[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 7 (Thursday, January 10, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 2239-2249]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-00291]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2012-0034; 450 003 0115]
RIN 1018-AY68

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the Blue-
Throated Macaw

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
list the blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis) as endangered under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This species is 
endemic to a small area in Bolivia, and there are estimated to be fewer 
than 150 individuals remaining in the wild. Its population continues to 
decrease despite intense conservation efforts. The primary threat to 
the species is lack of reproductive success (loss of nestlings) due to 
nest failure, which primarily is caused by competition for nest sites 
and predation by larger avian species, in addition to diminished 
availability of suitable habitat. We seek information from the public 
on the proposed listing for this species.

DATES: We will consider comments and information received or postmarked 
on or before March 11, 2013. We must receive requests for a public 
hearing by February 25, 2013. See Public Hearing section under 

ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods:
     Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: 
http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search field, enter FWS-R9-ES-2012-
0034, which is the docket number for this action. Then click on the 
Search button. You may submit a comment by clicking on ``Comment Now.'' 
If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this 
feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with 
our comment review procedures. If you attach your comments as a 
separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If you 
attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format 
is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.
     By hard copy: U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments 
Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-ES-2012-0034, Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
We will not accept comments by email or fax. We will post all comments 
on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post 
any personal information you provide us (see the Information Requested 
section, below, for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Janine Van Norman, Chief, Branch of 
Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203; 
telephone 703-358-2171. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-


Information Requested

    We intend that any final actions resulting from this proposed rule 
be based on the best scientific and commercial data available. 
Therefore, we request comments or information from the Government of 
Bolivia, the scientific community, or any other interested parties 
concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek clarifying 
information concerning:
    (1) Information on taxonomy, distribution, habitat selection and 
trends (especially breeding and foraging habitats), diet, and 
population abundance and trends (especially current recruitment data) 
of this species.
    (2) Information on the effects of habitat loss and changing land 
uses on

[[Page 2240]]

the distribution and abundance of this species and its principal food 
sources over the short and long term.
    (3) Information on whether changing climatic conditions (i.e., 
increasing intensity of storms or drought) are affecting the species, 
its habitat, or its food sources.
    (4) Information on the effects of other potential threat factors, 
including live capture and collection, predation by other animals, and 
diseases of this species or its principal food sources over the short 
and long term.
    (5) Information on management programs for its conservation, 
including mitigation measures related to conservation programs, and any 
other private or governmental conservation programs that benefit this 
    (6) Genetics and taxonomy.
    (7) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
full references) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial 
information you include. Submissions merely stating support for or 
opposition to the action under consideration without providing 
supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in 
making a determination. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that 
determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened 
species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available.''

Public Hearing

    At this time, we do not have a public hearing scheduled for this 
proposed rule. The main purpose of most public hearings is to obtain 
public testimony or comment. In most cases, it is sufficient to submit 
comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, described above in the 
ADDRESSES section. If you would like to request a public hearing for 
this proposed rule, you must submit your request, in writing, to the 
person listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section by the 
date specified above in DATES.

Previous Federal Actions

    On May 6, 1991, we received a petition (1991 petition) from Alison 
Stattersfield, of the International Council for Bird Preservation 
(ICBP), to list 53 foreign birds under the Act, including the blue-
throated macaw, which is the subject of this proposed rule. We took 
several actions on this petition. On December 16, 1991, we made a 
positive 90-day finding and announced the initiation of a status review 
of the species included in the 1991 petition (56 FR 65207, published 
December 16, 1991). On March 28, 1994 (59 FR 14496), we published a 12-
month finding on the 1991 petition. In that document, we announced our 
finding that listing 38 species from the 1991 petition, including the 
blue-throated macaw, was warranted but precluded because of other 
listing actions. The blue-throated macaw was assigned a listing 
priority number (LPN) of 2. Species are assigned LPNs based on the 
magnitude and immediacy of threats, as well as their taxonomic status. 
The lower the LPN, the higher priority that species is for us to 
determine appropriate action using our available resources. An LPN of 2 
reflects threats that are both imminent and high in magnitude, as well 
as the taxonomic classification of the blue-throated macaw as a full 
    Previously published petition findings, listing rules, status 
reviews, and petition finding reviews that included foreign species are 
listed in the Annual Notice of Review (ANOR) that published on May 3, 
2011 (76 FR 25150). In our ANORs, we announce our annual petition 
findings for foreign species, as required under section 4(b)(3)(C)(i) 
of the Act. When, in response to a petition, we find that listing a 
species is warranted but precluded by higher priority listing actions, 
we must review the status of the species each year until we publish a 
proposed rule or make a determination that listing is not warranted. 
These subsequent status reviews and the accompanying 12-month findings 
are referred to as ``resubmitted'' petition findings. In the May 3, 
2011, ANOR, we announced that listing was warranted but precluded for 
20 foreign species, including the blue-throated macaw, which is the 
subject of this proposed rule. Additional information on this species 
may be found in that ANOR.


    Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to 
whether any species is an endangered or threatened species must be made 
``solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data 
    In this document, we propose to add this species as endangered to 
the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Prior to 
issuing a final determination on this proposed action, we will take 
into consideration all comments and any additional information we 
receive. Such information may lead to a final rule that differs from 
this proposal. All comments and recommendations, including names and 
addresses of commenters, will become part of the administrative record.

Species Information


    The taxonomic status of this species was disputed until fairly 
recently. The blue-throated macaw was previously considered an aberrant 
form of the blue-and-yellow macaw (A. ararauna), but these two species 
are known to occur sympatrically (in the same location) without 
interbreeding (Kyle 2007a; del Hoyo et al. 1997). Common names in 
Spanish for the blue-throated macaw include guacamayo barba azul and 
guacamayo caninde. Both BirdLife International (BLI) and the Integrated 
Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) recognize the blue-throated macaw 
as Ara glaucogularis. ITIS (www.itis.gov) is a database maintained by a 
partnership of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican federal government agencies, 
other organizations, and taxonomic specialists to provide taxonomic 
information. Therefore, we accept the species as Ara glaucogularis.


    When the blue-throated macaw population was investigated as of 
1998, the species was located in eight locations and the population was 
believed to be 100-150 individuals (Loro Parque Fundaci[oacute]n (LPF) 
2002, p. 13). The estimate provided by BirdLife International indicates 
that the total wild population is estimated to be 73-87 mature 
individuals (BLI 2012), which is a decrease from an estimate of between 
50 and 300 birds when our previous ANOR was published. In October 2004, 
a small new population was found at Santa Rosa, 100 km (62 mi) west of 
locations believed to be the western-most edge of its range (LPF 2012; 
Herrera et al. 2007, p. 18). Biologists surveying for this species in 
2004 found more birds than in previous surveys by searching specific 
habitat types (palm groves and forested islands) (Herrera et al. 2007, 
p. 18). In 2007, a population of approximately 25

[[Page 2241]]

individuals was found one hour south of Trinidad (Kyle 2007a, p. 6). 
Also in 2007, a flock of approximately 70 birds was observed near the 
Rio Mamor[eacute] (Asociaci[oacute]n Armon[iacute]a), in the vicinity 
of where the Barba Azul Nature Reserve is now.
    In and around the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, there are believed to 
be approximately 100 individuals (Herrera 2012, pers. comm.; Kingsbury 
et al. 2010, p. 70). Currently, experts working locally with this 
species estimate that there are between 115 and 250 birds known to 
remain in the wild (Herrera 2012, pers. comm.; Gilardi 2012 pers. 
comm.). LPF's 2010 annual report (p. 15), stated that approximately 300 
individuals were believed to remain in the wild. However, this may be 
an overestimate--the population found at the Barba Azul Nature Reserve 
may be the same birds that are monitored in the southern and eastern 
parts of its range during the breeding season; it is likely the 
population is nearer to 115 individuals (Gilardi 2012 pers. comm.).
    In captivity, more than over 1,000 individual blue-throated macaws 
are likely held worldwide according to the 2011 North American Regional 
Studbook (Anderson 2011, p. 4).

