Entry on the Hyacinthine Macaw in The Parrots of South America

(Page 43) by Rosemary LOW published in London in 1972.

HYACINTHINE MACAW (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

Description: The plumage is a rich, deep shade of hyacinth blue throughout; the feathers normally have a high gloss. The very large beak is black. The eyes and the lower mandible are surrounded by bare skin, bright yellow in colour; a line of bright yellow decorates the tongue. Length: about 36in.

This is undoubtedly one of the most imposing and striking of all parrot-like birds.

Distribution: The interior of Brazil, south of the Amazon, in the states of Pará, Piauhy, Goyaz, Minas Geraes, São Paulo and Mato Grosso.

In 1863 H. W. Bates (3) wrote of this species: ' It occurs in the interior of Brazil from 16ºS lat. to the southern border of the Amazon valley. . . It flies in pairs and feeds on the hard nuts of several palms but especially of the Mucujas (Acrocomia lasiopatha). These nuts, which are so hard as to be difficult to break with a heavy hammer, are crushed to a pulp by the powerful beak of the macaw.'

According to C. Hilary Fry (12): ' These birds inhabit the taller and denser types of forest associated with rivers, although they are also found in seasonally dry woodland savanna called 'cerrado', again usually where the growth is good and fruits are available.' Gallery forest in cerrado - the 120 foot tall bands of impenetrable forest which grows by swamps and watercourses - is particularly favoured by this and other macaws and parrots.

'Naturalists have produced few observations on the feeding of Hyacinthine Macaws in the wild state and it is not at all common even to see the birds perched. Generally they are seen as small parties in flight when their extraordinary cries attract attention. The voice, an extremely loud and raucous monosyllable, seems to soak up the myriad lesser sounds of the forest.

'The Hyacinthine lays its four or so round eggs in an unlined tree cavity; the sexes share in incubation and the young are hatched blind and naked.'

Remarks: This is one of the most sought-after of neo-tropical parrots and commands an extremely high price. It is normally found only in zoos and bird gardens. Birdland, at Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, is famous for its Hyacinthines, several pairs of which are at liberty.

Despite its dangerous-looking beak, this is normally a very gentle and affectionate species. Undoubtedly the ideal way to keep it is at liberty; it would be unfair to cage a bird of this size and a large and very strong aviary would be required.

Breeding records: The first known breeding of this species occurred in Poznan Zoo in Poland (AZ Nachrichten, vol 14. 1967, 141-2). No dates or details are available. The birds were successful on more than one occasion in breeding in an indoor compartment measuring only approximately 5ft x 5ft x 6ft in a wooden chest placed on the floor.

At Chicago Zoo, a female Hyacinthine paired to a Scarlet Macaw laid one egg on April 30 1967 but the egg was very small and was broken. A year later a male Hyacinthine was obtained. On April 15 the hen laid one egg; the third was laid on April 22. Two were infertile and one disappeared. Two more were laid on May 13 and 16, one of which hatched on June 13. Three days later the chick had disappeared, probably having died soon after hatching. Two more clutches of two eggs were laid that year. In 1971, Ralph Small was successful in hand-rearing one chick. At nine days old it weighed 100g.

In 1970 three Hyacinthines were reared in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia and, in the same year, a hybrid between a male Hyacinthine and a female Blue and Yellow was bred in Salt Lake Tracey Aviary.

Latest News

  • Tuesday 9th July 2024

    There is a short interesting article in the July 2024 issue of the German magazine "Papageien" about the setting up of a nature conservation centre for Spix’s Macaws  in the São Paulo zoo. Under the guidance of biologist Fernanda ... Read More »


 " 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)