Hyacinth macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) are the longest parrots in the world, reaching a massive 100 centimetres in length (4). They have striking cobalt blue feathers, contrasting with the bare yellow eye ring and yellow patch of skin next to the lower bill (4). The tail is particularly long (2), and the powerful black bill is deeply curved and pointed (4).
Nesting takes place between July and December, nests are constructed in tree cavities or cliff faces depending on the habitat (2). In the Pantanal region, 90% of nests are constructed in manduvi trees; existing holes are enlarged and then filled with sawdust (5). Clutches of 2 eggs are commonly laid, although only one chick will usually survive to maturity (5). The incubation period lasts about a month, and the male will tend to his mate whilst she incubates the eggs (5). Although fledging occurs when the chicks are around 3 months old they remain dependent on their parents until 6 months of age (5).
The majority of the hyacinth macaw diet is comprised of nuts from native palms, such as acuri and bocaiuva palms (5). The acuri nut is so hard that the parrots cannot feed on it until it has passed through the digestive system of cattle (5).
The hyacinth macaw occurs in three distinct areas in South America, mainly in Brazil. It is found in east Amazonia, east-central Brazil, and in the Pantanal region of southwest Brazil reaching into Bolivia and Paraguay (2).
In different areas of their range these parrots are found in savannah grasslands, in dry thorn forest known as 'caatinga', and in palm stands (2). The Pantanal is a vast area of swampland formed by the flooding of the Paraguay basin; here, hyacinth macaws are found amongst palm-savannahs (2).
Hyacinth macaw numbers are in decline as a result of habitat loss and over-collection for the illegal pet trade. In the 1980s, it is estimated that at least 10,000 birds were taken from the wild (2). Throughout the macaw’s range, habitat is being lost or altered due to the introduction of cattle ranching and mechanised agriculture, and the development of hydroelectric schemes (2).
The hyacinth macaw is protected by law in Brazil and international trade is prohibited by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (2). There are a number of long-term studies and conservation initiatives in place; the Hyacinth Macaw Project in the Brazilian State of Mato Grosso do Sul, has carried out important research by ringing individual birds and has created a number of artificial nests to compensate for the small percentage of sites available in the region (5). The effective enforcement of protection laws is required if this beautiful parrot is going to be saved from the fate of the other Brazilian parrots, Lear's (Anodorhynchus leari) and Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), which now teeter on the brink of extinction.
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