Species Description

    Blue-throated macaws have a blue throat, a bare, white face 
containing identifiable blue-streaks, dark grey irises, and a large 
black bill (Anderson 2011, p. 4; Kyle 2007b, p. 16). Its forehead is 
also blue and there is a lack of contrast between its remiges (large 
flight feathers on the wing) and upperwing coverts. This species is 
approximately the same size (85 cm or 33 inches) as the blue-and-yellow 
macaw. However, blue-throated macaws are not as competitive as the 
blue-and-yellow macaw in obtaining nesting cavities (Kyle 2007a). Male 
blue-throated macaws are larger than females at about 800 grams (1.76 
pounds), and females weigh approximately 600 grams (1.32 pounds) (Kyle 
2007b, p. 16).
    Blue-throated macaws, like other parrot species, are monogamous and 
tend to mate for life. There is also a significant investment in the 
care for their young--blue-throated macaws are not fully independent of 
their parents for a full year (Berkunsky 2010, p. 5). Therefore, some 
breeding pairs may not produce nestlings every breeding season. The 
blue-throated macaw forms its nests in large tree cavities; its 
preferred nesting tree is the motac[uacute] palm (Attalea phalerata), 
which is native to Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru. The northern population 
of blue-throated macaws breeds between August to November, and the 
southern population breeds between November to March (Berkunsky 2012 
pers. comm.; Kyle 2007a). The southern population, an hour south of 
Trinidad, tends to breed around the same time as the more commonly 
found blue-and-gold macaw. This overlap of breeding seasons adds to 
competition for nest sites. Blue-throated macaws are sexually mature 
between 6 and 8 years (Strem 2008; Kyle 2007a, p. 6). Females lay one 
to three eggs per clutch and incubate for 26 days. One to three 
hatchlings are raised, depending on food availability (BLI 2010; Kyle 
2007a). Nestlings fledge between 13 and 14 weeks. Blue-throated macaws 
are seen traveling mostly in pairs but also have been seen in a large 
flock of between 70 and 100 individuals (Herrera 2012, pers. comm.; 
Macleod et al. 2009, p. 15; Waugh 2007a, p. 53).


    This species seeks areas where palm fruits and suitable nesting 
cavities are readily available (Herrera et al. 2007, pp. 18-24). It 
feeds on fruits of approximately 12 species of trees (Kyle 2007a, pp. 
1-10). There are 84 species of palms in Bolivia (Moraes et al. 2001, p. 
234) and approximately 11 palm species within the blue-throated macaw's 
range. Blue-throated macaws prefer the fleshy part of the fruit, or 
mesocarp, of motac[uacute], Mauritia flexuosa (royal palms or carandai-
guaz[uacute]), and Acrocomia aculeata (common names include: Coyoli 
palm, gru-gru palm, macaw palm, acrocome, Coyolipalme, amankayo, 
corojo, corozo, baboso, tucuma, and totai) (Herrera 2007, p. 20; 
Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144; Jordan and Munn 1993; www.ars-grin.gov, www.pacsoa.org.au). The macaws first puncture the apex of the 
mesocarp and remove the outer layer (Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, 
p. 144). The motac[uacute] continually produces fruit throughout the 
year. Between 80 and 90 percent of motac[uacute] palms produce fruits 
all year, but its peak is between July and December (LPF 2003, p. 21; 
Moraes et al. 1996, p. 424). Motac[uacute] is believed to be pollinated 
by beetles in the Mystrops genus (Moraes et al. 1996, p. 425). The same 
palm tree may produce at any one time between three and five racemes 
(flowering stalks, each with fruits in a different stage of development 
ripeness) (Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144).
    The species has also been observed at clay licks (Kyle 2007a, p. 
2), which are clay banks where they consume soil or minerals; however, 
the reason for the clay consumption remains unclear.

Range and Habitat Description

    The blue-throated macaw is endemic to the tropical savanna 
ecoregion of north-central Bolivia in the Department of Beni (LPF 2010; 
Kingsbury 2010, p. 8). This ecoregion is approximately 160,000 square 
kilometers (km\2\) (61,776 square miles (mi\2\)). (See Appendix A in 
Docket no. FWS-R9-ES-2012-0034 at http://www.regulations.gov for a map 
of the region (hereinafter referred to as ``Appendix A'')). Within this 
region, the blue-throated macaw is found mostly in widely dispersed 
isolated pairs within an area estimated to be between 8,000 and 12,900 
km\2\ (3,089 and 4,981 mi\2\), (LPF 2012; BLI 2012; Hesse 2000, p. 
104). The species is found at elevations between 200 and 300 m (656 and 
984 ft) (Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144; Brace et al. 1995). 
The blue-throated macaw's habitat was occupied by humans for thousands 
of years before European colonization (Erickson 2000, p. 2). Its 
habitat consists of lowlands in an area known as Llanos (plains) de 
Mojos, also known as Llanos de Moxos (LPF 2010; Mayle et al. 2007, p. 
301; Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 141). See Appendix A for a 
photo representing the flooded habitat. The Llanos de Mojos is a wide 
savannah plain with poor drainage and in the wet season is extremely 
susceptible to flooding. The floods cover large areas of the plains and 
the area may remain flooded for 5 to 7 months in some areas. These 
plains include parts of the river basins of the It[eacute]nez, 
Mamor[eacute], Beni, and Madre de Dios Rivers (see Appendix A for a 
map; Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144).
    The blue-throated macaw's habitat has progressively diminished over 
thousands of years and its habitat is now primarily restricted to small 
``islands'' of suitable habitat within privately-owned cattle pastures 
(see Appendix A in Docket no. FWS-R9-ES-2012-0034 at http://www.regulations.gov for a photo illustrating these islands; Milpacher 
2012 personal communication; Kingsbury 2010, p. 72; Berkunsky 2008, p. 
4; Kyle 2007a, p. 4; Kyle 2006, p. 7; LPF 2003, p. 6). The species has 
been observed in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve. The blue-throated macaw 
is believed to occur on ranches adjacent to the Barba Azul Nature 
Reserve, Ranches Las Gamas, Los Patos, Pelotal, and Juan Latino, but 
the status of the species is unclear in these areas (Kingsbury 2010, p. 
89). In other parts of the species' range, the species is believed to 
occur on the ranches Elsner with Esp[iacute]ritu, San Rafael, and the 
Estancia El Dorado, however, to the best of our knowledge,

[[Page 2242]]

these are privately managed and the species is not being monitored on 
the ranches.

