Covering 27,180 acres in Bolivia, the Barba Azul Nature Reserve features tall grasslands, extensive wetlands, and islands of forest and palms—an incredible wildlife haven. It supports roughly 250 bird species and 27 mammal species. And it’s the world’s only protected area for the Blue-throated Macaw.
“Barba Azul” is the locals’ name for Blue-throated Macaw, a name that translates to “Blue Beard” and refers to the distinctive blue patch beneath the bird’s bill. The Blue-throated Macaw is critically endangered and only occurs in Bolivia.
Located in Bolivia’s Bení savanna, the Barba Azul Reserve, currently 27,180 acres in size, is the only land in the region that is spared cattle grazing and yearly burning for agricultural purposes. These activities, and the planting of exotic grass species, have greatly altered this imperiled ecosystem.
In 2008, American Bird Conservancy helped Bolivian partner Asociación Armonía create the Barba Azul Nature Reserve to reverse the decline of the macaw and to restore this degraded landscape. In 2014, ABC and other supporters helped to double the reserve’s size.
In addition to establishing the reserve, Armonía has worked with local communities in the Bení region to raise awareness of the Blue-throated Macaw, substitute synthetic feathers for traditional head-dresses, and effectively halt illegal trade of this bird.
Armonía also runs an artificial nest box program to provide Blue-throated Macaws with more opportunities to breed.
Barba Azul is a wildlife lover’s paradise and a playground for nature photographers. The tall grasslands provide habitat for species like the Streamer-tailed Tyrant. Extensive wetlands attract flocks of waterbirds, and the short-grass habitat is used as a stop-over site by migrants like the Buff-breasted Sandpiper.
(Read more about the discovery of Barba Azul’s importance for migratory shorebirds on our blog.)
Thanks to the reserve’s protection of the Omi River, Barba Azul is a critical source of water for dozens of mammals. They are here in abundance, including giant anteater, pampas cat, puma, marsh deer, pampas deer, collared peccary, maned wolf, jaguar, and capybara.
With ABC support, Armonía has built a research station that provides housing for visitors and will soon be building additional cabins over the coming year. To visit, please contact BirdBolivia or find more information at ConservationBirding.org.
When Barba Azul was purchased, we removed cattle and stopped hunting, net fishing, logging, and reduced grassland burning, the land started to rebound as if recovering from a drought.
Help us continue to recover and manage Barba Azul. By making a donation to Armonia through ABC you are helping us, and Armonía, protect this special place: Donate.
Asociación Armonía is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of birds and their natural habitat in Bolivia. Armonía’s conservation actions are based on scientific studies and active involvement of local communities, respecting their culture and knowledge.
We work with Armonía in several other areas in Bolivia on projects for the Palkachupa Cotinga, Red-fronted Macaw, Cochabamba Mountain-finch, and more.