Biological Diversity 2003   
earlham college


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Family: Psittacidae
Genus: Andorhynchus
Species: hyacinthinus

Distribution of Andorhynchus hyacinthinus

Source: BirdLife International


Conservation Organizations

This independent, Brazilian, NGO works as part of the largest nature protection network in the world to “bring into balance human activities” and encourage biodiversity and sustainable uses of resources (WWF, accessed 3/31/03).

BioBrasil is a non-profit organization that maintains a private nature reserve in Bahia, Brazil and uses scientific research, environmental education, land purchase, and low-impact eco-tourism to “confront the multi faceted threats to the global ecological well being” (BioBrasil, accessed 3/31/03).

BioBrazil Preserve
Source: Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo holds an annual "World of Birds" free flight show to benefit numerous Minnesota Zoo-based conservation organizations as well as
a recent partnership with BioBrasil.

WILD is an international organization working to preserve and reduce the human impacts in wilderness areas from a belief in the “benefits of wild nature and the vital ecological services” from these areas (WILD, accessed 3/31/03).

Source: Blue


Source:UC Davis




Source:UC Davis


Bolivian Flag Source: Historical Flags


Brazilian Flag Source: Thredz


Paraguayan Flag Source: Embassy of Paraguay

Hyacinth Macaw
Andorhynchus hyacinthinus


The hyacinth macaw is found in lightly forested and seasonally flooded grasslands in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay (Foundation for the Preservation of the hyacinth macaw, accessed 3/31/03). The blue and yellow hyacinth macaw, which grows to be up to 40 inches (1 m) long, is the largest species of macaw (Kasnoff, 07/02/96). Hyacinths can weigh over 4 pounds. They have black beaks with bright yellow along the sides of the lower part of the beak and around the eyes. The female and male are nearly indistinguishable although the female is more slender (Ensor, May 2001).

The hyacinth macaw eats the nuts of two types of palm trees: the acuri and the bocaiúva. It recycles the acuri nut by only eating ones that have fallen from the trees and have passed through cattle or wild animals. The bocaiuva nut is eaten directly from the trees (WWF, accessed 3/31/03).

Young Hyacinths stay with their parents until they are six months old. The Hyacinth is mature and begins breeding at seven years. The average female will have two young at a time. She is responsible for the incubation of eggs while the male is responsible for providing food for the female. The incubation period for the eggs is 28 days (WWF, accessed 3/31/03). Hyacinth eggs and young are vulnerable to predation by cockroaches, ants and other birds such as toucans, hawks, and jays. They are also vulnerable to predation by some mammals, including the coati (WWF, accessed 3/31/03). The lifespan is still uncertain but may be up to 60 years (Crystal Gardens, accessed 3/31/03).

Hyacinths fly in small groups or in pairs. In the late hours of the afternoon, they congregate in places called "dormitories", which appear to be "centers for the exchange of information." Hyacinths are very social and couples are very faithful—they mate for life (WWF, accessed 3/31/03).

Conservation Status

The hyacinth is listed under Apendix II of the CITES list. The species on this list are "threatened with extinction" and therefore trade of these species are illegal. The hyacinth was listed under this appendix in October 1987. On the IUCN Red List, the hyacinth is listed as EN A1bcd+2bcd. This means that there has been a 50% reduction in the past 10 years or 3 generations and that a 50% reduction is expected in the next 10 years or 3 generations.

Conservation Issues

Hyacinth macaws are endangered for several reasons. Primarily their habitat is under assault. Hyacinth macaws are reliant on a very few types of trees and a fairly precise habitat. Two types of palm trees are the primary food sources (WWF accessed 3/31/03). It was also found that in the Pantanal region of Brazil the 90% of the hyacinth macaws nested in a single type of tree, the manduvi, requiring preexisting holes in the trees which they then enlarge and improve upon (WWF accessed 3/31/03).

