Hand-rearing of two Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

by Jan NEDÉLNIK, Brodek, Czech Republic. German text by F. Amberger, Kotzting. Published in Gefiederte Welt, Issue 6/92

The successful rearing of this macaw species is still seldom achieved. This report is intended to pass on my personal experiences with this parrot species to other keepers and breeders and contribute to extending the small information base on the species. I have kept Hyacinthine macaws since 1984. At first I had two females, but in November 1988 I was able to put a breeding pair together. In 1988 the female of the later breeding pair, which was still with the other female at the time, laid two eggs three times. From 1989 I had at long last a true pair. But only infertile eggs were laid - two eggs three times in 1989, two eggs twice in 1990. It was only last year (1991) that two fertile eggs were laid. On 24th July - later than in previous years - the female laid the first egg and the second on 28th July. This time the male was far more aggressive than in previous years when the female was more aggressive. His territorial behaviour and readiness to defend the nestbox was very pronounced. He remained very close to the nestbox all day.

The nestbox, which measured 50 x 100 cm (20 x 40 ins), was made of large oak planks and lined with roughly cut, but soft wood shavings, was hung horizontally at a height of 1 metre (40 ins) from the floor in a corner of the inside area, which measured 6 x 1.8 x 2 metres (20 x 6 x 7 ft). Nestbox inspection was always very difficult. It could only be carried out of the female left the nestbox to defecate. Then I had to try to drive the pair into the outside area and prevent them from re-entering. On 9th August I discovered both eggs were fertile. I was very happy as I had waited seven years for this event.

But then I was faced with the question of how to continue. I had previously left the rearing of the young of my parrots to the parents. I had only taken the young for hand-rearing in emergency situations. My experience was therefore not great and I had never before raised young macaws. The adult Hyacinthine macaws were very aggressive. It would not possible to supervise the hatching of the young. Otherwise they could be endangered. In addition autumn was approaching and I had no possibilities for heating the aviaries. I had also waited seven years and I wanted to avoid the disappointment of a failure caused by low temperatures.

After weighing up the pros and cons, I finally decided to hand-rear the young. According to the available literature the incubation period was 28 days. On the 27th day after the first egg was laid (20th August) I could not hold back any longer and carried out an inspection when the female, who normally sat very tight on the eggs, left the box to defecate. The first egg had just hatched, but had not yet been fed. I took it out and placed it in the brooder, which I had set up. The parents were very upset and screeched until evening. They were seen searching for the young macaw. The next day the pair stayed outside the box and ran nervously up and down the perch. The following day I took the other egg and placed it in an incubator. It hatched without problem four days after the first on 24th August. The incubation time for both eggs was 27 days.

The temperatures in the brooder was as follows:-

Days 1 to 7 34 oC 
Days 8 to 21 32 oC 
Days 22 to 28 30 oC
From 28th day: 28 oC

My wife took care of the feeding for which great care was necessary. For the first 8 days they were fed every two hours from 5.00 a.m to 11.00 p.m and then once more at 2.00 a.m. From the 8th to the 14th day they were fed every four hours and from the 14th day every 6 hours. The young took the food from the side of a spoon with the sides bent upwards. During the first seven days they were given Milupa baby food. From the 8th day they were given a very soft mix of porridge, rice, millet, soya, raw yolk, carrot, sunflower seed, walnuts, flour, Milupa, honey with added mineral supplements and vitamin preparations such as Konvit, Plastin, Roboran as well as calcium. The mix was laways prepared three to four days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

At feeding time the required quantity was taken and heated to 41oC. Just before the feed was given I crumbled home-made mineral cubes into the mix. When preparing the mix I adjusted the consistency. At first fine, then gradually making it coarser with added unrefined items to develop the digestive function. At no time did I include microbiotic or spittle to aid digestion. Before each feed we inspected the crop. At least once a day the crop should be completely empty before feeding.

Both young did well. Their eyes opened on the 28th day. The first wing pin-feathers were visible on the 32nd day, the tail pin-feathers on the 36th day. By the 70th day the brooder, a converted refrigerator, was too small and they were moved into a child's bathtub filled with shavings. Their further development was as follows:- at 80 days length 57 cm (221/2 ins), of which the tail was 21 cm (8.1/4 ins); at 90 days length 62 cm (241/2 ins), of the tail was 25 cm (93/4 ins); at 100 days length 70 cm (271/2 ins), of which the tail was 30 cm (113/4 ins) and wing-length 50 cm (19.3/4 ins).

Both young were close rung at 28 days. They began to fly at 110 days. Now - 21st January 1992, they are five months old and well developed. They have a length of 88 cm (just over 361/2 ins). They could almost be confused with their parents except their bill colour is slightly less dark. Their weaning was very difficult. They prefer biscuit, walnuts, apple, carrot and only a very little softened sunflower seed. They must still be hand-fed every evening.

Altogether it must be said that hand-rearing Hyacinthine Macaws is very demanding. It lasts more than five months. I even had to cancel my holiday booking in Greece. For the whole five months one member of my family had to be at home. In the first four weeks it was necessary to feed during the night. Therefore I should like to thank my wife in particular at this point, without whose help and support, especially in regard to her care in feeding the young, this success could not have been possible. The effort paid off. Not only because I am now the proud owner of two young Hyacinthine Macaws and it is a real joy to see them in their aviary, but also because I believe this success contributes a little to further stabilisation of this species in aviculture. It's still a long way to a secure captive population and time presses. The species is endangered in the wild. The question of whether we shall be able to keep them at least in our aviaries depends on the will of birdkeepers and breeders to exchanging information and coordinating effort.

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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)