The Hyacinth Macaw (aka the Hyacinthine Macaw) was first mentioned by John Latham, an English ornithologist, in 1790. It is the largest Macaw. They measure from 35-39 inches (90-95 cm) and weighs 42-50.75 oz (1200-1450 kg). The wings are each 15.3-16.7 inches (38.8-42.5 cm) in length. The feathers are nearly all blue, being of a lighter shade on the top of the bird, and darker on the bottom. In some cases, some of the feathers on the neck are gray. The bird also presents with a black beak, bare yellow eye ring and a flap of yellow surrounding the beak.
There are three isolated groups in the wild. These groups are located in Northeast Brazil, East Central Brazil and South Central Brazil to Bolivia and Northern Paraguay. The diet consists of palm nuts such as coconuts as well as Brazil and Macadamia nuts. Usually, they are found in pairs, as families or in flocks of up to ten birds.
The Hyacinth Macaw can be a gentle, affectionate and playful pet. They can also be taught to talk and do tricks. However, they can be very loud, require an expert owner and much socialization. While young, they must be taught not to bite as their powerful beaks can cause serious injury. They also need a large enclosure, space to exercise and explore, and time outdoors; not providing these amenities in captivity can result in the bird becoming vicious and aggressive as well as result in poor health.
The Hyacinth Macaw (like other parrots) tends to be messy. Be prepared to do a lot of vacuuming. Food and water must be changed and containers cleaned at least daily. The cage must also be cleaned periodically.
Despite all this, the reward for dealing with the issues is priceless--owning a beautiful bird, which despite its imposing size and features, will bond with its owner and family. Combine this with their intelligence, affection, gentleness, talking ability, etc. as stated above, a pet Hyacinth Macaw can be one of life’s most enjoyable and satisfying experiences.
A suitable diet for a pet Hyacinth Macaw consists of nuts such as walnuts, Brazil and macadamia nuts and palm nuts; corn on the cob; fruits and vegetables (e.g., oranges, bananas, corn on the cob, etc.); soaked or sprouted sunflower seeds. Processed, and sugary foods should be avoided; also to be avoided are poisonous to birds items such as alcohol, avocado, caffeine, chocolate, nicotine and onions.
They are powerful chewers, so a cage which both withstands their beaks and provides adequate space must be chosen. Since they need to be kept occupied, and keeping in mind the strong beaks just mentioned, they should be provided with toys made from vegetable tanned leather as well as woods which have not been sprayed such as fir, willow and pine.
It is important to find a veterinarian who has a lot of experience with caring for birds and have a checkup immediately upon purchasing the bird and regular checkups thereafter. The bird should be seen by the veterinarian immediately upon the slightest sign and/or suspicion something is wrong, since some diseases may not fully show themselves until it is be too late to be treat them. The wings should be clipped at least initially until the bird becomes used to its new surroundings. The beak and nails will need regular trimming.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the Hyacinth Macaw is listed as “vulnerable”, meaning they are likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address the reasons the Hyacinth Macaw’s reproduction and survival are threatened. The threats consist of the illegal pet trade, loss of habitat for such activities as agriculture, ranching, dams for hydroelectric power as well as hunting for their feathers and use as food.
Measures have been taken to help the Hyacinth Macaw. In 1989, the European Endangered Species Programme was established because of the status of the population in the wild as well as the lack of successful captive breeding efforts. However, it has been found difficult to breed Hyacinth Macaws due to hand-raised birds having higher mortality, particularly in their first month of life.
In Brazil and Bolivia, the Hyacinth Macaw is protected by law. Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species prohibits export of these birds in all countries of origin. In the Pantanal’s Caiman Ecological Refuge, the Hyacinth Macaw Project uses artificial chick management and nest boxes along with increasing awareness of the ranchers about the birds. Additionally, in the Pantanal (an area of western Brazil along with portions of Bolivia and Paraguay), in the Caiman Ecological Refuge, The Hyacinth Macaw Project uses artificial chick management and nest methods in addition to making ranchers aware of the birds. Trappers are no longer allowed on the properties of most ranchers, thus protecting the birds. Additionally, replanting the Hyacinth Macaw’s food trees is being tried.
Other proposals include trying ecotourism to encourage fundraising, listing the Hyacinth Macaw as endangered in the United States Endangered Species Act to strengthen protection in the US and establishing, under presidential control, trade management authorities in Paraguay and Bolivia.