All about Hyacinth Macaw keeping and breeding. PART II

May 26th, 2016 | by Kashmir Csaky
All about Hyacinth Macaw keeping and breeding. PART II

Read also the first and third part of this article:

All about Hyacinth Macaw keeping and breeding. PART I

All about Hyacinth Macaw keeping and breeding. PART III



Pairing Hyacinth Macaws

Hyacinths are not as difficult to pair successfully as some of the other species. Overall they are amicable towards other birds, although some Hyacinths may be choosier about their mates than others. A method that Jean Pattison uses with her African species should work well with any psittacine bird. The females are all flocked together in a large flight. Smaller flights containing single male birds are placed against the large flight. Each female has a different colored ink applied to her body, so that she will be easy to identify from a distance.

The birds are carefully watched to see if any female prefers to spend her time with a particular male and whether this interest is mutual. The females are flocked together rather than the males to reduce aggression. Although this is a wonderful method, it is not always feasible with rare or expensive birds such as Hyacinth Macaws. Aviculturists may find it difficult to obtain enough birds to utilize this technique.



When any new birds are brought into an aviary they should be quarantined for three months and retested for potential health risks before they are set up for breeding or exposed to other birds. The stress of a major change in the environment may bring out latent health problems. Many female Hyacinths will refuse to eat when transferred from a happy environment to a new home, even if they are with their mates. It is imperative that the birds are closely watched during this time to ensure that they are eating.



Suspended flights should be a minimum of 8ft long by 5ft wide and 5ft high (2.4m by l.5m by l.5m). For walk-in flight the height is increased to 8ft (2.4 m). The flight must provide the birds with a clear view of the entire area since Hyacinth Macaws like to see any thing approaching them. It is amusing to see several flights of Hyacinth Macaws when all the pairs are inside their nest boxes peacefully looking out over the aviary.

The birds should feel that predators cannot sneak up on them from the rear. So, a barrier should be placed near the back of the flight around the nest box area. I like to have two feeding stations, one at the front of the flight where the food is offered and one near the rear of the flight for water. This encourages exercise. However, once the hen is sitting eggs, all food and water is served at the rear location, closest to the nest.



(c) Lubomir Tomiska


Nest boxes

Hyacinths prefer a horizontal nest box than a vertical (grandfather clock) style nest box. I use sheet metal nest boxes that are 18 inches by 18 inches by 36 inches (45 cm x 45 cm x 90 cm), and have a thick piece of wood mounted on the front of the box for a more natural appearance. The Hyacinths’ nest boxes are mounted with the entrance on an 18 inch by 18 inch side (45 cm x 45 cm). The entrance of the nest box is 10 inches (25 cm) by 8 inches (20 cm). The inspection door dimensions are 12 inches (30 cm) by 7 inches (17.5 cm).

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 provides the birds with maximum visibility. The male should be 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. Although this size has proved very successful, I have been considering giving my birds larger nest boxes. This has been since I have learned that Hyacinths in northern Brazil breed in very roomy caves found on the side of cliffs.

I prefer metal nest boxes that cannot easily be destroyed. Replacing nest boxes is very stressful for both the birds and the aviculturist. If nest boxes are repeatedly replaced the birds may never develop the confidence to reproduce. The metal boxes are also easy to clean. Hyacinth chicks soil the nest much worse than the Ara species and the nests must be cleaned frequently.



At the beginning of each breeding season or when we first offer a nest box to a pair of birds, the opening in the wood covering the entrance is only large enough for one bird to fit through comfortably. The birds must chew at the wood to expand the opening. This strengthens the bond between the birds and encourages them to cycle together. Some aviculturists suggest using a tiny starter hole in the wood. My experience has been that birds may whittle out an opening that they can barely squeeze through. They will enter the nest and not be able to leave. At this point they panic and may remain suspicious of their nest for a very long time.

The distance between the bottom of the nest box and the lower edge of the entrance should not be too great, about four inches (10 cm). When Hyacinths first begin nesting both birds will get cozy near the nest box entrance and stay there watching the world go by. Once the hen lays, the male will take up that spot alone and lie in wait for any possible intruders. So, again the orientation of the nest box is important. Visibility of the surroundings is one factor that allows the pair to be calm enough to breed and remain calm while incubating eggs and raising chicks.



(c) Lubomir Tomiska


Perch arrangement

Good solid perches should be positioned at both ends of the flight and directly in front of the nest box. The nest box perch gives the birds easy access to the nest. These perches should be hard wood making them difficult to destroy, so that frequent replacement is not necessary.

Other perches of soft wood can be included for the birds to chew as well as some lumber. However, be very careful with the placement of these perches. They must not block the center of the flight. The birds should be able to fly from one end to the other without stopping unless the flights are very large. The soft wood perches should also be placed in areas that are easy to access, so that they can be replaced before they fall. Macaws have been crippled and killed when their mates chewed through branches that fell on them.

The main perches should be branches with dips and raises in them. If the branches are straight they should be placed so that one end is elevated. The male will stand on a high spot while the pair copulates. The birds seem to prefer this position so it might affect the fertility of the eggs.


author: Kashmir Csaky

Title photo: (c) Lubomir Tomiska


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