The hyacinth macaw, also known as the hyacinthine macaw or the blue macaw, is the largest bird in the macaw family, and the largest of the flying parrot species.
Native to the semiopen wooded habitats, grasslands, and tropical wetlands in central and eastern South America, the hyacinth survives today in three main populations in Brazil: the Pantanal region, the Cerrado region (eastern interior), and the eastern portion of the Amazon Basin. However, there are smaller populations scattered throughout South America.
Their popularity as pets, coupled with slow development and massive habitat loss, has threatened the wild hyacinth population. Conservation efforts to help the species are underway, including those by the World Wildlife Fund, the Minnesota Zoo and BioBrasil, and Brazil’s Hyacinth Macaw Project in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. In addition, the species is now protected by law in Bolivia and Brazil.
Hyacinths are known to be relatively even-tempered birds. Anecdotally known as “gentle giants,” these parrots can make fine pets for highly experienced bird owners. Hyacinth macaws are intelligent birds, and have shown a facility for limited tool use both in captivity and in the wild. They can also learn to talk but are not among the parrot world’s best talkers. They are complex creatures, and without proper socialization and ample room to roam and exercise, they can become neurotic and even aggressive.
Hyacinth macasw are not appropriate pets for novice bird owners. Their lifespan in the wild is between 50-60 years, and they can live even longer in captivity, if well cared for.
While they can make good pets in the right circumstances, they can be nippy, and are loud. Hyacinths require large, sturdy housing and lots of toys and branches to climb and chew on, as they are prone to overgrown beaks. These social birds require daily interaction, and may resort to self-mutilation and other destructive behaviors if left without company.
In short, the hyacinth macaw is potentially a wonderful pet, but one that requires a major commitment of time and energy from an experienced bird owner, who should also be prepared to shell out thousands of dollars for the initial purchase of one of these rare and majestic birds.
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The hyacinth measures about 3.3 feet from the top of its head to the tip of its tail. Its weight ranges from 2.6-3.7 pounds and each wing measures approximately 15-17 inches long. The feathers are a solid, brilliant blue color, although in some cases, the neck feathers can have a grayish tint. The underside of the wings and tail are a dark grey or blackish color. Females and males are difficult to distinguish visually, though females are usually more slender than males.
The hyacinth has rings of bright yellow around its eyes and a swath of yellow at the base and corners of its beak, which is capable of exerting a bite force of hundreds of pounds per square inch. The bird’s irises are dark brown.
A properly balanced diet is key to a healthy bird. In the wild, hyacinths eat a high-fat diet of mostly palm nuts. However, they also eat fruits and other vegetable matter. In captivity, if palm nuts are not available, Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamias, pistachios, and cashews can be used as substitutes.
A hyacinth’s diet should also include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to these nuts. A diet too high in fat can cause kidney damage and interfere with how calcium gets metabolized.
The hyacinth, like other parrots, is prone to proventricular dilation disease (also known as Macaw Wasting Disease), which is a digestive disorder caused by a viral infection.
Other health concerns include, psittacosis (a bacterial infection) and papillomas (infections, wart-like growths). A proper diet, plenty of social and physical activity, and quality veterinary care by an avian vet are essential to maintaining this bird’s good mental and physical health.