Image by Eric Baccega
The hyacinth macaw, or Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, is a vibrant, animated bird that live in Brazil. They are extremely social with their flocks, and when they reach 3-4 years of age they will find a mate for life. They are extremely loyal to these partners and are hardly ever seen alone. They are extremely intelligent, and although their beak is strong enough to open a coconut, they are very gentle and rarely get upset. They can live as old as 50 years old! They are also curious and do not have as strong a sense of danger as some other animals. Unfortunately, these attributes that make the hyacinth macaw such a remarkable and fascinating bird also make them perfect for the pet trade.
Why Are They Endangered?
The main reason hyacinth macaws are endangered is because they are caught and sold as pets because of the attributes listed above. After being brought away from their native home, 99% of hyacinth macaws die of health complications soon after. Because of this and because of laws prohibiting capture of these birds, pet trade traffickers have turned to capturing eggs. Legally, birds that were born in captivity can be sold as pets, although low rates in captive reproduction limit breeders from using this path. Hyacinth macaws can be sold for at least 10,000 each, so it was well worth the traders time to find another method. “Egg laundering” is when traders steal eggs from nests, keep them warm by strapping them to their body, incubate and hatch them, and pass them off as captive-born by sliding metal bands on their legs at a young age. They can then sell the birds, and legally, it checks out. Eggs are also easier to smuggle than live birds, because they are small, quiet, and can be easily destroyed if needed. Between 2003 and 2015 358 bird eggs, hyacinth macaws and others, were confiscated in Portuguese airports (there are many flights from Brazil to Portugal everyday). In the 1980s, 10,000 macaws were taken from Brazil and sold as pets, bringing their population to only 1,500 by 1990. However, thanks to amazing conservation efforts, the population doubled in the next 10 years and now there are about 4,300 adults. Unfortunately this is still not a large population and it is still being threatened by the pet trade. Other problems facing hyacinth macaws are habitat loss and hunting for food and decoration. Hunting for religious decoration (art and headdresses) previously didn’t adversely affect this bird's population; however, with increasing tourism, so increases art sold to tourists made of hyacinth feathers.
Image by Jamie Gilardi
Image by Joanna Eckles
Image by Herman Surkis
Image of Shutterstock
Hyacinth macaws are important to the habitat they live in because they disperse seeds and nuts, allowing them to be germinated and for green growth to grow. This vegetation is the base for every other animal that lives in the hyacinth macaw’s habitat. Without this, herbivores would starve and then predators would too. Also, by protecting the hyacinth macaw’s habitat, we also protect all the animals and plants that live there.
What Can You Do?
Do not buy hyacinth macaws (if you had 10,000 dollars that you wanted to spend, I’m sure you could think of something better to do with it). You can also donate to organizations dedicated to protecting hyacinth macaws, researching illegal trafficking, providing avian vets, and providing facilities to house confiscated birds. For example, donate to the World Parrot Trust or World Wildlife Fund.