Here you find general information on the hyacinth macaw, especially the great hyacinth macaw, object of study of Hyacinth Macaw Project, which is the largest representative of the Psittacidae family.

You will also find information about Psittacidae, which are endangered species, a list of threatened parrots in Brazil, macaws of the Ara genus, and other smaller macaw species (known as maracanas or blue-winged macaws) that are found in Brazil, as well as reference material on these subjects.


The Psittacidae family includes macaws, parrots, parakeets, aratingas, blue-winged macaws (maracanas), parrotlets, lovebirds (agapornis), etc. These species are distributed across the globe in the tropical zones (Neotropical, Afrotropical, Eastern tropical, and Australian tropical) and spread out into subtropical and cold regions. Brazil has the richest diversity of this family of birds in the world, ranging from small species like the parrotlet, at 12 cm in length, to the largest member of the family, the hyacinth macaw, with around 1 meter in length. During the period of the discovery of our lands, this abundance was already reported and our country was designated “the land of parrots” (Brasília sive terra papagallorum).

One of the main characteristics of these species is their large, robust heads supporting strong, high, curved beaks designed for breaking and shelling seeds. To help them handle these seeds, they also have highly developed jaw and tongue muscles. They have short, but well-articulated feet, which besides supporting their bodies, are used to handle the food they eat. Both males and females have beautiful, vibrant-colored plumage of incomparable beauty. Usually the sexes are quite similar.

This family consists of 78 genera (divisions within the family) that include a total of 332 Psittacidae species. Studies conducted in 1994 show that 86 of these species are critically close to extinction, and another 36 species will become endangered if appropriate measures will not be taken. According to the Brazilian Ornithological Records Committee (CBRO), Brazil alone is home to 84 species distributed across 24 genera.


Because of the limitation on renewable natural resources, the increasing human population, the need to continuously produce more food, the loss, destruction, or fragmentation of the habitat, pollution, and global climate change, many animals around the world are on the path to extinction.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), extinction is a threat to 12,259 species of plants and animals on the planet and has already become a reality in 762 cases. Another 58 species no longer found in the wild are being bred and conserved only in captivity. Brazil ranks fourth among the countries with endangered species, with 282 such species, as opposed to 859 in the United States, 527 in Australia, and 411 in Indonesia.

Macaws and parrots are some of the most impressive examples of tropical birdlife. It is precisely because they are so beautiful, with their colored plumage, because they adapt easily to captivity, and have the ability to imitate and interact with humans, that the Psittacidae are the most threatened group in the world. Human interest in macaws is so ancient that for many centuries they have been captured to serve as pets, and for their feathers, which are used as adornments. For this reason, the Hyacinth Macaw Project has used the hyacinth macaw as a flagship species for conservation.

List of endangered Psittacidae species in Brazil

In Brazil, 16 species of Psittacidae are vulnerable to or in danger of extinction, of which two species are in an even more precarious situation: the glaucous macaw, which has disappeared in the last 50 years and is considered to be extinct; and the Spix’s macaw, the last of which disappeared in October 2000, and which is now extinct worldwide, with about sixty individuals living in captivity around the world.


Macaws are found from southern North America (Mexico) to South America. There are 16 species of macaws, distributed across six genera. Here, Brazil is once again the champion, with representatives from all the genera and the greatest number of species of macaws at a total of 13. The existing “blue macaws” are almost exclusively Brazilian, and two species, A. leari and Cyanopsitta spixii are endemic to Brazil i.e. they are only found in Brazil. The largest population of hyacinth macaws (A. hyacinthinus) is found in Brazil. They were practically extinct in Paraguay and Bolivia, but have been since found in the latter.

Brazil has four representatives of the Ara genus, which are the two scarlet macaws, (A. chloropterus and A. macao), the blue-and-yellow macaw (A. araraúna) and the chestnut-fronted macaw (A. severus). Four more species belonging to this genus, considered to be great macaws, are also found: Buffon’s macaw (Ara ambiguus) that occurs in Central America in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, with a subspecies (guayaquilensis) occurring in Colombia and Ecuador; the military macaw (Ara militaris), which occurs from Mexico to northern Bolivia, with three subspecies: militaris, bolivianus, and mexicanus; the blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis) and the red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys) that only occur in Brazil.

Five more species, cited below, that belong to three genera and are considered the small macaws, complete the list of Brazilian macaws.

