Blue-throated Macaw, Daniel Alarcon/Asociación Armonía

BIRD OF THE WEEK: 2/28/2014 SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ara glaucogularis
POPULATION: 300-400 individuals
IUCN STATUS: Critically Endangered
TREND: Stable or slowly increasing
HABITAT: Endemic to tropical savannas of northern Bolivia

Blue-throated Macaw map, NatureServeThe spectacular Blue-throated Macaw is one of two highly threatened macaws endemic to Bolivia. (The other is the Red-fronted Macaw.) Blue-throated Macaws inhabit scattered “islands” of palms and riparian areas found across wet savannas of the Beni area in northeastern Bolivia.

These macaws feed primarily on the fruits of the Motacú palm, sometimes flying miles over open grassland to find fruiting trees.

From Legislation to Fake Feathers

One of the chief threats to the Blue-throated Macaw, poaching, has been reduced by legislation put in place outside of Bolivia. Both the U.S. Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 and Europe's 2007 ban on the import of wild birds have helped halt the trafficking of this and other endangered birds.

ABC and partners have also worked to educate local communities about the plight of this species. ABC's Bolivian partner, Asociación Armonía, and the European conservation group Loro Parque Fundacion have successfully promoted the creation and use of colorful, artificial feathers for use in ceremonial headdresses in Bolivia, traditionally made with the central tail feathers taken from multiple parrot species.

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Breeding Birds

Like other macaws, including the Great Green and Military Macaw, this species is a cavity nester. To breed successfully, Blue-throated Macaws need two specific conditions: forest "islands" within the wetland that are difficult for climbing predators to access, and trees with cavities in their trunks that are large enough for nesting.

After 150 years of cattle ranching in the area, few of these trees remain. That's why Armonia and Loro Parque have installed dozens of artificial nest boxes for the birds.

Blue-throated Macaw, Paul B. Jones

Blue-throated Macaw by Paul B. Jones

Reserve for the Rare Bird

Only one protected area for Blue-throated Macaws exists, and that's the 11,555-acre Blue-throated Macaw Reserve, or Barba Azul, where the largest population of the macaw is located. ABC has supported Armonía in the creation and expansion of this reserve, where a new field station houses researchers as they conduct studies on fire management, the use of the nest boxes, and other conservation techniques.

Plans are in place to build an ecolodge that will contribute to the reserve's financial sustainability, a key area of emphasis for ABC.

Good News!
As of February 2017, an exciting exploration is underway to find unknown breeding grounds of the critically endangered Blue-Throated Macaw. This follows a bumper year for the species' reproductive success: A total of 118 birds were tallied in September 2016, including many juvenile birds, setting a new record for Barba Azul.
The birds are clearly having breeding success, but the bird has never nested and reared young at the reserve, and where the birds nest remains a mystery. Tjalle Boorsma, scientist and manager of Barba Azul Nature, will lead a crew by horseback into the remote reaches of the Beni Savanna in search of nesting spots. In the impenetrable flooded areas, the team will use a drone to explore the landscape. This information will enable our teams to plan more comprehensive conservation strategies to ensure the species' survival.
(Read about our efforts to bring another of the spectacular blue macaws—the Lear's Macaw—back from the brink of extinction.)

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