WWF estimates place the international illegal plant and animal trade in the tens of billions of dollars per year. Every year millions of animals are taken out of Brazil and sold to pet and industrial markets (McGrath, Dec. 2002). WWF partner TRAFFIC, estimates that every year some 800,000 psitacidae (parakeets, parrots, etc.) are available on the illegal pet market (WWF, accessed 3/31/03). It has been estimated that 10,000 hyacinth macaws were removed from the wild in the 1980’s alone (McGrath, Dec. 2002). Hyacinth macaws can sell for as much as $12,000 on the open market, making them a tempting target for smugglers.

In 1994 a grand Jury in Illinois charged famed bird conservationist Tony Silva with smuggling. Eventually Silva was sentenced to seven years in prison for his part in a $1.4 million smuggling ring. Thirty-seven others were also convicted (Harty, 2000) (including Silva’s mother, who earned 27 months for filing false tax returns) (NY Times, 1996). It is thought that Silva’s organization may have caused the death five to ten percent of the worldwide population of hyacinth macaws.

Others are doing their best to protect these beautiful birds. Bio Brasil (see blurb on the left) has acquired, maintained, and protected some prime nesting sites for the hyacinths. Neiva Guedes, working in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, has worked to vastly reduce the illegal pet trade. She has been successful to the point that illegal deforestation and forest fires are the primary threats to hyacinth macaws (WWF, accessed 3/31/03).

Ninety-nine percent of the Pantanal is privately owned, the majority of it being cattle ranching, although some of it is now owned by conservation organization (McGrath, Dec. 2002). Agricultural run-off from the soy-bean and corn cultivation, and pollution from gold mining operations are contaminating the Panatanal’s “unique” ecosystem (Earthwatch, 2002). Mercury poisoning, from the gold mining, has become apparent in contaminated hyacinth macaw eggs (gibbons, 2001). A recent massive dredging project was put on hold because of public outcry, until such time as a region-wide environmental impact study can be performed (McGrath, Dec. 2002).

Neiva Guedes Source:The Blue

Fun Links

How The Hyacinth Macaw Got Its Markings
A folk tale about the beautiful hyacinth macaw.
See Videos of Nesting Hyacinths!
Coloring Pages you can print! (no hyacinth but other birds)
Free Hyacinth Wallpaper for your desktop!

Interesting Links

Transcript of a NOVA Episode on Tony Silva ("The Great Wildlife Heist")


Literature Cited

Crystal Gardens. 2002. Hyacinth macaw. Accessed 2003 March 31.

Earthwatch Institute Journal. 2002. Brazil's Pantanal: Research & Exploration. Vol. 21, Issue 3. Accessed 2003 April 3.

Ensor, W. 2001 May. Hyacinth macaw. Accessed 2003 March 31.

Foundation for the Preservation of the Hyacinth Macaw. Date Unknown. The hyacinth macaw. Accessed 2003 March 31.

Fundação BioBrasil. © 2002. Hyacinth macaw. Accessed 2003 March 31.

Gibbons, G. Dec. 2004. The beautiful hyacinth macaw. Accessed 2003 April 3.

Harty, E. 2000. Precious Cargo. Accessed 2003 April 3.

Hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus). Reproduced with permission from WWF-Brazil. © Accessed 2003 March 31. WWF-Brazil. All rights reserved.

Kasnoff, C. 1996 July 7. Hyacinth macaw. Accessed 2003 March 31.

McGrath, S. Dec. 2002. Blue jewels of the panatanal. Audobon, 104:74-85.

NY Times. 11/19/96. Smuggler of birds sentenced. New York Times (Late New York Edition) Nov. 19 '96 p. C6.

The WILD Foundation. © 2003. Wildlands for the macaw. Accessed 2003 March 31.



Authors: Eli Levine & Hannah Chick
Last updated:30 April 2003

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This website is part of a Biology 226 class project on the conservation of global biodiversity.

Earlham · Biology Department · Biology 226: Biological Diversity

Copyright © 2003 Earlham College. Revised 30 April 2003. Contact Eli Levine or Hannah Chick.