Palm Islands

    Palm-dominated forest islands form the blue-throated macaw's 
primary habitat. These ``islands'' are on elevated terrain and are 
sometimes referred to as ``alturas'' (high ground). The islands were 
primarily formed as mounds resulting from prehistoric human existence 
in this region (Erickson 2008, pp. 168-169). The lowlands are 
frequently inundated by water due to the flooding of nearby rivers (see 
Appendix A). Historically, human cultures manipulated the water flow to 
create plains that were higher and subsequently drier (Erickson 2008, 
pp. 168-169). The mounds are common throughout the savannas and 
wetlands of Bolivia; there may be as many as 10,000 of these mounds or 
islands in Bolivia (Erickson 2008, p. 169). They have been found to 
vary in size from a few hectares to many square kilometers (Erickson 
2008, pp. 168-169; Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144). Most are 
raised less than one meter and are often surrounded by ponds or moat-
like ditches (Erickson 2008, pp. 168-169). Typically, these islands are 
surrounded by seasonally-flooded grasslands. These islands are between 
0.2-1.0 ha (0.49-2.47 ac) in size and are approximately 130-235 meters 
(426-771 feet) above sea level (Kingsbury et al. 2010, p. 71; Yamashita 
and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144).
    Besides motac[uacute], palm species found on these islands are 
typically Syagrus botriophora (sumuqu[eacute]), and Astrocaryum vulgare 
(chontilla), interspersed with semi-deciduous emergent trees such as 
Enterolobium cortisiliqun (parota or orej[oacute]n), Sterculia striata 
(no common name (NCN)) and Tabebuia heptaphilla (Lapacho negro), and 
the Curupau tree (Anadenanthera colubrina) (also known as yopo, vilca, 
huilco, wilco, cebil, or angico) (Kyle 2005, p. 7). Some trees such as 
Ceiba pentandra (mapajo or kapok tree) and Hura crepitans (common names 
include catahua, Ochoo, arbol del diablo, acacu, monkey's dinner-bell, 
habillo, ceiba de leche, sandbox tree, possum wood, dynamite tree, 
ceiba blanca, assacu, and posentri) can reach more than 40 m (131 ft) 
in height.
    The motac[uacute] palms may have survived on the mound islands for 
various reasons--their value to human cultures, their resistance to 
burning, and their ecological suitability to the microclimate. 
Motac[uacute] is not only vital to the life history of blue-throated 
macaws; it also has local, commercial, and ecosystem importance (Kyle 
2005, p. 3; Moraes et al. 1996, pp. 424-425). This species of palm is 
used in the local community as thatch for housing which can last up to 
seven years. Its fruit is consumed by humans and various other species, 
and parts of the palm tree are used to make baskets, brooms, and is 
sold commercially as palm oil (Zambrana et al. 2007, p. 2785; Moraes et 
al. 1996, pp. 425-426).

Significance of Palm Islands to Blue-Throated Macaws

    Habitat favored by blue-throated macaws contains tall, mature trees 
in areas with continuous motac[uacute] palm fruit production (Yamashita 
and M. de Barros 1997, p. 145). Densities of motac[uacute], the blue-
throated macaw's preferred nesting and feeding source, vary greatly. In 
the 1997 Yamashita and M. de Barros study, macaws were only observed in 
areas where motac[uacute] represented more than 60 percent of the 
    Natural cavities in dead or decaying trees (usually motac[uacute] 
palms) are the primary source of nesting sites for this species. Blue-
throated macaws prefer dead trees that have cavities with a minimum 
internal diameter of 30 cm (11.8 in) for nesting, and, therefore, the 
tree must have a diameter at breast height of 60 cm (23.6 in) or 
greater (see Appendix A for a picture representing a tree cavity; 
Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 145).

Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act, and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR 
part 424, set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal 
Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 
4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species based on any of the following 
five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, 
or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) 
disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its 
continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of 
the above factors, singly or in combination. Each of these factors is 
evaluated and a summary is presented in this document.

Loss of Palm Islands Due to Habitat Conversion

    Within the past few hundred years, the blue-throated macaw lost 
much of its remaining habitat due to conversion of palm forests to 
pasture for cattle grazing. Cattle are not native to Bolivia; they were 
introduced to Bolivia in the 1600s. After the Second World War, cattle 
ranching and the associated burning of pastures began to have a 
significant impact on the landscape (Robison et al. 2000, p. 61). The 
macaw's preferred habitat is now limited to a few small, isolated 
islands of suitable habitat which are surrounded by these cattle 
ranches (Gilardi 2012 pers. comm.). During the flooding season which 
can occur up to six months of a year, cattle take refuge on the 
motac[uacute] palm islands because the islands are drier due to their 
higher elevation (LPF 2003, p. 33). Adding to habitat loss, in the 
preferred habitat of the blue-throated macaw where these motac[uacute] 
palms remain (within privately-owned cattle ranches), local ranchers 
typically burn the pastures annually (Berkunsky 2008, p. 4; del Hoyo 
1997). This type of burning results in almost no recruitment of native 
palm trees, which are vital to the ecological needs of the blue-
throated macaw (Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144). The reduction 
in habitat (reduced availability of motac[uacute] palms) and lack of 
recruitment of motac[uacute] palms is a concern for the future because 
it takes several years for motac[uacute] palms to be able to produce 
fruit and to develop into a size suitable for nesting cavities. As 
mitigation, there are local conservation efforts to attempt to not only 
plant trees that provide food for blue-throated macaws, as well as 
education efforts directed towards land-owners within the range of the 
blue-throated macaws.
    The lack of nesting cavities (suitable habitat) is often a limiting 
factor for bird species that depend on these cavities for nesting 
(Sandoval and Barrantes 2009, p. 75; Kyle 2006, p. 8). Blue-throated 
macaws requires specific nesting cavities for raising their young which 
provide an environment where they are safe from predation and flooding. 
Additionally, many different species compete for nest sites because 
there is a lack of suitable nest sites in the Llanos de Mojos due to 
habitat loss. This loss of suitable trees has resulted in increased 
competition from other species for these nesting cavities as well. The 
loss of habitat has contributed to other factors that affect blue-
throated macaws such as an increase in vulnerability to predation, 
extreme weather events, and competition for nests, which are discussed 

Nest Failure

    Nest failure (the failure of nestlings to survive to fledgling 
stage) continues for various reasons, despite intensive conservation 
efforts (Berkunsky 2010, p.

[[Page 2243]]

4; Kyle 2006, p. 8). Some of the primary causes of nest failure have 
been predation, infestation by botflies (parasites in the Philornis 
genus), exposure to severe weather events such as flooding, and 
competition with other species such as bees (Berkunsky 2010, pp. 4-5). 
Many nestlings die in early developmental stages, often due to 
starvation (due to lack of food and parental neglect), exposure to cold 
temperatures, or flooding (Kyle 2007a, pp. 1-10). If parents do not 
have access to enough nutritional food sources, some nestlings are 
neglected so that their other nestlings will survive. Sometimes 
nestlings can also fall out of collapsed trees before they have 
fledged. During five field seasons of closely observing nest sites, 
often 50 percent of nestlings died (Berkunsky 2008, p. 5; Kyle 2007a, 
pp. 7-8). See additional discussion below under Exposure to extreme 
weather events section.


