Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
South American Macaw Proposed for Protection Under Endangered Species Act

November 28, 2016

Contact(s):

Gavin Shire, 703-358-2649, gavin_shire@fws.gov



The striking, brilliant blue hyacinth macaw, like many other parrots in Central and South America, is facing an uphill battle. When combined with its naturally low reproductive rate, stressors related to habitat loss,  reduced growth of new forest, hunting, predation, disease, competition and the effects of climate change are putting the hyacinth macaw at further risk of decline, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  to propose protecting the bird as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

At one time, hyacinth macaws were widely distributed, occupying large areas of Central Brazil, and smaller parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. Today, the species is limited to the Pará, Gerais, and Pantanal regions of Brazil. Native forests have been replaced by crops and cattle ranching, creating a shortage in nesting sites, increasing competition and resulting in a reduction in population size. The hyacinth macaw’s specialized diet makes it particularly vulnerable from the reduced availability of food resources resulting from habitat loss. In total, there are approximately 6,500 hyacinth macaws left in the wild.

While imports of parrots into the United States are already tightly controlled by the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA), and the species is globally protected in trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – meaning the domestic pet trade is not a threat to the survival of the species in the wild – there is a demand for parrot feathers to be used in local crafts, which can contribute to declines, particularly in parts of Brazil where habitat conversion is also taking place.

In 2012, the Service proposed to list the hyacinth macaw as an endangered species. Based on new information, the Service finds that the overall rate of deforestation has decreased from the 2012 projections, and as such, the hyacinth’s risk of extinction is not as imminent as predicted. However, many of the threats mentioned above continue. As a result, the Service now proposes to list the species as threatened under the ESA.

In assessing the conservation needs of the hyacinth macaw, and in light of the protections provided to it under CITES and the WBCA, the Service is proposing to add the hyacinth macaw to an existing 4(d) rule for parrots that will allow the import and export of certain captive-bred hyacinth macaws and will allow domestic commercial activity across state lines to continue. While the 4(d) rule requires a permit under the ESA for “take” (including harming and harassing) of a covered species, “take” does not include generally accepted animal husbandry practices, breeding procedures or provisions of veterinary care that are not likely to result in injury to the species. Hence, adding the parrot to this rule will not impact those activities.

The ESA provides a critical safety net for fish, wildlife and plants and to date has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species, as well as promoting the recovery of many others. The Service is actively engaged with conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species.

The notice will publish on November 28, 2016, in the Federal Register. Written comments and information concerning this proposal can be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R9-ES-2012-0013]; or 
  • U. S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-R9-ES-2012-0013]; Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

Comments previously submitted will be considered and do not need to be resubmitted.  However, the Service encourages those who may have commented previously to submit additional comments, if appropriate, in light of this new information.

Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before January 27, 2016. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes. For details on the kinds of information the Service is seeking, please visit http://www.regulations.gov and search on the above docket number.

To learn more about the Endangered Species program’s Branch of Foreign Species, visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/international-activities.html.


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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