Last Updated on February 24, 2023 by Ali Shahid
Known as the indigo macaw, Lear’s macaw (Anodorhynchus leari) belongs to the large macaw family of Neotropical parrots. Almost the entire bird is blue in color, except for a small patch of yellow skin at the base of its heavy black bill.
In the past, it was believed that it was a hybrid, possibly derived from the very similar Hyacinth. However, the idea was eventually abandoned since the plumage of the birds differed slightly from one another.
In 1978, ornithologist Helmut Sick discovered the first wild populations of this parrot during his exhibition in Bahia, northern Brazil, and it was recognized as a distinct species.
This species belongs to a group of birds known as “Blue Macaws,” which also includes the Glaucous Macaw, Spix’s Macaw, and Hyacinths. Almost all of these species are on the verge of extinction.
Trapping for trade and hunting has caused most of this species’ range to disappear. It is thought there are less than 12,00 of these birds left.
The large parrot is named after a poet, author, and artist named Edward Lear who drew and painted many pictures of live parrots in zoos and collections.
Look at this bird, and we feel certain that you will understand his passion and the French ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte who first described it.
Origin and History of Lear’s macaw
The Lear’s Macaw can trace its recognition to its illustrator namesake, whose illustration depicted this neotropical bird from the Brazilian state of Bahia. There was little awareness of its existence outside the country.
Eventually, a small group of individuals was discovered in 1978. A conservation group called IUCN identified two colonies of these rare, elusive birds. Due to the remote habitat of the Lear’s Macaw, population numbers vary.
In addition, it looked like a Hyacinth Macaw, which was similarly colored. Many people thought that Lear’s Macaws were hybrids. Hyacinth Macaws live in Paraguay and Bolivia, as well as South America.
Besides being bigger, it has slightly different markings on its face. Lear’s Macaws forage cooperatively with other members of their species for breeding grounds and food. Furthermore, they will make other birds aware of threats.
Whistleblowing is a common practice in the avian world that benefits both the whistleblower and the rest of the flock. Lear’s Macaws pair for life, but there is no guarantee that they will produce offspring every time the pair.
However, this species’ diet also puts it at risk. Most of its diet consists of Licur palm nuts, with a variety of seeds, fruits, and legumes being added throughout. This preference unfortunately led to conflict between the bird and the agricultural industry.
Upon clearing land for farming, the macaw is deprived of its food source. Researchers once believed that there were fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild. There is also a significant problem of poaching to supply the illegal pet trade.
Because of these issues, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has stepped up and classified Lear’s Macaw as an endangered species, along with Military Macaws, Scarlet Macaws, Hyacinths, and Great Green Macaws.
To prevent the extinction of Lear’s Macaw, the global conservation community and the government of Brazil have taken swift and decisive action. In recent years, scientists and farmers have acknowledged the unique characteristics of Lear’s Macaw.
As part of Biodiversitas’ Canudos Biological Station’s action recovery plan, the population is closely monitored. A recent study noted that the population of this magnificent bird has been increasing, as a result of the conservation efforts of this success story.
In terms of length, the Lear measures between 70 – 81 cm (27.5 – 32 inches) from the tip of the head to the end of its long tail. Their weight ranges between 800 grams (28 oz) and 1,000 grams (35 oz). The average weight for them is 950 grams (34 oz).
The eye rings are a bright orange-yellow color. Pale yellow featherless patches are distinctively located next to the lower bill. It has a large black beak, a yellow tongue, dark gray legs, and a dark brown iris.
While the plumage of these birds tends to be cobalt blue, especially in good sunlight they tend to have glossy feathers, particularly those which cover their wings and backs. A more greenish-blue color is present on the head, neck, chest, and belly.
Tails and wings are black on the underside. There is no difference between males and females in terms of appearance.
There may be slight differences in size between the sexes, and the male may have a larger beak, but these differences are not generally considered reliable indicators of gender.
A surgical or DNA sexing procedure is typically used to determine the gender of a bird (blood or feathers).
There are typically eight to thirty birds in a group, but they may be found in pairs or smaller family groups to a lesser extent. In addition to their loud calls, they can often be observed flying or perched on the outermost branches of trees or palm trees.
The roosting site of up to four individuals is typically located in a hollow or crevice of a sandstone canyon that is 30 m (100 ft) or 60 m (200 ft) high. Aside from feeding on palm fruits, they rest under shady trees or licuri palms during the daytime.
They can occasionally be observed preening to each other and croaking. During times of alarm, they will fly up and call loudly. Afterward, the birds will circle briefly and then land on a tree (if it is safe to do so) or fly away.
