Hyacinth Macaw Takeoff – Pantanal, Brazil.

Hyacinth Macaw Takeoff – Pantanal, Brazil.
The endangered Hyacinth Macaw is the largest flying parrot in the world, measuring about 1 metre long.  It is said that its conspicuous large beak is the strongest amongst all birds – quite useful to crack the tough nuts it likes to feed on.

The Hyacinth Macaw’s striking looks are one of the reasons why they are endangered – the pet trade has decimated their numbers in the wild.  Even though they are protected nowadays the illegal trade still goes on as a single specimen can fetch several thousand dollars making it a very lucrative temptation for some people.  Habitat loss is another threat to these birds, mostly due to the ever expanding cattle ranching and also by hydroelectric plant projects.  Hyacinth Macaws need very specific breeding sites – usually cavities in Manduvi Trees, which are increasingly hard to come by.  In the state of Mato Grosso de Sul – which includes the area of the Pantanal where I took this photo – they are building artificial nesting boxes to encourage them to breed.  Sadly one of the methods used for capturing the chicks is to cut down trees in which they are nesting so that they can then catch them easily – this means that not only are the chicks lost from the wild population, but a nest site has been destroyed forever.

One other threat for these birds is the trade in products, such as tribal headdresses, made with macaw feathers.  Up to 10 birds are killed to make just 1 headdress – the feathers are not simply “found” in the forest in these quantities.  Such products are nowadays sold as souvenirs to tourists visiting tribal areas in the region.  If you are in the area please refrain from buying such products.

I took this photo just as the bird was preparing to fly away.  I opted for a high key exposure to show off the Hyacinth Macaw’s stunning cobalt blue colour against a very light background.  A gentle pulse of flash illuminated the plumage a little and gave the subtle catchlight in the macaw’s eye.

Techs: Canon 5D Mark III | Canon EF 200-400 f4 IS with 1.4 extender @ 480mm | f5.6 | 1/320s | ISO 400 | Canon Speedlite 600 EX-RT