Brazilian macaws are distributed across 6 different genera. They are:

Anodorhynchus: With 3 species: A. hyacinthinus, A. leari, and A. glaucus.
Cyanopsitta: with 1 species, C. spixii.
Ara: With 4 species: A. ararauna, A. chloropterus, A. macao, and A. severus.
Orthopsittaca: With 1 species: O. manilata.
Primolius: With 3 species: P. maracana, P. auricollis, and P. couloni.
Diopsittaca: With 1 species: D. nobilis.


The three species of the genus Anodorhynchus are presented here: hyacinthinus, leari, and glaucus, considered to be the true blue macaws because of their predominantly blue color. It is worth mentioning that this genus has one extinct species (A. glaucus) and two others are on the world list of endangered species – Lear’s macaw (A. leari, with about 600 individuals in the wild), classified as “in critical danger”, and the hyacinth macaw (A. hyacinthinus), classified as “in danger”, which has the largest population of the genus in the wild, as it has been recovering in the Pantanal, but still suffers from capture for trafficking, primarily in other regions of Brazil, and from the destruction of its habitat.

The species Cyanopsitta spixii has also been included here because it is known popularly in Brazil as the little blue macaw. Although this species in currently extinct in the wild, it is being bred in captivity for future reintroduction. The little blue macaw and the Lear’s macaw are truly Brazilian species, as their distribution is restricted to Brazil, in the State of Bahia.

Hyacinth macaw


Popular name: Known as hyacinth macaws, blue macaws, black macaws, blue-and-yellow macaws, and hyacinthine macaws. In English: Hyacinth Macaw or Hyacithine Macaw. German: Hyacinthara. French: Ara Bleu, Ara Hyacinthe, Ara Jacinthe. Spanish: Guacamayo Azul, Guacamayo jacinto, Paraba Azul. Swedish: Hyacintara, Större Hyacintara.

Scientific name: Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus. Described by Latham in 1790. The etymology of the word anodorhynchus refers to the toothless beak and absence of groove on the maxilla, and the name hyacinthinus is from its color, predominantly blue.

Classification: The hyacinth macaw belongs to the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Aves, Order Psittaciformes, Family Psittacidae, and genus Anodorhynchus.

Status: The hyacinth macaw is an endangered species in Brazil (MMA, 2003), listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Characteristics: Hyacinth macaws are social birds that live in families, bands or groups. They are rarely found alone in the wild. They are conspicuous birds and have a certain fidelity to feeding grounds and nesting grounds. Juveniles and non-reproductive couples gather at sites called dormitories, which, in addition to providing protection, seem to function as veritable “information exchange centers.” They are among the most intelligent birds.

Size: Length: up to 1 m (from tip of beak to tip of tail). the world’s largest species of the Psittacidae family. Weight: Adults, up to 1.3 kg; but chicks can reach up to 1.7 kg during the peak weight period.

Coloration: Cobalt-blue plumage, gradient from the head to the tail; the undersides of the wing- and tail-feathers are black. It has intense yellow coloration around the eyes (eyerings), eyelids and bare skin around the base of the jaw. Its beak is large, solid, curved and black, nearly forming a circle along with the head. Its thick black tongue is also noteworthy, due to the yellow band on the sides.

Geographical Distribution: Formerly common in many parts of Brazil, today it is found in the Pantanal region, covering parts of Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil, in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso as well as in the North of Brazil (in the states of Amazonas and Pará) and in the region of “Gerais” (including parts of Maranhão, Bahia, Piauí, Tocantins, and Goiás). Unfortunately, there is not enough information to state whether hyacinth macaws form a single population, interconnected and crossbreeding among each other, or whether they are disconnected, geographically separated, forming three populations: Pantanal, Amazonia and “Gerais.” In recent studies developed by the Department of Genetics and Evolutionary Biology of the University of São Paulo’s Biosciences Institute, in partnership with the Hyacinth Macaw Project and others, different markers were found that suggest a variation in the population’s genetic composition. These studies are currently being expanded to confirm whether or not this information is valid.

Habitat: In the Pantanal region, they are found in open areas, in forests with palm trees, while their nests are located at the edge or in the interior of mountain ranges and copses, as well as in open areas for pasture. In the Pará region, it uses rainforests, preferring floodplains rich in palm trees. In the drier regions (Tocantins, Piauí, Maranhão and Bahia), it is common to find them in seasonally dry areas, preferring the plateaus and valleys of rocky cliffs; in this region it nests in hollows of palm trees (Tocantins), emerging trees (Pará), or in openings in the cliff faces (Piauí).

