The largest of all the macaws, the ‘hyacinth’ is highly sought after by the illegal wild bird trade. Live birds can change hands for as much as $12,000. Headdresses, made from feathers, can fetch up to $2,650 on the open market, and loose feathers are freely available from around $25 a lot.
Between the demands for pets, hunting for food and needless ornamentation, the hyacinth macaw and its beautiful, vibrant, glossy, cobalt-blue feathers are being dragged towards extinction. There could not be a better time to enforce and educate, before we say goodbye to yet another much needed species.
Hyacinth macaws are usually found in pairs or in small groups of up to ten birds. They are intelligent, affectionate, highly sociable and incredibly vociferous. They are mostly active in the morning and in late afternoon.
They are large birds, growing up to forty inches in length with a wing span of over sixty inches. They weigh in at about three and a half pounds. The glossy feathers are a striking shade of blue. They have bright yellow rings around the eyes and a visible stripe, of equally bright yellow skin, coming down either side from the lower part of the beak. They are, incidentally, the largest flying parrot species in the world.
The hyacinth’s beak is huge and powerful. Hooked and black, it is designed to break open extremely hard shells. It is also utilised as a third foot, for rasping and scaling branches. The toes are zygodactylous (meaning there are two in front and two behind). The combination of these two attributes makes them excellent climbers.
Both sexes look remarkably alike, save the female tends to be slightly smaller. They are monogamous and mate for life.
When the mating season comes round (there seems to be a great many conflicting opinions as to the dates of this – so I will not speculate here), nests are made in tree hollows and cliff faces; normally between four and fourteen metres above ground level.
Usually, two eggs are laid, but, historically, only one ever fledges. Incubation lasts up to twenty-eight days. Most of the mother’s time will be spent with her eggs whilst her mate undertakes the duty of feeding her. Once hatched, the youngsters will stay with their parents for a further six months. They will not be mature enough to breed themselves until they reach seven years of age.
Areas abundant in nut-bearing trees and shrubs. Seasonal floodplain forests, tropical forests and adjacent savannah, deciduous woodland, palm groves, palm savannah and palm swamps.
South America: southern Brazil, eastern Bolivia and north-eastern Paraguay.
What they eat
Nuts, fruit and vegetation. (They are especially fond of palm nuts) The hard acuri palm nut is eaten, but only after it has passed through the digestive system of cattle.
Massive illegal wild bird trade and local hunting. Brazil’s Native Indian Kayapo tribe hunt them for food and feathers. There is also an online market for genuine headdresses of the Kayapo tribe ($2,450 USD is the price on one of those I found) – no surprises there! As with most endangered species, they have suffered loss of habitat. In their case, due to hydroelectric dams, cattle-ranching and agriculture. The toco toucan is known to prey upon the eggs of the hyacinth macaw, taking more than half the total eggs predated. Other known natural predators are skunks, coatis and crows.
The hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered. It is also listed on CITES Appendix I. Only six thousand or so hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) are known to still exist in the wild. The hyacinth macaw is protected by law in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, and has been since the 1960s and 1970s. However, the illegal trade continues. The laws are not properly enforced and the profit margins are high. In the 1980s, at least ten thousand birds were thought to have been taken from the wild.
“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty”