Spix's Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii


Justification of Red List Category
Although this species exists in several captive populations, the last known individual in the wild disappeared at the end of 2000, with no subsequent confirmed sightings of wild individuals. Following the application of new methods for estimating the probability of a species remaining extant, the species is now considered to be Extinct in the Wild. The species's decline was primarily the result of trapping for trade plus habitat loss.

Population justification
The species is now considered to be Extinct in the Wild (Butchart et. al. 2018).

Trend justification
The species is now considered to be Extinct in the Wild (Butchart et. al. 2018).

Distribution and population

This species was known for over 150 years, from small numbers of traded birds and a hunted bird taken by von Spix, until it was traced in 1985-1986 to near the rio São Francisco in north Bahia, Brazil. Only three birds remained and these were captured for trade in 1987 and 1988. However, a single male, paired with a female Blue-winged Macaw Propyrrhura maracana, was discovered at the site in July 1990. A female C. spixii was released from captivity in 1995 and initially paired with the male. Unfortunately, the female disappeared from the release site after seven weeks and is suspected to have collided with a power-line (Caparroz et al. 2001). The wild bird was still paired with the female P. maracana in January 2000 (Y. de Melo Barros in litt. 1999, 2000) but neither bird has been seen since the end of that year. In 2000, the total number of publicly declared birds in captivity was 60, but 54 of these were captive-bred (Schischakin 2000). The official captive population in 2015 totalled over 100 individuals (EcoAmericas 2015), with further individuals in private ownership. There have been occasional local reports, including from Serra da Capivara National Park, and a bird was filmed near Curaçá in June 2016, but this is now thought to have been a release from captivity. There have been no other records since 2000, despite fieldworker presence and surveying effort. Following the application of new methods for estimating the probability of a species remaining extant (Akcakaya et al. 2017, Keith et al. 2017, Thompson et al. 2017) the probability of Spix's Macaw being extant in the wild was estimated at 0.00006 based on records and surveys, and 0.083 based on threats (Butchart et al. 2018). Based on the probability thresholds recommended by Butchart et al. (2018), the species is now considered to be Extinct in the Wild.


It was found in the caatinga scrub zone, apparently requiring gallery woodland dominated by caraiba Tabebuia caraiba trees for nesting, but feeding mainly on two regionally characteristic Euphorbiaceae plant species. Breeding occurred during the austral summer. Two or three eggs were laid in the wild (up to five in captivity). The wild bird and the P. maracana apparently produced infertile eggs, although one experienced very early embryo death, subsequent DNA analysis revealing a hybrid.


The decline of the species has generally been attributed to two principal factors. First, long-term destruction of the specific gallery woodland habitat on which the species apparently depended, the result of the colonisation and exploitation of the region along the rio São Francisco corridor during more than three centuries. Secondly, trapping for the illegal live bird trade in recent decades pushed the species towards extinction. In addition, the colonisation of the distributional range by introduced aggressive African bees, and the building of the Sobradinho hydroelectric dam above Juazeiro may have contributed, perhaps significantly, to the species's decline in the 1970s and 1980s. Direct hunting is considered a factor of minor importance in the overall decline (Barros et. al. 2012), even though several reports of shooting are on record. The remaining caatinga habitat has suffered degradation and clearance as a result of grazing by cattle and goats (Barros et. al. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway

CITES Appendix I and protected under Brazilian law. Considered Extinct in the Wild in Brazil (Silveira and Straube 2008) and officially listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild) (MMA 2014). A species action plan was produced in 2012 (Barros et. al. 2012) and the 'Projeto Ararinha na Natureza' (Macaw in Nature Project') has been working to conserve the species since 2012.

A captive breeding programme is underway, with the population held in the official captive breeding programme numbering over 100 individuals in 2015 (EcoAmericas 2015), and further captive individuals outside the official programme. The majority of the captive individuals are currently held by Al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP) in Qatar, which has maintained the species since 1984, with other captive individuals held in Brazil and Germany.

In 2009 AWWP announced the purchase of the 2,200 ha Concordia Farm in Bahia, the site of one of the last recorded sightings of wild Spix's Macaw (October 2000) (Al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation undated). Concordia Farm was also the release site for the only captive Spix's Macaw yet to be released back into the wild, in 1995. Concordia Farm abuts the 400 ha Gangorra Farm, previously purchased by a conservation consortium. In 2018, the government officially designated the 30 ha Refúgio de Vida Silvestre Ararinha Azul (Spix's Macaw Wildlife Refuge) and the 90 ha Área de Proteção Ambiental Ararinha Azul (Spix's Macaw Environmental Protection Area) in Curaçá and Juazeiro, Bahia (Reisfeld 2018) and there are plans to reintroduce the species at these sites, as well as at Concordia Farm (Reisfeld 2018, ACTP 2019). Work has been underway to conserve habitat in areas suitable for reintroduction, including by controlling goats (Reisfeld 2017).

Work has also been carried out to engage the local communities to raise awareness of the conservation of Spix's macaw and its habitat, including through cultural activities (Barros et. al. 2012). Local farmers have been educated about the benefits of supplementary feeding of goats to reduce their impact on the caatinga habitat (Reisfeld 2017). A new 'Spix’s Macaw Release, Breeding and Research Centre' is being built to act as a base for the species's reintroduction (ACTP 2019).

Conservation Actions Proposed

Protect and improve habitat at the identified release sites, including by management of goats (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2004, Reisfeld 2017). Introduce captive-bred fledglings and ensure protection from trappers. Continue to develop artificial reproduction techniques to boost the population. Analyse the genetic diversity in the captive population (Barros et. al. 2012). Continue cooperation between holders of captive birds. Continue ecological studies to assess the need for habitat management (Snyder et al. 2000). Continue the community education and engagement programmes (Reisfeld 2018).


55-57 cm. Delicate, blue-grey macaw with long tail and wings. Pale ashy-blue head, distinctively square shaped. Pale blue underparts. More vividly blue in upperparts, wings and long tail. Voice Strong, clear cra-á cra-á cra-á.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C., Elliott, N., Bird, J., Sharpe, C.J., Symes, A., Wheatley, H., Ashpole, J, Benstead, P., Butchart, S., Calvert, R.

de Melo Barros, Y., Balfour, S. & Develey, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Cyanopsitta spixii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 12/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 12/08/2022.