The Glaucous Macaws (Anodorhynchus glaucus) are large South American parrots that are generally considered extinct or on the verge of extinction, as the last reliable sightings date back to the 1960.
However, due to persistent rumors of sightings, this species is currently listed as Critically Endangered rather than being officially declared “extinct”.
The Glaucous Macaws belong to a group that is commonly referred to as the “Blue Macaws“, which includes the closely related Lear’s Macaws (Anodorhynchus leari), Spix’s Macaws (Cyanopsitta spixii) and the Hyacinth (Anodorhynchus. hyacinthinus).
All members of this group are either extinct or at risk of becoming extinct.The members of this group were historically frequently confused with each other. Even though the live birds can be identified quite readily by those with basic knowledge of the species; the identification proved far more challenging when working with diseased specimen or only their skins.
Alternate (Global) Names
Spanish: Guacamayo Azul, Guacamayo Glauco, Guacamayo Violáceo, Papagayo violáceo … Portuguese (Brazil): Arara-azul-pequena, arara-celeste, guacamaio … Italian: Ara glauca … French: Ara glauque, Ara gris-bleu, Ara de glaucus … German: Türkisara, Meerblauer Ara … Chinese: ?????? … Czech: Ara tyrkysový … Danish: Havblå Ara … Dutch: Blauwgrijze Aras, Blauwe Aras, Blauwgroene Ara, Zeegroene Ara … Estonian: türkiis-siniaara … Finnish: Paranaara, parana-ara, parananara … Guarani: Arar, Gua’a hovy … Japanese: umiaokongouinko, ??????????? … Norwegian: Asurara, Havblå ara … Polish: ara turkusowa … Portuguese: arara-azul-pequena, arara-celeste, guacamaio … Russian: ????-??????? ??????????? ??? … Slovak: ara sivá … Swedish: Blågrön Ara:
In Guaraní – an indigenous language of South America – the Glaucous Macaw and the related Hyacinth Macaw – were commonly referred to as guaa-obi;” guaa,” representing the sound of the macaw and ” obi” referring to the coloration of the plumage.
Distribution / Range
The Glaucous Macaws only occurred very localized within their range in southeastern South America,, where they were mostly found in the middle reaches of the major rivers.
They were found in the border region of Brazil (from Paraná state southwards), northeastern Argentina and southeastern Paraguay and probably also in northern Uruguay (Artigas).
Most records of this rare parrot came from Corrientes, Argentina, on the lower Paraguay and Parana Rivers (where a few specimens with data were recorded).
Preferred / Typical Habitat
Most of the sightings occurred along rivers – which is explained by the fact that people at those times in particular mostly traveled via boats and had little or no access into the interior. One can safely assume that they occurred in the sub-tropical forests along the region’s major rivers.
Since their primary food were palm nuts, it is also likely that they remained close to forests where these palm trees were found — presumably palm-savannas and lightly wooded areas.
This parrot measures about 70 – 72 cm (27.5 – 28.5 in) in length (from head to tail). It has a large, strong beak and a long tail.
It has a large greyish head and an otherwise mostly pale turquoise-blue plumage. It has distinctive yellow, bare eye-rings and halfmoon-shaped lappets (skin) bordering the lower bill (mandible).
- The Lear’s Macaw has a bluer head and is not found within the range of the Glaucous Macaw.
- The Hyacinthe is larger and bulkier in size. Its plumage is more violet-blue and the yellow skin patches extend along the base of the lower bill (mandible)
One specimen lived 14.8 years in captivity. Others were said to have lived for over 20 years in captive situations. The larger parrots generally have a life expectancy between 50 to 80 years, and there is no reason that this would not also apply to the Glaucous Macaw..
Diet / Feeding
Their primary diet consisted of palm nuts, most likely the Yatay (or Chatay) palm (Butia yatay). specialised feeder of palm fruits, especially those of yatay palm (Butia yatay); Also likely fed on ripe and unripe fruits, nuts, berries and vegetable matter.
Nesting / Breeding
They nested and roosted in hollows of trunks and, increasingly so, made their nests on the cliffs of the Parana and Uruguay Rivers.”
The average clutch probably consisted of two eggs.
Last Known and Museum Specimens
The last known specimen to be seen alive (thought to be from Brazil) was exhibited in the Buenos Aire’s Zoological Gardens in 1936 (Orfila 1936).
Another live specimen was kept at the Jardin d’Acclimation in Paris from 1895 to 1905 by Jean Delacour (Sick and Teixeras 1980).
The skin of one Glaucous was collected on the Rio de la Plata (river and estuary formed by the confluence of the Uruguay River and the Paraná River on the border between Argentina and Uruguay).
One skeleton from Brazil was collected in 1865 by Hermanus Hendricus ter Meer.
Possible causes for their decline / possible extinction
The main reason for their decline is believed to be the widespread loss of palm-groves, either through direct clearance for agriculture or the suppression of regeneration by grazing cattle.
However, suitable habitat still remains in El Palmar National Park in the Argentine province of Entre Ríos, where some could have survived and, indeed, persistent rumors of their existence still exist.
Other possible or contributing factors for the decline of their numbers in 19th century are believed to be the following:
- Settlement of the major river basins within its range
- Over the last century, their habitat underwent drastic changes due to land reclamation.
- Hunting for their feathers and flesh for food
- Trapping for other reasons (such as trading eggs, skins or live specimens)
- Possible disease outbreak
Threats was presumably accompanied by the widespread loss of palm-groves,
Status / Conservation
These parrots became rare before or early in the second half of the 19th century. In the 20th century, there were only two acceptable records – one direct observation in Uruguay in 1951 and another one based on local reports in Paraná (a state in southern Brazil) in the early 1960s.
However, not all of its formerly large range has been surveyed, and there have been persistent local reports of this species still occurring in the wild. Even though it is conceivably that a small population still persists in a small pocket of unexplored forest, this is considered unlikely.
If this is so, any remaining population is likely to be small. Over the years, there have been various attempts to rediscover the species.
This species is currently listed as Critically Endangered (CITES Appendix I and II) rather than being formally classified as “Extinct”. This species is now protected under Brazilian law.