Parent-rearing the Hyacinth Macaw (A Comparative Study)


L ast year a pair of my Scarlet Macaws successfully raised a clutch of two babies. I interacted with the babies regularly and recorded valuable information about parentreared birds. The Scarlet Macaw study motivated me to enter into a similar study with our Hyacinth Macaws. ("Parent Rearing the Scarlet Macaw" Nov/Dec 1999 AFA Watchbird)

Some of my objectives are:

• To compare the development (weights) of parent-reared birds to their hand-raised siblings

• To determine the natural weight loss at fledging and weaning.

• To determine at what age weaning begins and ends.

• To shape a parent-raised bird into an individual that is a good pet and a good breeding bird.

• To observe the behavior of wild caught parents taking care of their offspring.


Before I acquired this pair of Hyacinths, "London" and "Paris," they had produced four clutches of eggs. The first two clutches, contained two infertile eggs each. The lay dates of these eggs were not recorded. Beginning in May of 1987 they laid two clutches containing two eggs each. One egg in the first clutch yielded a live chick, while the other egg was clear. The second clutch also contained one fertile egg. However, the chick died while trying to hatch.

London and Paris have been in my care since November 1989. They laid their first clutch of two eggs in the


spring of 1991. Both eggs were fertile and both eggs hatched. They have had 26 babies hatch including the chicks they are raising now. The first 17 chicks were incubator hatched. While the next seven were left with their parents till they were three to four weeks old. Since the first two clutches were infertile and their fertility increased with time, I suspect that London and Paris were young birds when they first began to reproduce. I estimate that they are now in their early twenties.

At this time they have a clutch of two babies. I hope that I will be able

to leave one or both babies with the parents until they are fully weaned. The first baby, a male named Jackson, hatched August 29, 1999. The second baby, a female we call Fire Star, hatched August 31, 1999. Though the pair had obviously assisted chicks during hatch in the past, they either did not assist these chicks or they assisted them very little. Their last baby before this clutch hatched September 15, 1997. There was a second egg in the clutch that died during hatching. It appeared that they tried to help the chick out of the egg and had failed.



Since one of my objectives is to compare the weights of hand-raised birds to parent-raised birds it is important to note that there were variations in the weights of the hand-raised babies. I saw a definite difference in the male and female birds. I also noted some differences in the weights of chicks hatched early in the breeding season and chicks hatched after several eggs were laid. In addition, the hand-feeding formula impacted the weights of the chicks. Three different hand-feeding formulas were used with varying results. I had the best success with the Pretty Bird handfeeding formula.

All hand-raised chicks were fed whenever their crops were empty. This required feeding incubatorhatched neonates around the clock.

Harrison's bird food was added to the diet of the adult birds in the spring of 1994. from that point forward our data indicates an increase of 100 grams in the average peak weights. Before feeding Harrison's all but one of the incubator hatched chicks had to he assisted during hatch and none of the chicks were able to hatch in the nest. Note: I am not endorsing any brand of food. I am merely stating what I experienced when I used different foods. There may be other factors that I was unable to control that could have affected my results.

While the parent-raised babies were very young, no deviation from the normal twice-a-day feeding schedule was required, although it was necessary to increase the amount of food fed at each meal. As the babies grew, the number of feedings had to be increased (they are now being fed six meals a day and one snack). The family consumes about seven times more food than the parents alone. Very little food is wasted. Their diet includes fresh fruit and vegetables, peanut butter muffins, pasta, Harrison's bird food, and a variety of nuts. The nut mixture is primarily macadamia nuts and includes almonds, filberts, Brazils, walnuts, and pistachios.

Physical Setup

The Hyacinths are housed in a room with a pair of Scarlet Macaws. Their flights are parallel to each other and five feet apart. There are glass sliding doors that permit natural light into the room. However, the room contains several banks of full spectrum lights and a large mirror that reflects light back into the room.

The flight is 5 feet by 5 feet by 16 feet long and suspended from the ceiling. The sheet metal nest box is 18 inches by 18 inches by 36 inches and has a thick piece of wood mounted on the front of the box for a more natural appearance. It is mounted horizontally with the entrance on an 18 by 18 inch side. The entrance of the nest box is 10 inches by 8 inches. The inspection door dimensions are 12 inches by 7 'h inches. I have learned that the orientation of the nest box is very important to most breeding Hyacinths. These birds like to be able to see out of the nest box and observe anything within sight. So the entrance must be large and the box positioned so that it provided the birds with maximum visibility. TI1e male is able to make himself comfortable at the entrance while the female can see out of the box when she incubates eggs at the rear of the nest.

There are three observation cameras in use. One supplies a fixed view

of their flight, the other is mounted on a panning unit and the third camera is mounted on the top of the nest box to provide a view of what is going on inside the nest.