Food: Hyacinth macaws are one of the most specialized parrots in terms of diet, consisting basically of palm seeds, which they can easily break with their powerful beaks. In the Pantanal region, they feed on acuri palm (Scheelea phalerata) and bocaiúva palm (Acrocomia aculeata). In the Pará region, they feed on inajá palm (Maximiliana regia), babassu palm (Orbiguya martiana) and tucumã palm (Astrocaryum sp). In dry regions, they feed on licuri or catolé palm (Syagrus coronata), piassava palm (Attalea funifera), buriti palm (Mauritia vinifera), as well as Orbiguya eicherii. They are most often seen feeding on the ground, whether in the field or in the vicinity of farm houses. In the latter case, they are usually feeding on acuri palm nuts, the mesocarp (pulp) of which has already been stripped off by other animals, especially cattle and other wildlife. In the fruit-bearing period of bocaiúva palms, they are seen feeding directly on the bunches in the trees.

They usually feed in groups as a way of increasing protection. There is always one individual serving as a look-out, which – at any strange noise or movement – screeches loudly and the macaws all fly away. Foraging times are most often in the early morning, between 6:00 and 10:00 am, and in the late afternoon, between 2:30 and 5:00 pm.

Reproduction and Conservation

Behavior: In the wild, hyacinth macaws can be seen flying or more often walking on the ground, hanging from the bunches of fruits in palm trees, or perching on dry branches of the trees, or on fence posts and corrals.

They are found in groups, or companies, consisting of 10 to 30 individuals, especially in feeding areas and in places known as dormitories (for resting and sleeping), as well as in breeding pairs. When these bands are observed, we can verify the high socialization (interaction) between the individuals. It is very common to observe the macaws vocalizing (seeming as though they were talking to each other), preening (one individual scratching or cleaning the feathers on the other), and playing with each other and with the branches, flowers and leaves of the trees they are perched on. In the reproductive season, it is possible to observe the couples feeding and flying together, they are generally loyal to their mating partner and share the task of taking care of the eggs and chicks.

Nesting sites: Hyacinth macaws do not seem to select nests with standardized characteristics (such as shape and size of the cavity, orientation of openings, etc.), but show preference for trees that stand out from the vegetation, located at the edges of mountain ranges or copses, and with more accessible cavities.

In the Pantanal region, 90% of the nests are found in Panama trees. These trees with thick trunks and soft hearts (interior) facilitate the formation of the nest. Hyacinth macaws are secondary diggers. They take advantage of small cavities opened by woodpeckers, termites or fungi, as well as places where branches have broken off, to enlarge the cavity, line it with sawdust, and build their nests. Based on this characteristic, they can be called environmental engineers. When building their nests, macaws end up making nests for other species such as toucans, hawks, owls, Muscovy ducks, and others. In areas surrounding the Pantanal (in the region of Aquidauana and Rio Negro) and in Piauí (in Chapada das Mangabeiras), hyacinth macaw nests have been found in openings of rocky cliffs. In the Pantanal region, they have accepted and have reproduced in artificial nests made of wooden boxes, placed by the Hyacinth Macaw Project.

Most nests can be reused from year to year. They always cover the base of the nest with sawdust that they pinch off from the tree itself. This causes the base of the nests to become deeper and deeper. The Project once found a nest whose base was four meters from the opening. In this case, the chick was unable to leave, being trapped inside the nest for a year, fed by its parents until researchers intervened, opening a window closer to the base of the nest. The chick was removed, but was unable to fly because it had damaged tail and wing feathers; so it was taken to the Campo Grande Rehabilitation Center (CRAS) until it recovered.

Reproduction: After the couple is formed, they spend most of their time together sharing all the tasks. In July, they begin to inspect and renovate the cavities for the breeding period that is just beginning. The peak of reproduction can vary, but in general it occurs from September to October, and the rearing of the chicks can extend until January or February the following year. At this time, it is common to see disputes for nests between macaws and other species. Around 17 other species occupy artificial nests developed by the Hyacinth Macaw Project. The reproduction rate is low, and some couples only reproduce once every two years.

The female usually lays from one to three eggs, on different days; the average number of eggs is two. The female remains in the nest while brooding, and is fed by the male during this period. The incubation period of the egg(s) is 28 to 30 days. Studies show that the egg hatch rate (live hatchling) is 90%. The eggs can be preyed on by caracaras, toucans, jackdaws, coatis and possums, and the predation rate varies from 20 to 40%.

