Blue-headed Macaw Primolius couloni


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because it has a small population which is declining owing to exploitation for the cagebird trade and deforestation.

Population justification
The population is estimated at 9,200-46,000 mature individuals (roughly equivalent to 10,000-70,000 total individuals), based on conservative estimates of range size and density.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to lose 16.6-19.3% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (31 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). Given the susceptibility of the species to hunting and/or trapping, it is therefore suspected to decline by a rate approaching 30% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Primolius couloni occurs in eastern Peru, extreme western Brazil, and north-western Bolivia. In some locations within its range it is considered not uncommon, but in other areas it appears to be scarce, or even absent. It has been recorded throughout the year at some locations, but numbers elsewhere seem to vary seasonally and the species may wander in response to food availability, confounding attempts to draw conclusions about population density across its range. Estimating its population size is therefore notoriously difficult, but a recent review of all known records put the population at 9,200-46,000 individuals, considerably higher than previous estimates (Tobias and Brightsmith 2007).


It is found on the edge of humid lowland evergreen forest, along rivers and by clearings and other breaks in continuous canopy, locally even on the outskirts of towns, from lowlands to 1,550 m. Young birds have been observed with adults in April. It may be nomadic or wander seasonally in response to food availability (Tobias and Brightsmith 2007).


The species is commonly found in markets in Brazil, being valuable and in high demand owing to its perceived rarity. Reported international trade is low (and virtually unknown before 1995), but apparently increasing: three specimens in 1993 increased to 55 birds in 2000, totalling 150 birds for the whole period; as many as 50 were reported to have been seized/traded illegally. The species has a very low reproductive rate and continued illegal harvest is thought likely to pose a serious threat to its survival (IUCN-SSC and TRAFFIC 2002). Much of the forest within the species's range is still intact, but the Bolivian forest is threatened by expansion of the logging industry (although the species may benefit from the consequent patchwork clearance), as well as mining and drilling for gas.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. In Peru, 23.3% of its area of occupancy is within protected areas (Tobias 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Develop an appropriate census methodology. Survey for this species throughout its range to obtain quantitative population estimates. Determine the degree to which this species occurs in protected areas, and whether further such areas need gazetting. Support the enforcement of legislation preventing international trade. Raise awareness among local people of the need to conserve this species and its susceptibility to unsustainable exploitation.


41 cm. Small, colourful macaw. Pale green body with blue edge of wing, primary coverts and flight feathers. Blue head with small grey bare face patch extending from bill around eye. Medium-sized grey bill. Red uppertail, shading to pale blue at tip. Underside of wings and tail dusky yellow. Similar spp. Blue-winged Macaw P. maracana has mostly green head with red front, pale face patch and dark bill. Voice in flight gives a soft rasping purrr or raaah, also a variety of high-pitched srieks and squawks.


Text account compilers
Harding, M., Benstead, P., Sharpe, C.J., Symes, A., Mahood, S.

Herzog, S., Tobias, J., Brightsmith, D., Olmos, F., Gilardi, J., Lee, A., Lloyd, H.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Primolius couloni. Downloaded from on 20/08/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/08/2019.