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Hyacinth Macaw Species Profile: Diet, Housing, and Behavior
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
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Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus

Hyacinth Macaw The largest of all parrots, the Hyacinth Macaw is a breathtaking species that grows up to 40 inches long and weighs around 2½ pounds. Sometimes referred to as Hyacinthine Macaws, they are covered head to foot in deep, rich cobalt blue, with vibrant yellow eye rings and a narrow patch of yellow skin at the base of the lower beak. The undersurface of the tail and wing feathers are dark gray. The beak is gray to black and very strong, with a prominent curve and sharp point. "Wow" is the expression most people use to describe them.

Habitat

The range of the Hyacinth Macaw is steadily decreasing. It is now found south of the Amazon River in central and southwestern Brazil, eastern Bolivia, and northeastern Paraguay. It lives in lightly forested areas, swamplands, open savannas, and palm groves, usually near water. They are generally found in flocks, especially at roosting time in the late afternoon.

Diet

In the wild, Hyacinth Macaws eat primarily palm nuts from the Scheelea Palm and the Atalea Palm, often those that have passed through the digestive tracts of cows, causing the outer covering to soften. They also eat clay from along the riverbanks, supposedly to help neutralize the toxins in some of the nuts they eat.

Pet birds should be fed a diet of appropriate pelleted food, some fruits and vegetables and a variety of nuts. These can include macadamia and Brazil nuts, filberts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and coconut. They require more fat and carbohydrates, and less protein, than other parrots. Breeding birds, especially, need the higher fat content.

Cages and housing

With a wingspan of nearly 4 feet, a cage size of 5 ft. W x 6 ft. H x 3½ ft. D is the absolute minimum. Allowing a full wingspan stretch helps prevent muscle atrophy. Since their beaks are stronger than those of any other bird, they are known to chew through the welds on regular metal cages easily. Heavy-duty stainless steel cages are the best choice for these birds.

Behavior

Hyacinth MacawHyacinths are playful, intelligent, and avid chewers. They love puzzling toys, interlocking toys, or toys with surprise treats that have to be extracted. However, if they are not properly stimulated, they can become loud and destructive. Regular, supervised playtime outside the cage and human interaction is essential.

Owner challenges

Their sometimes loud, demanding nature requires patience. Their cost, both upfront (average cost is $8,500) and throughout their long lifespan (up to 60 years or more), is another challenge that should be looked at carefully by anyone interested in keeping this species.

Status and breeding

Their numbers in the wild are decreasing, and their status is rare to endangered. Recent population studies estimate the number of Hyacinth Macaws in the wild to be between 4,000 to 6,000. Breeding them is very difficult, so we recommend they be kept only by expert breeders committed to increasing their population. A male and female usually pair for life.


Quick Stats:   Hyacinth Macaw
Family: Psittacidae
Origin: South America
Size: 40 inches
Coloration: Primarily cobalt blue; yellow rings around the eyes and patches of yellow around the lower beak and on the tongue.
Diet: Pellets formulated for Hyacinth Macaws; macadamia nuts, almonds, and palm nuts; small amounts of vegetables and fruits. Use many varieties of fruits and vegetables, washed thoroughly. No avocados or fruit pits.
Cage Size: Minimum of 5' W x 6' H x 3½' D; stainless steel cage with the bar spacing not more than 4" apart - structural wire at least 3mm thick.
Grooming: Trim 6-7 flight feathers; and clip tips of toenails.
Compatibility/Disposition: Friendly, curious, very intelligent, and avid chewers.
Vocalization: Raucous screech
Playfulness: Very active and playful; need many toys, large amount of exercise, mental stimulation, and human interaction.
Life Span: 60 years or more.
Age at Maturity: 5 years
Nesting Sites in the Wild: Usually tree hollows; may also use holes in cliffs.
Breeding Season: In the wild, during the rainy season.
Sexing: Unreliable without DNA testing.
Special: Very intelligent - need to provide adequate interaction and stimulation (enrichment) or they may become loud and destructive; messy eaters.
Cost: $8,500
Endangered Status: Rare to endangered.

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Click here for a pdf version of this article.  See related products at DrsFosterSmith.com Pet Supplies  
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