The chicks hatch weighing 31.6 grams and measuring 82.7 mm on average. In this phase, the parents go out to look for food so that the chicks can grow and gain weight quickly. Until the age of 45 days, the chicks are subject to predation by ants, toucans and hawks. However, the highest mortality rate occurs up to the fifth day of life of the second chick. When the age difference between the first and second chicks is greater than five days, the second chick rarely survives.

At the age of roughly 107 days (3 months), the chicks start to fly. They no longer return to the nests, but can remain in the vicinity or fly away with their parents. At this stage, they are still fed by their parents, but this is also when the chicks’ learning begins. They learn where and what to eat, where they can sleep, and how to defend themselves from predators. Starting around 9 to 10 months of age, the chicks are already able to feed themselves, but some still accompany their parents up to the age of 12 or 18 months, when they join bands of juveniles and leave the parents free to reproduce again. Only at around 7 to 9 years of age will these young adult birds start their reproductive life, forming couples and raising their families.

To exemplify the low reproductive rate of hyacinth macaws, of the 106 natural nests monitored in 1997, 70% (N=74) were active, 50 couples laid eggs, of which 9 were preyed upon. The rest produced 57 chicks, of which 44 successfully reached flying age.

Population size: It is impossible to know how many macaws there were originally, but it is known that it was an abundant species at the beginning of the century. Unfortunately, today there are likely more hyacinth macaws in captivity than in the wild. Currently, indications of the occurrence of hyacinth macaws in nature are found in three places: Pantanal, “Gerais” or Central Brazil (in the states of Tocantins, Goiás, Piauí, Maranhão and Bahia), and Northern Brazil.

Results of some field surveys estimate a total a population of approximately 6,500 individuals distributed as follows: 1) Pantanal, with around 5000 macaws, is region where these birds are found in the best situation in the wild. In Mato Grosso do Sul, Guedes (2003) estimates 4000 macaws, the population of which has been increasing and expanding. In Mato Grosso, a study by Pinho (1998) estimates around 800 individuals. In Bolivia, macaws had practically vanished, then reappeared with around 150–200 individuals, according to Dammermann (2000; personal communication and unpublished report). In Paraguay, there are only reports of food in the region near the Brazilian Pantanal.

In Central Brazil, there are around 800–1000 hyacinth macaws, according to a survey by Bianchi et al. (2002). This population is one of the most critical at the moment, as it is affected by trafficking, especially in southern Piauí and Maranhão. Poachers remove eggs, chicks and adults, and there is the ongoing advance of the agricultural frontier, removing native vegetation for soybean farming.

In the North region of Brazil, there are approximately 500 hyacinth macaws, including the states of Amazonas and Pará, and there may be a gap between the populations of the two states. In this region, hyacinth macaws have not been studied in the last 20 years. A more recent survey was carried out by Sherer-Neto (2004; personal communication). Until recently, macaws were affected by the collection of feathers for making indigenous handcrafts, as well as deforestation for ranching and farming. The complete references of these bibliographies are found in Guedes (2004), complete articles in technical publications in pdf.

Threats encountered by the species: The main factors that led hyacinth macaws to endangerment were: 1) illegal capture for the domestic and international pet bird trade, which was intense up to the 1980s (eggs, chicks, and adults); 2) destruction of habitat (loss, fragmentation, altered characteristics) mainly with the implantation of cultivated pasture land in the Pantanal, as well as agriculture and settlements in other regions; 3) the hunting and collecting of feathers for indigenous handcrafts (in Brazil, this has been banned since 2005, being allowed only for ceremonies and other uses within indigenous reservations). Added to these factors are small populations, low reproductive rates, and specialization in diet and habitat.

Trafficking of macaws: By the 1980s, it was estimated that more than 10,000 hyacinth macaws had been removed from nature. Today, the traffic of hyacinth macaws has decreased significantly, but still continues. In Mato Grosso do Sul, if it hasn’t ended outright, it has been greatly reduced, thanks to the publicity and involvement of the population through the Hyacinth Macaw Project.

However, trafficking remains intense in other regions of Brazil. In the period from 2004 to 2006, roughly 60 baby hyacinth macaws were removed from their nests for the wildlife trade. To illustrate the point, out of this total, 10 chicks aged less than three months were apprehended by Federal Police in Corumbá. The destinations were Bolivia, Peru and subsequently other countries. The chicks had already been tagged, because chicks born in captivity receive a closed numbered ring before they are 20 days old, which is controlled by IBAMA along with the breeders. That is why they could receive a “born in captivity” certificate, which would give a legal aspect to the marketing of these birds. But the rings were counterfeit. As soon as the Hyacinth Macaw Project team saw the chicks, it was verified that they were not from the Pantanal, and this information was later confirmed by tests carried out by the Department of Genetics at IB/USP. These chicks had traveled more than 1500 kilometers on Brazilian highways, and apprehension was only possible because people are more attentive as a result of the work of environmental education, dissemination and involvement of the local populace that made the complaint.

