Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari


Justification of Red List category
This species is now steadily increasing in numbers owing to intensive conservation action. Some of this apparent increase may be due to improved survey methods but a genuine increase has also taken place. Nevertheless, the species has a very small range with just two main breeding colonies occupying a very small area, and its caatinga habitat continues to be degraded through clearance for agriculture. The species is therefore listed as Endangered.

Population justification
The most recent population estimate is of 1,694 individuals in 2018 (ICMBio 2018). A study in 2010 found that 20.3% of individuals were reproductively active (Pacifico et al. 2014). The population is therefore placed in the band 250-999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species 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 population increase owing to intensive conservation efforts.

Distribution and population

Anodorhynchus leari is endemic to northeast Bahia, Brazil. It was known to science for 150 years from trade birds, before a wild population was found in 1978. The species is known to breed at two colonies at Toca Velha, Canudos, and Serra Branca, Jeremoabo, south of the Raso da Catarina plateau. In 2013, a nesting site was recorded at Fazenda Barreiras de Dentro, Canudos (Araujo et al. 2014). Its feeding and roosting areas stretch across the municipalities of Canudos, Jeremoabo, Euclides da Cunha, Paulo Afonso, Sento Sé, Campo Formoso, Monte Santo, Santa Brígida and Novo Triunfo (Sick et al. 1987, Munn 1995, IBAMA 2006, dos Santos Neto and Camandaroba 2007, de Sousa and Barbosa 2008, Araujo et al. 2014). A small group at Sento Sé/Campo Formoso, discovered in 1995 is now considered to refer to birds from the Toca Velha-Serra Branca population following patches of fruiting licurí Syagrus palms (Munn 1995, C. Yamashita in litt. 2000, Melo Barros et al. 2006). Only two individuals were recorded there in 2012 (ICMBio unpubl. data as cited in Pacifico et al. 2014).

In 1983, the global population was estimated to number a minimum of 60 birds (Yamashita 1987), and in 1990 the population was estimated at no more than 60 individuals (Brandt and Machado 1990). Censuses since have estimated 246 individuals in 2001 (Gilardi 2001), 400-500 individuals in 2004, 630 individuals in 2006 (Y. Barros in litt. 2007), 960 in 2008 (P. Develey in litt. 2009), 1,125 in 2010 (Pacifico et al. 2014), 1,263 in 2012 (Lugarini et al. 2012), 1,294 in 2014 (ICMBio 2015), 1,354 in 2017 (ICMBio 2017) and 1,694 in 2018 (ICMBio 2018). These figures are likely to include a large proportion of sub-adults (J. Gilardi in litt. 2007); a study in 2010 found that of a total of 1,125 individuals, only 228 individuals (20.3%) were reproductively active (Pacifico et al. 2014). 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.


The species 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.


The historical decline has been attributed to habitat clearance for agriculture, hunting and trapping (Lima 2007). The main factor currently limiting the population size is believed to be a reduction of food resources, especially licurí (Brandt and Machado 1990, Lugarini et al. 2012). Habitat is cleared for the subsistence cultivation of maize, beans and cassava and for large-scale livestock grazing (Lugarini et al. 2012). Licurí palm-stands formerly covered 250,000 km2 but have been vastly reduced by livestock-grazing. Vegetation is cleared through burning, which tends to have little control (Lugarini et al. 2012). A major fire could now eradicate most of the food supply for the Toca Velha-Serra Branca population. The extraction of firewood and timber also pose threats (IBAMA 2006). 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). The threat of live-capture for trade, both domestic and international, continues, but has been significantly reduced (Lugarini et al. 2012, A. Roos in litt. 2012). 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 (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade 2018). There are two conservation units within the species's range, with more in the process of becoming recognised (Lugarini et al. 2012, A. Roos in litt. 2012). An action plan was published in 2006 (IBAMA 2006), with a second edition published in 2012 (Lugarini et al. 2012). Infiltration of trading networks and improved surveillance at breeding sites has resulted in arrests of poachers, smugglers and collectors (Reynolds 1997, IBAMA 1998, Snyder et al. 2000). The Toca Velha-Serra Branca cliffs are guarded (Holmer 2007). Research has been undertaken on the licuri palm and licurí palm seedlings have been grown and planted (Lugarini et al. 2012). Comprehensive monitoring is underway, along with an education and awareness programme and ecotourism (Lugarini et al. 2012, A. Roos in litt. 2012). There are plans to study the species's feeding ecology, reproductive biology, movements and habitat use (Lugarini et al. 2012). Local people have been recruited as guards and ecotourist guides, or trained to participate in censuses (Lugarini et al. 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). A scheme to reimburse farmers for maize lost to macaws was begun in 2005 (Lugarini et al. 2012). There is a captive population and breeding programme (Lugarini et al. 2012). Two individuals were released at Jeremoabo in 2008 as a test of captive-breeding methods (Lugarini et al. 2012, de Oliveira et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed

Continue annual population censuses (Lugarini et al. 2012). Ensure the de facto protection of all known populations. Create further protected areas within the species's range (Lugarini et al. 2012). Restore degraded areas of habitat (Lugarini et al. 2012). Enhance existing nest sites to prevent premature fledging of chicks (J. Gilardi in litt. 2012). Continue to compensate farmers for crop losses. Incentivise the planting of licuri and other food source plants (Lugarini et al. 2012). Continue environmental education programme (Lugarini et al. 2012). Promote sustainble methods of licuri management (Lugarini et al. 2012). Continue and expand the programme of growing and planting seedlings of caatinga plants, including licurí (Lugarini et al. 2012). Enforce legal measures, especially through local patrolling to prevent trapping (Munn 1995, Reynolds 1997, Snyder et al. 2000) and increase the severity of penalties for those caught (Lugarini et al. 2012). Monitor trafficking of birds, both within Brazil and internationally (Lugarini et al. 2012). Confiscate all birds from trade, integrating them into breeding programmes. Evaluate potential sites for the release of confiscated and captive bred birds throughout historic range. Promote the sustainable extraction of caatinga natural resources (Lugarini et al. 2012).


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
Khwaja, N., Sharpe, C.J., Capper, D., Symes, A., Wheatley, H., Williams, R., Mahood, S., Benstead, P., Pilgrim, J.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Anodorhynchus leari. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/lears-macaw-anodorhynchus-leari on 04/10/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 04/10/2023.