Sunday, January 24, 2010

Meet the Hyacinth Macaw

Macaws are loud. They're messy. They're territorial. All these cliches are true, to some extent, for every macaw I've ever met... With one exception: Lady Macbeth.

Lady is a young hyacinth macaw. I've been told by folks with more experience with this species than I have that she is fairly typical for her kind. She enjoys hanging upside down by one toe, sneaking a bit of what every you're having for lunch, and generally making herself the center of attention.

She also has a beak that she could open a coconut with. In the wild tough palm nuts are a favorite of her species. In captivity that same beak can be used for breaking open metal cages or even taking off a keeper's thumb. Lucky for us she's friendly!

If Lady were in the wild she would be one of only about 6,500 free-flying hyacinths. Parrots in
general aren't doing very well these days. The pet trade is taking a horrible toll (ironic since most people regret their parrot pet soon after acquiring it), and so is deforestation and climate change. Hyacinths are particularly vulnerable due to their beautiful coloration and reputation (mostly deserved) as good parrot citizens. They are also the biggest macaw species in the world, sometimes measuring over three feet including their tail feathers!

What most people don't know is that hyacinths in the wild
often mate for life. Taking one out of its flock, away from its family, and shoving it into a human family instead can lead to disaster. Many parrots die long before they ever reach their intended new home. Those that survive often have a very difficult time adapting; unlike a dog or cat, these are wild animals that have not been breed to understand people.

Happily, Lady was not removed from the wild, but was born in Florida to captive parents. She is an excellent ambassador for her wild brethren. Everyone who meets her wants to know more about these amazing birds. If you do too, check out parrots international, a great organization dedicated to parrot conservation and understanding. If you're ever lucky enough to meet a hyacinth, take a moment to appreciate what an incredible animal it is. Just be sure to keep your thumbs out of its beak!


  1. That's a really cute photo of you!

    Yeah, the lethal beak is the first thing I noticed there.

    I have a friend who is very, very involved in parrot rescue. So many people just do not appreciate just how much dedication it takes to care for them. It's a very large scale, ongoing tragedy.

  2. You are so right, tatty! People just see the pretty birds, hear them say something cute, and don't do the research. So many parrots end up in shelters or just set free as a result. It's really sad when you learn how many parrots die for each that ends up a captive.

  3. I once house sat for my parents friends who had 2 parrots. I think one was a white one with a grey plum and the other was a giant red one with splashes of other color. (sorry, I don't know the breeds). Anyhoo, everyday I had to take them from the cage in the laundry room to the outdoor aviary on the back porch. One night I didn't padlock the laundry cage shut and the little white one got out and ATE the banister on the stairs as well as the antique dining table. And he pooped all over... but what do you expect from a tiny bird that ate 10 pounds of wood? His giant friend just tried to bite me when I would transport him on his perch. I think they are pretty but I'll stick to my dog.

  4. Ahh bless, she really is a beautiful bird. You make some great points about the pet side of keeping these animals, people definitely need to have better information before having one as a pet. :0)

  5. Very interesting article. You should be writing for zoo magazines! Great photos, too.

  6. That's a beautiful bird. When I was young, our local petshop had one called Grapejuice. The owner had a price of $9,000 on it. Rumer has it that someone was interested in buying her. The next thing the price was $20,0000 I guess he really didn't want to sell her.That was around 1982. Every time we took a trip back to NY, we would stop in the pet store and Grapejuice was still there, but sadely a few years ago we learned that she had died. It was said that one of the large snakes excaped and got her. I think that maybe the shop owner just took her home. I guess we'll never know for sure.

  7. Ever seen Keeping Up Appearances? It's a British show on PBS. Hyacinth is the name of the main character, and she is loud and colorful just like this bird. I think the name fits.

  8. I met one at Best Friends and he is a sweetheart! His sister is Major Mitchell's Cockatoo and she loves to dance and drive her brother crazy!

  9. What a beautiful creature! Years and years ago I did a lot of research about parrots because I had contemplated getting one. I realized, though that I am completely against taking animals out of the wild for our entertainment. I also realized that their life span is as long as mine and that the birds have to be written into your will so that they will have a home after we're gone.

    So I appreciate them from afar. She's absolutely gorgeous!

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  11. We are the 3rd and final owners of our blue and gold, Coco. Oh yeah, we're putting her in our will, since she's only 21, but we're just not saying who in our family is going to have the pleasure!!!


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