by Sally Blanchard
» The largest of the macaws and the longest parrot at 38"
» CITES I Endangered due to habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade
» Endemic to Central and Eastern South America including the Pantanal of Brazil
My first advice if you are thinking of buying one of these magnificent macaws is to dismiss any breeder who says the birds are weaned before 8 months of age. Too many Hyacinths are stunted by being underfed (both nutritionally and in the quantity fed) and weaned way too soon. Be sure and buy from a source who understands the nutritional needs of a growing Hyacinth and knows that weaning and learning to eat on their own is a long-term process that can take at least 8 months. I talked with the new caregiver of a young Hyacinth who was told by the breeder to feed the bird nothing but a brand of colored pellets that I would never recommend and nuts. In my educated opinion, this would be a death diet for a any parrot but even worse for a hyacinth. A woman in the SF Bay Area fed her hyacinth a similar diet with added seed but no fresh foods. The hyacinth died at 12 years old.
Too many people buy these spectacular birds just because they are so prestigious and beautiful. If these people don’t take the time to learn about the specific needs of a hyacinth macaw, they can get into serious trouble. Don’t believe that just because these birds are often called “gentle giants” that they will tame without any behavioral work. It isn’t true. Hyacinths need guidance because they are a incredibly high-maintenance companion.
I have worked with several Hyacinths who were raised without the boundaries and guidance that they needed and people were having serious problems with them, one couple had already had serious problems with a 6 month old bird. With that bird who was supposedly weaned, I had the caregivers start feeding their macaw soft, warm foods with their fingers. The bird had been weaned far too young and was showing signs of being stunted. The hyacinth’s behavior calmed down immediately. In the other situations when the caregivers started to provide guidance, and play with the bird using instructional interaction, the macaw started behaving better. Of course, I cautioned the caregivers that they always need to work with their macaws to maintain their quality as a human companion. These beauties need rules and guidance just like every other parrot and probably more so because their giant beaks can become quite intimidating.
Hyacinth macaws need a home where they can receive a lot of attention and positive instructional interaction. While Hyacinths are magnificent macaws, the truth is that the ones that are really happy in their homes often seem goofier than they do majestic. Mateo is a big, goofy Hyacinth who lives with my friend, Shari Beaudoin. While he can be a pain from time to time, mostly he is a lot of fun. Shari really knows how to bring out the best in her parrots and Mateo is no exception. He has an Atom play gym hanging on the high kitchen ceiling and Shari has taught him several fun behaviors. When she says “beak only,” Mateo hangs from his gym with his beak … the cue “one toe” and he hangs from one toe. After he performs, he receives verbal praise and applause and it makes him very happy. Sometimes he will be on his hanging gym and will be hanging from his beak very patiently waiting for someone to notice.
If Hyacinths are what they eat, then it is acceptable for them to be a bit nuts. Hyacinths need the kind of high fat diet that nuts, particularly macadamias, can provide. Other foods should include vegetables, whole grains, and a natural pellet, preferably organic, without any food coloring or other chemical additives.
When I was bird sitting a delightful young hyacinth, I could have charged my friends an admission fee to watch the bird manipulate and open a macadamia nut. The power and mechanics of that beak is amazing.