Hyacinth Macaw (Complete Breed Profile)

Last Updated on November 10, 2022 by Ali Shahid

A stunning parrot with brilliant, cobalt-blue feathers resides in the dense rainforests of Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia. Hyacinth macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) are the largest macaw species, and their powerful beaks help them reseed their habitat.

They’re like a “Great Dane” or a “Maine Coon” of companion birds, reaching a length of 40 inches. There is only one flightless bird (kakapo) in New Zealand that weighs more than them (3.5kg).

Although it’s generally easy to recognize, it can be confused with Lear’s macaws. Their population in the wild has been greatly impacted by habitat loss and pet trapping, so it is listed as Vulnerable on the Red List of ICUN.

Several conservation and protection programs have been implemented for these parrots. The hyacinth macaw is a rare bird, and I am sure that you will only be able to see one at a zoo or in a bird shop.

If you have the time, patience, and wallet to keep this beautiful bird, a blue macaw is the perfect companion bird. It’s big, destructive, loud, and expensive. Get to know everything there is to know about these Gentle Giants in our comprehensive guide.

Origin and History of Hyacinth Macaw

Hyacinth macaws live mostly in scrublands outside the rainforest, though they also live in grasslands and lightly forested areas. Hyacinth macaws are an endangered species, with less than 2,500 to 5,000 remaining in the wild today.

Deforestation, hunting for food and feathers, and illegal poaching for the pet trade are all factors contributing to the decline of the Hyacinth. Some natural predators attack eggs and nestlings.

Many conservation programs benefit the hyacinth macaw. Among them is the Species Survival Plan, which ensures the survival of selected species.

In addition, World Wildlife Fund Brazil monitors and builds artificial nests and works with landowners to protect hyacinth macaws. These birds develop much more slowly than companion birds, which is another reason why they are rare in the wild.

After 13 weeks, babies fledge (leave the nest), but it takes six more months for them to become fully functional adults. When they’re about 7 years old, they start breeding. If they’re taken care of right, they can live for over 60 years.

Appearance

From the tip of its tail to the top of its head, the hyacinth macaw measures 1 m long and weighs 1.2–1.7 kg. Each wing is 38.8–42.5 cm (15+1⁄4–16+3⁄4 in) long. It has a long, pointed tail. Almost all of its feathers are blue, while the ones on top are lighter in color.

In some cases, the neck feathers may appear a little grey. The yellow ring around the eyes and the area just beneath its beak distinguishes Hyacinth Macaws from other species.

Personality

Hyacinth macaws may appear frightening due to their enormous size and sharp, hooked beaks, but in reality, they are gentle giants. Hyacinths are generally considered to be gentle creatures.

Positive reinforcement makes them easy to train, and they bond strongly with their humans. Unfortunately, they don’t get along with other pets. They can even get aggressive during the breeding season.

Make sure other pets don’t get near Hyacinth Macaws. There are lots of different vocalizations Hyacinth macaws make, from deep guttural growls to screeching to high trills. They can also purr. When they’re in a big flock, they make more noise. 

Vocalization

A hyacinth macaw may not be the best choice if you have close neighbors. Screaming and screeching are common characteristics of this bird. A single hyacinth might not be too bothersome to neighbors, but a pair will be much louder.

It is also important to keep your hyacinth macaws safe from potential theft because they can be a target for bird-nappers looking to sell these valuable birds. Among the macaws, the hyacinth macaw is not the most accomplished speaker.

However, it will learn a few favorite words and phrases that it repeats over and over again. These birds may also learn to contextualize certain words due to their high intelligence.

Population Number

IUCN Red List estimates that there are approximately 6,500 Hyacinth macaws in the world (including 4,300 mature individuals), of which 5,000 live in the Pantanal region. The IUCN Red List classifies Hyacinth macaws as Vulnerable (VU).

Breeding

Depending on the habitat, Hyacinths made nests either in tree cavities or on cliff faces between July and December. 90% of all nests are located in the Pantanal region in the manduvi tree. Hyacinth macaws are dependent on toucans for their survival.

A toucan plays an important role in dispersing the seeds of the manduvi tree, which is essential for the reproduction of the macaw. Toucans disperse 83 percent of the seeds of Sterculia apetala, but also consume 53% of the eggs they prey upon.

