The Spix’s macaw no longer flies through Brazil’s forests

Study reveals the star of Rio has probably gone extinct in the wild

The 2011 animated movie Rio followed Blu, the last remaining male Spix’s macaw as he travelled to Rio de Janeiro to find love and save his species. Sadly, an analysis by BirdLife International has revealed that the film was probably a decade late; the striking blue parrot hasn’t been seen in the wild since 2000. A sighting in 2016 – the only one this century – was probably the result of a pet escaping, so it’s thought that the species now survives only in captivity.

The study looked at 51 species currently classified as critically endangered and uncovered eight that are either perilously close to extinction or potentially already extinct in the wild. Four – including the Spix’s macaw – are native to Brazil, a country seeing increasing rates of extinction caused by deforestation. In the last few centuries, 90 per cent of bird extinctions have taken place on islands where conditions can be extreme, but habitat loss is starting to wipe out contintental species. Birds often occupy very specific niches, eating particular insects or seeds and preferring to nest in certain trees. When their habitat is lost, the birds stand little chance of survival.

While things look pretty bleak for the endearing macaw, it’s not all over just yet. Around 70 Spix’s macaws live in captivity, and there’s a chance the descendants of these birds could one day be reintroduced to the Brazilian forests. Blu may be immortalised in animation, but a huge conservation effort is needed if his species and its neighbours are to have a future.