My family and I were at Animal Kingdom recently, and it’s something they’ve been looking forward to for a really long time.
My son is a huge fan of parrots, so he was really excited to see all the exotic birds they have there.
One bird he was particularly captivated by was the hyacinth macaw, and I can hardly blame him.
These all-blue parrots are hauntingly beautiful, and it was a pleasure to see one in the flesh.
My son was sad to learn, though, that they are actually threatened in the wild.
I wanted to know why.
So, why are hyacinth macaws endangered?
Hyacinth macaws are officially listed as threatened. This is due to a variety of reasons, from capture for commerce to poaching for their feathers. During the 1980s, huge numbers of the species were capture due to demand. This has caused their wild populations to decrease over the years.
As is the unfortunate case with many wild species that become popular pets, the industry tends to have an adverse effect on their wild population.
Other factors, like the destruction of habitat, also play a part, but the impact of commerce on parrot populations is all too common a story.
Let’s look further into this.
Is the hyacinth macaw extinct?
It is not currently extinct, no.
We judge the safety of the population of a species via the Red List of Threatened Species, from the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
According to their current classification, the hyacinth macaw is threatened.
This means that is not quite endangered, but it not safe, either.
Their numbers are dwindling, as I’ll get into later.
But as of right now, they are in a stronger position than many other species of parrot.
For something to be extinct, it has to have fallen completely out of existence anywhere—in the wild or in captivity.
There are still fairly large numbers of domestic hyacinth macaw populations, although it’s difficult to know for sure the precise figures.
Either way, the hyacinth macaw is not extinct, nor is it even endangered, strictly speaking.
That said, it is in unique danger, so let’s look at precisely what is threatening the hyacinth macaw.
What is threatening the hyacinth macaw?
There are many factors that play a role in the decreasing population of an animal.
For the hyacinth macaw, this is no different.
As I said earlier, one of the biggest factors has been historic trading as demand to keep them as pets has gone up massively.
As I mentioned, there was a particular surge of popularity of the bird through the 1980s.
During this time, as many as 10,000 individuals of the species were traded and shipped out of their natural habitat.
This, obviously, caused a massive decline in population.
Demand has gone down today and they are a protected species, but no doubt black market trading still occurs.
Other contemporary reasons include poaching.
Their blue feathers are sold as collector’s items, or are used to make various things.
So, the hyacinth macaw is actively hunted by humans, if illegally.
Finally, the destruction of their habitats.
Rainforests in their native regions have decreased massively in the last few decades, and this has obviously made it harder and harder for them to survive.
The basic answer, then, is that human activity is threatening the hyacinth macaw.
The key question, then, is whether they are headed for extinction.
Are hyacinth macaws going extinct?
At the moment, they are not in immediate danger of going extinct.
They are only threatened which, while obviously not good, is very much a position from which we can bring them back.
They are not on the brink of being wiped out.
They are just in danger.
In any case, the domestic population will likely continue to endure.
It is not illegal to breed them, and as long as there is a demand to keep them as pets, then breeders will continue to breed them and produce more hyacinth macaws.
So, the bird will most likely endure for a long time in one way or another.
The wild populations are still reasonably strong at the moment, depending on the estimates you believe.
Either way, though, if we maintain a domestic population, even should worst come to worst, there is hope that they could one day be reintroduced into the wild.
Let’s look at the remaining numbers, then.
How many hyacinth macaws are left?
The estimates vary for the remaining number of hyacinth macaws.
Firstly, there is really not much way of knowing how many are kept as pets—but there is likely still a great many around living in private homes.
In the wild, though, the highball figure puts the populations at around 6,500 individuals.
Given the earlier figure we looked at of 10,000 having been sold and captured during the 1980s, that really puts this into context.
There aren’t many left, and some estimates suggest there are as few as 2,000.
Either way, there are far fewer than there once was, and we have to reckon with that fact in the coming years if we want to save them.
So, as you can see, these coming years and decades will be crucial for the survival of this beautiful bird.
They are threatened by a number of causes of population decline, and unless bold action is taken, their numbers are likely to continue to decline.
But there is nonetheless hope, and they are a protected species now, meaning poaching and capturing figures have decreased.
It is just up to all of us to keep these trends up.