3 Jul 2019

Record number of Blue-throated Macaw chicks fledged

A record number of Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw chicks fledged from nest boxes at Asociación Armonía’s Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve in Bolivia. Twelve chicks fledged from nest boxes during the 2018-2019 breeding season. This resulted in a total of 81 juvenile Blue-throated Macaws joining the wild adults, a significant addition to a species population that is estimated not to exceed 450 individuals.

Blue-throated Macaw chicks prepare to fly © Márton Hardy / Asociación Civil Armonía
By Marton Hardy

The Blue-throated Macaw is only found in one place on earth - the Beni Savanna of Bolivia. Unfortunately, human-induced fires in the region which are used to stimulate new grass growth have frequently eradicated trees that the Blue-throated Macaw uses for nesting. The species has been declining for the last century due to habitat loss, and in the 1980s its population was decimated to near extinction by the international pet trade. Asociación Armonía (BirdLife Partner in Bolivia) has been fighting diligently against this decline, and this past year they received an encouraging sign when a record number of Blue-throated Macaw chicks fledged from nest boxes at Asociación Armonía’s Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve in Bolivia

“We see macaws that fledged from our nest boxes returning to breed in these artificial nests in numbers never seen before. This means that adults are identifying the nest boxes as safe places to breed, while juveniles are copying the habit from their parents," says Rodrigo W. Soria-Auza, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía. "We are witnessing the results of twenty years of hard work,” 

Armonía first installed 20 artificial nest boxes in 2005 to facilitate the reproduction of Blue-throated Macaws. The Laney Rickman reserve was established in August of 2018 with the support of four leading conservation groups -- American Bird Conservancy, International Conservation Fund of Canada, IUCN Netherlands, and World Land Trust -- to protect the critical breeding habitat of the southern subpopulation of Blue-throated Macaws. This 1,680 acres (680 ha) of protected savanna and tropical forest is named after Laney Slator Rickman, an avid supporter of the macaws.

After 13 breeding seasons, and with a total of 80 nest boxes set up in the present, 81 Blue-throated Macaws have so far fledged from the nest boxes. In the 2017/18 breeding season, for the first time ever, a pair of macaws that fledged from the nest boxes returned to breed themselves in the nest boxes, completing the cycle and demonstrating the program’s long-term success.

“This is a bright result of a common effort. A perfect example of what local conservationists can achieve with support from global partners. Now we have the most important portion of the macaws breeding habitat under full protection,” added Bennett Hennessy, Development Director of Armonía.  

With support from World Land Trusts’ Keepers of the Wild Program, Armonía hired reserve ranger César Flores, a longtime local expert on nest boxes who worked on the program for decades and himself developed and fabricated nest boxes.

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Today a total of 80 nest boxes awaiting the breeding macaws at the two reserves of Armonía: Barba Azul Nature Reserve protecting the north western -- while Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw protects the southern population of the Blue-throated Macaw. With these two reserves the species is protected in 28,862 acres (11,680 ha).

“At the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve we established a safe haven for the breeding population of the Blue-throated Macaw. Armonía’s next goal is to provide local education through the establishment of an interpretation center where school groups and local visitors can see this rare and magnificent species as well as understanding its national and local importance,” added Tjalle Boorsma Conservation Program Director for Armonía.