    Predation stands out as one of the main reasons why this species' 
population is not increasing (Kyle 2007a, pp. 3, 6-7; Kyle 2006, p. 8). 
As an example, during one season, of the seven active blue-throated 
macaw nests found, all of the nestlings within three nests were lost to 
predation (Kyle 2007a, pp. 6-8). Because the species has such a small 
population size with likely fewer than 150 remaining in the wild), 
losses such as this have a significant effect. Predators of the blue-
throated macaw include:
    Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco),
    Crane hawk (Geranospiza caerulescens),
    Great-horned owl (Bubo virginianus), and
    Southern crested caracara (Caracara plancus, a bird of prey).
    The blue-throated macaws' habitat of sparse, palm-forested islands 
scattered among natural grasslands, is especially vulnerable to nest 
predation (Kyle 2007a, pp. 6-7). Tree nest cavities chosen by blue-
throated macaws tend to be very visible to other avian species flying 
overhead. In addition to choosing nests in palm islands, blue-throated 
macaws are also known to nest in isolated palms in open fields, which 
are even more exposed than nesting in palm islands (Herrera et al. 
2007, p. 20). All of the species that predate on adult blue-throated 
macaws, eggs, or nestlings have large distributions and are commonly 
found at the habitat islands used by blue-throated macaws (Kyle 2007a, 
pp. 6-7). Great horned owls have been seen at almost every site where 
blue-throated macaws are nesting and monitored (Kyle 2007a, p. 6). 
These owls, native to South America, have a vast range, are the most 
widely distributed owl in South America, and occupy a variety of 
habitats including open forest, farmland, and grassland.
    Because blue-throated macaw nests are concentrated in these small 
``islands'' of trees within cattle pastures, they are more easily 
located by predators than species that nest in a continuous forest 
setting. To discourage and mitigate the effects of predation, some 
conservation activities being conducted include the monitoring and 
discouragement of predators from attacking blue-throated macaw nests. 
These efforts are extremely intensive for each nest. In one case, where 
it appeared the nest tree was collapsing, the tree was monitored all 
night by conservation staff (Kyle 2007a, p. 9). Often trees containing 
active nests are monitored in this way if persistent predation has been 
observed. The mitigation efforts are helpful--if nestlings can survive 
until they are at least 300 grams (0.66 pounds), they have a greater 
chance of survival (Kyle 2007a, p. 7).
    Botfly parasites can also cause mortality of nestlings and have 
been observed in blue-throated macaw nestlings. Botflies live 
subcutaneously, and feed on macaws before pupating (Wunderle Jr. and 
Arendt 2011, p. 39). Botflies significantly reduce the energy available 
for nestling growth and development (Uhazy and Arendt 1986 in Wunderle 
Jr. and Arendt 2011, p. 39) and can cause high death rates of 
nestlings. In one study of avian nestlings, botfly parasitism caused 56 
percent of mortalities while egg and chick losses from nest predators 
and competitors accounted for less than 10 percent of reproductive 
failures (Arendt 2000 in Wunderle Jr. and Arendt 2011, p. 39).

Exposure to Extreme Weather Events

    Due to their preferred nesting location, blue-throated macaws are 
also vulnerable to natural catastrophic events such as flooding, 
drought, and other stochastic disturbances (Kyle 2006, pp. 5-6). 
Bolivia is described as a ``climatically volatile region'' and is one 
of the countries in the world most affected by natural disasters in 
recent years (Oxfam International 2009, p. 5). This species' habitat 
experiences radical changes over the course of a year.
    For many months of the year its habitat is flooded, and other times 
during the year, its habitat suffers from severe drought. High rainfall 
occurs during the summer months; the wet season is between September 
and May. Annual precipitation is between 1,100-2,500 millimeters (43-98 
inches) (Haase & Beck 1989 in Kingsbury 2010, p. 9). Very heavy periods 
of rainfall in this region can continue for long periods of time (Kyle 
2006, pp. 5-6; Hanagarth and Sarmiento 1990 in Beck and Moraes, 
undated). Every 6-12 years, 80-90 percent of the region is inundated 
(Beck and Moraes, undated). This cyclical flooding may be an El 
Ni[ntilde]o event, but there has been no study correlating the 
phenomena (Mayle et al. 2007, p. 294, Beck and Moraes, undated). 
Although these areas are seasonally-flooded, they are also prone to 
periods of drought (Kyle 2007a, p. 3, Mayle et al. 2007, p. 294; 
Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144).
    Severe storms, such as one that occurred in 2005 are described as 
``nest killers.'' These severe storms cause the dead palm trees in 
which the nests have been constructed to collapse or flood (Kyle 2007b, 
p. 15) which causes nest failure for the season and subsequently no 
recruitment. During periods of drought, nestlings are sometimes 
neglected and starve. Heavy storms and rain contribute to nest failure; 
if nestlings are exposed to cold weather and rain, they may die.
    Dead palm trees often collapse in these storms. During the 2006-
2007 season, this phenomenon was observed when the nest of one blue-
throated macaw pair in a motac[uacute] dead palm tree collapsed due to 
strong winds (Kyle 2007a, p. 4). Although the reason is unclear, these 
dead palm trees are currently the preferred sites for nest construction 
by the blue-throated macaw and they have strong nest site fidelity 
(Berkunsky 2012 pers. comm.). The extent this behavior is learned and 
modified is also unclear. However, researchers are working with this 
species to introduce nest sites that are safer and less prone to 
predation and nest failure due to extreme weather events such as 
flooding (Berkunsky 2010, pp. 4-5). Flooding, a significant cause of 
nest failure in the recent past, is reported not to have occurred in 
nests that have been intensely monitored and human-manipulated since 
2008. This is due to one of the conservation measures in place: 
drilling drain holes in the nests and at the bottom of the dead palm 
trees in order to prevent nest flooding. However, flooding can still 
occur if nests are not monitored and manipulated.

Competition for Nest Sites

    In addition to nest failure, there is a shortage of nests. As 
described above, there is little remaining of the preferred habitat of 
motacu palms. The species appears to ``learn'' nesting sites, and

[[Page 2244]]

will re-use nesting locations that they had used in the past (Berkunsky 
2010; Kyle 2007a, p. 4). Although it is unclear why blue-throated 
macaws choose to nest in the top of dead motac[uacute] palms and are 
subsequently exposed to predation, competition from other species for 
nests, drought, excessive rainfall and nest flooding, it is their 
preferred nesting tree because it provides easy access to their 
preferred food source. Many species, in addition to the blue-throated 
macaw, use the motac[uacute] palm for feeding and nesting. In the 
Llanos de Mojos, there are 21 species of parrots which may compete for 
nest sites (Kingsbury et. al. 2010, p. 83; Yamashita and M. de Barros 
1997, p. 144). Some species known to compete for nest sites with the 
blue-throated macaw include the blue and gold macaw, woodpeckers, and 
bees (Kyle 2007a, p. 6; LPF 2003, p. 33).
    In order to provide more choices for nesting habitat, conservation 
organizations are installing nest boxes. n 2009, in the Barba Azul 
Nature Reserve, 46 artificial nests were monitored, in part by video 
cameras; however, the majority of them (24 nests) were occupied by blue 
and gold macaws (LPF 2010, p. 15). Likely due to the larger size of the 
blue and gold macaw or perhaps their more aggressive nature, the blue 
and gold macaws usually win most confrontations for nests (Kyle 2007a, 
p. 6). During the 2010 field study at the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, 
researchers also observed that there were a greater number of blue and 
gold macaws using the Barba Azul Nature Reserve than blue-throated 
macaws (Kingsbury 2010, p. 83). At an area where both species were 
drinking water, researchers noted that the blue-throated macaws 
exhibited agitated behavior when blue and yellow macaws were nearby 
(Kingsbury 2010, p. 83). Although the Barba Azul Nature Reserve was 
established specifically for the blue-throated macaws, other species 
use the reserve and compete for nesting sites.
    To mitigate this problem, at least two conservation organizations 
are installing nest boxes to create more available sites for nesting, 
but despite the past 10 years of conservation efforts and 
experimentation with nest boxes, nest failure still occurs. In addition 
to predation, other reasons for nest failure are numerous, which has 
instigated the experimentation and installation of these nest boxes. 
Bees and other species continue to compete with blue-throated macaws 
for these nest boxes. After many years of experimentation, the nest 
boxes are slowly becoming more effective at providing suitable nesting 
sites. The blue-throated macaws seem to habituate to certain nesting 
sites and locations likely based on food availability and learned 
    Although blue-throated macaws have begun to use some of the nest 
boxes, it has been a slow and tedious process to encourage blue-
throated macaws to use these boxes, and the population continues to 
suffer losses, particularly due to nest failure, which the installation 
of suitable nest boxes is attempting to alleviate. When nests fail (no 
nestlings survive that season), a significant amount of effort has been 
expended by that breeding pair. Because this species has such a small 
population (likely there are less than 150 individuals remaining), each 
time a nestling survives to become an adult, it is extremely 
significant to the population. Macaws tend to mate for life, so each 
individual blue-throated macaw is extremely valuable to the population, 
particularly. The species also cares for its young over two seasons, so 
each pair of macaws invests a significant amount of energy into its 
young. The effect of the death of each new nestling on the population 
of blue-throated macaws is devastating to the viability of the 
population. If the nestlings survive the first season to the point they 
fledge, their chances of survival are much greater than when they are 
new nestlings when they are entirely dependent on their parents for 
    Bees can also make both natural nesting cavities and man-made nest 
boxes inhospitable for blue-throated macaws (Berkunsky 2008, p. 5). At 
the beginning of one breeding season, 67 percent of nest boxes 
monitored were occupied by bees (Berkunsky 2008, p. 5). After being 
removed, bees had returned within 2 weeks. Most naturally occurring 
nest sites, because there are so few of them and they are in demand by 
numerous species, require intense monitoring and manipulation in order 
to maintain an attractive, suitable environment for the blue-throated 
macaws for nesting.


