Hyacinthine Macaw as Pets or Captive Breeders: Living with the largest parrot of all

Hyacinths as Pets

Hyacinthe Macaws are often referred to as the “gentle giant;” they are very smart but also require A LOT of special accommodations which can get costly, such as a special heavy duty cage that has solidly welded joints (preferably stainless) because of the immense strength of their beaks.

Because of their powerful beaks that can inflict painful bites and damage household items, they require an experienced handler.

They are very inquisitive and LOVE to play, so toys are so very important; and they go through them like water.

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    I had the pleasure of spending one week with one of these “gentle giants” while working at a less-than-stellar rescue organization.

    This is a LOT of bird to handle. The weight of this parrot on your arms alone is quite significant. But they are truly awesome. This was an absolutely striking-looking parrot, with a somewhat mischievous and curious personality. I found him to be far less destructive and noisy than some of the other macaw species.

    He actually was pretty well behaved. He didn’t chase the other birds (he knew that he was the boss anyhow) and I could leave him roaming around without him getting into too much trouble.

    This being said, their beaks are STRONG and should be respected. He can bite through electric wiring in a second – which would kill him and cause a fire hazard. The area this parrot is in really needs to be bird proofed before introducing him into it.

    Plus he could easily cause serious damage to your hand (or other body parts) in no time at all. Training a hyacinthe is even more crucial than for the smaller birds. Believe me, you don’t want to have a hyacinthe with a bad attitude.

    I remember being careful the first couple of days as I was respectful of his enormous beak, but as he was rather gentle and playful my worries for the most part dissipated – although I don’t remember a moment when I let my guard completely down.

    His beak was very strong and it didn’t take a lot of effort on his part to crack the hardest of shells. Although, I wasn’t too concerned about viciousness as much as accidentally getting my finger in the wrong place at the wrong time 🙂 …

    This truly is an awe-inspiring, impressive bird that deserves respect and commitment to provide this special being with the most interesting, high-quality life possible approximating that it would have enjoyed in its natural habitat. Special accommodations (a fun, well-equipped bird room with an outside enclosure) is really recommended for this large parrot.

    The fact that there are only very few left of these parrots in the wild is a devastating fact and my hope is that captive breeding programs in zoos and private aviaries will maintain this species for our descendants to enjoy.

    Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

    Below is some more information to consider:

    Bird experts often advise those interested in obtaining a macaw as a pet to educate themselves extensively about these birds prior to obtaining one, as these animals require more attention than a dog or cat and they are not considered domesticated animals by the official definition.

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      Also, one should consider the bird’s endangered status before choosing to own one, as international trade in these birds is illegal; in the U.S. trade of domestic Hyacinth is generally legal with restrictions varying by locality.

      The Hyacinth is considered an endangered species due to

      • over-collection for the cage bird trade;
      • by the use of their feathers by the Kayapo Indians of Gorotire in southern Brazil. These Indians use the feathers to make headdresses and other baubles for the tourist trade.
      • Also, their habitat is being reduced by development.
      • Annual grass fires set by gauchos can destroy nesting trees.

      Aviculture / Captive Breeding

      The Hyacinthe Macaws can get very noisy, but in general are somewhat quieter and rambunctious than other large macaws. They are generally inquisitive and become confiding quite quickly.

      Breeding the Hyacinth Macaw in captivity has presented fewer challenges than originally anticipated; although fewer young are produced by them than by other large macaws.

      They breeding season in Central and Northern Americas usually commences in May. The breeding pair usually is more aggressive towards the care taker than they would be the rest of the year.

      Hyacinth Macaw, Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus - eating a nut

      Outside the breeding season, these peaceful parrots can generally be kept with other macaws (provided there is sufficient space for all) – and even smaller parrots and parakeets. However, I would hesitate to put the smallest of the parrot / bird species in an aviary with large parrots.

      Many larger parrots will prey on smaller birds, particularly during the nesting season when feeding chicks. Some breeders will actually put in smaller birds into an aviary for the larger birds to prey on – for entertainment as well as nutrition. This is a practice that I can’t help but have serious issues with.

      They like bathing and being misted with water – particularly during the summer. In outside flights, they also move down to the ground frequently throughout the day picking gravel off the ground and chewing it. It has been noted that bonded pairs will often simulate copulation (with raised-up tails and lower parts of body pressed against each other) while being observed by their caretaker or even strangers.

