Scientists set to release ‘world’s rarest bird’ into the wild in hopes it will breed

Fewer than 200 of the Spix’s macaw are left on Earth.
A pair of Spix's macaws in captivity, Feb. 2020

Scientists and conservationists are on the verge of a major effort to restart the global population of a bird that has been pushed to the razor’s edge of extinction, with plans to release over a dozen dozen parrots into the wild in the hopes that they can bring their numbers up again.

The Spix’s macaw has been described as the world’s rarest bird. Already a famously elusive bird when first described by scientists in the 1800s, it has been declared “extinct in the wild” due to its disappearance from its natural habitat in Brazil. 

Breeders and conservationists have kept the bird’s lineage alive in captivity, with just under 200 birds reportedly existing in private and scientific collections this year. 

Now, according to Science magazine, 20 of the captive birds will be released into the caatinga of Brazil. The birds are hoped to be “the vanguard of a new population of Spix’s macaws in their natural habitat.”

“The Spix’s project is unique in that they are reintroducing a species back into the wild that is currently extinct, has been extinct in the wild for over 2 decades,” Thomas White, a biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and an adviser to the Spix effort, told the magazine. 

“There’s very few reintroduction programs around the world that have done something like that, none with parrots or macaws,” he added. 

The release was scheduled for Saturday, June 11.