Typically, large holes are found only in trees over 60 years of age or older, and competition for available holes is fierce. The only downside is that only one fledgling survives the clutch.

It happens because the smaller fledgling cannot compete with the larger one for food after the second egg hatches. Breeders can easily prevent this from happening in captivity. This behavior may be explained by what is known as the insurance hypothesis.

To compensate for early eggs that fail to hatch or firstborn chicks that die, macaws lay more eggs than they normally can. It takes about a month for the egg to hatch.

At 110 days of age, the chicks leave their nest, or fledge, and remain dependent upon their parents until the age of six months. After seven years of age, they are fully mature and begin to breed.

Breeding Hyacinth Macaws in Captivity

The Hyacinth Macaw is regularly bred in captivity, but it is a relatively difficult bird to breed. Usually, breeding occurs in late spring and early summer, but some pairs can breed almost all year long.

Typically, clutches contain two to three eggs, but sometimes there are more. It takes approximately 26.5 days for an egg to hatch.

To stimulate reproduction, nuts, palm nuts, coconuts, and seeds with high fats, such as sunflower seeds, should be added to the diet. It’s better to let the parents feed their chicks if you’re an inexperienced breeder.

Nest Box

Large macaws like horizontal wooden boxes (about 24″ x 24″ x 36″ or 48″), but some will breed in vertical boxes. You can use big palm trees, hollow logs, or whiskey barrels.

The nest box should have additional wood for chewing. Make sure the macaws have plenty of chewing material. It’s great to put pine shavings in nest boxes.

Caring for Hyacinth Macaw

It is important to prepare your home for a macaw if you are considering owning and raising one.

Housing

They’re very active, so you should get them the biggest cage you can afford. They need space to fully extend their wings or they’ll lose their ability to fly due to muscle atrophy. It’s essential to build a sturdy cage for macaws because they chew a lot.

Many of them can also open cage latches. It may be necessary to lock cages or put escape-proof latches on them. A large cage outside is ideal for bathing and exercising pet macaws. The minimum cage size for Hyacinth macaws is 6x6x12 feet.

Some Hyacinth bird owners prefer custom cages because it’s hard to find a cage that fits them. Giving your macaw bird a dedicated room or outdoor aviary is even better if you want to give them more freedom.

Grooming

The key to good plumage and skin is regular bathing or showering. You can mist macaws and let them dry in the sun or a warm room, or you can blow dry them. Place the macaws in a cage outside, spray them down with a hose, and allow them to dry.

The Hyacinth macaw also needs to have its nails, beak, and wings trimmed, in addition to birdbaths and regular misting.

There’s no doubt that macaws are good flyers. It’s a good idea to clip most of the primary flight feathers (10 feathers closest to the tip of the wing) to keep it from flying. Don’t clip too much, just enough to make the birds glide.

Keeping it short can be hard, but if that doesn’t work, you need a groomer.  Get your avian vet to show you how to trim the wings and nails of your macaw bird to save money.

Diet

Acuri and bocaiuva palm nuts are a major part of the hyacinth macaw’s diet. Their beaks are very strong, so they can eat kernels of nuts and seeds. These birds can crack coconuts, brazil nut pods, and macadamia nuts with their strong beaks.

Also, they have dry, smooth tongues with a bone inside that makes them good at picking fruit. They also eat fruits and vegetables. In general, hyacinth macaws eat fruits, nuts, nectar, and seeds. Additionally, they travel over a wide area to find the ripest food.

Almost exclusively, hyacinth macaws eat nuts from palm trees like Acrocomia aculeata and Attalea phalerata in the Pantanal. Henry Walter Bates wrote about this in his book ‘The Naturalist on the River Amazons, where he reported:

They fly in pairs and feed on several palm nuts, especially Mucuja nuts (Acrocomia lasiospatha).

Using its powerful beak, this macaw crushes hard nuts that can’t be broken by hammers. A hyacinth macaw’s native palm nuts aren’t always available in captivity.

Fortunately, the macadamia nut (originally from Australia) is a suitable, nutritious, and widely accepted alternative. Interestingly, only hyacinth macaws can crack the nuts, which require 300 pounds of pressure.

