Watching the sun set over Caatinga in Brazil, Tyson Chapman shares his once-in-a-lifetime experience helping to save one of the world’s rarest birds, the Spix’s macaw.
The 20-year-old Childers resident has a passion for birds that started as a toddler and almost two decades later, he has been given the opportunity to spread his wings and travel to the other side of the world to save an exotic parrot from the edge of extinction.
Tyson recalls first having pet birds at the tender age of two and by the time he was 10, he was successfully breeding and selling cockatiels.
“In doing so allowed me to expand my collection over time and once my collection grew, I started advertising through our local bird club, my Facebook page Chappy’s Chirpers and in magazines,” Tyson said.
“It then led to me being asked by the editor for the bird magazine Aviarylife if I would write an article about my start in aviculture and my passion for birds.”
Tyson said a few weeks after his article was published he received a call which led to a chain of life-changing events.
“We were contacted by the editor and told that magazine had landed on the desk of Dr Cromwell Purchase in Qatar, (who) had read my article and said it had reminded him of his younger self,” Tyson said.
“He was actually coming to Australia the following week to guest speak at the Aves Convention in Grafton and wanted to meet me.
“So, we drove down and met Cromwell and his wife Candice in Brisbane, talked for a few hours and they were so gracious in answering all my questions I had written out – we shared common stories and shared pictures of our birds.”
Tyson said he kept in contact with Dr Cromwell Purchase and was then offered an internship in Brazil to help save an endangered species on the condition he completed school first.
“One time while talking and catching up he offered me an internship in Brazil at the Spix's Macaw Release Reservation on the condition I completed my senior years of schooling, and boy am I glad I did that,” Tyson said.
“Having the opportunity to be a part of this project to help bring back the Spix’s macaw from extinction is a dream turned into reality.
“The ability to wake up and step outside and hear the calls of the Spix’s as they fly around instantly puts a smile on my face.”
Tyson instrumental in Spix’s macaw survival
According to the Associations for Conservation of Threatened Parrots the Spix’s macaw is one the rarest birds in the world.
Over the past century the natural habitat of the Spix’s macaw has been cleared for ranching and farming, and the blue parrot became scarce.
As the habitat disappeared, collectors of exotic birds kept Spix's macaws caught for the purpose of pets.
The Spix's macaw achieved onscreen fame in 20th Century Fox's film Rio as a charming parrot named Blu who travels thousands of miles in an attempt to save his species.
It was declared extinct in the wild in 2019, and it has a captive population of about 250.
In July Tyson helped to release eight Spix's macaw in a Brazilian nature reserve – more than two decades after the disappearance of the last known wild bird.
“It has now been over two months after the release and it has worked out better than imagined,” Tyson said.
“This being a soft release allows the birds to go in and out of the aviary as they please, while they adapt to their new surroundings.
“It has worked really well so far.”
Tyson said there had been plenty of effort involved in the unique project.
“The amount of time and effort that has been put into saving the Spix’s macaws and this project from everyone involved is beyond imaginable,” he said.
“This has not only made history for being the first parrot species to be reintroduced back into the wild after being extinct for over two decades but has also shown that bird species can be saved by breeding and releasing from captive bred populations.
“This is conservation at its finest.”
The experience has provided the young man from the Bundaberg Region a life-changing view on conservation and rehabilitation of endangered species.
“There are many things I have learnt by being a part of this project so far,” Tyson said.
“From things like their diet, behaviours, holding the macaws while they got their new tracking collars put on and then releasing them back into the release aviary two days prior to the release, monitoring and even tracking the birds using the telemetry receiver once they had been released.
“I was (also) fortunate to go visit the canyons at Canudos to see the breeding and roosting sites of the Lear's macaws, they roost in cavities on the canyons steep red sandstone cliffs.
“The view of this beautiful landscape was truly breathtaking, as the sun rises, and the rays of light hit across the canyons sandstone cliffs the canyons were suddenly filled with life.
“It was a sight to behold to see 150 to 200, only a portion of the population in this area, Lear's flying through the canyons… the echo of their call incredible.
“It was a great weekend away and to tick off now seeing two of the three blue macaws flying free in the wild was a great birthday wish for my 20th – I can't complain at all – definitely many moments I won’t forget.”