      Like in the wild, the average clutch usually consists of 1 to 2 eggs; however, typically only one is fertile. Nestlings often throw themselves on their backs when their nestbox is inspected. The young fledge when they are about 90 days old, but remain with their parents for some time after leaving the nest.

      Typical Nestbox Dimensions:

      • Hardwood nestbox with thick walls
      • Approx. dimensions: 60 x 70 x 100 cm (24 x 28 x 40 ins)
      • The entrance hole: 22 cm (9 ins) in diameter;
      • Nestbox should be positioned to allow for easy inspection


      A lot of planning has to go into their accommodation as these large parrots are very hard chewer and can be very destructive. The usual construction aviary, simply won’t do for those guys.

      • The aviary needs to be constructed of metal with very strong mesh
      • The flight should be ~ 10 x 3 x 2.5 m (30 x 9 x 8 ft) or larger
      • The adjoining shelter should be ~~ 3 x 2 x 2 m (9 x 6 x 6 ft) or larger
      • Their strong need to chew needs to be satisfied by offering them a regular supply of thick branches and tree stumps. This will also provide entertainment, in addition to allowing them to exercise their beaks.
      • Even though they are quite hardy and robust when acclimatized; they should never be exposed to temperatures below 10°C (50°F)
      Hyacynth Macaw Chick

      Captive Diet:

      Their natural diet should be as closely replicated as possible. The regular “macaw” diet doesn’t meet all their needs. The Hyacinths require a higher fat content in their diets, which is met by daily helpings of hard nuts, such as macadamia nuts, palm nuts, Brazil nuts, filberts and walnuts, as well as seeds. Their powerful beaks are able to crack the hardest nuts and seeds that most other parrot species wouldn’t be able to open. They can even crack coconuts.

      However, nuts only provide one-sided nutrition. Their daily diet also needs to include fruits and other vegetable matter. The produce they are usually fed in captivity includes pears, oranges, apples, plums, bananas, cucumbers, half-ripe maize, carrots, rose-hips and rowanberries.

      A basic parrot mix that contains sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, hemp seeds, wheat, oats, canary grass seed and various millets should always be available to them.

      During the summer (particularly when breeding), the following foods are usually added:

      • sprouted seeds
      • soaked pigeon-food
      • greenfood (chickweed, dandelion etc.)
      • animal protein, such as dried shrimp and bones with shreds of cooked meat still on them;
      • Porridge and biscuits
      • Eggfood when breeding / raising young
      • Good quality avian vitamins (D and B complex) and mineral supplements.

      As is the case with all parrot species, Hyacinth Macaws are messy eaters.

      Macaw InformationPhotos of the Different Macaw Species for Identification

      Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

      Hyacinth Macaw

      Hyacinth Macaw aka Hyacinth, Hyacinthine, Hyazinthara


      Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

      Hyacinthine or Hyacinth Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) have the distinction of being the largest flying Macaw species.

      They belong to a group that is commonly referred to as the “Glaucous Macaws (Anodorhynchus glaucus),

      The Hyacinth population in the wild is estimated to consist of only about five thousand individuals. They are only common in a few localized areas with original habitat and, except for these few areas, have disappeared from most of their former range.

      Their decline has been attributed to habitat destruction, trapping, trade and hunting. It is assumed that several thousand of them exist in captivity.

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        The popularity of the hyacinths as pets has taken a heavy toll on their population in the wild. Efforts are now ongoing to protect the remaining populations in their natural habitat.

        Every effort should be made to place captive breeding-age birds into a well-managed breeding program, as the success will dictate as to whether or not we will be able to enjoy this parrot in the future.

        Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)
        Lear’s Macaw

        Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)
        Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

        Distribution / Range

        Historically, their native range stretched from northern Brazil in localities along northern reaches of Amazon, ranging west to Rio Tapajós and south across central and southern Brazil from Piauí and southern part of Maranhão across Goiás and western Bahia to Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso; eastern Bolivia and most northeastern part of Paraguay.

        However, today they are absent from most of their former range due to habitat loss, hunting and capturing for the pet trade. The Hyacinth survives today in three known distinct populations in South America: southern Brazil, eastern Bolivia and northeastern Paraguay. It is possible that smaller, fragmented populations occur in other areas of its range.

        Pairs or small groups of them (6 to 12) are typically seen in the wild. These noisy groups can easily be heard due to their loud calls. If approached, they will fly into the air, circle for a moment before returning to their perch.

        They inhabit open and semi-open areas with tall trees; cerrado vegetation, Savannah with palms and groups of trees; marshland and flood areas with buriti (Mauritia sp.) palm groves.

