Blue-Throated Macaws Are Making a Comeback in Bolivia

113 critically endangered macaws have fledged with nesting box program.

blue-throated macaws in a nesting box
Blue-throated macaws in a nesting box.

Asociacion Armonia

Once thought to be extinct in the wild, more than 100 colorful blue-throated macaws have hatched over the past few years in nesting boxes in Bolivia.

Rainforest Trust has been working with local partners to protect and expand the habitat of these critically endangered distinctive birds. 

“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, tells 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.”

Blue-throated macaws (Ara glaucogularis) were classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List in 2000. The birds had undergone a swift population decline over three generations. They were primarily threatened by capture for the illegal pet trade and by habitat loss.

But due to strong conservation measures, the decline stopped and the population is offering signs of recovery.

Nesting Box Success

blue-throated macaw chicks
Blue-throated macaw chicks.

Asociacion Armonia

Blue-throated macaws are found only in the Beni savanna, a tropical region in northern Bolivia. They live in monogamous pairs or small groups.

The bird was rediscovered in the wild in 1992. Shortly thereafter, Rainforest Trust and other groups helped support Asociacion Armonia, a Bolivian non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats.

They created a nature reserve to protect the birds, kicking off a nesting program in 2007. Now the Laney Rickman Reserve, the area is being expanded to continue conserving the species.

As of last year, Asociacion Armonia successfully fledged 105 blue-throated macaw chicks.

“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,” says Torres. “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.”

With nesting season coming to an end, there have been 16 nesting attempts in the 100 monitored nesting boxes with eight chicks successfully leaving the nests.

Having successfully fledged 113 macaws since the creation of the nesting box program, the area is now home to more than 20% of the global population of 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.”

View Article Sources
  1. "Blue-throated Macaw." IUCN Red list.

  2. Holly Torres, a conservation grants associate with Rainforest Trust

  3. "Save the Blue-throated Macaw." Rainforest Trust.