Vet Care and Medications

Sometimes, your veterinarian may recommend early blood or stool tests to identify potential health concerns. Your bird can develop health problems as it ages, which will require ongoing treatment or more frequent veterinarian visits.

Cage Accessories

To keep your macaws entertained, you will need toys and perches in the cage. Additionally, food and water bowls must be provided.

From Where to Get a Hyacinth Macaw

Retail buyers should expect to pay upwards of $10,000 for a young Hyacinth Macaw, perhaps more for an adult that is ready to breed.

Hyacinth macaws are often not found in full-service pet stores due to their high price – retailers should expect to charge upwards of $20,000 for mature hyacinths. Pairs are highly valued, especially if they have been successfully bred in the past.

Given their rarity, many of these birds are in breeding programs rather than being bred by amateurs. Many breeders hope that this species will be reintroduced into the wild shortly, as their numbers are rapidly declining.

Seeing these beautiful giants in “pet-only” homes is almost unjust to the species, as there is a real danger that they may suffer extinction.

Are Hyacinth Macaws the Right Pet Birds?

A hyacinth macaw is not recommended for first-time bird owners and families with small children since they can be fickle at times. It’s easy for them to hurt kids with their strong beaks. 

To stay healthy and happy, they need a lot of enrichment and exercise. Consequently, they are not suitable for people who are too busy to train and interact with them. 

If you are experienced with large parrots, have the funds to feed, train, and take care of their other needs, and are committed to these long-living animals, it is worth it.

Population Threats to Hyacinth Macaws

Mechanized agriculture and cattle ranching, as well as the development of hydroelectric schemes, are altering habitat throughout the macaw’s range.

Due to agriculture and plantations, farmers can set annual grass fires that destroy nest trees and make the area unsuitable for this macaw. In south-central Brazil, the Kayapo Indians use the feathers of this bird for costumes and ornaments.

Macaw numbers are greatly reduced overall but remain popular in the Brazilian Pantanal, where ranch owners protect them.

On the IUCN Red List, this species is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ because it has suffered rapid population declines and is threatened by illegal trapping and habitat loss.

Human activities in the Pantanal threaten the species, mainly habitat loss, pasture burning, and illegal trapping.

Survivors of this species are subject to capture due to their unusual loudness, fearlessness, and curiosity, and fondness for only 2 palm species for diet Despite low genetic variability, the species does not face extinction.

Hyacinth macaws need to be protected from different regions due to this genetic structure. However, habitat destruction and nest poaching are the main factors negatively affecting wild populations.

The illegal practice of the pet trade alters the health of macaws through issues like poor hygiene, inadequate feeding, and overpopulation. Capturing and keeping birds in captivity can lead to high mortality rates.

In 1972, a Paraguayan dealer got 300 unfeathered birds, but only three survived. As young birds don’t survive well, poachers focus on adult birds, depleting the population quickly.

The Bolivian Environmental Law #1333 stipulates that anyone caught trading, capturing, or transporting wild animals without authorization will be sentenced to two years in prison and fined 100% of the value of the animal.

Santa Cruz still has illegal pet trade even though a lot of trackers have been arrested. National and local governments do not prioritize animal trafficking, so local police are hesitant to intervene in city centers.  

Conservation of Hyacinth Macaw

Due to concerns over the wild population and the lack of successful breeding in captivity, the European Endangered Species Program for the hyacinth macaw was founded in 1989.

Despite higher mortality rates, hand-reared hyacinth macaw offspring still have a difficult time reproducing in captivity. Acute crop stasis is also more common in them than in other macaw species.

In Brazil and Bolivia, the hyacinth macaw is protected by law, and its CITES listing prevents international trade. All countries of origin have been banned from exporting birds under Appendix I, and several studies and conservation initiatives have been undertaken.

Caiman Ecological Refuge in the Pantanal has successfully managed and raised Hyacinth Macaws using artificial nests. Studies of the species’ current range, population status, and extent of trading have been proposed.

Furthermore, proposals have been made to test artificial nest boxes, enforce legal restrictions against trade, and experiment with ecotourism at some sites. Several artificial nests have been constructed to compensate for the lack of nesting sites in Mato Grosso do Sul by the Hyacinth Macaw Project.

Bolivian and Paraguayan trade management authorities under presidential control have also been proposed to create further protective measures under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Author

  • Ali Shahid

    Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.

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