Report on the sighting and shooting of Hyacinthine Macaws in north-western Bahia

during the expedition of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in north-eastern Brazil in 1903. Published by Otmar Reiser in 1926 in the Denkschriften der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Klasse, Vol. 76 under the title (translated) of "The results of the zoological expedition of the Academy of Sciences to north-eastern Brazil in 1903" The report was presented at a meeting on 19th April 1923.

(Translated by the website editor ©. The original text can be viewed by clicking here. The original text includes a number of Austrian hunting terms, which I had to research for this translation, as well as colloquial expressions.)

Entry on Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus (Lath)

Local name: Arara preto – Hyacinthine Macaw

Although we had the opportunity to admire two captive, tame examples of these huge parrots in Santa Rita, which had been brought there from the Rio Preto area and offered to us to purchase, it was many weeks before we made their acquaintance in the wild and even longer before we could get the first one for ourselves.

It was on 28 VI. in Riacho de Varzea Grande when their calls, which were audible for a considerable distance, betrayed their presence to us. Soon afterwards we saw two obvious pairs, which we did not succeed in shooting, spiralling up to a considerable height and throughout emitting a short cawing sound (wrak wrak). It was not until 5th July that near Brejão (west of  S. Antonio de Gilboez) I encountered  a pair within shooting distance so that I could get the ♂ (male) without any problem. The ♀ (female) only flew off after several more shots - almost certainly wounded - and flew from the fatal place making continuous wraga-wraga cries. Not far from thereWachsm. discovered a burnt area in the catinga-vegetation, called Xingú, which turned out to be a favourite gathering place for the blue coats. There were some 50 present and after W. had fired at them in rapid succession, seven remained at the spot. A number were fatally wounded  and the last to leave was caught with a bullet by W. at 100 metres. This area in the neighbourhood of Riacho de Santa Mariawas the richest in macaws of the whole journey. There were a lot less at Riacho do Oro.

On the day after this carnage the macaws stayed mostly in the palm crowns and betrayed their agitation with continuous screeching..

According to information received the arara preto“ as well as the red macaw is supposed to breed in the numerous holes and crevices in the rocky galleries and often inaccessible rock formations near Riacho d’Ardeia and lays eggs in December.

It would certainly be much easier in such locations to accommodate the irksome long tail when breeding than in even large nesting cavities where it mostly had to be held vertical..

On 10. VII.we encountered three specimens on the Rio Taquarassú, but they managed to get away in time screeching loudly. The following day a noisy pair flew past our camping place long before dawn and later we startled three more nearby.  

At the confluence of the Medonho stream, which flowed out of the state of Maranhão a shot fired by Sant. managed to hit one of the three araras flying away from there, but despite this the severely wounded bird managed to get away thanks to its remarkable tenaciousness. We gained the impression that this area on the upper reaches of the Parnahyba was only inhabited at this time of year by this largest of all the parrots. So for example a large number spent the night of 23. to 24. VII in our immediate vicinity and flew off to forage as usual at a very early hour. We followed them into a side valley with a little stream near the Facenda Morro Vermehlo and shot again at three of them, but without succeeding in bringing down even one. The ground under the trees where the wounded birds went to save themselves was reddened with blood, but despite all this they slowly moved on further and further screeching continuously. This was more evidence that this arara is best hunted with a gun.

Whilst travelling further with the raft we were induced to moor opposite the confluence of the Galeota river on the afternoon of 26. VII  by shrill calls.

Soon Sant. and I discovered a recently burned area where the araras were eagerly foraging for nuts of a coconut palm (Attalea compta Mart.), which had been laid bare and even partly roasted by the fire.  They were cracking them with their powerful bills and cramming the kernels into their crops. .

Our well-aimed shots were at first not at all successful, but later as with advancing twilight one troop after another rose up to fly to the roosting places in the buriti palms on the other bank in Piauhy I procured two and

The next morning three of us occupied the burned area and soon after the gunfire started as the the flights of bluecoats came to feed. Whilst the birds had not bothered at all about their fallen comrades the previous evening, evidently so as not to lose time, today they turned back time and time again, made a hell of a fuss and prepared to hurry to assist the fallen birds.  

Once again we were amazed by the enormous vitality of these birds. Although Sant. got three and Wachsm. even six specimens, at least twice as many got away although seriously wounded!

After this we ceased hunting them and even just observing them took up the rest of July. A few noisy birds made themselves quickly noticeable on the Urubu-Sinho River and others betrayed their presence the whole day on both sides of the river with loud croaking. One could often stay in these areas for hours without seeing or hearing a single bird, but if a gun were fired they answered immediately with a short "wrak wrak"

The last we saw were at  S. Migoel and S. Estevão, where rather a lot were gathered in a coconut palm grove. It was clear that the distribution area of these, the largest of the macaws, was restricted to the upper reaches of the larger rivers. The bird had sufficient of its favourite food there and was also less persecuted by people. It was also relatively seldom captured, but hunted far more for its feathers and for the pot.   

The skinned bodies of the birds we shot provided if simmered long enough, then braised in pork fat and sprinkled with flour a welcome alternative to the meals we prepared for ourselves during the tedious journey on the raft. 


                                           No. 1047. ♂        No. 1048. ♂           No. 1049. ♀             

     Wings:                               430                     405                        406

     Tail:                                   505                     555                        520

     Bill:                                   115                     104                        114

     (over the culmen)

Iris blackish-brownbill and feet black with a greyish tinge. 

End of report                    

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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)