MEETING MY FIRST HYACINTH
By Sally Blanchard
My First Bird Fair Almost forty years ago when I lived in Wichita, Kansas, I met the first Hyacinth Macaw I had ever seen. I helped start a local bird club and was the chairperson of the very first bird fair. This was back in the days where almost all of the parrots were wild-caught. The erroneous presumption was that if the parrots made it through quarantine then they must be healthy. Ignorance was bliss and we gave little thought to bird disease when planning a bird-related event. Some of you may remember Merlyn Rhea — she wrote a column for Bird Talk for a few years. I also met her for the first time that day. She was a relative bird novice and brought her new Yellow-nape Amazon Pancho. Merlyn also brought her sister, Helen, who did not own a parrot.
Recently Helen had moved in with Merlyn because her home had been damaged in a serious fire. Merlyn had several small parrot family birds and other pets and Helen contributed two large Dobermans to the growing pet family. Although she was not planning on getting a parrot, Helen had some readily available cash because of the fire insurance payment. She was in no hurry to move back to her house — probably because of the trauma of the fire. The bird fair was in a medium-sized hall and, if I remember correctly, we had about 25 vendors — bird breeders, parrot product sales, a local bird shop, and an assortment of other people. In the middle of the building against the back wall was a vendor who had come up from Texas with several imported parrots. Back then I was too naive to wonder whether his birds were legally imported or not. The centerpiece of his display was a standard metal trunk turned on end with a Plexiglas front. There was a wooden dowel across the middle and on that perch was a huge beautiful blue macaw with the largest beak I had ever seen. The bird’s tail hit the bottom of the trunk and curled under. Although I had never seen one, I had read about these birds many times so I knew immediately that it was a Hyacinth Macaw. No one there that I knew had ever seen one before so a crowd gathered around the bird. None of us liked the fact that this majestic macaw was being housed in a trunk. Whether it was “love at first sight” or an impulse buy, Helen was mesmerized by this beautiful bird and decided she could pay the $3,500 asking price. Of course, she was totally unprepared to bring a bird this size home. She had only had experience with little birds and the Hyacinth had not been tamed.
It was Sunday afternoon and cages large enough for a bird this size were not readily available in the area. Helen would have to wait for a few weeks before she could get one that was adequate for her new macaw. First thing Monday morning she went out and purchased a roll of chicken wire and some wood. That afternoon they built an enclosure that took up almost half of the living room. I visited them and the Hyacinth seemed quite relieved to have all that space to move around. The next day the sisters ran an errand together. They were confident that the macaw would be safe in his new habitat. They were only planning to be gone for an hour or so but the errands took longer. As they pulled into the driveway, they noticed that something seemed wrong. Looking closer they noticed that the side panel of the living room bay window was gone and that the frame was all broken into pieces. The immediate fear was that their new sapphire jewel had flown the coop. They rushed into the house — the living room looked like the proverbial Kansas tornado had hit it. As their eyes swept the room, they noticed a huge rip in the temporary cage and good-sized gouges in both the living room and dining room furniture. Of course, it was Merlyn’s furniture. One chair leg was chewed into and broken. The damage led to the bay window with glass missing from the pane on one side. There was the nonchalant Hyacinth sitting on the window ledge amidst the window frame toothpicks preening herself. She looked up as if to say, “Where have you been,” and went back to preening.
Helen decided to stay home with the Hyacinth every single hour until the big cage came. She spent almost all of this time daytime and nighttime — on the living room couch interacting with the Hyacinth. I wouldn’t recommend this method of taming but it worked for Helen and about the time the cage came, she had a tame Hyacinth Macaw. Since that time I have seen hundreds of Hyacinth Macaws — many of the ones I have seen are half the size of this imported bird. She remains the largest and most memorable Hyacinth I have ever seen!!