Entry on Hyacinthine Macaw in Studies of Birds and Mammals of South America

(Page 20) by Axel AMUCHÁSTEGUI with descriptive text by Helmut SICK published in 1967.

(Website editor: This work contains striking images of 16 birds and 8 mammals from the South American continent accompanied by concise, but very informative text by Helmut Sick, the great German-Brazilian ornithologist)

Plate 5 Hyacinthine Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus).

Parrots and their allies live in the warm zones of the world; fossil parrots have been found in Europe. In South America this family is particularly well represented. There are over 6o in Brazil alone, which also has the biggest species -- the macaws.

The name `macaw' embraces about a dozen species. The best known among them are the blue-and-yellow macaw, two red species and the hyacinthine macaw. The latter is altogether the biggest representative of the whole parrot family.

The hyacinthine macaw is 3 ft in length. Its great beak looks disproportionately larger than the head. It is more powerful than that in the plate, which probably shows a young specimen. The plumage is cobalt blue, the wings and the tail being the darkest. At a distance or in unfavourable light it looks black - the reason for the names `Arara preta' and `Arana una' (black macaw), commonly used by local populations.

A contrasting effect is achieved by the bare area surrounding the eye and the strip of skin around the beak which are both vividly yellow. The species lives in Central Brazil: Mato Grosso and Goiás, West Minas and as far as Bahia, northwards to Piauí, Maranhão and South Pará. In some localities this bird is anything but rare.

The hyacinthine macaw is a characteristic inhabitant of the palm savanna. It is especially at home in the groves of the majestic Buriti palm, which grows in swamps around lakes and rivers. Less gregarious than other macaws, it is usually only encountered in pairs, sometimes in groups of five, which are most likely family parties.

The macaws feed on the nuts of various palms, sometimes gathering them from the ground when shed by the palms. They also take other fruit, including figs. As with other parrots, the eating habits do not always justify such a big strong beak, since unripe soft nuts and small seeds are their favourite food. Special titbits for the hyacinthine macaw are shoots of the Bocaiuva palm. This annoys the settlers because these palms furnish good timber for posts and wither when the shoots are damaged. The macaws also visit `barreiros', places where clay containing salt is found.

Hyacinthine macaws betray their presence at a great distance by a deep rattling call, which is often louder than that of the blue-and-yellow macaw which sometimes occurs in the same neighbourhood. During the breeding season they fly towards men as if they wanted to attack them; they make their nests in hollow trunks and branches of large trees at the forest edge and in dead palms. Sometimes they nest in cliffs. Three snow-white eggs are laid. Young birds are easily tamed.

Apart from man, the hyacinthine macaw has hardly any enemies. Only rarely does it become a prey of the Harpy eagle or the otter-like Tayra, which attacks the sleeping or incubating birds.

The hyacinthine macaw should not be confused with two other very similar macaws, both of which are rare: the glaucous macaw and the indigo, or Lear's macaw. The former (Anodorhynchus glaucus) is about the size of the species illustrated. It is pale blue; its head and neck have a distinct greyish tinge. On the base of the mandible it has a swollen yellow knob instead of the flat skin strip of the hyacinthine macaw. It inhabits Paraguay, but is dying out.

The indigo macaw (Anodorhynchus leari) is more like the hyacinthine macaw because of its deep blue coat, but head, neck and underside are paler, with a greenish tinge. The knob on the mandible is similar to that of the glaucous macaw. It inhabits Central Brazil.

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 " Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret "

( If you drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will soon find a way back)

Horace (65-8 BC)