The largest of the parrot family, the hyacinth macaw is almost certain to impress nature travelers, who are likely to see it soaring through the canopies of the Pantanal like a blaze of sapphire light.

The bold, cobalt blue plumage is by far this bird's most distinguishing factor. Its overall body color contrasts with the citron yellow ring around its eye and the yellow patch of skin next to its lower bill.

According to World Wildlife Fund, the hyacinth macaw has a population of about 6,500 in the wild, and an estimated 5,000 of these birds live in the Pantanal. However, this bird was nearly extinct in the 1980s due to the international black market, where just one of these birds could sell for $12,000. In addition, local tribes killed them for their feathers, and their natural habitat was being destroyed for human development.

By the end of the 80s, the macaw's numbers had reduced to less than 3,000. A number of organizations are participating in efforts to save the hyacinth macaw, including International Expeditions. Araras Ecolodge, where IE guests stay during our Pantanal tour, has long worked to reintroduce native and endangered species — a big part of why we chose to work with them. They have a hyacinth macaw project to help the bird re-populate the northern Pantanal region, where the bird’s numbers have been dwindling due to habitat loss.

IE paid to have a nest built and hopefully attract some macaws to move in and start a family. These nests mimic holes and hallows in trees. Not only do the hyacinth macaws like the man-made nests but so do blue-fronted parrots, another species which nests in holes in trees.

The bird is now protected under Brazil law and international trade of the bird is prohibited by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

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