Committee for the Conservation and Management: created by the Ordinance 375 dated May 5, 2003, the Committee for the Conservation and Management of the Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus).

The Committee serves as an advisory group to IBAMA, which deals with the management “in situ” (in nature) and “ex-situ” (in captivity) of Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, integrating researchers and institutions that carry out activities related to this species and its habitats. The Committee is composed of the Wildlife Coordinator-General, the Coordinator of Protection of Wildlife Species, and the Head of the Research Center for Conservation of Wild Birds, all under IBAMA, plus a representative of the Society of Zoos of Brazil (SZB), a representative of the Brazilian Society of Ornithology (SOB), and specialized technicians such as Neiva M. R. Guedes, Pedro Scherer Neto, Yara de Melo Barros, and Cristina Y. Miyaki. The Committee is chaired by the Wildlife Coordinator-General/IBAMA, and field activities related to the species are coordinated by Neiva M. R. Guedes.

The purpose of the committee is to establish strategies for the study, management and conservation of the hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), aimed at achieving the establishment of genetically viable populations of this species. To propose the Action Plan to IBAMA for the conservation of the species, which will support the Institute’s activities in monitoring the implementation of the planned activities. The committee meets at least once every two years.

Lear’s macaw

Popular name: Lear’s macaw
Scientific name: Anodorhynchus leari
Length: 71 to 75 cm.
Weight: 940 g.

Coloration: its coloration is similar to that of A. hyacinthinus, but it is significantly smaller in size. The difference between the two species lies in the tone of the colors: the head and the neck have a greenish blue coloration, the chest is a faded blue color, and the wings and tail are a tone of cobalt blue. They have a light yellow ring around the eye, with white or light bluish eyelashes. The most significant difference is in the form of the wattle (the skin around the jaw). In A. hyacinthinus it is in the form of a strip, while in A. leari it is shaped like a blot (drop).

Geographical Distribution: found in the north of Bahia, especially on the Raso da Catarina Ecological Reserve and the Canudos Biological Reserve. Historically, the area of distribution of this species included the cities of: Campo Formoso, Euclides da Cunha, Uauá, Jeremoabo, Canudos, Sento Sé, and Paulo Afonso.

Habitat: in the caatinga (savannah) regions, they use the sedimentary rock walls and canyons for sleeping and nesting, and feed in areas with palm trees. The population has two known sleeping and reproduction sites that are currently being monitored: the rock walls of the 1500-acre Canudos Ecological Station (EBC) and the Fazenda Serra Branca, in Jeremoabo-BA, both private reserves.

Food: Seeds of the licuri palm (Syagrus coronata), sisal flowers (Agave sp), and the fruits of the pinhão-bravo (Jatropha pohliana), umbu (Spondias tuberosa), baraúna (Schinopsis brasiliensis Engl), and mucuna (Dioclea sp.). When food is scarce, the macaws eat corn (Zea mays) planted by the local population. In 2006, a Parrots International ( and the Lymington Foundation began a corn reimbursement program, coordinated by IBAMA, for the local population whose crops were being attacked by Lear’s macaws.

Status: Until 2008, it was in the critically threatened category and included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and on the Official List of Brazilian Fauna in Danger of Extinction (MMA 2003). Once it was verified that the population had reached 960 individuals, the species was reclassified as “In Danger”, in accordance with the CITES criteria. The main reason for the decline of the species was the illegal trafficking of these birds by private breeders in Brazil and abroad and the destruction of their habitats, impacting mainly feeding areas.

Conservation and management: There is a Lear’s Macaw Conservation Project coordinated by Cemave – ICMbio in partnership with various institutions and an international committee for the recovery of the species in the wild and in captivity. In Canudos, the biologist Érica Pacífico is conducting studies about the reproductive biology of the species with the support of the Fundação Biodiversitas and the USP Museum of Zoology. The Instituto Arara Azul began participating in this program upon signing an agreement with the Loro Park Foundation, in Tenerife, Spain (2010-2012), to develop initiatives focused on community involvement, environmental education, and income generation. This project is being conducted in the region of Euclides da Cunha, which represents 51% of the feeding range of the species and is coordinated by Simone Tenório, a research associate of the Institute. For more information see OTHER PROJECTS.

