Anodorhynchus hyacinthinushyacinth macaw

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Geographic Range

Blue macaws are native to the neotropics. The geographic range of blue macaws is from lower Central America to about halfway down the South American continent and is concentrated south of the Amazon River. (Grzimek, 1972; Ridgley, 1980)

Habitat

Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus prefers semi-open habitats. These are usually forests which have a dry season that prevents the growth of extensive, tall, closed-canopy tropical forest. Blue macaws live in a variety of habitats, including deciduous woodland, cerrado and palm groves, and the palm-Savannas of the Pantanal. The Pantanal is a particularly important habitat for the macaws, providing a large, lush oasis in southern Brazil. (Munn, 1989/90)

Physical Description

As the largest of all parrots, blue macaws are 95 to 100 cm long (37.5 to 39.5 inches), although half that length is tail. They weigh approximately 3.5 pounds (1,200 to 1,700 g) and their wingspans are from 117 to 127 cm. Typically macaws do not have feathers in the area surrounding the eyes and on fairly large areas on the side of the head. Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, however, has only a small ring around the eye and around the base of the lower mandible which are bare, revealing prominent rich yellow skin. Blue macaws are a uniform ultramarine blue, which is rich and glossy. The beak of blue macaws is massive, black and hooked. Like most parrots, the beak is used as a third foot to grasp onto trees, which is helpful for climbing. They have short, sturdy legs, which are useful for hanging sideways and upside-down. Male and female blue macaws are alike. (Ridgley, 1989)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    1200 to 1700 g
    42.29 to 59.91 oz
  • Range length
    95 to 100 cm
    37.40 to 39.37 in
  • Range wingspan
    117 to 127 cm
    46.06 to 50.00 in

Reproduction

Although blue macaws breed year round, they have a low reproductive rate; from 100 pairs, about 7 to 25 offspring are produced per year. This is counteracted by their longevity; they have lifespans which last decades. Blue macaws are monogamous, usually remaining with one partner for their entire life. (Collar, et al., 1992)

Blue macaws nest in tree cavities and cliffs, depending on their location. They will nest in dead and living tree hollows usually 4 to 14 m off the ground. Although copulation occurs year round, nesting usually occurs during the wet season, which last from November to April south of the equator. Macaws typically lay one to two eggs per clutch in a two-day interval. The incubation period is between 25 to 28 days. During this period the female spends about 70 percent of her time with the eggs and is fed by the male. Although the eggs are preyed upon by jays, coatis and skunks, among others, the hatching rate is 90 percent successful. The chicks fledge in 13 weeks, but the fledglings stay with the female for about 18 months. They reach sexual maturity in 6 to 10 years. (Collar, et al., 1992; Scheepers, 2001)

  • Breeding interval
    Blue macaws breed year round.
  • Breeding season
    Although copulation occurs year round, most nesting takes place between November and April, during the wet season.
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 2
  • Average eggs per season
    2
  • Range time to hatching
    25 to 28 days
  • Average fledging age
    13 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    18 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 to 10 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 to 10 years

Typically, it takes A. hyacinthinus eggs 25 to 28 days to hatch. If both eggs hatch, the mother rears only one. The mother provides the altricial nestling with food and protection. After a week the male joins the female in feeding. Food for the chick consists of regurgitated partially-digested crop contents. The time to fledging is about 13 weeks, and the birds are independent after 18 months. (Collar, et al., 1992)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus is unknown, partly because it lives so long. The estimate is around 50 years.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    38.8 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    50 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    38.8 years
    AnAge

Behavior

Blue macaws are very social birds. They perform courting, copulation and bonding activities throughout the year, and are usually seen in pairs. They are most active from morning to mid-afternoon and fly in groups of two to eight to and from the feeding grounds. After feeding they return home to their roosting trees around sunset and spend the night there. Blue macaws are often described as gentle giants, with gentle and loving personalities. (Collar, et al., 1992; Scheepers, 2001)

Home Range

The home range of blue macaws largely depends on the location of their food source. Some choose not to stray far, others travel legnthy distances every day to their feeding grounds. They usually travel in large groups.

Communication and Perception

Blue macaws have harsh, gutteral calls which they often emit when alarmed. (Munn, 1989/90)

Food Habits

Blue macaws are equipped with large beaks which they use to crack open the shells of nuts. These nuts are usually quite hard, so the bird first files down the thickness of the shell in one area with its beak, and then breaks it cleanly in half. Their large hooked bill is notably efficient when compared to other macaws. Blue macaws feed on 8 species pf palm nuts, which are rich in nutrients and fat. Two of the species of plam trees are Acrocomia iasiopatha and Astryocaryun tucuma. They are largely dependent on palm nuts, but will occasionally feed on small seeds, palm sprouts and snails. Most of the feeding occurs on the ground, though macaws use their ability to climb to pick palm nuts from clusters within the trees. Blue macaws have also been known to eat palm nuts that have passed through the bowls of cattle. (Grzimek, 1972; Scheepers, 2001)

  • Animal Foods
  • mollusks
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Predation

The primary predators of blue macaws are egg predators: jays and crows (family Corvidae), coatis (genus Nasua), toucans (family Ramphastidae), and skunks (subfamily Mephitinae). (Collar, et al., 1992)

Ecosystem Roles

Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus serves an important role in its ecosystem by dispersing seeds and nuts throughout its territory.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Blue macaws are economically important to humans in that interest in the bird sparks the tourism industry in Brazil. They are also part of the international live-bird trade. Capture and export of wild birds (although illegal in Brazil) has caused a sharp decline in the population. (Ridgley, 1980)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of A. hyacinthinus on humans.

Conservation Status

Blue macaws live in areas, such as swamps, that are not coveted for agricultural use. However, the population has been steadily declining for many years. Unfortunately, blue macaws live in an area of Brazil that is being rapidly developed. The destruction of their habitat, as well as hunting and trapping by humans, has substantially reduced their numbers. Long term conservation efforts have been made, and now some land owners living in the Patanal do not allow trappers on their property. (Ridgley, 1980)

A. hyacinthinus is currently listed in Appendix I of CITES, a decision which was made in July of 1987. They are classified as endangered on the IUNC Red List.

Contributors

Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Emily Hagan (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

Collar, N., L. Gonzaga, N. Krabbe, A. Madroño Nieto, L. Naranjo, T. Parker, D. Wege. 1992. "Entry on the Hyacinth Macaw in Threatened Birds of the Americas" (On-line). Accessed April 14, 2004 at http://www.bluemacaws.org/hywild10.htm.

Grzimek, B. 1972. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Munn, C. 1989/90. Report on the Hyacinth Macaw. Audubon Wildlife Report: 405-419.

Ridgley, R. 1989. First Among Parrots - Hyacinth Macaws in the wild. Birds International, 1(1).

Ridgley, R. 1980. The Current Distribution and Status of Mainland Neotropical Parrots. Conservation of New World Parrots: 237-238. Accessed April 15, 2004 at http://www.bluemacaws.org/hywild16.htm.

Scheepers, G. 2001. "Hyacinth Macaw" (On-line). Thomasriver Aviaries. Accessed April 14, 2004 at http://www.thomasriver.co.za.