        They typically prefer gallery forest and are much rarer in rain forest or along forest edges.

        They usually roost on tall Acrocomia palms or trees. During the day time they often fly considerable distances to and from their favorite feeding sites. They will either forage in the trees or on the ground on palm fruits.

        Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus
        Hyacinth Macaw, Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus

        Alternate (Global) Names

        Czech: Ara hyacintový … Danish: Hyacintara … Chinese: ?????? … Estonian: hüatsint-siniaara … Finnish: Hyasinttiara … French: Ara hyacinthe … German: Hyathinzara, Hyazinthara … Guarani: Gua’a hovy … Irish: Macá búch … Italian: Ara giacinto … Japanese: sumirekongouinko, ?????????? … Spanish: Guacamayo Azul, Guacamayo Jacinto, Papagayo azul … Dutch: Hyacinthara … Norwegian: Hyasintara … Polish: ara hiacyntowa … Portuguese: arara-azul, Arara-azul-grande, arara-hiacinta, arara-preta, arara-roxa, arara-una, canindé … Russian: ??????????? ??? … Slovak: Ara hyacintová … Swedish: Hyacintara, Hyasintara

        In Guaraní – an indigenous language of South America – the Hyacinth and the related


        They are the largest flying (40 inches) in length and weighing in at 1,200 to 1,450 g (42 – 51 oz). The wingspan is about 130-150 cm (51 – 60 inches).

        Hyacinth Macaw

        The Hyacinth is the largest of all.

        It has a solid blue body of feathers, similar to the color of indigo. The wings are slightly darker blue. The tail and wing undersides are blackish. It has a strong black beak capable of a beak pressure that can easily disassemble the bars of a welded wrought iron cage in a short time. There are bright yellow markings along the sides of the lower part of the beak and circling its solid dark eyes.

        Unlike other species of macaw, it does not have a white patch of featherless skin around the eye. The irises are dark-brown and the feet dark grey.

        The female and male are nearly indistinguishable, although the female is typically a bit more slender.

        Juveniles have a shorter tail and the upper bill (mandible) is paler.

        Similar Species:

        • The Hyacinth is larger and bulkier in size. Its plumage is more violet-blue and the yellow skin patches extend along the base of the lower bill (mandible)


        They flight with smooth wavelike motions and slow wing-beats;

        Calls / Vocalizations

        Their loud calls are often described as gurgling. The alarm calls are harsh and ratcheting.

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          Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)
          Hyacinth Macaw, Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus - eating a nut

          Diet / Feeding:

          Natural Diet:

          The Hyacinth’s primary diet consisted of palm nuts – most likely the Yatay (or Chatay) palm (Butia yatay) – and palm fruits, especially Acrocomia lasiopatha, Astryocaryum tucuma, Attalea phalerata, Acrocomia aculeata, Syagrus commosa, Attalea funifera.

          Even though their beaks are strong enough to crack even hard-shell nuts, they will often feed on palm nuts that were excreted by cattle and are, therefore, softer.

          They feed on ripe and unripe fruits, nuts, berries and vegetable matter. Likely insects as well ingested together with the fruit.

          One Hyacinth has been observed feeding on water-snails. Many parrots will eat large insects / small mammals to satisfy their need for added protein (particularly during the breeding season).

          Lear's Macaw
          Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

          Breeding / Reproduction

          Hyacinth typically breed between July and December – with slight variations depending on the area

          They typically nest in preexisting holes in living or dead trees, palms and – in some areas – in the crevices and hollows in cliffs.

          The tree cavities are usually between 4 and 12 m (12 and 40 ft) from the ground and measure about 50 cm (20 ins) in diameter and 29 cm (11.5 ins ) in depth, from entrance to bottom of hollow, which is often at the same level as the entrance. The entrance hole is usually between 5 x 7 cm (2 x 3 ins) and 40 x 25 cm (16 x 10 ins) in diameter.

          The average clutch consists of one or two eggs, each egg measuring 53.0 x 40.0 mm (2.08 x 1.57 ins).

          Usually, out of those two hatchlings, only one survives, as the first egg hatches several days before the second; and the younger hatchling usually can’t compete with the older for food.

          Even the surviving nestling has a poor chance of survival, as many of them are preyed upon or die because of illness. Others are removed from the nest (as pets or for the trade) – further reducing the number of young available in the wild.

          The remaining young usually stay with their parents until they are about six months old. They attain breeding age when they are about seven years old.

          Hyacinthine Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

          Further Macaw Information

          Photo of author

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