Reference: GUEDES, N.M.R. 2009 Arara-azul-de-lear. Projeto Arara Azul website. Instituto Arara Azul.

Glaucous macaw

Popular name: Little blue macaw, sky blue macaw.
Scientific name: Anodorhynchus glaucus
Length: 68-72 cm.

Coloration: It has blue coloration very similar to that of A. leari. And it also has a yellow ring around the eye and a yellow wattle (the skin around the base of the jaw). The differences are in the tones of blue and yellow and in the size.

Geographical Distribution: Eastern Paraguay, the South of Brazil, western Uruguay, and northern Argentina.

Habitat: it lived in the lowlands where palm trees grow along the riverbanks (Uruguay, Paraná, and Paraguay). As there are no confirmed reports, it is assumed that they built their nests in hollows in the river banks, rocky walls, or hollows in the trees.

Food: Palm seeds, probably from the Butia yatay.

Status: Considered to be extinct, as no individuals have been located either in the wild or in captivity (CITES I). And the known taxidermy specimens (scientific stuffing) belong to museums abroad. It was already rare, with a very small population, at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 19th centuries and it disappeared before being well studied. Hypotheses about extinction include hunting and capture as pets, natural catastrophes, low genetic variability, and destruction of the natural environment as humans settled along the rivers.

Spix’s macaw

Popular name: Spix’s macaw
Scientific name: Cyanopsitta spixii.
Length: 55 to 57 cm.
Weight: 296 to 400 g.

Coloration: solid blue, the head in a slightly paler tone and the wings in a darker shade.

Geographical Distribution: Curaçá, city in the north of Bahia.

Habitat: Savannah gallery forests where the caraíba, or Trumpet tree (Tabebuia caraiba) is prevalent.

Food: Seeds of Jatropha sp, Cnidoscolus sp; fruits of Ziziphus sp and Maytennus sp.

Status: Considered EXTINCT in the wild (CITES I). The last living individual disappeared in 2000, leaving a few more than 60 individuals raised in captivity, most of which are outside of Brazil. There is a study group coordinated by IBAMA working internationally to recover the species. The real involvement of the local population, promoted by the Projeto Ararinha Azul in Curaça in Bahia ( is effective, for while it seeks to increase the population in captivity, it also conserves the specific habitat, with a goal of future reintroductions. A pair of little blue macaws (C.spixii) at the Zoo in São Paulo.


Here you will find brief descriptions of the four species of macaws of the Ara genus that occur in Brazil: Two scarlet macaws (A. chloropterus and A. macao), the blue-and-yellow macaw (A. araraúna), and the chestnut-fronted macaw (A. severus). Click on any one of them.

Blue-and-yellow macaw

Popular name: Blue-and-yellow macaw, yellow-bellied macaw
Scientific name: Ara ararauna.
Length: 75-86 cm
Weight: 995 to 1380 g.

Coloration: The upper parts of the body are blue and the underparts are yellow, and it has narrow lines of black facial feathers and also a black throat.

Geographical Distribution: Panama, Colombia, the Guianas, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina. In Brazil, they occur in the North and Central-West regions, in Bahia, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo. Since 2002, they have been living in Campo Grande, the capital of Mato Grosso do Sul, where they can be easily observed.

Habitat: Floodplains with groves of buriti and babassu palms and the edge of the forest.

Food: Fruits and seeds mostly from palms.

Status: this species is classified as CITES II. It is not in imminent danger. But, as with the majority of Brazilian animals, this species present local problems, i.e., it is abundant in some locations but not very common in others, because the destruction of its habitat in these areas has kept the macaws away. It is commonly found in captivity. Species studied by the Hyacinth Macaw Project.

Find out more about this species here.

Scarlet macaw

Popular name: Scarlet macaw, great scarlet macaw
Scientific name: Ara chloropterus
Length: 90 to 95 cm.
Weight: 1050 to 1708 g.

Coloration: Red coloration, different from the scarlet macaw for having green wing feathers in place of the yellow ones and for the narrow row of red feathers on the white facial skin.

Geographical Distribution: it occurs in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. In Brazil, it occurs from the Amazon to western Piauí, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, and São Paulo. Like the blue-and-yellow, or caninde macaw, it also lives in the city of Campo Grande. It is now possible to see expanding and migrating bands of Scarlet macaws along the borders of the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, São Paulo, and Paraná, where they had been considered to be extinct.

