Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari


Justification of Red List Category
This species is now steadily increasing in numbers owing to intensive conservation action, and although a significant proportion of the population have not reached breeding maturity, the number of mature individuals is now considered to have exceeded 250 for over five years, and the species has consequently been downlisted to Endangered. Some of this apparent increase may be due to improved survey methods but a genuine increase has also taken place; nevertheless continued conservation measures and repeatable monitoring remain a high priority for this species.

Population justification
The most recent population estimate is of 1,263 birds. Although the population is growing and thus this figure is likely to include a large proportion of sub-adults, the total number of mature individuals is thought to be at least 228, and so the population is placed in the band 250-999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
It underwent a long-term historical decline due to trapping, but population estimates remained fairly stable following its rediscovery in the wild in 1978 until the mid 1990s when numbers began to increase rapidly; while this may partly reflect improvements in survey methodology, there also has been a genuine increase owing to intensive conservation efforts.

Distribution and population

Anodorhynchus leari was known to science for 150 years from trade birds before a wild population was found in 1978. It is known from two colonies at Toca Velha and Serra Branca, south of the Raso da Catarina plateau in north-east Bahia, Brazil. In 1995, a roosting site holding 22 birds was located at Sento Sé/Campo Formoso, 200 km to the west (Munn 1995). Initially, this was thought to represent a distinct subpopulation (Munn 1995), but is now considered to refer to birds from the Toca Velha-Serra Branca population following patches of fruiting licurí Syagrus palms (C. Yamashita in litt. 2000, Melo Barros et al. 2006). In 1983, the global population was estimated to number just 60 birds (Yamashita 1987). Censuses since have estimated 246 birds in 2001 (Gilardi 2001), 400-500 in 2004, 630 in 2006 (Y. Barros in litt. 2007), 960 in 2008 (P. Develey in litt. 2009), 1,123 in 2010 (Barbosa 2010) and 1,263 in 2012 (Lugarini et al. 2012). These figures are likely to include a large proportion of sub-adults (J. Gilardi in litt. 2007), and it is notoriously difficult to determine the number of mature individuals in the population because sub-adults form pairs and behave like nesting birds for a number of years before they actually breed (J. Gilardi in litt. 2007). Some of this increase may reflect changes in methodology and survey effort (J. Gilardi in litt. 2007), but there has also been a genuine increase as a result of intensive conservation measures.


It occurs in arid caatinga with sandstone cliffs (for colonial nesting and roosting) and stands of licurí palms. It forages in trees and on the ground, largely for licurí palm nuts (individuals eat up to 350/day), but also Melanoxylon, Atropha pohliana, Dioclea, Spondias tuberosa, Zea mays, Schinopsis brasiliensis, Agave flowers and maize (Neto et al. 2012). Breeding occurs between February and April. Two young often fledge.


In 1992-1995, c.20 birds were caught and sold to smugglers from Toca Velha-Serra Branca (Munn 1995) and, in 1996, at least 19 individuals were taken (Reynolds 1997). This threat continues, but has been significantly reduced (A. Roos in litt. 2012). Licurí palm-stands formerly covered 250,000 km2 but have been vastly reduced by livestock-grazing. A major fire could now eradicate most of the food supply for the Toca Velha-Serra Branca population. Birds are occasionally persecuted for foraging on maize crops when palm nuts are scarce (Melo Barros et al. 2006). Hunting for food and wildlife products are potential threats.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II and protected by Brazilian law. Considered nationally Endangered in Brazil (MMA 2014). An action plan was published in 2006 (A. Roos in litt. 2012). Infiltration of trading networks and improved surveillance at breeding sites has resulted in arrests of poachers, smugglers and collectors (Reynolds 1997, IBAMA Press Release 14 1998, Snyder et al. 2000). There are two conservation units within the species's range, with more in the process of becoming recognised (A. Roos in litt. 2012). The Toca Velha-Serra Branca cliffs are guarded and protection has recently been improved following the acquisition of the 1,450 ha Canudos Biological Station (Holmer 2007), and there are plans to grow, plant and fence 50,000 licurí palm seedlings (Reynolds 1997, Snyder et al. 2000Gilardi 2001). Comprehensive monitoring is underway, along with an education and awareness programme (A. Roos in litt. 2012). Health surveys are being carried on to identify carriers for known psittacine pathogens among the population by sampling nestlings, with preliminary findings indicating a stable host-pathogen system (A. Saidenberg in litt. 2012). Parrots International and the Lymington Foundation began a corn replacement scheme for the farmers in 2007 (W. Wittkoff in litt. 2007). There is a captive population of 74 birds (A. Roos in litt. 2012), but there is no coordinated breeding programme.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Ensure the de facto protection of all known populations. Continue to liaise with local people to locate additional populations (Munn 1995). Study the nesting ecology to estimate reproductive success, determine home ranges and consider double-clutching (Snyder et al. 2000). Enhance existing nest sites to prevent premature fledging of chicks (J. Gilardi in litt. 2012). Continue to compensate farmers for crop losses. Develop a long-term strategy of planting and protecting licurí palms from trampling and browsing by goats and cattle (Munn 1995, Reynolds 1997, Snyder et al. 2000, J. Gilardi in litt. 2012). Enforce legal measures, especially through local patrolling to prevent trapping (Munn 1995, Reynolds 1997, Snyder et al. 2000). Confiscate all birds from trade, integrating into breeding programs. Evaluate potential sites for the release of confiscated and captive bred birds throughout historic range, possibly including the historic range of the extinct Glaucous Macaw in southern Brazil pending genetic studies which may well indicate the two are conspecific (J. Gilardi in litt. 2012). Establish a coordinated breeding programme to support future releases and population supplementations.


70 cm. Large, blue macaw with yellow facial skin. Slightly paler blue on head. Long tail. Bare, yellow orbital area and lappets adjoining lower mandible. Large bill. Immature has shorter tails and paler yellow, bare facial skin. Similar spp. Hyacinth Macaw A. hyacinthinus is much larger; Glaucous Macaw A. glaucus is virtually indistinguishable, but slightly smaller and paler, and only escapees could occur within the range of A. leari. Voice Croaking and screeching sounds, notably higher-pitched and less guttural than A. hyacinthinus.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Pilgrim, J., Khwaja, N., Symes, A., Williams, R., Sharpe, C.J., Mahood, S., Capper, D.

Nascimento, J., Saidenberg, A., Gilardi, J., Neto, J., Develey, P., Wittkoff, W., Borsari, A., Olmos, F., Barros, Y., Yamashita, C., de Soye, Y., Williams, S., Roos, A., Silveira, L.F.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Anodorhynchus leari. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/11/2019.