“Barba Azul” is what the locals call the Blue-throated Macaw in Bolivia, a name that translates to “Blue Beard,” referring to the bird’s distinctive blue patch beneath its bill. The reserve’s name pays homage to this and that it is the first protected area in the world for this Critically Endangered species. In 2018, a second protected area was established for the species in Bolivia called the Laney Rickman Reserve.
Barba Azul is a wildlife lover’s paradise and a playground for nature photographers. The tall grasslands provide habitat for speciality species like the Cock-tailed Tyrant and Black-masked Finch; the extensive wetlands attract flocks of waterbirds, including the Orinoco Goose; and the short-grass river shore habitat is used as a stop-over site by migrants like the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Thanks to the reserve’s protection of the Omi River, Barba Azul is a critical source of water for dozens of mammals that include the giant anteater, pampas cat, puma, marsh deer, pampas deer, white-collared peccary, maned wolf, jaguar and capybara.
The Barba Azul Nature Reserve is located in the heart of Bolivia’s Beni savanna region, an area twice the size of Portugal in remote northern Bolivia. It is almost entirely ranched and its grassland habitat is burnt every year to clear the way for cattle. Barba Azul was established in 2008 by Bolivian non-profit Asociación Armonía with support from American Bird Conservancy to protect the grasslands, tropical hammock forests, cerrado savanna, and wetlands.