A Bright (Blue) Note in IUCN Update

A Bright (Blue) Note in IUCN Update

The Lear's Macaw population is on the rise, thanks to conservation efforts.

Michele Berger
Published: 06/09/2009


Photograph by Shankarr, on
Flickr Creative Commons

These days, it seems like most environmental news—particularly about animal and bird species—is of the hide-under-your-covers, plug-your-ears sort.

Scientists warn of a sixth great extinction much like the one that ended the dinosaur reign.

But I’m here to suggest you come out from under the covers—at least for the moment. I have good news: The population of the Lear’s macaw, a rare blue parrot found in northeastern Brazil, is on the rise, triggering the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to move the bird from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’ on its Red List of Threatened Species.

It’s one of six bird species the IUCN downlisted in its May 2009 update. The others are the chestnut-bellied hummingbird, the minas gerais tyrannulet, Kaempfer’s tody-tyrant, the mauritius fody, and the Chatham petrel. 

The number of Lear’s macaws has increased exponentially from its low point of fewer than 100 birds in the late 1980s. Information from the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Bird Life International, IUCN’s official bird source, puts today’s population somewhere between 400 and 950 birds.

The resurgence of these macaws is due, in part, to conservation efforts by ABC and Brazilian partner Fundação Biodiversitas that include a land purchase of approximately 4,000 acres of the birds’ habitat and reforestation of its primary food source, the licuri palm.

Of course, there’s still work to be done: The species is one of more than 1,200 threatened birds on IUCN’s list, as Julie Leibach and Katherine Tweed blogged about in previous Perch posts. And the macaw is still vulnerable to the illegal wild bird trade and loss of habitat that previously threatened this species.

But it’s worth taking a moment to smile at the thought that if this positive trend continues, more of these beauties will be flying around northeastern Brazil—and that conservation efforts can work.

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