Rarest parrot in the world
Several species of parrot are critically endangered, but the one in most trouble may already be extinct in the wild. According to the World Parrot Trust, the rarest parrot in the world is the Spix’s macaw, a species endemic to the forests of Brazil that was not recorded until the beginning of the 19th century.
The Spix’s macaw is relatively small, reaching a length of only about 20 inches, excluding tail, and with a wingspan of about two feet. The other striking characteristic is their plumage, a deep shade of blue paling to gray-blue on the underside and around the heads, which is offset by black eyes and beaks. These account for the other common name — the small blue macaw. Males and females look almost identical.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classes the species as “critically endangered” on its Red List of Endangered Species. The Spix’s macaw is probably extinct in the wild, with the last confirmed sighting in 2000. If there are any left, numbers would be miniscule — fewer than 50, according to the IUCN.
Spix’s macaws have very specific habitat and diet requirements. According to Birdlife International, they require one particular species of tree, Tabebuia caraiba, to nest in and feed mostly on just two species of plant from the genus Euphorbiacea. As a result, the range is limited to one small area of Brazil. This makes the Spix’s macaw very vulnerable to habitat destruction.
The two main threats that have pushed the Spix’s macaw to the edge of extinction are the aforementioned habitat loss and capture for the pet trade. Birdlife International suggests the introduction of aggressive bees and the construction of a large, hydroelectric dam in the area may have been contributing factors.
With the bird almost certainly gone from the wild, conservation efforts are focusing on captive breeding programs, with the aim of eventually reintroducing the species. About 70 individuals are part of these programs, and an estimated 50 more Spix’s parrots are held by private individuals around the world. Protection of the remaining habitat is crucial if these captive birds are to have anywhere to go.