The Real-Life Parrot That Inspired Rio Films Dies


A rare blue Spix’s macaw which is said to have inspired the movie Rio has died.

Presley, who was thought to be the second to last remaining wild-born Spix’s macaw, was around 40-years-old when he died in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last week.

His death was described as ‘a surprise’ to the Lymington Foundation, a refuge just outside the city, though he had been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat earlier this year.

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“He was very affectionate – just a very congenial bird, very chirpy, very talkative. He loved visitors,” Bill Wittkoff, the foundation’s executive director, told National Geographic.


“He’s got an aviary that we’d wheel in and out, for the cold in wintertime and because of very, very hot sun. We’d go by his aviary often and he’d always gives us a chirp, a hello.”

Presley’s story certainly echoes that of the movie, which followed a captive, domesticated macaw called Blu who can’t fly, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, returning to Rio in order to be coupled up with a female, Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway.

Presley was found living in Colorado in 2002 having been smuggled out of Brazil in the 1970s and passing through several rare bird collections.

He was then taken to Brazil via rehab at the San Diego Zoo, and a spell in Sao Paulo Zoo, before arriving at the Lymington Foundation, which hoped it could breed him with a female Spix’s called Flor.

Sadly, the eggs they produced were sterile, but artificial insemination was being planned.

The movie’s director Carlos Saldanha said in 2011, when the first movie was released: “I wanted [to feature] the rarest bird. The Spix’s macaw truly is the rarest.”

The Spix’s macaw is already thought to be extinct in the wild due to decades of deforestation and poaching of the creatures.

While there are around 100 of the macaws being bred in captivity, genetic defects to due inbreeding means the population is still vulnerable.

But it’s hoped that genetic material taken from Presley may help future breeding.

The movies, which also feature Jermaine Clement, and Jamie Foxx among the voice cast, have grossed over $950 million (£558 million) between them.

“To us, Presley is a symbol of the best and worst in mankind,” read a statement announcing the macaw’s death from the foundation.

“The love, care, concern and effort to help and preserve [on one side], with the greed, selfishness, and lack of concern for the animal world on the other side.”

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Photo: Fox/World Parrot Trust