Spix's Macaw

"The Fading Blue" by Paschalis Dougalis (watercolors on Lana cold-pressed paper)

I was happily surprised to see the Spix Macaw on the list. Extinct in the wild but still exists and breeds in captivity. The species is named after Spix, a Bavarian scientist who discovered it first in North-eastern Brazil in early 19th century. He has been the founder of the Zoological collection in Munich, the city I live! I’ve been studying the species from taxidermy mounts and videos during the last two years, and hope to sketch this bird from life someday!
— Paschalis Dougalis


This species is endemic to Brazil, but is now presumed to be extinct in the wild. The last individual in the wild was discovered in 1990 and disappeared in October 2000. The whole population is now captive and in the hands of private collectors scattered across the globe. When it was in the wild, it was dependent on the Caribbean trumpet tree for nesting and perching. These trees are part of a unique habitat in Brazil found nowhere else on Earth.

Map__Spixs Macaw.jpg

Family Life

Spix's macaws are very routine-oriented birds, following the same flight paths, scavenging activities, and bathing at the same time each day. Even in their interactions with each other and other birds, routines are followed. They prefer to travel in pairs or small family groups along the seasonal rivers hunting for food, and roosting and nesting together in treetops. Spix's macaws are lively birds, very noisy and often identified by their raucous "kra-ark" call during flight. Macaws are intelligent, social birds that often gather in flocks of 10 to 30 individuals. Their loud calls, squawks, and screams echo through the forest canopy. Macaws vocalize to communicate within the flock, mark territory, and identify one another. Some species can even mimic human speech. Spix's macaws are monogamous and mate for life. Most of what is known about learned behavior and parenting in Spix's macaws is speculation, due to their rarity in the wild.


It’s estimated to live about 28 years in the wild, and about 38 years in captivity. 

Hunting Habits/Diet

They feed on various seeds, nuts, fruits (mainly cactus fruits), flowers, leaves and other plant material found within its range. They eat the seeds of Faveleira trees, Pinhão-brabo trees, fruits of Fachiero cacti and local licuri palm. They eat the fruits and seeds of the Joazeiro cacti, and the " paudecolher,” and the nuts of the Buriti palm. Captive birds are usually fed a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables, green food, soaked pigeon food, and small quantities of pre-cooked beef; eggfood, porridge and rusk for rearing, good quality avian vitamins (especially D and B complex) and mineral supplements.


Now, the fewer than 100 remaining Spix's macaws are cloistered in captive breeding programs and refuges throughout the world.

Fun Fact

A female and male macaw which escaped from captivity and apparently vanished in the year 2000, inspired the animated movie Rio. 

Why are they Endangered?

The decline of this species is due to the loss of its natural gallery habitat due to decades of exploitation in the Bahia region of Brazil. This loss of habitat was exacerbated by the trapping of individuals for the live bird trade. A number of other factors such as the colonization of the region by African bees and building of hydroelectric dams may have played a role in this species decline.


Critically Endangered