I feel the time has come to meet the famous Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii). How famous are we talking? Ever seen the film, Rio? No, neither have I. Apparently that’s a Spix’s though.
They’re a beautiful blue Macaw from the jungles of Brazil.
Macaws are famed for being some of the biggest parrots getting around, but at a mere 56 cm, Spix’s is positively pint sized by comparison. Of course, what makes them famous is not their short statue, but their short supply, for they are one of the rarest birds in the world.
No one knows for sure if they’re extinct in the wild, but they don’t turn up very often. The last sighting was in 2016 and the time before that was in 2000; so today we pretty much only know of the ones in captivity. Latest estimates put their population at about 160.
We’re trying to save them, but there are problems. Because they are so rare new ones haven’t been taken from the wild for decades, so those 160 are all very closely related due to inbreeding. Because they are so inbreed many eggs that do get laid tend to be infertile. Only about 1 in 6 are fertile, and then only 2 in 3 of those every hatch (I’ll save you the math, that’s about 1 in 9 eggs laid will hatch). And then of the ones that do hatch they’re twice as likely to be female, so there’s a big old gender imbalance as well…
What makes pairing birds to mate even more difficult is they choose their own mates, they can’t be forced together based on what would make the best genetic match. Birds that are forced together will often act as if they’re mates but will never actually do the deed, so to speak.
And on top of everything else it takes them 10 years to reach sexual maturity.
So yeah … Spix’s Macaw is basically the Panda of the bird world. Damn it Macaw! We’re trying so hard to save you, you could make it a little easier.