In the morning, a group of two to three males scouts out possible feeding and roosting spots. They will also be the first to return to their roosting areas at sunset. For about ten minutes, this group of “sentinels” will remain seated on the tallest tree.
They will call loudly when no danger is present, leading the others to either feeding or roosting areas. As soon as the “scouts” detect danger, they will release their loud signature calls to warn the rest of the group.
It is believed that these parrots can fly up to 55 kilometers per hour or 35 miles per hour to escape predators or poachers. They fly undulatingly with deliberate movements of their wings.
As the rains begin at the end of the year, the breeding season begins and ends with the young birds leaving their nests in May. Nests of Lear’s Macaws can be found in Toca Velha and Serra Branca among the sandstone cliffs.
It is unknown what the breeding habits of Lear’s Macaw are. Information was collected during studies conducted between 1997 and 1999. Observations revealed that there were not many breeding birds each year.
Even though it has been reported that some pairs may produce up to three young birds, the average survival rate for these pairs is only two birds.
Studies such as these are useful in gaining a better understanding of the number of young birds joining the population every year during the breeding season. It is an important indicator of whether or not the population is growing.
Since 1979, several censuses have been conducted to estimate how many Lear’s Macaws there are in the wild.
It was estimated that between 1000 and 1600 individuals were counted, however, recent simultaneous counts have confirmed that 1694 birds were counted on average.
The Lear’s Macaw also relocates from its traditional roosting area to an area that is more humid during periods of drought. The presence of Lear’s Macaws in other areas may be related to the dry conditions during these times.
A large portion of their diet consists of the nuts of the licur palm (Syagrus coronata), which constitutes approximately 90% of their calories. During the course of a day, a macaw can consume up to 350 nuts.
With their large, powerful beaks, these birds are capable of cracking open hard shells to consume the white meat within. As they work their way through the cluster, they typically remove ten to twenty fruits at a time.
Occasionally, the birds carry the fruit clusters to nearby trees and consume the fruit there. Furthermore, they have been observed to feed on nuts that have been consumed by cattle and then passed through their digestive tracts.
In this way, it became easier to open the nuts. Furthermore, they consume the fruit and seeds of a wide variety of trees and shrubs.
Population Threats and Conservation of Lear’s Macaw
Lear’s Macaw (Anodorhynchus leari) is a critically endangered species of parrot that is found only in a small area of Bahia, Brazil. The main threats to the species include habitat loss due to agriculture and ranching, as well as poaching for the pet trade.
In addition, the species has a very small population size, which makes it vulnerable to genetic problems and disease.
Conservation efforts for Lear’s Macaw have been ongoing since the 1980s, and include habitat protection and restoration, captive breeding programs, and law enforcement to combat poaching.
Thanks to these efforts, the population of Lear’s Macaws has increased from around 50 individuals in the 1980s to around 1200 individuals today.
However, the species is still considered critically endangered and ongoing conservation efforts are crucial for its survival.
Lear’s macaws rarely appear unhealthy. Most of them are active and healthy birds with the ability to withstand harsh conditions.
However, they are susceptible to infectious diseases like Proventricular Dilation disease and Macaw Wasting Syndrome to name some. Lear’s Macaws should visit their veterinarian once a month to ensure their well-being.
From Where You can Get a Lear’s Macaw
A Lear’s Macaw is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is estimated that there are less than 2,000 individuals in the wild. This means that wild-caught birds cannot be purchased legally.
Most of the time, the animals for sale are captive-caught animals. We strongly recommend that you investigate the origin of any potential pet because of its current status.
There are several factors that have a direct impact on the price, as you might expect. There is also the bird’s stunning plumage, which drives the price of the pet up significantly. It is a bird that is impossible not to fall in love with due to its beautiful appearance.
As a result, demand and availability are directly affected. The price will likely be at least $4,000 or even higher. A Lear’s Macaw can be obtained from a pet store or by special order. The best way to locate one is to search online through a reputable dealer in parrots.
Given the prevalence of black markets in species such as Lear’s Macaw, it is imperative that you check your source. To ensure a pet that enjoys human companionship, we recommend getting a bird that has been handled early in its life.
With its striking looks and comical expression, Lear’s Macaw is deserving of all the attention it has received. There is a happy and outgoing quality to everything about this bird. The sight of it cannot help but make you smile.
When you possess the resources to care for it and keep it happy, this macaw is certainly worth a look. It is often a lifetime commitment to keep a bird of such size and longevity.
Therefore, before acquiring a Lear’s Macaw or any other parrot, we suggest that you consider whether it will be compatible with your lifestyle. When you keep a macaw as a pet, you have more of a relationship with it than you might with another type of animal.
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.