List Category & Criteria: CR C2a(ii) ver 3.1 (2001)
Assessed: 2004, Assessor/s: BirdLife International
Evaluator/s: Capper, D., Wege, D. & Benstead, P. (BirdLife
International Red List Authority)
Justification: This species is Critically Endangered because
it has an extremely small population which breeds in
one area and is continuing to decline, principally as a result
of trapping for trade. There are some conservation
measures in place and the success of these is essential to
the species survival.
History: 1988 - Threatened (Collar and Andrew 1988)
1994 - Critically Endangered (Collar, Crosby and Stattersfield
2000 - Critically Endangered (BirdLife International 2000)
©IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN
Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>.
Downloaded on 9th April 2008.
Macaw, Anodorhynchus leari,near Jeremoabo, Bahia, Brazil, March
The Lear's Macaw is a Brazilian endemic restricted to a very small
area of caatinga in Bahia.
It was only rediscovered by ornithologists in 1978 and is still
restricted to a very small number.
It is rated as Critically Endangered by Birdlife International.
It feeds on licurí palm nuts, which are becoming scarcer
with the spread of ranching,
and it requires sandstone cliffs for nesting and roosting.
These conditions are highly restrictive.
Add to this the pressure from the poachers and the smugglers who
try to supply
the caged bird trade and it is surprising that there are any birds
left in the wild.
In 2000, the population
was estimated to be less than 150 birds,
but when we were there in March 2004 we were told that this number
This is partly due to the ornithologists working on preserving the
species but I think a great
deal of credit must go to the local land-owners such as Sr. Otávio
and José Hilton
who take such an obvious pride in their macaws.
The bird itself is like a smaller version of Hyacinth Macaw, Anodorhynchus
but the blue is not so intense and is tinged with green.
The species name comes
from Edward Lear, better known now for his Nonsense Poems but also
noted bird illustrator who in 1830 published "Illustrations
of the family of Psittacidae or parrots".
© Arthur Grosset
For over a century after its being described, the whereabouts of
the wild population was unknown.
It was eventually discovered in 1978 by naturalist Helmut Sick in
the interior northeast of Brazil,
in the country's Bahia state. Originally, the bird was thought to
be some sort of hybrid
derived from the very similar Hyacinth macaw.
However, this idea was soon abandoned, as the Lear's Macaw has plumage
that differs slightly
from that of its close relatives. The macaw was actually first seen
by the public in 1950 in
a Brazilian zoo, but was not classified as its own species until
1978, as stated above.
The Lear's Macaw lives
in stands of licuri palm, the nuts of which form a prominent part
of its diet.
This habitat, while never plentiful, is currently estimated to be
around 1.6% of its original cover. The
Lear's Macaw also requires a sandstone cliff in which to nest. In
order to nest there,
they apply their saliva to the sandstone, softening it, and then
hilariously excavate small crevasses
by using their beaks and shooting the dust out of their soon-to-be
nests with their feet.
The population of
the Lear's Macaw, as of 1994, was 140 birds.
As reported by the American Bird Conservancy and Fundação
Biodiversitas, the population
of the Lear's Macaw rose to 751 birds as of July 2007.
As well as habitat loss, the Lear's Macaw has also historically
suffered from hunting and,
more recently, trapping for the aviary trade. In addition, the wild
cows that live near its nesting
grounds often stand on the roots of the licuri palms that they eat,
causing a large loss of food for these majestic birds.
In fact, though the average life span of these trees can be 30-50
years for healthy adult trees,
most baby palms barely make it over 8-10 years. Many organizations,
such as Fundacao Biodiversitas,
BioBrazil, Parrots International, and the Lymington Foundation,
along with local ranchers and other
independent organizations, are working to help conserve the species.
Biodiversitas created the
Canudos Biological Station, in 1993, to protect the sandstone cliffs
used by the macaws.
the American Bird Conservancy 18 July 2007 Press Release:
"The count of the Lears Macaw population was undertaken
by Fundação Biodiversitas staff in June 2007
at the Canudos Biological Station in Brazil, a reserve supported
A total of 751 individuals were counted as they flew out of
the canyons where they roost and nest
to their licuri palm feeding areas. The global population
in 1987 was just 70 birds, the 2003 census
was 455, and until last months count, the current population
was estimated at 600."
Lear's Macaw has interesting ways that they adapt to their environment
in which they live.
For example, when a group of macaws are searching for food or a
new nesting ground,
a small advance party of males will "scout out" the approaching
for the safety of the rest of the group.
In addition, when danger is found on these hunts for new territory,
the macaws will let out their signature call, which can be heard
Then, to escape, the macaw can reach flight speeds of up to 35 miles
to escape predators or poachers.
The Lears macaws
rate of reproduction is 1-2 eggs per year during their mating season
December to May. However, not all pairs of birds mate often or at
all. Lears macaws reach sexual
maturity at around 2-4 years of age, but its life span can be anywhere
from 30-50 years or more.