Saturday, December 4, 2010

Creature Feature: Hyacinth Macaw.

, souSome pigments are harder to come by in nature than others. Nearly every type of vertebrate can make black; mammals have a very general black-sepia range; everything else has that and possible iridescence; some reptiles produce a shade that looks a lot like purple to human eyes, often called "lavender" by hobbyists. There is a fairly big color spectrum in any group except mammals.

Nowhere is the pigment for one family quite as diverse as it is in parrots. Parrots can, literally, come in any color of the rainbow. It's obvious on rainbow lorikeets and scarlet macaws, but all parrots are blessed with special pigments unseen in any other vertebrate. More on that here. Parrots have even hit the obscure blue-purple called indigo:

The Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) is among the happy few vertebrates to sport not just purple, not just blue, but a strange purplish blue. (Perhaps I can only enjoy this because I am a chick; there is a plethora of information and jokes regarding a woman's color palette VS a man's.) The skin around the beak and eyes are bright gold, a perfect contrast to its azure plumage. It shares its color with Lear's macaw, a far rarer, smaller bird.

The Hyacinth Macaw is the largest flying parrot in the world; those magnificent dark wings spread 120-140 centimeters from tip to tip. This macaw is also the longest parrot at 100 centimeters (39 in) from beak to tail. It is not, however, the heaviest; the title of "world's heaviest parrot" goes to the flightless Kakapo of New Zealand, weighing in at 3.5 Kg. Since that bird is slowly going the way of the dodo, however, expect the Hyacinth Macaw to take its position.

Like many macaws, the Hyacinth Macaw has a strong, hooked bill. It can cut through Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts...even coconuts. If it can break through a coconut, your finger does not have a chance. Do not poke through the cage bars, please.

Speaking of, this bird is severely threatened by the pet industry. Overcollection and habitat loss (specifically due to power plants) are mostly to blame for this beautiful bird's endangered status. Once again, however, natives are people, too; the Hyacinth Macaw's feathers are used in Kayapo headdresses. The bird is also hunted for food by native peoples.

It is also one of the most coveted pets in World of Warcraft. Good luck getting a VIRTUAL Hyacinth!

It's just not easy being purple. Or blue. Or indigo.

1 comment:

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