Blue-throated macaws were thought to have died out in the wild, but over the past few years, more than 100 of them have hatched in nesting boxes in Bolivia.
Rainforest Trust has been working with local partners to protect and grow these birds’ habitats so they don’t go extinct.
“Blue-throated macaws are unique, intelligent birds. Naturally curious, they are known to perform better than primates on some decision-making tasks. These birds are often referred to as ‘barba azul’ in Spanish, or ‘blue beard’ because of the bright blue feathers that cover their throats,” Holly Torres, a conservation grants associate with Rainforest Trust told Treehugger.
“Conservation of this turquoise-blue and yellow bird is essential, as it’s one of the rarest bird species in the world. Blue-throated Macaws are incredibly special–spectacular, brilliant, and social. Our world would be vastly impoverished without them.”
In 2000, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List put blue-throated macaws (Ara glaucogularis) on the list of species that are “critically endangered.” The number of birds had dropped quickly over three generations. Their main threats include the illegal pet trade and habitat loss.
As a result of strong conservation efforts, the population stopped dropping and is now showing signs of improvement.
The Beni savanna
The only place you can find blue-throated macaws is in the Beni savanna, which is a tropical area in northern Bolivia. These beautiful birds live alone or in small groups of two or three.
After years of absence, in 1992, the bird was observed again in the wild. Soon after that, Rainforest Trust and other groups helped Asociacion Armonia, a Bolivian non-profit group that works to protect birds and their habitats.
They made a nature reserve to protect the birds, and in 2007 they started a program to help the birds nest. The area, which is now called the Laney Rickman Reserve, is expanding further so that the species can still be protected.
As of last year, 105 blue-throated macaw chicks raised by Asociacion Armonia were able to fly on their own.
“Every year during the breeding season, the field team closely monitors each nest box to identify blue-throated macaw eggs, chicks, and parenting behavior with the help of camera traps,” Torres explains. “Occasionally, other bird species like the red and green macaw compete for the boxes. The field team continuously works to improve these boxes to accommodate the blue-throated macaws, and protect them from predators.” There have been 16 attempts to nest in the 100 monitored nesting boxes, but only eight chicks were able to leave the nests.
A successful nesting box program
Since the nesting box program started, 113 blue-throated macaws have grown up and spread their wings. This means that the area is now home to more than 20% of the world’s blue-throated macaws.
“Protecting any number of these birds is significant when so few remain in the wild, but Asociación Armonía’s success has been extraordinary by any standards,” says Torres.
“As their environment is continuously threatened by agricultural expansion and fires, the Laney Rickman Reserve provides a safe space for the birds to live and reproduce. The blue-throated macaw continues to breed at these sites each season, an encouraging sign that the hard work to protect this area is working. The success of this reserve gives us great hope for future populations and for the future of the species.”