Nature reserve in Bolivia offers hope for wild macaws on the brink

August 21, 2018, 12:02 p.m.
blue-throated macaws
Photo: David Friel/Wikipedia

A 2017 expedition in Bolivia revealed a wonderful surprise for the future of the rare blue-throated macaw: a newly discovered nesting area. And now, a little over a year later, Asociación Armonía (with support from American Bird Conservancy, the International Conservation Fund of Canada, IUCN Netherlands, and World Land Trust) has purchased 1,680 acres and turned that breeding grounds into a protected nature reserve.

As with many macaw species, the illegal pet trade has devastated wild populations. Only an estimated 300 individuals remain in the wild. Where they breed and nest had been a mystery for many years.

The expedition team discovered a handful of nests with breeding pairs, including two nests near a populated farm where the secretive birds seemed unbothered by proximity to humans. The expedition team hoped that the discovery will also help reveal information about the blue-throated macaw's breeding behavior and life cycle.

blue-throated macaws Asociación Armonía built nesting boxes for the birds in hopes they would successfully and safely breed. (Photo: Asociación Armonía/Flickr)

The hope is that the birds' population will increase on the protected land through the organization's artificial nest box program. Since the nest boxes were installed, 51 birds have fledged from the area and a pair of macaws returned last year to breed.

blue-throated macaw nature reserve in Bolivia The reserve is made up of savanna, open dry forest, closed forest and a marsh habitat. (Photo: Asociación Armonía/Flickr)

This new reserve combined with the organization's Barba Azul Nature Reserve creates a total protected land area of 28,862 acres for the blue-throated macaws.

pair of blue-throated macaws Macaws mate during the end of the dry season (October) just before they migrate to their breeding grounds about 50 km north of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve. (Photo: Asociación Armonía/Flickr)

"Increasing the Blue-throated Macaw population is more likely now that Armonía has secured this important site as a reserve," said Rodrigo Soria, executive director of Asociación Armonía. "This acquisition means that we can continue the successful nest box program without worry of changing land ownership and management."

The new nature reserve is called the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve in tribute to Laney Rickman, founder of the Texas-based nonprofit Bird Endowment. Rickman expanded and supported the macaw nest box program in partnership with Asociación Armonía.

Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in March 2017.