Lear’s macaw (Everything You Need to Know)

Last Updated on December 29, 2023 by Ali Shahid

A Lear’s macaw, also called the Indigo Macaw (Anodorhynchus leari), is an endangered bird species belonging to the “Blue Macaws” family, which includes Glaucous Macaws, Spix’s Macaws, and Hyacinths. Almost all of these species are vulnerable or on the verge of extinction. It is named after a poet, author, and artist named Edward Lear who painted and drew many pictures of live parrots in zoos

Almost all of the Lear macaw’s skin is blue, except for a small patch of yellow skin near the base of its heavy black bill. They are 70–75 cm long and weigh around 2 pounds 2 ounces. In 1978, German ornithologist Helmut Sick discovered the species for the first time in Bahia, northern Brazil.

Generally, these macaws are very nervous, but they trust their keepers and are able to recognize individuals at a distance. They react differently depending on the person they encounter (Ryan Watson: Blue Macaw Coordinator Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation).

The World Parrot Trust states a captive Lear’s macaw might live 60 years, yet records show 38.3 years as the longest. With threats like habitat loss and hunting, only 1,600 of these birds exist today. If available for purchase, expect prices between $7,500 and $8,000 from sites like Birdmanspetsource and Exoticparrotbreeders. Explore further to understand their endangered status, conservation efforts, and care guidelines if you consider acquiring or adopting one.

Scientific NameAnodorhynchus leari
Common NameLear’s Macaw, Indigo Macaw
OriginBahia, northern Brazil
ColorationMostly blue with a small yellow patch near the base of the bill. Black beak, dark gray legs, and dark brown iris.
PersonalityGenerally nervous but can trust their keepers. Recognize individuals and react differently based on familiarity.
Clutch SizeNot consistently documented, but some pairs may produce up to three young birds. The average survival rate for pairs is about two birds.
DietPrimarily feeds on Licur palm nuts. Also consumes a variety of seeds, fruits, and legumes.
VocalsLoud calls are used for communication, alerting, and warning purposes.
Care LevelHigh; requires specialized care, attention, and a large habitat.
Prices$7,500 – $8,000 (varies based on factors such as availability and demand).
Places to BuyBirdman’s Pet Source, Exotic Parrot Breeders, but be cautious of legality and sourcing.
Population NumberEstimated between 1,000 to 1,600 individuals in the wild.
Population ThreatsHabitat destruction, hunting, capture for the pet trade, and small population size lead to genetic issues.
IUCN StatusCritically Endangered (listed as such by the International Union for Conservation of Nature).

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 they 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).

Lear’s macaw vs Hyacinth

The Lear’s macaw bears resemblance to the larger hyacinth macaw and the slightly tinier glaucous macaw, particularly in their nut-eating habits and color patterns reminiscent of the Hyacinth Macaw. Yet, distinct differences set them apart.

The hyacinth macaw stands out with its deeper plumage, absence of a greenish hue, and a unique yellow skin patch near its bill base. Moreover, in size, the hyacinth surpasses the Lear’s Macaw.

Geographically, Lear’s macaws are confined mainly to Bahia in northeastern Brazil, while hyacinth macaws occupy broader territories, including Bolivia, Paraguay, and certain parts of Brazil, predominantly in the Pantanal, favoring the neotropical climate.


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

The Lear’s Macaw (Anodorhynchus leari) faces critical endangerment primarily from habitat destruction, hunting, and capture for the pet market. Alongside species like the Great Green, Military, and Blue-throated Macaws, these exquisite birds are targeted by poachers, contributing to the illicit bird 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 1600 individuals today.

However, the species is still considered critically endangered and ongoing conservation efforts are crucial for its survival.

Health Problems

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

In the United States, lear macaws are available for purchase on sites such as Birdman’s Pet Source and Exotic Parrot Breeders for a price between $7,500 and $8,000.

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 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

    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.

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