    Macaws are susceptible to many bacterial, parasitic, and viral 
diseases, particularly in captive environments (Kistler et al. 2009, p. 
2,176; Portaels et al. 1996, p. 319; Bennett et al. 1991). Macaws are 
prone to many viral infections such as retrovirus, pox virus, and 
paramyxo virus which can cause weakened immune systems and subsequent 
death (Gaskin 1989, pp. 249, 251, 252). Recently, histopathological 
examination revealed the likely presence of the pox virus in dead blue-
throated macaw nestlings, indicating that close contact between blue-
throated macaws and domestic poultry may be facilitating pathogen 
transmission to this highly vulnerable species (Wildlife Conservation 
Society (WCS) in litt. 2011). In one location within the very limited 
range of the blue-throated macaw, blue-throated macaws share water 
sources with chickens, ducks, and other avian species (WCS in litt. 
2011; Kingsbury 2010, p. 83). Blue-throated macaws in this area are 
being closely monitored to decrease the possibility of transmission of 
the pox virus; however, it is still a concern.
    Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) is one of the worst 
diseases known to affect parrots (Kistler et al. 2008, p. 2). PDD, also 
known as avian bornavirus (ABV) or macaw wasting disease, is a fatal 
disease that poses a serious threat to all domesticated and wild 
parrots worldwide, particularly those with very small populations 
(Kistler et al. 2008, p. 1; Abramson et al. 1995, p. 288). This 
contagious disease causes damage to the nerves of the upper digestive 
tract, so that food digestion and absorption are negatively affected. 
The disease has a 100-percent mortality rate in affected birds, 
although the exact manner of transmission between birds is unclear 
(Kistler et al. 2008, p. 1). PDD has been documented in several 
continents in more than 50 different parrot species and in free-ranging 
species in at least five other orders of birds (Kistler et al. 2008, p. 
2). This disease is somewhat concerning because blue-throated macaws 
share water sources with other species of birds, and this disease could 
be transmitted between individuals that are within close range.
    This species is closely monitored in the wild; conservationists 
working with this species are taking precautions so that diseases are 
not introduced into the wild population. Despite close monitoring and 
precautions, disease is likely to affect this extremely small 
population; therefore, we are concerned that diseases will become 
problematic to this species in the wild.

Small Population Size

    An additional factor that affects the continued existence of this 
species is its small, declining population of likely less than 150 
individuals. Recently, two disturbing observations have been made: 
Malformations in chicks and reduced fertility in many reproductive 
pairs (WCS in litt. 2011). Small, rapidly declining populations of 
species, combined with other threats such as reduced reproductive 
success, leads to an increased risk of extinction (Harris and Pimm 
2008, p. 169). This species

[[Page 2245]]

faces many challenges--it has many predators, limited suitable habitat, 
and competition from other species for nest sites, in addition to its 
small population size. Any loss of potentially reproducing individuals 
could have a devastating effect on the ability of the population to 
increase. Small populations have a higher risk of extinction due to 
random environmental events (Shaffer 1981, p. 131; Gilpin and Soule 
1986, pp. 24-28; Shaffer 1987, pp. 69-75). Because of its small 
population and restricted range, the blue throated macaw is vulnerable 
to random environmental events; in particular, it is threatened by 
extreme precipitation events and nest flooding.

Removal From the Wild

    Removal of parrots from the wild over the past few hundred years 
contributed to this species' small population size ((LPF 2012; Herrera 
and Hennessey 2009, p. 233; Kyle 2007a). Macaws, both live and dead, 
have been a significant part of Bolivian culture for thousands of 
years. Evidence of this exists in pre-Colombian Andean feather art 
(American Museum of Natural History 2012). Feathers have been used 
historically in headdresses; and parrots have been used in ceremonial 
sacrifices (American Museum of Natural History 2012; Berdan 2004, p. 4; 
Creel and McKusick 1994, pp. 510-511). Feathers of blue-throated macaws 
would still be used for headdresses today if it were not for 
intervention and education programs implemented by nongovernmental 
conservation organizations (NGOs) (BLI 2012; LPF 2010; LPF 2003, p. 
29). In addition to being used in ceremonies and costumes, there is 
evidence that parrots have been household pets since at least A.D. 1000 
(Creel and McKusick 1994, pp. 513-515) as evidenced in burial remains; 
and live macaws very likely had commercial value even during that time 
period. Parrots were traded over long distances; archeological remains 
indicate that parrots were found well outside their native range (Creel 
and McKusick 1994, pp. 515-516).
    The most significant impact to the decline of this species' 
population was likely due to collection for museums during the late 
1800s and early 1900s (Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144). During 
this time period, bird-skin traders of European descent sold thousands 
of bird skins, especially to museums in the United States for at least 
three generations (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History 2012; 
Yamashita and M. de Barros 1997, p. 144; Trimble 1936, pp. 41-43).

