In the past, hyacinth macaws were much more common in Pantanal. Captured by the thousands and commercialized as a cage bird, during the 80’s their population in the region dropped to around 1500 birds. The Hyacinth Macaw Project, which began in the 90’s, has helped to triplicate the local population, and nowadays over 5000 specimens live there (the majority of the Brazilian population), in an amazing recovery of one the most spectacular birds in the world. In Pantanal, hyacinth macaws eat mostly little coconuts from the acuri and bocaiúva palmtrees. The flocks of macaws feed on the clusters that comedown from the palmtrees, and they also get down on the ground in order to eat fallen coconuts, including those that have been eaten by cows and eliminated in their feces, having already lost their outer pulp.
The coexistence of hyacinth macaws and cattle ispossible, but the later can turn into a problem when they eat or step on thenew plants of palmtrees and manduvis.An efficient way to increase the population of this incredibly beautiful birdin the farms of Pantanal is to protect and cultivate these plants in fencedareas where the cows cannot enter.
The populations of hyacinth macaws are also limited by the natural shortage of nesting sites – 70% of nests are built on manduvis which are over 80 years old and which have hollows sufficiently wide to host the bird and the nest. Old manduvis are fragile and vulnerable to heavy winds. Therefore it is important to preserve the smaller trees that grow around them, forming a protective barrier. It has been already proved that the installation of nesting boxes increase the availability of nesting sites for this bird.
During breeding season, birdwatchers and other ecotourists may join the team from the Hyacinth Macaws Project in order to see the macaw chicks in their natural nest sor nesting boxes, on the project’s sites (please check on the internet for the sites open to the public). An increasing number of farms in Pantanal welcome tourists in Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso, and new guesthouses and hotels are opening in several places.
The increase in the populations of hyacinth macaws in Pantanal is a case of striking success in environmental action, which may be repeated with other species in Central Brazil. Similar projects are initiating with the aim of protecting the yellow-collared macaw and the blue-fronted parrot.