Entry on the Lear's Macaw in Parrots and Parrot-like Birds

by the Duke of BEDFORD published c.1954.

The Most Noble Hastings William Sackville Russell, 12th Duke of Bedford, Marquess of Tavistock, Earl of Bedford, Baron Russell of Chenies, Baron Russell of Thortonhaugh in the county of Northampton, Baron Howland of Streatham in the county of Surrey, was born in Scotland on 21st December 1888. He had an early interest in aviculture as he was brought up at Woburn Abbey where his father had an extensive collection of birds and animals.  While at Oxford University he bought two pairs of Madagascar Lovebirds, which he put at liberty at Woburn. They stayed in the grounds and reared young. Later the Duke decided to specialise in parrots and before World War One he bred at complete liberty the Roseate Cockatoo and a range of parakeets including the Red Rosella, Mealy Rosella, Pennant, Adelaide , Barnard's, Redrump and later the Passerine Parrotlet and Peach-faced Lovebird. Among the finch-like birds the Duke bred at liberty were the Common Waxbill, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Avadavat, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Cordon Bleu, Lavender Finch, Diamond Sparrow, Rufous-tailed Finch, Parson Finch and Long-tailed Grass Finch.

He was a Fellow of the Zoological Society, member of the British Ornithologists' Union and a member of the Avicultural Society. He was also associated with the Avicultural Society of America and a life member of La Societé Nationale d'Acclimation de France.

The Duke died tragically in October 1953 when he went out to hunt a sparrow-hawk that was predating his flock of free-flying budgerigars and when forcing his way through some bushes stumbled and accidentally fired his gun inflicting fatal wounds.      

 The book was published around 1954 with the American version being published in 1969.    

Lear's Macaw

 Anodorhynchus leari

Distribution        Brazil

Adult                   Hyacinth blue.  Head and neck paler and more slate=coloured. Breast feathers with paler tips. Bill black. A patch of naked yellow skin on the cheek. Length twenty-eight and one-half inches

Lear's Macaw differs from its close ally, the Hyacinthine, in its slightly smaller size and less richly coloured head and breast. Unmated birds are gentle, friendly creatures and, though they can certainly make themselves heard, they screech somewhat less raucously than their parti-coloured relatives, their voices, as Mr. Astley noted, having something of the carrion crow timbre about them.

The species is excessively hardy. A bird in my possession, when in rough importation plumage, flew into the top of a bare oak tree and stayed therefor more than forty-eight hours during a spell of raw January weather. When at length he decided to come down he was not a penny the worse for his long fast and exposure.

Lear's, like Hyacinthines, are bad stayers at liberty. After a lot of trouble I did manage to induce a couple to settle down for some months, but both eventually strayed and were shot. The hen used to gratify her taste for society by flying daily to a town three miles distant where she amused herself by pulling out the pegs of people's clothes lines and playing with the dogs. She was sometimes bitten, but such an embarassing occurrence did not make her any less fond of her canine companions.

(Ed: I was astonished and not a little shocked by the above account. Today, of course, it is not permitted to shoot raptors and therefore it would be unlikely that a macaw would be shot in this way.)

Latest News

  • Monday 6th May 2024
    Interesting articles on the keeping, breeding and development of the Lear’s macaw at ACTP Germany

    I have translated the article, which appeared in two parts in the German magazine Papageien at the beginning of 2021. The translation, which appears in Content under "The Lear’s Macaw in Aviculture" was not straight forward because of the su ... Read More »


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

Horace (65-8 BC)