Found only in the Llanos de Moxos – a tropical savanna in northern Bolivia – the striking Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis was nearly trapped to extinction as a result of demand for the cage bird trade, until 1984, when live export of the species from Bolivia was banned.
But while that threat has been reduced (if not entirely eliminated), the remaining Blue-throated Macaw population, estimated to be in the low hundreds, faces a significant hurdle in its attempts to rebound. The entirety of its known breeding range is situated on what is now private cattle ranches, and the resultant tree-felling and burning has left the Blue-throated Macaws – picky nesters by necessity – short on viable options.
Blue-throated Macaws prefer trees with spacious cavities to nest in, but 150 years of cattle-ranching has resulted in the clearing of most of the larger trees in the region. The beleaguered species has been recorded to suffer a high rate of nesting failures in recent years, with predation from species such as Southern Caracara Caracara plancus and Toco Toucan Ramphastos toco cited as one of the main factors.
This year, nine Blue-throated Macaw chicks fledged from Armonia’s nest boxes – one of which represented a significant milestone in our attempts to save this Critically Endangered species – our first-ever second-generation nest box fledging. Both of its parents were themselves hatched in a nest box seven years ago, and the pair have now returned to raise their own offspring in the same boxes.
Macaws are intelligent birds and much of their behavior is learned from their parents. We are confident that once a macaw pair breeds in a nest box, their offspring will learn this behaviour. – Bennett Hennessy, Development Director, Armonía.
Armonía are now working to improve and expand upon this programme. In 2014, Armonía installed 67 nest boxes in a potentially successful site in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, where currently Blue-throated Macaws forage and roost, but do not yet breed. It is hoped that in time, these intelligent birds will adjust to the presence of these artificial cavities and begin breeding within this protected area.