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, and no others may remain, primarily as a result of trapping for trade plus habitat loss. However, it cannot yet be presumed to be Extinct in the Wild until all areas of potential habitat have been thoroughly surveyed. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild).

Population justification
Any remaining population is assumed to be tiny (numbering fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals), based on the disappearance of the last known individual.

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 2012 totalled 80 individuals, with a further c. 13 in private ownership. There are occasional local reports, including from Serra da Capivara National Park, and a bird filmed near Curaçá in June 2016 (the first confirmed wild record since 2000, albeit thought to have originated in captivity) which provide some hope that the species may be extant in the wild (Tobias et al. 2006). However, recent surveys have failed to record an established population in the wild.


It apparently requires gallery woodland dominated by caraiba Tabebuia caraiba trees for nesting, but feeds mainly on two regionally characteristic Euphorbiaceae plant species. Breeding occurs during the austral summer. Two or three eggs are 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, even though several reports of shooting are on record.

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). Ten years of protection, habitat restoration and a variety of on-going community conservation programmes, will pave the way for future reintroductions (Y. de Melo Barros in litt. 1999, 2000, Caparroz et al. 2001). IBAMA established the Brazilian government's Permanent Committee for the Recovery of the Spix's Macaw and cooperation between holders of birds resulted in annual increases in the captive population. This body is succeeded by the Working Group for the Recovery of Spix's Macaw (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2006), now overseen by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). This group is responsible for coordinating the captive breeding programme and there will be on-site reintroduction facilities later followed by on-site breeding facilities. The official captive population totalled 80 individuals in 2012, and important proportions of this are currently held by Al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP) in Qatar and Loro Parque Fundación (LPF) in Tenerife, Spain. Other official holders are in Brazil and Germany. Including birds not registered in the official programme, over 90 individuals are thought to exist in captivity worldwide. Successful breeding has occurred within some registered facilities, including AWWP and LPF. The latter has maintained the species since 1984 and in 2007 opened a new breeding centre for Spix's Macaws (Anon 2008). AWWP raised five chicks successfully in 2012 and seven in 2013 (Gillespie 2014). In 2013 and 2014, females from the AWWP captive breeding population were artificially inseminated and successfully produced eggs (Anon 2015, Tomiska 2015). A captive management and species recovery handbook is in preparation for this species. In February 2009 Al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation announced the purchase of the 2,200 ha Concordia Farm in Bahia state, Brazil, 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 base of the Spix's Macaw field project, largely financed by the LPF, which operated throughout the 1990s until completion in 2002, and 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. It is planned to allow both farms to return to a more natural state by removing domestic livestock, with the long term goal of the sites proving to be a valuable habitat resource for future reestablishment of a wild population.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify a suitable release site for the potential annual release of captive-bred birds starting between 2013 and 2030 depending on the success of captive breeding efforts (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2006). Continue to develop artificial reproduction techniques to boost the population. Protect and improve habitat at the identified release site (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2006). Establish a well-resourced on site reintroduction facility at Praia do Forte under IBAMA ownership (de Soye and de Melo Barros 2006). Introduce captive-bred fledglings and ensure protection from trappers. Continue cooperation between holders of captive birds. Continue ecological studies to assess the need for habitat management (Snyder et al. 2000). Continue the community programmes.


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
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ashpole, J, Calvert, R., Hermes, C., Sharpe, C.J., Symes, A.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Cyanopsitta spixii. Downloaded from on 15/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 15/11/2019.