Extract on Hyacinthine Macaw from the The Current Distribution and Status of Mainland Neotropical Parrots

by Robert S. RIDGELY published in Conservation of New World Parrots (Pages 237-38), the Proceedings of the ICBP Parrot Working Group Meeting on St. Lucia in 1980.

(Website editor: I acquired these Proceedings from a book stall at the Parrot Society show at Sandown earlier this month (April 2000). They are interesting in providing a very concise exposition of the level of knowledge on the Blue Macaws at the time.)

Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

Range: Basically Brazilian, found over much of the interior south of the Amazon. It is known from southern Piaui and Para (probably also southernmost Maranhao) south through western Bahia and Minas Gerais, most of Goias, and all but northwestern Mato Grosso. It was also recently found in extreme eastern Bolivia in northeastern Santa Cruz (Remsen and Ridgely 1980), and is apparently also found, at least seasonally, in extreme northeastern Paraguay (where I personally saw none in Aug. 1977 along the Rio Apa; it was, however, well known to hunters there, who say it crosses over at times from adjacent Mato Grosso). There is one old report from the north bank of the Amazon at Monte Alegre in northern Para (Goeldi 1897, 1902; in Novaes 1974, 1978), though the latter considers Goeldi's report to be "enigmatic, " as there have been no subsequent reports. Likewise, the report in Niles (this volume) of one having been exported from Guyana must surely refer to a captive bird taken out of Brazil.

Habitat: Most numerous in gallery forest in semi-open areas, often pantanal; it also occurs in extensive deciduous woodland, cerrado, and at least locally in buriti palm (Mauritia flexuosa) swamps, but seems always to shun continuous humid forest.

Status: Uncommon to fairly common locally, but it has greatly decreased or even been locally extirpated in virtually any settled region. Fortunately, however, the areas this species favors (gallery forests, swampy regions, etc.) tend to be less desirable for agriculture. Many such regions are of course utilized for grazing, but the impact of that activity on natural landscapes (if they are not originally forested) is often minimal, at least from a macaw's perspective.

The decline of the Hyacinth Macaw is due, then, mostly to hunting (so large and conspicuous a bird cannot fail to go unnoticed), and to trapping (either taking young from nests, or capturing them at roosts, using lime or another sticky substance). The Hyacinth Macaw's overall range happens to 1ie squarely in that part of Brazil now being colonized most actively; this has been the case especially in Goias and Minas Gerais. The species is now, and probably always has been, most numerous in Mato Grosso's vast pantanal, still virtually unaltered by man though much of it is used for low intensity grazing. It is here, however, that they are subjected to the most intensive trapping efforts, for this region is the closest to Corumba, the present center for smuggling these birds. From this city near the Bolivian border macaws are sent to either Santa Cruz in Bolivia (now the largest exporting center in that country) or down the Paraguay River to Asuncion; virtually all are then re-exported abroad. Everyone is aware that this is happening, and no one really believes that the tiny populations found in Bolivia and Paraguay could sustain the present export level, yet still the trade goes on.

The Hyacinth Macaw does occur in several Brazilian national parks and reserves, notably in the Cara-Cara Reserve in Mato Grosso and the Araguaia National Park in Goias, neither of which are entirely secure.

Summary: Varies locally from being fairly common to extirpated. A substantial population decline of this, the largest parrot in the world, has certainly occurred; the Hyacinth Macaw is now much reduced over a large fraction of its range. Only in remote areas does the species remain in natural abundance, and such areas become smaller each year. Not yet truly rare, its future status nonetheless will need to be monitored.

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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)