Habitat: Woodlands along riverbanks in tropical forests, mountain ranges, and copses in the Pantanal, possibly sharing or alternating some nests with hyacinth macaws.

Food: Fruits and seeds in general.

Status: This species is not in danger of extinction (CITES II), but is highly commercialized and its feathers are collected by indigenous peoples. This species is also being studied by the Hyacinth Macaw Project team. See some of the research results in Publications.

Scarlet macaw

Popular name: Scarlet macaw, small scarlet macaw
Scientific name: Ara macao.
Length: 80 to 96 cm.
Weight: 900 to 1490 g.

Coloration: Red coloration with yellow and blue wing feathers and white facial skin.

Geographical Distribution: occurs in Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. In Brazil, it occurs in the States of Amazônia, Mato Grosso, Tocantins, and Maranhão.

Habitat: Woods and riverbanks.

Food: Fruits and seeds.

Status: this species is not in danger of extinction, but is classified as CITES I. It is only observed in areas undisturbed by humans and is impacted by the destruction of the environment in certain locations and the collection of feathers by the indigenous peoples.

Chestnut-fronted macaw

Popular name: Chestnut-fronted macaw
Scientific name: Ara severus
Length: around 50 cm.
Weight: 285 to 387 g.

Coloration: Green coloration with red and blue wing and tail feathers, white facial skin with narrow rows of black feathers and a chestnut-colored head.

Geographical Distribution: Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. In Brazil, it occurs from the Amazon region to northern Mato Grosso.

Habitat: areas of ciliary forest and stands of buriti palms.

Food: Fruits, seeds, flowers, and leaves.

Status: this species is not in danger of extinction (CITES II).


In this section you will find a brief description of the other five small macaws that occur in Brazil, more popularly known as small macaws (maracanas): Orthopsittaca manilata, Primolius: With 3 species: and Diopsittaca nobilis.

Red-bellied macaw

Popular name: Red-bellied macaw
Scientific name: Orthopsittaca manilata.
Length: 44 cm.
Weight: 292 to 390 g.

Coloration: green coloration, with a greyish scale-patterned breast, a maroon abdomen, yellow facial skin, and a black beak.

Geographical Distribution: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, and the Guianas. In Brazil, it occurs from the states of Amazônia to Piauí, western Bahia and western Minas Gerais and also in Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Goiás.

Habitat: Ciliary forest and stands of buriti palms.

Food: Fruits.

Status: this species is not in danger of extinction (CITES II).

Blue-winged macaw

Popular name: Blue-winged macaw
Scientific name: Primolius maracana.
Length: 41 cm.
Weight: 246 to 266 g.

Coloration: green coloration, maroon abdomen and upper thighs, pale yellow facial skin, and red forehead.

Geographical Distribution: It occurs from Maranhão to Argentina and Paraguay

Habitat: Edges of forests, stands of buritis and other palms.

Food: Fruits and seeds

Status: this species is classified as vulnerable to extinction (CITES I), which means that if measures are not taken, it could enter into the process of extinction.

Golden-collared macaw

Popular name: Golden-collared macaw
Scientific name: Primolius auricollis.
Length: 41 cm.
Weight: 240 to 259g.

Coloration: Green coloration with a darkened forehead, distinguishable by the yellow band across the back of its neck.

Geographical Distribution: Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina. In Brazil, it occurs in Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and northern Tocantins.

Habitat: Copses and gallery forests.

Food: Fruits, flowers, and small seeds.

Status: This species is not in danger of extinction in Brazil. Little is known about the species in the wild. The first field work in Brazil is being conducted by the Hyacinth Macaw Project and the Blue-Fronted Parrot.

Blue-headed macaw

Popular name: Blue-headed macaw
Scientific name: Primolius couloni.
Length: 41 cm.
Weight: 240 to 259 g.

Coloration: Green coloration, blue head and flight feathers, reddish uppertail, no white facial skin.

Geographical Distribution: Peru, northern Bolivia, and in Brazil, it has been sighted in Acre.

Habitat: Woodlands and tropical forest.

Food: Fruits, flowers, and small seeds.

Status: this species is not well-known in Brazil.

Red-shouldered macaw

Popular name: Red-shouldered macaw
Scientific name: Diopsittaca nobilis.
Length: 30 to 35 cm.
Weight: 129 to 169 g.

Coloration: Green coloration, with a blue forehead, red lower coverts (smaller feathers) and shoulder articulations of the wings, and a white face.

