Excerpts from articles and letters in the Avicultural Magazine

the journal of the Avicultural Society, from 1897 to 1902 referring to the Spix's Macaw in captivity.

December 1897 issue (Vol. IV, No. 38, Pages 21-24

The Honourable and Reverend F.G.Dutton was President of the Avicultural Society from 1895 to 1920. He is best known for his notes to W.T

Greene'sParrots in Captivity published in three volumes between 1884 and 1887. He lived at Bibury, Fairford in Gloucestershire where he had a large collection of parrots. He also acted as an adjudicator at exhibitions held for British and foreign birds, many held at the famous Crystal Palace in south London. Under the heading of "Parrot Notes" in the above issue of the Avicultural Magazine he wrote:-

"Have any of our members kept a Spix? I have only seen two - one that our Zoo acquired some years ago from the Jardin d'Acclimatation, and one bought by Mr. Rothschild from Mr. Jamrach and deposited in the Gardens. They were both ill-tempered; but as the first had a broken wing, it had probably been caught old. I was greatly tempted by the offer of one from Mr. Cross the other day, but there are so many calls on a parson's purse, that he cannot always treat himself to expensive parrots. I ought to have been keeper at the parrot-house in the Zoo.

It would be hard to take away the character of a whole species on the observation of only two individuals, but if I have not yet seen a good-tempered Spix, neither have I seen an ill-tempered Hyacinthine or Glauca, or Leari. So sure am I always of their temper, that I never hesitate to scratch the heads of these kinds in the foreign Zoos. I see people looking at me as though I were Daniel in the lions' den, but truth to say, it is a very cheap piece of bravado. Their angelic tempers seem accompanied by a certain amount of stupidity. I have seen many, but only heard one talk. And I do not think they have the same individual attachment that the other macaws have. They are equally good-tempered to all the world, but my Hyacinthine did not seem to make any difference between myself and others. However, on this point I may not have had experience enough. I wonder why dealers always ask such a high price for Hyacinthine macaws. They are not everybody's bird, for they can bend the wires of an ordinary Macaw's cage with ease, but dealers will ask for them double the price of a Spix, which is a far rarer bird. They have one advantage over other Macaws - they are much quieter; they can make a row, but don't often choose to do it."

March 1898 issue (Vol. IV, No.41, Page 93)

In this issue the following reply from Henry Fulljames, who lived at a house called Brooklyn in Elmbourne Road, Balham in south London, was published. He exhibited award-winning parrots regularly at shows during this period and should have been known to Canon Dutton.

" Mr. Dutton's query, as to whether either of our members have kept a Spix's Macaw, is answered by Mr. Fillmer's mention of my bird in his report on the foreign birds at the late Royal Aquarium Show. My bird is one of the best-tempered in the collection. He delights in being taken in one's hand, and there he will, with very great enjoyment, flap his peculiarly short wings as though he meant to fly to the moon. Upside down or right side up is all the same to him. He says a few words, and could easily be taught to become a good talker if he were not mixed up with a large number of Parrots, each of which has his own ideas of harmony.

I cannot quite endorse Mr. Dutton's statement that Hyacinthine Macaws have no individuality. My Hyacinthine is devoted to my housekeeper, and endures me, while he is spiteful to a degree to others. I suspect that the latter is due to the fact that strangers are mistrustful of his wonderful beak, and he knows it. With regard to "making a row", Mr. Dutton should hear the daily duet which takes up an hour each morning between my Hyacinthine and the Spix, and he would wish he hadn't. For the rest of the day, both birds are quiet; and I think if they were beyond each other's hearing neither would be objectionable."

June 1898 issue (Vol. IV, No. 44, pages 144-7)

It will probably not surprise the visitors to this webpage that it was not long before Canon Dutton paid a visit to Henry Fulljames in Balham. This visit took place on 3rd May 1898 and Canon Dutton wrote about it in the above issue under the title "A visit to Brooklyn". After admiring Mr. Fulljames' collection of stuffed humming birds on the ground floor of this large Victorian villa he went upstairs to the Parrot Room, which he said was large and full of light, but overheated. Mr. Fulljames must have been a professional man, perhaps working in the City to which there was an excellent tram and train service from Balham, since Canon Dutton expressed his surprise that Mr. Fulljames only returned after 6.00 p.m every day and had little time to enjoy his birds.

"Lastly, the most interesting bird was the Spix Macaw. The most interesting, because it was clearly a baby, and now, owing to Mr. Fulljames' kindness, I can tell my readers what they will not find, as far as I know, in any book - that the young bird has every feather on its neck edged with black, entirely unlike the even grey-blue of the adult. It was very tame and gentle, but not, as regards plumage, in the best of condition. I never can see a bird in rough plumage, without longing to get it right. And so it has been arranged between Mr. Fulljames and myself that I should have the Spix at Bibury, and try what a little outdoor life might do for it. Had our plan come off, I might have had more to say hereafter about the Spix macaw as a pet. But I reckoned without Mrs. S (Website ed: Fulljames' housekeeper). When she was told of the plan, she showed so much reluctance to the Spix going out of her keeping that I withdrew my proposal. It is not fair to those who have the trouble of our birds to disregard their feelings about their charges."

November 1898 issue (Vol. V, No. 49, pages 13-15)

The Show of British and Foreign Birds, and Hybrids was held for the first time as a separate event organised by the Foreign Bird Exhibitors' League at the Crystal Palace from 4th to 6th October 1898. Canon Dutton was the judge for the parrot exhibits and wrote the following in his report to the Avicultural Magazine in November 1898.

"I now come to Macaws - here there were five. First went to Mr. Fulljames' Hyacinthine, beautifully shown; 2nd went to a Crimson and Green of Mr. Smith's, too much hidden by its cage; 3rd was a Blue and Yellow, and 4th an Illiger's. There was also Mr. Fulljames' Spix, the rarest bird in my classes - but in such indifferent plumage I could not even give it a card."

September 1900 issue (Vol. VI, No. 71, Pages 240-5)

Between the end of 1898 and September 1900 Canon Dutton acquired a Spix's Macaw. Whether this was the one owned by Henry Fulljames is not clear, however Mr. Fulljames ceased to be a member of the Avicultural Society by 1900 so it is possible he either died or gave up birdkeeping.

In an article entitled "The Feeding of Parrots" published in the September 1900 issue of the Avicultural Magazine, Canon Dutton wrote:-

"My Spix, which is really more a Conure than a Macaw, will not look at sop of any sort, except sponge cake given from one's fingers, only drinks plain water, and lives mainly on sunflower seed. It has hemp, millet, and canary, and peanuts, but I do not think it eats much of any of them. It barks the branches of the tree in which it is loose, and may eat the bark. It would very likely be all the better if it would eat bread and milk, as it might then produce some flight feathers, which it never yet has had. But I expect it would not eat any sop, even if I gave it nothing else."

October 1902 issue (Vol. VII, No. 12, Page 277)

In an article on Amazons, Canon Dutton in the October 1902 issue of the Avicultural Magazine referred briefly to the Spix's Macaw in his possession.

"But my Spix Macaw, who lives in the study too, is picking up a good deal of conversation, without any special attention. I am not without hopes that Versicolor may do the same, especially as the Spix is certainly six or seven years old."

Latest News

  • Saturday 23rd March 2024
    More welcome news about the Spix’s macaws in the wild

    Welcome news about the re-introduced Spix’s macaw. Last weekend the field staff in Brazil were monitoring nest boxes and discovered a pair with three newly-hatched chicks. They took video footage and this is available on the ACTP website

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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)