The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Under the Act, we are required to evaluate the whether the existing 
regulatory mechanisms are adequate. There are limited legal mechanisms 
in place to protect this species (de la Torre et. al. 2011, p. 334; 
Herrera and Hennessey 2007, p. 295; LPF 2003, p. 6-7). This species is 
considered critically endangered by the International Union for 
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (BLI 2012; LPF 2012). However, IUCN 
rankings do not confer any actual protection or management. This 
species is listed in Appendix I of CITES (CITES 2012), which, along 
with the ban by the Bolivian Government in 1984 to export this species, 
effectively limits international trade (LPF 2012; Herrera and Hennessey 
2009, p. 233-234; LPF Recovery Plan 2003, p. 7). CITES Appendix I 
includes species that are ``threatened with extinction which are or may 
be affected by trade.'' Species listed under Appendix I may not be 
traded for primarily commercial purposes. These protections were put in 
place because the species had suffered substantial population declines 
throughout its range due to habitat destruction and overexploitation. 
Within Bolivia, the government of Bolivia has enacted various laws and 
regulatory mechanisms to protect and manage wildlife and their 
habitats. For example, the Bolivian Government prohibits and takes 
sanctions against the possession and the traffic of any protected 
species such as the blue-throated macaw (LPF Recovery Plan 2003, p. 7). 
Further, a study published in 2011 noted that many institutional 
changes have occurred in recent years in Bolivia (de la Torre et al. 
2011, p. 332). However, even after the export of this species was 
prohibited in the 1980s and despite the laws in place and the intense 
conservation efforts ongoing for this species, the species' population 
has not recovered and some localized illegal trade is still occurring.
    International trade in this species is now negligible (http://www.unep-wcmc.org, accessed June 4, 2012). International trade of the 
blue-throated macaw was initially restricted by the listing of the 
species in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in 
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1981, and in 
1983, the species was transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I. CITES 
regulates international trade in animal and plant species listed under 
the Convention. For additional information on CITES, visit http://www.cites.org/. Between 1981 and 1985, 134 Blue-throated Macaws were 
reported to have been exported to the United States (TRAFFIC 1987 in 
Herrera and Hennessey 2007, p. 296). However, no specimens of blue-
throated macaws have been exported from Bolivia since 1984 when Bolivia 
banned the export of this species (http://www.unep-wcmc.org, accessed 
June 4, 2012).
    Although international trade is not a concern, poaching for local 
sale continues to occur (LPF 2012; Herrera and Hennessey 2009, p. 233; 
Kyle 2007a). Although Bolivia banned the export of live parrots in 1984 
(Brace et al. 1995, pp. 27-28), localized illegal trade within South 
America continued to occur, although it became less frequent (Herrera 
and Hennessey 2009, p. 233). For example, in 1993, investigators 
reported that an Argentinean bird dealer was offering Bolivian dealers 
a ``high price'' for blue-throated macaws (Jordan and Munn 1993, p. 
    More recently, a study of markets in Santa Cruz, Bolivia estimated 
that over 22,000 individuals of 31 parrot species were illegally traded 
during 2004-2005 despite Bolivian laws (Herrera and Hennessey 2007, p. 
298). Bolivian Law 1333 (Ministerio de Desarrollo Sostenible y 
Planificacion 1999), Article 111 states that all persons involved in 
trade, capture, and transportation without authorization of wild 
animals will suffer a two-year prison sentence together with a fine 
equivalent to 100 percent of the value of the animal. This law is 
supported by an addendum that states that all threatened species are of 
national importance and must be protected (Herrera and Hennessey 2007, 
p. 295). Asociaci[oacute]n Armon[iacute]a (a nonprofit organization in 
Bolivia) monitored the trade of wild birds that passed through a pet 
market in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, from periods between July 2004 to 
December 2007 (Herrera and Hennessey 2009, p. 233; Herrera and 
Hennessey 2007, p. 295). During the 2004-2005 study period, none of the 
parrots found were blue-throated macaws. In 2006, two blue-throated 
macaws were found for sale (Herrera and Hennessey 2009, p. 233). 
However, the blue-throated macaw was absent in the market during the 
monitoring period prior to 2006 and no blue-throated macaws were found 
for sale in this market in 2007 (Herrera and Hennessey 2009, p. 233; 
Herrera and Hennessey 2007, p. 295). This absence of the species in the 
market may be due either to the effectiveness of the ongoing 
conservation programs and laws in Bolivia, or it may be indicative of 
the scarcity of blue-throated macaws in the wild. Ninety-four percent 
of the birds

[[Page 2246]]

documented were believed to be wild-caught. This illegal activity 
occurs despite the national laws that ban unauthorized trade (Herrera 
and Hennessey 2007, p. 298).
    The high value of this species could lead to continued illegal 
trade. An Internet search indicated that captive-bred specimens of this 
species sell for between $1,500 and $3,000 in the United States 
(www.hoobly.com, accessed September 13, 2010). One search advertised 
that this is a ``very rare species and there are only 300 left in the 
wild.'' However, alternatively, because these birds are not difficult 
to breed in captivity, the supply of captive-bred birds has increased 
which some experts believe may be alleviating illegal collection of 
wild birds (Waugh 2007a).
    Removal of blue-throated macaws from the wild can have a 
particularly devastating effect given their low reproductive rate, and 
slow recovery from various environmental pressures (Lee 2010, p. 3; 
Wright et al. 2001, p. 711). In situations where the population is very 
small and the species is adding new individuals to the population at 
such a slow rate (due to high nestling mortality), any unauthorized 
removal from the wild will have a significant effect on the species' 
population. Some blue-throated macaws have even been used for fish bait 
(Kyle 2007a, p. 7). The remains of a blue-throated macaw were found 
near a lake stuffed into a tree cavity with a bag of salt (Kyle 2007a, 
p. 7). Because this species has so few individuals remaining, any 
removal from the wild is extremely detrimental to the survival of the 
species when taken into consideration with all of the other factors 
acting upon the species.

