Wildlife Wednesday: Hyacinth Macaw

Learn about the hyacinth macaw, a brilliantly blue bird with plenty of personality.

The hyacinth macaw doesn’t boast the rainbow plumage of other parrots, but its blue feathers may be even more striking. Usually, I would say that the words azure, sapphire, and cobalt should only be used when describing the love interest’s eye colour in a trashy romance novel, but such adjectives really seem to fit the hyacinth macaw. Unfortunately, this bird’s vibrant colouring and sunny personality also make it a $12,000 commodity in the pet trade.

Habitat: the forests and grasslands of Pantanal (a tropical wetland in South America), Brazil, eastern Bolivia, and parts of Paraquay.


  • Reaching an impressive 40 in (100 cm) in length, the hyacinth macaw is the largest parrot in the world.
  • Hyacinth macaws are super smart, and have been known to use tools and remove the locks on their own cages when kept as pets.
  • Most parrots, including the hyacinth macaw, use their beaks like a third foot, helping them to grip branches and clamber about on trees.
  • Their toes are zygodactylous, meaning they have two toes facing forward and two facing in the opposite direction to aid in climbing.
  • In addition to mating for life, hyacinth macaws are very social and affectionate with each other.
  • Sadly, it is not uncommon for only one chick in a given clutch will survive to maturity.
  • One of hyacinth macaws’ main food sources is palm nuts that have already been eaten and, um, expelled by cows.

Why so blue, hyacinth macaw?

Smart, playful, beautiful—with traits like these, it’s not hard to see why the hyacinth macaw is so prized as a pet. Unfortunately, hunting and trapping for the illegal pet trade is part of the reason that these glorious birds are endangered. For example, an estimated 10,000 birds were taken from the wild in the 1980s. Cattle ranching and technological developments, meanwhile, have destroyed or damaged the hyacinth macaw’s habitat.

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