Last Updated on March 4, 2023 by Ali Shahid
Glaucous macaws (Anodorhynchus glaucus) are extremely rare, huge turquoise-blue parrots native to South America. They are related to the group known as the Blue Macaws, which includes:
- Lear’s Macaws
- Spix’s Macaws
- Hyacinth Macaws
Although the glaucous macaw is Critically Endangered, it may be extinct due to habitat loss caused by human activities. Of the blue macaw species, the Glaucous Macaw is the tiniest (68 cm).
Certain parts of Paraguay and adjacent regions were home to the species in the 20th century. The last living specimen seen by a scientist was checked by Jean Delacour between 1895 and 1905 in Paris’ Jardin d’Acclimation.
A recent survey in Paraguay found no evidence of the existence of this species. This species was last sighted in Paraguay, Argentina, Southern Brazil, and Uruguay during the 1960s. Members of this group are either extinct or at risk of extinction.
There was historically a lot of confusion among the members of this group. With basic knowledge of the species, live birds can be identified fairly easily.
In contrast, diseased specimens and even their skins proved harder to identify. Discover more about the Glaucous Macaw and why it has disappeared from the wild in our article.
Origin and History of Glaucous Macaw
Historical ranges of the Glaucous Macaw include northern Argentina, northeast Uruguay, south Paraguay, and Brazil, south of Paraná. The most frequent sightings were around Corrientes, Argentina, where they were found along the major rivers.
A few sightings of the bird were reported in the early 1900s, and by the end of the century, it was considered rare. The number of sightings has only decreased since then.
Ornithologists failed to find the species during 1990s expeditions to southwestern Paraguay. Furthermore, the macaw was unknown to most residents of the region, and its last recording dates from the 1870s.
This disappearance of the bird may be connected to the capturing of live birds and the wholesale destruction of Butia yatay, the bird’s main food source. El Palmar National Park, in southern Brazil and Argentine, still offers suitable habitats, but no credible reports have emerged in recent decades.
In 1992, Joe Cuddy and Tony Pittman searched for blue macaws in Argentina and Bolivia but found none in their former range.
According to the late George Smith, trappers can identify this species in remote areas of Bolivia. Additionally, when he flew over the area, there were palm trees “as far as the eye could see.
Glaucous Macaws are large parrots that measure about 28 inches (68-70 cm). They have a long tail and a large beak which is typical of most Macaws. However, they are the smallest in the blue macaw series.
Their head color varies from light gray to grayish turquoise. Among living specimens, the yellow bare area under the mandible (“lower” mandible) is the most distinctive morphological characteristic.
The lower part of the beak has a yellow crescent-shaped lappet and each eye has a featherless pale yellow ring.
There was one specimen that lived in captivity for 14.8 years. There were also reports of others living for more than 20 years in captivity situation.
It is generally estimated that the life expectancy of larger parrots ranges from 50 to 80 years, so it stands to reason that the same is true for the Glaucous Macaw. However, solid information about these macaws is scarce due to their rarity.
Glaucous Macaws eat mostly palm nuts, like the Yatay Palm, plus berries, nuts, vegetation, and fruit.
Glaucous macaws breed like hyacinth macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) and other macaw species. Many parrot species are monogamous and have only one mating partner throughout their lives.
There are several behavioral changes that parrots display during the mating season, such as territorial cues, biting, loud screaming, and feather plucking. Their physical displays are intended to impress their potential partners.
The macaw lays eggs in a nest, sometimes in a hole or rock formation on cliffs. The glaucous macaw breeds all year and lays one or two eggs a year.
Causes of Decline or Extinction of Glaucous Macaw
Grazing cattle, or the clearing of palm groves directly for agriculture, is widely believed to be responsible for their decline.
Still, rumors persist that some should have survived in El Palmar National Park in Entre Rios, where suitable habitat still exists. Other factors could have contributed to their decline in the 19th century:
A major river basin within its range has been settled
Land reclamation has drastically changed their habitat over the last century
Feeding on their feathers and flesh
The capture of animals for trade
A possible outbreak of disease
Attacks by predators
A widespread loss of palm groves was probably associated with threats
Status in Wild
A team of four biologists and conservationists from the World Parrot Trust surveyed and searched Brazil in 1999 for signs of the Glaucous Macaw. It was unfortunate that none of these birds were spotted during the survey.
However, they gained essential information regarding the factors leading to the loss of this beautiful parrot. It may be possible to conserve macaws and other threatened species with this information.
Since the 1960s, the Glaucous Macaw has not been seen reliably. Buenos Aires Zoo was the last known location to see a Glaucous alive, which was photographed in 1936. Due to the photo’s black-and-white nature and lack of color, the beautiful plumage isn’t captured.
According to a 2018 study, the Glaucous Macaw is “Critically Endangered – Possibly Extinct” following no confirmed sightings since the 1980s, due to habitat destruction and loss.
According to reports, we could lose 1 million species on Earth within the next few decades. A Glaucous Macaw is unlikely to be seen in person in our lifetime. Instead, we’ll see old photographs or mummified remains in museums.
If there are any surviving Glaucous Macaws, they are protected under Brazilian law. These parrots may be found in unexplored areas of the forest if a small number exists. Although it is unlikely, there is always the possibility of it happening.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.