Geographical Distribution: It occurs from Venezuela and Suriname to Brazil (Mato Grosso, Goiás, São Paulo, and the states of the Northeast).

Habitat: Cerrado, palm groves, forest edges.

Food: Flowers, fruits, and seeds.

Status: this species is not in danger of extinction (CITES II).


For more information about blue macaws see Project References. To learn more, also consult these books, articles, papers, and sites at the library nearest your house.

Books and articles

Abramson, J.: Speer, B. L. and Thomsen, J.B. The Large Macaws: Their Care, Breeding and Conservation. Fort Bragg: Raintree Pub, 1995.

Beissinger, S. R. & F. R. Snyder. New Parrots in Crisis: solutions from conservation biology. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 1992.

Bernardes, A.T.B., Machado, A.B.M. & Rylands, A.B. 1990. Fauna brasileira ameaçada de extinção. Fundação Biodiversitas, Belo Horizonte

Candisani, L. and Caldas, S.T. Arara-azul. DBA Editora. 2005.

Collar, N.J., Gonzaga, L.P., Krabbe, N., Madrõno Nieto, A., Naranjo, L.G., Parker, T.A. and Wege, D.C., 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas, The ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution, Press.

Galetti, M. & M. A. Pizo. Ecologia e conservação de psitacídeos no Brasil. Melopsittacus Publicações Científicas, Belo Horizonte, MG. 2002.

Del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. Handbook of the birds of the world. Lynx Edicions. 1997.

Juniper, T.; Parr, M. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998.

Miyaki, C.Y.; Hanotte, O.; Wajntal, A. and Burke, T., 1993. Characterization and application of multilocus DNA fingerprints in Brazilian endangered macaws. IN: Pena, S.D.J.; Chakraborty, R.; Epplen, J.T. and Jeffreys, A.J. DNA Fingerprinting: State of the Science, Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, Switzerland, p. 395-401.

Miyaki, C.Y.; Duarte, J.M.B.; Caparroz, R.; Nunes, A.L.N. & Wajntal, A., 1997. Sex identification of Brazilian parrots (Psittacidae, Aves) using the human minisatellite probe 33.15. AUK 114: 516-520.

Miyaki, C.Y.; Griffiths, R.; Orr, K.; Nahum, L.A.; Pereira, S.L. and Wajntal, A., 1998. Sex identification of parrots, toucans and curassows by PCR: perspectives for wild and captive population studies. ZooBiology 17: 415-423.

Sick, H. Ornitologia Brasileira. Editora Nova Fronteira. 1997.

Snyder, N., McGowan, P., Gilardi, J., & A. Grajal. Parrots. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000-2004. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, Oxford, UK. 2000.

Souza, D. Todas as Aves do Brasil. Guia de campo para identificação. Editora DALL. 1998.

Academic papers

Bianchi, C.A.C. Biologia reprodutiva da arara-canindé (Ara ararauna, Psittacidae) no Parque Nacional das Emas, Goiás. Master’s degree thesis, University of Brasília, Brasília, DF, 1998. p 69.

Carciofi, A.C. 2000. Contribuição ao estudo da alimentação da arara-azul (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, Psittacidae, aves) no Pantanal – MS. I – Análise da química do acuri (Scheelea phalerata) e da bocaiúva (Acrocomia aculeata). II – Aplicabilidade do método de indicadores naturais para o cálculo da digestibilidade. III – Energia metabolizável e ingestão de alimentos. USP. São Paulo. Doctoral Thesis. 137p.

Caparroz, R. Estudo de populações naturais de psitacídeos neotropicais (Psittaciformes, Aves) por técnica de identificação individual de DNA (“DNA fingerprinting”): enfoque em conservação. Master’s degree thesis, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, 1998. p 108.

Faria, P. J., 2000. Caracterização de Populações Naturais de Psitacídeos (Aves: Psittaciformes) Através de Marcadores Moleculares. Master’s Degree Dissertation. Department of Biology, Institute of Biosciences, USP, São Paulo.

Guedes, N.M.R. Biologia reprodutiva da arara-azul (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) no Pantanal – MS, Brasil. Master’s degree thesis, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, 1993. p 122.

Pinho, J.B. 1998. Aspectos comportamentais da Arara-Azul (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) na localidade de Pirizal, Município de Nossa Senhora do Livramento – Pantanal de Poconé. UFMT, Cuiabá, Master’s degree Dissertation. 78p.

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