In-Situ Conservation

    This species is considered by many organizations to be the most 
endangered macaw remaining in the wild (BLI 2012; World Parrot Trust 
(WPT) 2012; LPF 2010, LPF 2003, p. 4). Several NGCOs are working 
intensely on various conservation projects to protect this species and 
its habitat. Various NGCOs have been involved in the conservation of 
this species since 1995 with authorization from the Bolivian Government 
(Gilardi 2012, pers. comm.; LPF 2002, p. 10). NGCOs involved include 
Asociaci[oacute]n Armon[iacute]a (Bolivia's BirdLife International 
partner); the Loro Parque Fundaci[oacute]n (LPF), and WPT. A Species 
Recovery Plan that provides the basis for the Blue-throated Macaw 
Conservation Program was approved by Bolivia's Ministry for Sustainable 
Development in 2004 and has been in place since then (LPF 2003, pp. 6-
    Within its breeding range, a multitude of efforts are in progress 
to conserve the species (Gilardi 2012 personal communication; Berkunsky 
2010, p. 5, Kyle 2007, pp. 1-11). Conservation measures include 
constant monitoring, protection, and manipulation of nests, 
supplementing nestlings' diet when food sources are scarce, agreements 
with private landowners, patrolling existing macaw habitat by foot and 
motorbike, and monitoring the Beni lowlands for additional populations 
(LPF 2012; Kyle 2007a; Snyder et al. 2000). Nongovernmental 
conservation organizations (NGCOs) have implemented cooperation 
agreements with the federation of cattle farmers of the Beni (FEGABENI) 
and the local authorities in Trinidad (LPF et al. 2003, p. 6).
    Land acquisition to expand protected habitat for this species has 
been funded by the World Land Trust. In 2008, Asociaci[oacute]n 
Armon[iacute]a and LPF purchased a 3,555-ha (8,785-ac) reserve for the 
purpose of establishing a protected area for the blue-throated macaw 
(WorldLand Trust 2010, accessed July 16, 2010; BLI 2008). In 2010, the 
Barba Azul Nature Reserve was expanded by 1,123 hectares (ha) (2,775 
acres (ac)), creating a total protected area for the blue-throated 
macaws of 4,664 ha (11,525 ac) (Asociaci[oacute]n Armon[iacute]a 2012). 
Currently, this Reserve is the only protected area designated for the 
blue-throated macaw. Legal protections that apply fall under Bolivian 
Law 1333 (Ministerio de Desarrollo Sostenible y Planificacion 1999), 
Article 111. This Reserve protects savanna habitat; and habitat 
restoration is occurring in the Reserve, although it is unclear the 
extent the Reserve is used by blue-throated macaws. The actual 
protections in place include monitoring of habitat, local education and 
awareness programs about the species, establishment of suitable nesting 
sites. Approximately 70 blue-throated macaws have been observed in or 
around this Reserve (Herrera 2012, pers. comm.); however, these macaws 
may be some of the same macaws that are observed in other parts of its 
range during the breeding season (Berkunsky 2012, pers. comm.).
    Despite the existence of the reserve, there are no nests in the 
Reserve that are occupied by the blue-throated macaws (Herrera 2012, 
personal communication). Although blue-throated macaws do not use this 
area for breeding, there is evidence that they use the Reserve for 
feeding (Herrera 2012, personal communication; Kingsbury 2010, pp. 69-
82). It appears that blue-throated macaws use the Reserve and adjacent 
ranches during the non-breeding season while their breeding-season 
habitat is seasonally-flooded (see Appendix A for a map of its range; 
Milpacher 2012, personal communication; Herrera 2012, personal 
communication). Other than the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, there are no 
protected areas in the Llanos de Mojos except the Beni Biosphere 
Reserve, which has been in existence since 1986. However, to our 
knowledge, the blue-throated macaw does not use the Beni Biosphere 
Reserve (Hesse and Duffield 2000, p. 258).
    In addition to conservation efforts, the NGCOs working in Bolivia 
are conducting field research to better understand the current state of 
this species. However, the conservation work is extremely difficult due 
to the various factors that affect the species. Because the species' 
habitat is flooded for 6 months of the year, monitoring its habitat is 
impossible during certain seasons (Berkunsky 2010, p. 5). There have 
also been discussions of reintroducing captive-raised birds into the 
wild; however, this practice could inadvertently introduce disease into 
the wild population if precautions are not taken to minimize the 
transmission of disease to other blue-throated macaws.
    Another conservation measure in place is research on the 
motac[uacute] palm (Milpacher 2012, personal communication) because the 
number of motac[uacute] palms is decreasing. This palm species plays a 
significant role in the life cycle of the blue-throated macaw. One 
study found that the old and senescent motac[uacute] palms 
significantly exceed the younger palms (LPF 2003, p. 21). Based on 
their findings, researchers concluded that the islands containing 
motac[uacute] are not regenerating motac[uacute] palms sufficiently. It 
is likely that the lack of regeneration is due to over-grazing by 
cattle and excessive use of fire over centuries (Kyle 2006, p. 5). WPT 
has recently attempted several small scale palm germination experiments 
to assess reestablishing palm habitat (Milpacher 2012, pers. comm.). 
The motac[uacute] palm has commercial value in addition to its 
ecological role. Palm trees are used for a multitude of purposes such 
as thatch for housing, fruit, and palm oil (de la Torre et al. 2011, 
pp. 327-369; Zambrana et al. 2007, pp. 2771-2778). Motac[uacute] palm-
dominated islands may have persisted in part due to their various 
ecological and commercial values, but they certainly persist in part 
because the islands are raised areas within the lowlands areas that are 
prone to flooding. With respect to the short-term, local researchers 
believe that there will be adequate motac[uacute] fruits in the

[[Page 2247]]

region for a few more decades (LPF 2003, p. 21); however, research on 
the motac[uacute] is vital to the conservation of the blue-throated 
    Educational awareness programs are in place in addition to research 
and monitoring. The Asociaci[oacute]n Armon[iacute]a is involved in an 
awareness campaign to ensure that the protection and conservation of 
these birds occurs at a local level (e.g., protection of macaws from 
trappers and the sustainable management of key habitats such as palm 
groves and forest islands, on their property) (Llampa 2007; BLI 2008a; 
Snyder et al. 2000). Two educational awareness centers have been 
established in the towns of Santa Ana del Yacuma and Santa Rosa del 
Yacuma (LPF 2010, p. 16). In response to the limited but continued 
poaching that occurs in the wild, LPF initiated a travelling 
exhibition, ``Extinction is Forever,'' which visited 17 urban 
localities in Bolivia in 2010 (LPF 2010, p. 15). The exhibition 
includes 21 photographs that explain the ancestral and present day 
relationship between people and birds, and highlights the effects of 
illegal trade of wild birds in Bolivia currently. An estimated 1,000 
visitors attended each showing in the main cities (LPF 2010, p. 15).
    In summary, the conservation efforts underway are abundant, but 
require significant effort. Reproductive success is vital to the blue-
throated macaw recovery and this species faces many challenges to 
successfully reproducing. This species' nest often has an open crown 
(i.e. no roof) and is prone to flooding (Berkunsky 2010, p. 4; Kyle 
2007a, p. 3). During many seasons, nests, eggs, and nestlings are 
destroyed due to flooding. Both WBT and Asociaci[oacute]n 
Armon[iacute]a have been conducting conservation activities such as 
installation of artificial nest boxes that provide safe habitat, 
manipulating nests so that they do not flood, and discouraging 
predators and nest competitors. The installation of a multitude and 
variety of nest boxes is a way to boost breeding success. Because many 
other species compete for these nest boxes, and blue-throated macaws 
tend to re-use previously-used nesting sites, the process of 
introducing nest boxes and encouraging blue-throated macaws to use them 
while discouraging other species from using them is a very time-
intensive process. Despite all of these conservation efforts, fewer 
than 150 individuals of this species are believed to remain in the 

Other Factors

    An additional factor that affects the nesting success of blue-
throated macaws is the availability of food sources--not only the 
abundance of food, but the timing of its availability. Phenology (how 
the timing of plant life cycle events interacts with animal biological 
processes) is influenced by variations in climate. The timing of 
motac[uacute] palm fruit production is critical for various life stages 
of the blue-throated macaw, particularly during the period following 
hatching. The motac[uacute] palms, on which blue-throated macaws depend 
for nesting as well as feeding, are affected by drought, burning, and 
excessive rainfall. In years when there is significant drought or 
excessive rainfall, the fruiting abundance and timing of fruit 
production can significantly affect the success of nestlings, or it can 
prohibit blue-throated macaws from even attempting to nest (Kyle 2007). 
In some seasons when food is not as plentiful, breeding pairs may 
choose not to brood and the weakest of the nestlings are neglected by 
its parents and die of starvation (Kyle 2007a, pp. 4-5). During these 
times, in some cases, the diet is supplemented by these conservation 
organizations; however, it is a very intensive process.
    In summary, there are many factors that are causing stress to this 
species' population. It is affected primarily by predation, nest 
flooding, and lack of nest sites. Combined with its reduced population 
size, the species lacks sufficient redundancy and resiliency to recover 
from present and future threats without intervention and intense 
conservation actions.

