Brazil part 2: 16th Jan 2015 – Lear’s Macaw   2 comments

IMG_1345 lifer time in brazil

This was the sticker on the wall of our accommodation at Canudos in the state of Bahia in Brazil, however we hadn’t come all this way to see Hyacinth Macaw, which occurs in the Pantanal in the far south-west, but its near relative Lear’s Macaw.

Edward Lear

Many birds are named after people. Often these are the discoverers of the bird or ornithologists who the describer feels needs recognition. but only seldom are birds named after people who are more famous for their activities in other fields. There are a few exceptions, some birds are named after royalty (for example King of Saxony Bird of Paradise) and Allan Octavian Hume (1829 – 1912) is better known as a political reformer and the founder of the Indian National Congress than for his extensive work on the birds on India. Another Victorian ornithologist better known for his non-ornithological work is Edward Lear (1812 – 1888). Picture from Wikipedia.


Lear, of course, is best known for his comic poems and short stories, including the ‘owl and the pussycat’ and ‘a book of nonsense’, a collection of limericks. He was also a talented artist and was employed by the Zoological Society as an ‘ornithological draughtsman’. Picture from Wikipedia.


He painted many birds including the illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots in 1830, which contained this picture, thought initially to be either a Hyacinth Macaw or the now extinct Glaucous Macaw, but later recognised to be a species in its own right and named Lear’s Macaw  Anodorhynchus leari after it’s illustrator . The trouble was nobody knew where it came from, occasional skins and birds in the pet trade would turn up but it wasn’t until 1978 when Helmut Sick mounted an expedition to a remote area in north-east Brazil that the breeding grounds of this enigmatic species were found. Thought then to number only about 250 individuals, this area now known as the Canudos Biological Preserve is protected and numbers have increased to around 1000. Picture from Wikipedia.

IMG_0490 Lear's site pre-dawn

Of course, the area is now much more populated than when Sick first visited, but to be there for first light still requires a 0330 start from the town of Canudos. We transferred from our minibus to a open-backed 4×4 for an hour-long drive along bumpy tracks. We arrived at the lookout as dawn was breaking.

IMG_0492 Canudos Biological Preserve

Soon macaws stared coming out of their roost but views were poor.

IMG_0495 Lear's Macaw

A small number perched on nearby cacti.

IMG_0512 Canudos Biological Preserve

Once it was fully light we could appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.

IMG_0523 Canudos Biological Preserve

One sandstone ridge after another stretched to the horizon.

IMG_0520 Canudos Biological Preserve

After a while all the macaws made their noisy departure, we thought that was it, but the local ranger took us to another nearby canyon ….

IMG_0545 Lear's Macaws

… here we had views of 50+ Lear’s Macaws, either perched distantly or in flight.

IMG_0538 Lear's Macaws

One group repeatedly flew close …..

IMG_0533 Lear's Macaws

…. and perched up nicely on a nearby cliff ….

IMG_0529 Lear's Macaws

…. before flying off again.

IMG_1347 back of pickup

Then it was time to join the ranger’s dog in the back of the pick up ….

IMG_1348 back of pickup

…. and hold on tight for another bumpy ride on the return to Canudos for a late and much appreciated breakfast.

IMG_1350 outcrop

Lear’s Macaw didn’t quite make it as bird of the trip, two complete surprises, Giant Snipe and White-winged Potoo, pipped it at the post ….

IMG_1353 canyon lands

…. but the morning at the Canudos Biological Station, with its stunning eroded sandstone outcrops and canyons plus the wonderful macaws, certainly warranted the title of ‘experience of the trip’.


Posted February 19, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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2 responses to “Brazil part 2: 16th Jan 2015 – Lear’s Macaw

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  1. Beautiful series of photos.

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