaucous Macaw. He made his feelings clear in the letter to his family, which was published in issue 9 of Gefiederte Welt in 1979.  

SPECIMENS OF LEAR'S MACAW IN THE ZOOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF AMSTERDAM by K. H. Voous, Zoologisch Museum, Universiteit van Amsterdam

The following remark by STAGER (1961) referring to the Machris Brazilian Expedition of 1956, reminded me of the presence of two unpublished specimens of Lear's Macaw in the Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam: A careful watch was kept for individuals of the rare Anodorhynchus leari, whose habitat is yet to be discovered, but no trace of the species was found in central Goiás (p. 15).

In the old collection of mounted birds, whicb formerly belonged to the cabinet of the Amsterdam Zoological Gardens, I found five specimens of blue macaws, two belonging to the species hyacinthinus, one to glaucus, and two to leari. The data follow below:

Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus (Latham)
Coll. Nr. 939. f. Brazil Wing 417, bill 87.5 mm.
Coll. Nr. 940. m. Zool. Garden Amsterdam, 7 April, 1884.
Wing 438, bill 91.7 mm.

Anodorhynchus glaucus (Vieillot) Coll. Nr. 941. m. Rio de la plata. Wing 365, bill 68.2 mm.

Anodorhynchus leari Bonaparte
Coll. Nr. 942. South America. Wing 405, bill 67.1 mm.
Coll. Nr. 943. Zool. Garden Amsterdam, 1882. Wing 391, bill 71.0 mm.

Up to now no more than two specimens of A. leari were known to exist in collections : one being the type specimen in the Paris Museum (BONAPARTE, Naumannia,6,1856, Consp. Psitt., Beil.1; SOUANCÉ, Iconographie des Perroquets, Paris,1857, pl. 1 ); the other being a Zoological Garden (London) bird in the British Museum, Natural History (SALVADORI, Cat.Birds Brit. Mus., 20, 1891:149). The origin nor the exact dates, of these birds are known.

(Website Editor: When Joe Cuddy and I visited the Paris museum in July 1992 we found three complete skins and a head of the Lear's Macaw and two skins of the Glaucous Macaw, one of which was brought back by D'Orbigny in 1833.)



Anodorhynchus leari is in coloration and size a wonderful intermediate between the well-known, large Blue Macaw from central Brazil and the equally well-known, smaller Glaucous Macaw from southeastern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and extreme northern Argentina. In the Amsterdam specimens of leari, which perfectly agree with Blanchard's picture in SOUANCÉ (op. Cit.), the upper parts are deep blue, but less intense than in hyacinthinus ; head, neck, and under parts have a decided greenish wash, the greenish tinge of the head contrasting remarkably with the blue of the mantle.Hyacinthinus is deep cobalt blue all over and glaucus is greenish blue with a distinct greyish tinge on the head and the neck, and a still darkcr grey wash over the feathers of the throat and upper breast.

Apart from the specimens mentioned above captive Lear's Macaws have been recorded to have been seen byBONAPARTE in the Antwerpen Zoo in the 1850's (SOUANCÉ, op. cit.) and to have been imported about 1925 from Pará to New York ( f ide Lee CRANDALL) and in the 1930s to Germany (fide Oscar NEUMANN ; PETERs, 1937 :180, foot-note 1).

In practically all of the scientific and popular works on parrots (includlng CORY, 1918; PETERS,1937; I.EGENDRE, 1962) Lear's Macaw is listed as a third species of the group of blue macaws. In view of the fact that the areas of A. hyacinthinus and A. glaucus are almost complementary, though probably more or less separated by the Brazilian Plateau, one would be anxious to know whether there are places where these species actually meet or overlap, and whether perhapsA. leari is no more than the result of a regular or sporadic, former or present, reproductive contact of hyacinthinus andglaucus, and hence, in some way or another, a hybrid.

The present scanty knowledge about this large and conspicuous bird makes it unlikely, though not impossible, that it represents an independent species, of unknown geographic origin, intermediate between hyacinthinus and glaucus.

The present author would feel highly rewarded. if this small note could stimulate someone to design accurate distribution maps of the two well-known species of Anodorhynchus (which may prove a hard task !) and to show that these species have arisen through an almost classical way of geographic isolation in parts of Brazil, roughly north and south of the Brazilian Plateau.

Partant des spécimens en peaux existant en collections, et des informations recueillies dans la Iittérature, 1'auteur nous donne son point de vue sur la position systématique de 1'Ara de Lear, qui est probablement une forme hybride de 1'Ara bleu et 1'Ara glauque, tout en souhaitant qu'une carte de distribution précise des deux espèces bien connues d'Anodorhynchus puisse être bientôt établie.

LITERATURE CITED Cory, C. B., 1918. - Catalogue of birds of the Americas. 2 (I). Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist, Zool.Ser.,13 (197).
LEGENDRE, J.L, 1962. - Perroquets et perruches. Paris (Boubée).
PETERS, J. L. 1937. - Check-List of birds of the world. 3.(Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Pr.),
STAGER, K. 1961. - The Machris Brazilian expedition. Ornithology: Non-Passerines. Contr. Sc. Los Angeles Co. Mus. 41.

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)