How Many Blue Macaws Are Left In The World?

Written by Volia Schubiger
Updated: September 21, 2023
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The macaw is one of the brightest and most colorful birds you will find anywhere in the world. Each bird has its distinct coloration that is influenced by where it lives. Their colors go well with the vibrant foliage in the Amazon.

Blue macaws, also known as Spix’s macaws, are a species of macaws. Rio, the animated film, was inspired by this Brazilian bird. Sadly, the bird’s population has declined significantly in recent years. What’s being done to help blue macaws in the wild?

Let’s find out how many blue macaws are left in the world.

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Is The Blue Macaw Extinct?

Blue Macaw eating

The blue macaw was officially declared extinct back in 2018.

©Reto Buehler/Shutterstock.com

Following a study conducted by BirdLife International, the Spix’s Macaw was declared extinct in 2018. Compared with previous reports, the latest report emphasizes mainland birds’ hardships and the greater threats they face than island birds.

During that time, it seemed unlikely that the species would survive. It is because fewer than 100 blue macaws were living in captivity at this time, and the number of them has decreased over time. In the wild, there was no known blue macaw bird.

However, despite all the odds, the number of birds has increased more than expected. As a result of efforts undertaken by various organizations around the world, the Spix’s Macaw still has a chance of surviving.

It was announced in 2020 that the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots would fund 52 Spix’s Macaws’ reintroduction into the wild. So how many blue macaws are left in the world now? Let’s take a look at the current population of these animals to see how they are doing.

How Many Blue Macaws Are Left In The World?

Most Expensive Birds-Hyacinth Macaw

It has been 22 years since the Spix’s little blue macaw flew free in its native Brazil, but now it is back in the wild for the first time.

©iStock.com/Uwe-Bergwitz

Blue macaws are listed as “vulnerable – decreasing” on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to them, there are approximately 4,300 left in the wild, and that number is declining. Even though it is discouraging to see the numbers decreasing, there is some good news to report.

To begin with, there are more birds kept in safe captivity than ever before. The conservation of the genes among birds is becoming increasingly important to zoos and sanctuaries because of the need to maintain active birds. Consequently, as time passes, it will be more and more likely that macaws will be able to be reintroduced back into the wild. 

Furthermore, in addition to what we mentioned above, several Brazilian nationals and other international organizations are actively monitoring the macaw population in Brazil. Furthermore, they are working on reintroducing these animals into the wild. To help macaws make a recovery to healthy and stable populations, understanding the challenges is the first step in helping them to overcome them.

Why Is The Blue Macaw Critically Endangered?

There is a golden ratio when it comes to the habitat of blue macaws.

©Erika Kirkpatrick/Shutterstock.com

Blue macaws have been endangered for decades. However, this issue isn’t just impacting the blue macaw. Nearly half of all parrot species are endangered, and nearly 25% of species are critically endangered. So what are the main factors that are threatening these gorgeous parrots?

The top factors threatening blue macaws include:

Habitat Destruction

Countless species on our planet are threatened by habitat destruction. There is a golden ratio when it comes to the habitat of blue macaws. They need an environment that is both not too dense and not too open. The continued existence of these species also depends upon the survival of several other species.

As a result of European colonization, the Rio Sao Francisco region suffered deforestation, resource exploitation, and agricultural development in the late 1800s. As human populations grew and rainforests were decimated, the blue macaw’s habitat was destroyed.

Wildlife Trade

There is little regulation of the exotic pet industry, but it is extremely profitable. National laws and international agreements protect blue macaws, and trade in them is strictly prohibited.

The only specimens that can be legally traded are those born in captivity, which cost at least $10,000. A CITES Appendix I listing makes international trade illegal except for legitimate conservation, scientific, or educational reasons.

Despite this, illegal trade still happens. The 1980s were the worst for illegal bird collecting, with 10,000 birds gathered. One bird can cost as much as USD 12,000. As a result of the illegal bird trade, the species’ survival is immediately threatened.

What Conservation Efforts Are Being Made To Help The Blue Macaw?

Blue Macaw flying

The blue macaw is an exceptionally large bird, and they are the largest parrots in the world.

©Dgwildlife/Shutterstock.com

Blue macaws are being protected through a variety of measures. With the help of researchers and local ranchers, one Brazilian-funded conservation initiative, the Hyacinth Macaw Project, has monitored the blue macaw population and nesting sites in the Pantanal for nearly 20 years. Since the project began 12 years ago, the hyacinth macaw population has doubled.

In May 2012, Brazilian ICMBio published a five-year National Action Plan (PAN).

In the plan, 150 specimens will be kept in captivity (by 2020), a breeding facility will be constructed in its native habitat, and additional areas will be acquired and restored before the species is released. For the eventual release of Spix into the wild, NEST, a privately owned aviary near Avaré, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil, was established in 2012 as a breeding and staging center.

Finally, in 2021, The Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP) hatched three Spix chicks, the first in 30 years born in Brazil.

What is the Rarest Parrot in the World?

Spix's macaw

The Spix’s macaw is a macaw native to Brazil.

©Danny Ye/Shutterstock.com

The Spix’s Macaw, also known as the Little Blue Macaw, is a critically endangered parrot species that was considered extinct in the wild for many years. Today, it is one of the rarest parrots in the world, with only about 160 individuals known to exist in captivity.

This stunning bluebird was once native to Brazil but fell victim to habitat loss and illegal trapping for the pet trade.

Efforts are underway to reintroduce this iconic species back into its natural habitat through breeding and conservation programs, offering hope for the revival of a bird that was once thought lost forever.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Danny Ye/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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