Blue-throated MacawMacaw_Blue_Throated

Ara glaucogularis

CLASS: AVES
ORDER: PSITTACIFORMES 
FAMILY: Psittacidae
GENUS: Ara
SPECIES: A. glaucogularis
 
Common Name(s):  Blue-throated macaw, Wagler's macaw, Caninde macaw
Other names:  Ara à gorge bleue, Ara canindé, Blaukehlara, Caninde-Ara, Guacamayo amarillo, Guacamayo barbazul

This species was unknown to aviculture until the 1970s and still today a limited number of ornithologists are unsure if it is truly a separate species, but rather a subspecies of the blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna).  Previously Ara caninde, this is a bird endemic to a small area of north-central Bolivia known as Los Llanos de Moxos.   Recent population and range estimates suggest that about 250–300 individuals remain in the wild. The main causes of their demise are capture for the pet trade and land clearance on cattle ranches.  It is currently considered critically endangered and the parrot is protected by trading prohibitions.

DESCRIPTION

The Blue-throated Macaw has vivid colors with turquoise-blue wings and tail, and bright yellow underparts and blue undertail coverts. The throat is blue and continuous with its blue cheeks. It has a large black bill. Bare skin at the base of the beak is pink and pale bare skin on the sides of the face is partly covered with lines of small dark blue feathers. The adults have yellow irises and the juveniles have brown irises.  It can be separated from the slightly larger Blue-and-yellow Macaw by the blue (not black) throat, the blue (not green) forehead and the lack of contrast between the remiges and upperwing coverts.  Underparts largely bright yellow but vent pale blue.  The beak is strongly hooked and the feet zygodactylous (with 2 toes that point forward and 2 toes that point backward).

A similar species is the Blue-and-yellow or Blue-and-gold macaw A. ararauna which is larger, has a thicker tail, green fore-crown, no pink facial skin, and larger area of facial skin with black throat patch. A. ararauna has dark blue primaries and secondaries contrasting with pale blue coverts, whereas A. glaucogularis has all-dark blue wings.

SIZE/WINGSPAN

This bird is approximately 85 cm (34 in.) long including the length of its tail feathers, and weighs about 750 g (27 oz). It

HABITAT/RANGE

The Blue-throated Macaw lives from the Llanos de Mojos in north Bolivia, being concentrated in the swampy lowlands to savannah grasslands east of the upper río Mamoré, Beni, where the wild population was discovered in 1992. They nest in islands of palm trees that dot the level plains and.  They are not forest dwelling birds.

The total population is estimated to number 250-300 individuals occupying a range of c.4,000 km2, with 70 individuals discovered at a dry season roost site in 2007. Surveys indicate that the population may now be increasing slowly following dramatic declines during the 1970s and 1980s. An estimated 1,200 or more wild-caught birds were exported from Bolivia during the 1980s, suggesting that the population was formerly much higher.

The species is most frequently found in pairs, but small groups (7-9), do occur and one large group of 70 is known. It is possible that with a larger population the species would be more gregarious.

BEHAVIOR/ADAPTATIONS

In the wild the Blue-throated Macaw often competes for nesting-holes in trees with the Blue-and-yellow Macaw, large woodpeckers and toucans. The number of suitable nest trees has been reduced by land clearing in its range.

They produce loud raucous calls when alarmed, but higher-pitched, softer and more nasal than A. ararauna. A typical loud call follows an alternating distinctive pattern.  It also has a distinctive rolling introduction to its flight call.

Macaws are monogamous, remaining bonded for life. They are often seen flying in large flocks and the bonded pairs fly close together, their wings nearly touching.

REPRODUCTION

Incubation lasts approximately 29 days and average clutch size is 2-3 eggs.  Chicks are fed by the parents for approximately 4 months then remain with their parents for up to a year.  Sexual maturity is reached in approximately 2-4 years.

DIET

Diet for the Blue-throated macaw includes seeds, fruits, nuts, and berries.  Their incredibly strong beaks are perfectly adapted for eating all sorts of nuts and seeds, as seen in their ability to crack open incredibly hard-shelled nuts with ease.

LIFESPAN

This bird may live to 80 years or more

CONSERVATION STATUS

2009 IUCN Red List Category (as evaluated by BirdLife International - the official Red List Authority for birds for IUCN): Critically Endangered.  This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because its population is extremely small and each isolated subpopulation is probably tiny and declining as a result of illegal trade. Overall, it is likely to have undergone an extremely rapid population reduction over the past three generations.

