(CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday it would add the scarlet macaw, one of the most recognizable parrots, to the list of endangered species.
Native to the tropics of South and Central America, the scarlet macaw’s dramatic red, yellow and blue feathers make it a popular choice to breed in captivity.
The government listed the macaw as endangered after reviewing 282 public comments, many of which the agency addressed Monday.
Noting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers the scarlet macaw to be of “least concern,” some of the commenters argued the parrot should not be listed under the Endangered Species Act. But Fish and Wildlife said the IUCN has different standards than the United States, and pointed out some subspecies of the macaw are more threatened than others.
Under the agency’s new rule, the northern subspecies of the macaw is listed as endangered, while a distinct population segment of the southern subspecies is listed as threatened.
Though macaws can withstand forest degradation, the destruction of their habitat through deforestation still constitutes a threat to the bird, the agency said.
A group of wildlife advocates sued the government this past July to list the scarlet macaw, highlighting the threats the bird faces from poaching and deforestation.
While deforestation remains a problem in the scarlet macaw’s habitat, there is good news: Unlike other Central American countries, Costa Rica saw an increase in its forest area between 1990 and 2015, gaining nearly 500,000 acres of forest at an annual rate of 19,000 acres a year.
In 2018, a team of researchers analyzed DNA from feathers and skeletons and concluded that indigenous people in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico may have been the first macaw breeders in North America. The researchers said they believe someone first set up a small breeding program of macaws near Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.
Also Monday, Fish and Wildlife announced it is seeking comment on its proposal to remove the Borax Lake chub from the endangered list.
The tiny fish has a rather unusual habitat: It is only found around Borax Lake, a 10-acre alkaline lake in the Alvord Desert of Southeastern Oregon. The lake is fed by thermal springs, and sits on top of large deposits of sodium borate.
Geothermal energy production in the region threatened the chub, and in the early 1980s the government designated 640 acres around Borax Lake as critical habitat for the species.
A five-year review of the chub’s status finished in 2012, which concluded the fish is no longer endangered but should be listed as threatened.
Borax Lake saw a record high population of the chub in 2017, and the government noted no hatchery-raised chub have ever been introduced to supplement the existing populations. The population appears to be viable and self-sustainable, the agency said.
The chub is a dwarf species of desert minnow, and is usually about 1.3 to 2 inches long. It is described as an “opportunistic omnivore.”