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Exciting Blue-throated Macaw nest discoveries in Bolivia

10 April, 2017 - 10:01 -- World Land Trust
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Pair of Blue-throated Macaws on nest
Palm patch

A new nesting location of Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaws has been discovered, following an expedition led by Asociación Armonía, WLT's partner in Bolivia.

These birds, whose wild population has been devastated by the pet trade, have been seen in large groups roosting and feeding within Armonía’s Barba Azul Nature Reserve, but they do not nest in the protected area. Where they go during the breeding season (November to April) has always been a mystery.

A quest for the Blue-throated Macaw

Further south, in Loreto, Armonia has had great success in encouraging Macaws to use specially designed nest boxes but so far this approach has not worked in Barba Azul, highlighting the need to better understand and protect the full life cycle of this population. So this year, Armonía teamed up with the American Bird Conservancy and The Cincinnati Zoo in a quest to find the nesting sites of the Barba Azul macaws.

The expedition was led by Tjalle Boorsma, Barba Azul Nature Reserve Manager, on horseback through the wet wilderness of the Beni Savanna. They began by focusing on the Motacú palm forest islands in the area where 15 birds had been found roosting north of the reserve last year, but initially they only found Blue-and-yellow Macaws. 

But then their luck changed. “The breakthrough happened when we sighted a pair of Blue-throated Macaws flushing from an elongated patch of Royal Palms” said Tjalle. “The discovery gave a new scope to the whole expedition.”

The Royal Palm discovery

The area was completely flooded and difficult to access, but Tjalle wanted to be sure of what they had seen, so he concealed himself in a makeshift palm blind and waited for six hours and was then rewarded when he observed the pair returning to their nest.

Further exploration revealed four nests in the area in Totaí and Royal Palms, which is important information for the conservationists trying to protect their nesting habitats, said Tjalle. “Finding the nests in Royal Palm and Totaí delivered the missing piece to complete our investigations. Now we definitively know that the Blue-throated Macaw prefers Totaí and Royal palms to nest in, as dead palm snags provide excellent vantage point to observe their surroundings.”

More information

Conserving the Barba Azul population of these Critically Endangered birds has become an excellent example of conservation organisations from around the world working together. As a land conservation organisation focussed on habitat protection, WLT supports these efforts by funding restoration of forest islands which provide the birds with the Motacu Palm nuts which make up most of their diet. 

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Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

I knew it would happen (well, I didn't really of cours, but I harboured fond hopes). Surely it's just a question of time - the birds know what's what. Word gets round, y'know.
Anyway. Well Done to everyone involved with this success. The world needs more wild forest islands with resplendent macaws. Fabulous!

Submitted by j.tibbs on

This is an amazing story of empowerment each person making a difference. Recently I heard about the story of the Huia bird and how a Maori woman took a Huia feather from the chief and gave it a visitor from another place. From then on every person wanted these feathers and they were hunted to extinction. Loss of habitat was a big factor. The Maori people declared the Huia as sacred. This could not save this bird. The bird is featured on the Pascal candle at St Pauls cathedral and it is burning all year the seventh painted by Maori artist Regan O'Callaghan. The Huia made a call and it sounded like Who am I? Every tragic situation has a purpose. Maybe this bird is asking us even in extinction Who am I? The answer is different for everyone. The truth is that we have walked this earth as all creatures and people. All creatures are our family.

Submitted by M K on

Is it possible to plant more trees for these birds? Perhaps another discrete island of trees some distance from these, perhaps more trees closer to these-- what would the ornitho logistics and ecologists recommend?

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