The spix macaw is the smallest of the blue macaws with a body covered with dark blue feathers. Their face has silvery grey feathers and a long curved black beak. Around the eye is a ring of dark grey skin. Their eye is coloured pale yellow. A long tail extends from the body and is pointed at the end; it is coloured dark blue on top and the underside is grey. Both sexes have similar colouration.
They measure 55cm (21.7in) and have a wingspan of 64cm (25in). An average weight for this species is 360g (12.69oz).
Spix macaws are herbivores. They feed on a range of seeds, fruits, flowers, leaves and other plant material. They may eat tree bark to obtain minerals.
The spix macaw was a resident of South America. When they lived in the wild they were found solely in a small area of Brazil.
At present the species is believed extinct from the wild. This has been the case since 2000. A single bird was spotted in the wild in 2016 but it is suspected that this was an escape from the captive population as opposed to evidence of a wild population.
This species previously ranged through the caatinga scrub zone and required gallery woodland. They were reliant on the caraiba tree for nest sites.
Extinct in the Wild
Breeding takes place from November to March. This can vary slightly as it is dependent on the rainy season.They are a monogamous species which mates for life. In the wild they will perform elaborate courtship displays to their mate. Oddly in captive collections this courtship is not observed.
The pair will form a nest within the hollows that are found in the crown of a craibeira tree. Once they have established a nest site they will reuse it each year.
In the wild an average clutch is two to three eggs while in captivity a clutch may include up to 5 eggs.
Females will complete all the incubation of the eggs which takes 25-28 days. While the female is nesting the male will visit her often to provide food.
After hatching the chicks will have a much smaller crop than other macaws. This means that it is necessary for the mother to feed them more often. Once they hatch they have feathery down and are blind.
Fledging takes place at 2 months when the young can leave the nest. They will return to their nest for up to 4 months to be feed by the parents.
Sexual maturity is achieved at 7 years old.
The spix macaw was a routine focused bird which would stick to a set schedule for their day. They are active by day and will spend time foraging, bathing and flying. At night they roost in a “Tabebuia caraiba” tree.
They are a social species which spends their time with at least one other macaw and can also be seen in small groups.
Spix macaws have a “kra-ark” call that is used in flight.
Predators and Threats
The spix macaw has been extinct in the wild since 2000. The final macaw to have been sighted was male who had paired up with an illigers macaw. During 2000 a captive female was released in an effort to form a wild pair but unfortunately this bird died of electrocution on a power line. This pairing did produce a single hybrid which died early on in their life.
A captive breeding program exists and they have been successful in producing a number of these birds. At this point there are almost 200 birds in the program.
During 2021 it is planned to release 50 spix macaws back in to the wild.
They came under a major threat from illegal poaching when they were still present in the wild. At one point a single bird could be worth as much as $200,000.
When they were found in the wild the spix macaw had to compete for nest sites with the introduced Africanized honeybee.
A pair of spix macaw was the focus of the 2011 animated film Rio.
The spix macaw was also known as the little blue macaw.
Evan Centanni / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
Etna 1984 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
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<http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/article-spix-macaw.html> [Accessed 11 June 2020].
BirdLife International. 2019. Cyanopsitta spixii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T22685533A153022606. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019
3.RLTS.T22685533A153022606.en. Downloaded on 11 June 2020.
Trust, W., 2020. Spix’S Macaw (Cyanopsitta Spixii) | Parrot Encyclopedia. [online] Parrots.org. Available at:
<https://www.parrots.org/encyclopedia/spixs-macaw/> [Accessed 11 June 2020].
Spooner, M. 2004. "Cyanopsitta spixii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 10, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Cyanopsitta_spixii/
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