They are relatively easy to breed in captivity, and the captive population is many times larger than the wild population.   Individuals are kept in several zoos around the World, among them the Santa Cruz zoo in Bolivia.

Several breeding and conservation schemes in zoos have now been set up to save this species. Other projects have been started to protect the remaining wild population, but at present numbers are still decreasing.

It was severely threatened in the past by illegal exploitation for the national and international cage-bird trade, although this has been radically reduced since 2000.  All known sites are on private cattle-ranches, where burning and clearing for pasture, and tree-felling for fuel have reduced the number of suitable nest trees and inhibited palm regeneration.  However, cattle-rearing has occurred in the region since the 17th century, and nest-site availability is not currently thought to be limiting.  Nevertheless, nest-site competition from other macaws, toucans and large woodpeckers is significant. Indiscriminate hunting to provide feathers for indigenous head-dresses probably has a small impact in some areas and small scale random hunting to provide meat for baiting fish hooks may occur. There are fears that inbreeding within an increasingly fragmented population is resulting in reduced fertility.

Live export from Bolivia was banned in 1984, but illegal export continues.  The Asociación Armonía/Loro Parque Fundación parrot trade monitoring project has not recorded the species in trade for the last two years, but the large scale illegal trade infrastructure in Bolivia means there is the potential to start trapping again if there is a demand. Agreement has been reached with some landowners to control access and deter potential trappers, and negotiations with other landowners continue.  Based on field surveys recommendations have been made that the Paraparau region, Beni Department, be given greater conservation priority. Much of the remaining population occurs on private ranch-lands. Many landowners are sympathetic to conservation work on their lands and continued support will benefit the species' recovery. The population in captivity (some of which is held in captive-breeding facilities) is many times larger than the wild population. A nest box campaign has been run since 2004 and has found that there is a great demand for suitable nesting cavities. Work with indigenous people looking for alternatives for headdress macaw feathers is ongoing. There has been a widespread education program, including pamphlets, posters, T-shirts, and presentations, short-wave radio spots, video programs, TV interviews, travel to the most remote ranches giving presentations on laptops, and creation of interpretation centers in the bottle-neck towns of Trinidad, Santa Rosa and Santa Ana. Other measures include ongoing surveys of potential areas where populations may persist; a pet trade monitoring program in two main Bolivian cities and land acquisition programs in order to protect key habitat and populations. Asociación Armonía, with the help of the American Bird Conservancy and World Land Trust, completed the purchase of a 3,555 ha private reserve protecting at least 20 Blue-throated Macaws in November 2008.  The reserve will be used for education, research and tourism, and an additional 100 nest boxes will be in place for the 2008/2009 breeding season.  The World Parrot Trust is also involved in nest protection, feeding chicks and other manipulation.

While habitat loss is a concern for the small, splintered blue-throated macaw populations, the species' primary threat is capture/harvest for the international pet trade. Though protected, the macaw's rarity actually drives their price in the private pet market particularly high - encouraging illegal capture and trade.

In 1990, Defenders of Wildlife began a campaign in which more than 100 commercial airlines agreed to stop carrying birds.  This stopped the delivery of new birds to dealers and forced some of them to breed the captive species they already had. In 1995 the Wild Bird Conservation Act was enacted and it halted the import of endangered birds, especially macaws. The U.S. Wild Bird Act forbids the commercial import of any bird listed by CITES which includes most parrots - endangered or threatened.

SOURCES

Animal Bytes at http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/Animal-bytes/animalia/eumetazoa/coelomates/deuterostomes/chordata/craniata/aves/psittaciformes/blue-throated-macaw.htm

Animal Diversity Web at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/search/simple/

ARKive, Images of Life on Earth at http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/birds/Ara_glaucogularis/more_info.html

BirdLife International (2004). Ara glaucogularis. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. at  http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/search/species_search.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=1548&m=0

Forshaw, J.M. Parrots of the World. New Jersey. T.F.H. Publications Inc. 1978.

Houston Zoo at http://www.houstonzoo.org/birds/pages/bltmacaw.htm

Marrison, C. and A. Greensmith. Birds of the World. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Inc. 1993.

National Wildlife Federation at http://www.nwf.org/wildalive/macaw/

Perrins, C. (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File Publications. 1985.

"Species factsheet: Ara glaucogularis". BirdLife International at  http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=1548&m=0. Retrieved on 24 July 2008.

World Association of Zoos and Aquariums at http://www.waza.org/virtualzoo/factsheet.php?id=218-003-008-006&view=Psittaciformes

WorldTwitch: Finding Birds Around the World at http://www.worldtwitch.com/cybeni.html