Spix’s Macaws: Physical Description, Behavior and Calls / Vocalizations

The Spix’s Macaw is a medium-sized parrot species and is barely half the size of its larger cousin, the Hyacinth which measures about 100 cm (39 inches) long.


  • Body length: 55-60 cm (22 – 24 inches)Tail Length: 26-38 cm (10 – 15 inches)Wing length: 25-30 cm (10 – 12 inches)Average Wingspan : 1.20 m (3.94 ft)


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    • Males: 280 – 400 g (10 – 14 oz)Females: 266 – 400 g (9 oz – 14 oz)

    Adult Description: This blue-grey macaw has agraduated tail that is longer than its body length. Males and females look alike, with the female being slightly smaller than male.

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      Adults have grey eye rings and pale yellowish irises. The feet and beak of the adults are dark greyish-black. Their bill is smaller and less curved than that of other macaws.

      It has a pale ashy-blue, greyish head, that is somewhat square shaped. There are distinctive bare areas of greyish-black facial patches around the eyes, the cere (fleshy area above the upper beak) and the upper cheeks, which sometimes fade to white.

      The plumage is mostly various shades of blue, with a pale ashy-blue / greyish head, pale blue under plumage, and deeper blue back wings and upper tail. The chest and belly have a faint greenish tinge. The underside of the wings and tail are dark grey / blackish.

      Their flight is relatively slow, with deep wing strokes that resembled those of the larger macaws.

      Historic Background of the Spix’s MacawThreats, Conservation Programs, StatusBreeding / Nesting (in the wild) … Spix Macaws in AvicultureReferences

      Immature Birds

      The juvenile has, like the adult, a greyish-black beak — however, with a distinct horn-colored stripe down the center of the beak (culmen). The only other macaws with a similar horn-colored culmen in the juvenile is the Red-bellied Macaw.

      This stripe disappears when he or she is about 1 to 2 years old. Immature birds have light grey feet, then turning dark grey and almost black when they reach maturity. Immature birds have white eye rings and dark-brown eyes that lighten as the bird matures. The immature’s tail is shorter, gradually growing longer as he matures.

      Immature Spix's Macaw - Note the bone-colored stripe in the center of the upper beak


      These parrots are mostly active during the daytime (diurnal), spending the nights on the crabeiras along the streams. They are usually observed alone, in pairs or small family groups, perching on the top branches of bare trees along rivers. They fly with slow, deep wing-beats that are reminiscent of larger macaws; accompanied by their typical kraa-ark calls.

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        They are generally shy and unapproachable, but can become aggressive if they feel threatened. They usually take off when an intruder approaches them, or they may use their loud calls and large, flapping wings to scare any competitors or predators away.

        However, when their eggs or young are in danger, Spix’s macaws have been observed lying on their side on the ground to draw attention away from the nest or young, and instead, to themselves.

        They are routine-oriented and maintain a strict schedule, performing their regular activities, such as feeding, roosting, nesting, bathing, even social interactions at the same time every day.

        They were seen taking the same flight paths to and from their feeding or roosting places at the same hours. Their predictability ended up being a major cause in their extinction, as it made them easy targets for hunters and trappers.

        Paul Roth, who observed the last male known to occur in the wild, noted that the male would escort his mate (a female Illiger’s macaw) each night back to her roosting site, before returning to his own.

        In the wild, Spix’s macaws had often occurred together with the related Illiger’s, and the Spix’s Macaws typically asserted dominance over the Illiger’swhen competing for favored perches or food items.

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          Communication / Vocalizations

          These parrots were typically only found because of their raucous “cra-á cra-á cra-á” or “kraa-aark” calls typically made during flight. Their squawking calls were often heard throughout the woodlands. They also make some screeching and repeated short grating noises.

          Their mating calls have been described as sounding like “whichaka” – reminiscent to the sound made by creating a low rumble in the abdomen and bringing the sound up to a high pitch.

          Like other parrots, they also have the ability to mimic sounds, including human speech.

          Spix's Macaws (Cyanopsitta spixii)
          Photo of author

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