Finding (Proposed Listing Determination)

    In assessing whether the blue-throated macaw meets the definition 
of a threatened or endangered species, we considered the five factors 
in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. A species is ``endangered'' for purposes 
of the Act if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range and is ``threatened'' if it is likely 
to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. In considering what factors might 
constitute threats to a species, we must look beyond the mere exposure 
of the species to the factor to evaluate whether the species may 
respond to the factor in a way that causes actual impacts to the 
species. If there is exposure to a factor and the species responds 
negatively, the factor may be a threat and we attempt to determine how 
significant a threat it is. The threat is significant if it drives, or 
contributes to, the risk of extinction of the species such that the 
species may warrant listing as endangered or threatened as those terms 
are defined in the Act. We conducted a review of the status of this 
species and assessed whether the blue-throated macaw is threatened or 
endangered throughout all of its range. On the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial information, we do not find that the factors 
affecting the species are likely to be sufficiently ameliorated in the 
foreseeable future.
    A multitude of factors has contributed to the decline of this 
species' population. In the past, factors that significantly reduced 
the number of blue-throated macaws included habitat loss and 
overutilization for the pet trade and museum specimens (NMNH 2012; 
Berkunsky 2010, p. 4; Kyle 2005, pp. 6-10). Currently, the primary 
factors that impact the blue-throated macaws are:
     Lack of adequate nest sites (both in abundance and 
     Failure to adequately reproduce: nest (clutch) failure 
(when one or all of the nestlings fail to survive to fledgling stage 
due to a variety of reasons such as starvation, inadequate nutrition, 
sibling competition, or other reasons);
     Nest flooding (if nests are not monitored and 
     Potential inbreeding which results in malformations and 
reduced fertility and loss of genetic variability due to a small 
population size (WCS in litt. 2011);
     Competition for nests with more competitive species such 
as bees and other avian species such as other macaw species; and
     Predation by numerous species, particularly birds of prey 
such as toucans, owls, vultures, other raptors, and even other macaw 
species (Berkunsky 2010, p. 4; Kyle 2006, p. 4, Loro Parque 
Fundaci[oacute]n 2003, p. 28).
    All of these factors combined make the blue-throated macaw 
exceptionally vulnerable to extinction. The historical, current, and 
ongoing threats to the blue-throated macaw have reduced the population 
such that it is extremely small, and the remaining pairs face many 
challenges to successfully reproduce offspring. The blue-throated macaw 
is currently at risk throughout all of its range due to historical 
impacts of the cumulative habitat loss that resulted from manipulation 
of its habitat over time, and the current practice of maintaining 
cattle pastures do not adequately allow palm species to regenerate. In 
addition, overutilization for the pet trade and museum specimens has 
reduced the status of the species to the point that its population is 
vulnerable to permanent extirpation from the wild. This species is more 
vulnerable to the effects of disease and

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predation than it would have been otherwise. The species is also 
affected by stochastic events such as extreme weather events, which 
cause nest flooding and knock down trees where it has formed nests; we 
expect this to continue into the future.
    Despite protections in place and educational awareness programs, 
this species is still occasionally being removed from the wild. A 
conservation plan was finalized in 2003 by several NGCOs and has been 
in place for almost 10 years. Even though intensive efforts to recover 
and conserve this species and its habitat by at least three NGCOs are 
underway, the recovery plan has not met its goals: the population of 
this species is still likely less than 150 in the wild. This species' 
life-history traits (such as the long investment time to raise 
nestlings, reproduction does not usually occur until age 6; and pairs 
generally mating for life), make it particularly susceptible to 
extinction. Additionally, its populations are small, its remaining 
suitable habitat is small, the population may lack genetic diversity 
which is causing malformations in nestlings, and the species is not 
reproducing sufficiently. These threats are currently impacting blue-
throated macaw throughout its range and will likely continue in the 
    This species experienced a sharp population decline in the past few 
hundred years because it has been removed from the wild for various 
purposes, and now it faces a multitude of factors that negatively 
affect its ability to reproduce. Although removal of this species from 
the wild was detrimental to this species in the past, we found that 
international trade is no longer a factor currently influencing the 
species' status in the wild; however, limited poaching continues to 
occur. Illegal capture for the local pet trade is exacerbated by the 
other factors acting on the species. The regulatory mechanisms in place 
are inadequate to mitigate the factors that are negatively affecting 
the species. The lack of success of the species to increase its 
population indicates that the laws governing wildlife and habitat 
protection in Bolivia are inadequate to protect the species or to 
mitigate these threats.
    In conclusion, we have carefully assessed the best scientific and 
commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats affecting this species. Historically, the blue-throated 
macaw existed in much higher numbers in more continuous, connected 
habitat. As described above, there are many obvious factors that 
currently affect the blue-throated macaws. These include: inadequate 
nest sites (both in abundance and effectiveness), nest (clutch) failure 
(when one or all of the nestlings fail to survive to fledgling stage 
due to a variety of reasons such as starvation, inadequate nutrition, 
sibling competition), nest flooding, and botflies; competition for 
nests with more competitive species such as bees and other avian 
species such as large woodpeckers and other macaw species; and 
predation by numerous species, particularly birds of prey such as 
toucans, owls, vultures, other raptors, and even other macaw species.
    Our review of the information pertaining to the five threat factors 
supports a conclusion that the imminence, intensity, and magnitude of 
the factors affecting the species occurs to an extent such that the 
threats to the blue-throated macaw, coupled with an extremely small 
population that has declined over the past few hundred years, place 
this species at risk of extinction throughout all of its range, such 
that a listing of endangered is warranted. The species is currently in 
danger of extinction because the species is at such low levels that it 
is vulnerable to stochastic environmental events, particularly 
predation and nest flooding. Given the species' low reproductive 
capacity and impaired genetic fitness, it is unable to increase to the 
levels of abundance that is able to withstand such events. We find that 
the blue-throated macaw is in danger of extinction now and, therefore, 
is appropriately listed as an endangered species. Therefore, we propose 
to list the blue-throated macaw as endangered under the Act.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy with the National Marine 
Fisheries Service, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative Policy for Peer 
Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' published in the Federal 
Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate independent specialists 
regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure 
that our final determination is based on scientifically sound data, 
assumptions, and analyses. We will send copies of this proposed rule to 
the peer reviewers immediately following publication in the Federal 
Register. We will invite these peer reviewers to comment during the 
public comment period on our specific assumptions and conclusions 
regarding the proposal to list the blue-throated macaw.
    We will consider all comments and information we receive during the 
comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of a final 
determination. Accordingly, our final decision may differ from this 

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered 
under the Act include recognition, requirements for Federal protection, 
and prohibitions against certain practices. Recognition through listing 
results in public awareness, and encourages and results in conservation 
actions by Federal and State governments, private agencies and interest 
groups, and individuals.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered 
wildlife. These prohibitions, at 50 CFR 17.21, in part, make it illegal 
for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to 
``take'' (includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, 
trap, capture, or to attempt any of these) within the United States or 
upon the high seas; import or export; deliver, receive, carry, 
transport, or ship in interstate commerce in the course of commercial 
activity; or sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce 
any endangered wildlife species. It also is illegal to possess, sell, 
deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife that has been 
taken in violation of the Act. Certain exceptions apply to agents of 
the Service and State conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered wildlife species under certain circumstances. 
Regulations governing permits for endangered species are codified at 50 
CFR 17.22. With regard to endangered wildlife, a permit may be issued 
for the following purposes: For scientific purposes, to enhance the 
propagation or survival of the species, and for incidental take in 
connection with otherwise lawful activities.

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (a) Be logically organized;
    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (c) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and

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    (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. To 
better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as 
possible. For example, you should tell us the names of the sections or 
paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are 
too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, 

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental 
impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be 
prepared in connection with regulations adopted under section 4(a) of 
the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this 
determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or upon request 
from the Branch of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service.


    The primary author of this proposed rule is Amy Brisendine, Branch 
of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter 
I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:


1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by adding a new entry for ``Macaw, blue-
throated'' in alphabetical order under BIRDS to the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife to read as follows:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
                                                                      * * * * * * *
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Macaw, blue-throated.............  Ara glaucogularis...  Bolivia............  Entire.............  E               ...........           NA           NA
                                                                      * * * * * * *

* * * * *

    Dated: December 31, 2012.
Rowan W. Gould,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-00291 Filed 1-9-13; 8:45 am]