Brilliantly blue in color with bright yellow accents around the eyes and beak, the hyacinth macaw is a magnificent sight to see soaring over its native lands of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. But unfortunately this sight is becoming more and more rare every year.
The hyacinth macaw is the largest bird in the parrot family and primarily lives in riverside tropical rain forests and palm swamps in southern Brazil, eastern Bolivia, and northeastern Paraguay. According to a newly released report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 6,500 of these beautiful birds remain in the wild, down from historical estimates ranging up to three million birds. What has caused this to happen?
The primary causes for all 18 species of macaws that are now threatened are habitat loss and heavy exploitation for the pet trade. Their native forests are being replaced by crops and cattle ranching, and this in turn affects the hyacinth macaw’s ability to find nesting sites and to find food for their specialized diet. With regards to the pet trade, the macaw’s high price has fostered a dangerous level of poaching and smuggling with the United States being one of the largest markets for this exotic pet trade.
To try and help battle these serious threats from exploitation, the Wild Bird Conservation Act tightly controls the imports of all parrots into the United States and globally the hyacinth macaw is also protected in trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). While these regulations certainly help, improved monitoring of the pet trade and clampdown on smugglers is always needed.
Although the hyacinth macaw was added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable in 2014, it wasn’t until August of 2018 that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a final determination to list it as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to population declines resulting from deforestation, hunting, and predation. With this new listing, the resurgence of the hyacinth macaw can hopefully be aided through more efforts in adding critical habitat protection as well as adding recovery plans.