Miraculous Return: The ‘Rio’ Parrot, Once Extinct, Soars Again in Brazil

The Spix’s macaw, one of the world’s rarest parrots and the inspiration behind the animated movie Rio, has made a triumphant return to the wild in Brazil. This remarkable feat was made possible through an international conservation effort that brought the species back from the brink of extinction.

The Spix’s macaw, known for its vivid blue plumage, was first discovered by German naturalist Johann Baptist Ritter von Spix in 1819. The parrot’s population suffered a major decline as their habitat in northeastern Brazil was destroyed by overgrazing and deforestation.

By the early 2000s, the Spix’s macaw was declared extinct in the wild, with only a handful of birds remaining in private collections worldwide.

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Source: © Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP)

These captive birds served as the foundation for an ambitious breeding program. After years of hard work, eight Spix’s macaws have finally been reintroduced to the wild in Brazil. This success story mirrors the recovery of other species like blue iguanas, red kites, and American bison, all of which have bounced back thanks to dedicated conservation efforts.

Some species are even believed to have returned from extinction without human intervention, such as the thylacine and the ivory-billed woodpecker.

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On 11th June 2022, the first eight Spix’s macaws were released into the Brazilian Caatinga. © Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP)

Tom White of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who serves as a technical advisor to the Spix’s macaw project, notes that the released birds are thriving in their natural habitat. One of the most innovative aspects of this project was the use of a “mixed species flock” strategy.


To help the Spix’s macaws adapt to life in the wild, eight wild Illiger’s macaws were released alongside them. These experienced “mentors” taught the Spix’s macaws how to forage for native food and avoid potential predators.

This groundbreaking approach could have far-reaching implications for future species reintroduction efforts. As the released Spix’s macaws reach reproductive age, it is hoped that they will begin breeding next year, further bolstering the wild population of this once-extinct species.

Via: Discover Wildlife


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