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Lear's macaw, indigo macaw
Psittacidae (true parrots)
The Lear's macaw is a very large parrot mostly covered with bright blue plumage. It has bare yellow eye ring circles around large black eyes and yellow in the chin region. Under the wings and tail is black. The breast is green-blue. Like other parrots, the Lear's macaw has a strongly hooked beak and zygodactylous feet (2 toes that point forward and 2 toes that point backward).
Up to 90 cm (3 ft.)
Approximately 940 g (2 lb.)
Feeds on seeds, fruits, nuts, and berries
Approximately 29 days
4 months; then remain with parents for up to a year
30-50 years or more
Northeast Bahia, northern Brazil
Includes deep canyons and dry plateaus; nests mainly on cliffs, ledges, and rock faces
Estimated at 150 birds or less
The Lear's macaw is named after Edward Lear, an artist from the mid 1800s who was famous for painting macaws and creating nonsense rhymes.
The Lear's macaw, along with other blue parrots, was exported to Europe as early as the nineteenth century. Originally, scientists thought this bird to be a hyacinth or glaucous macaw, or at least a hybrid of the two. It was not until 1978 that Helmut Sick, an ornithologist, determined it to be a distinct species.
Macaw pairs remained bonded.
In the wild, macaws often flock to mountains of clay known as "macaw licks".
When disturbed, these bright birds screech loudly and circle overhead with their long tails streaming.
Macaws are playful and inquisitive and are able to mimic human vocalizations very well.
Macaws are extremely messy eaters - their incredibly strong beaks are perfectly adapted for eating all sorts of nuts and seeds, as seen in their ability to crack open incredibly hard-shelled nuts (such as Brazil nuts) with ease.
Macaws are able to reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
In the course of daily feeding, macaws allow plenty of seeds (while eating, as well as in their droppings) to fall to the forest floor, thus generating much of the forest growth.
Lear's macaws are endangered for several reasons. They are food for indigenous people, collected in the illegal pet trade, and subject to habitat loss. The pet trade is the Lear's primary threat. Bird collectors pay thousands of dollars per bird. Smugglers take the eggs or young birds and sell them to United States exotic pet stores.
The Lear's second biggest threat is habitat loss. Farmers take the food from the
palms, which the Lear's rely on, and feed it to their goats and livestock, leaving Lear's foodless. Some locals also hunt the birds because they are considered a crop pest.
Field scientists estimate that the Lear's macaw will be extinct in roughly 10 years. Currently, it is estimated only 200 of these birds are left in the wild.
In 1990, Defenders of Wildlife began a campaign in which more than 100 commercial airlines agreed to stop carrying birds. This stopped the delivery of new birds to dealers and forced some of them to breed the captive species they already had. In 1995 the Wild Bird Conservation Act was enacted and it halted the import of endangered birds, especially macaws.
The U.S. Wild Bird Act forbids the commercial import of any bird listed by CITES which includes most parrots - endangered or threatened.
Parrots of the World
. New Jersey. T.F.H. Publications Inc. 1978.
Marrison, C. and A. Greensmith.
Birds of the World
. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Inc. 1993.
Perrins, C. (ed.).
The Encyclopedia of Birds
. New York: Facts on File Publications. 1985.