So You Want to Own a Hyacinth Macaw
Life with Alex
Story by Robert Clinton
In my lifetime I've had the pleasure to own at least fifteen different macaws. The big birds have always fascinated me with their gorgeous colors, large size, friendliness and talking ability. Yes, I also have my share of scars to prove it. Still, the one bird I have always wanted, but never could afford was a Hyacinth macaw or Anodorhynchus Hyacinthinus.
Gosh, this bird was so exotic that I couldn't, and still can't, pronounce his legal name unless I do it with a mouth full of food and you dont listen to hard. Regardless, I wanted one anyway, no matter what. All the literature that I have read, always stressed the gentleness of this big blue bird, and I guess, I always pictured him as a kind of jolly blue giant. Boy, was I in for a big lesson in reality.
After serving six months with the military in Saudi Arabia, during Desert Storm, I came home to find no spouse, all my birds gone, and a rather large sum of cash in my pocket. I did what any dedicated bird fanatic would do when he or she did not have to spend it on a spouse. I went out and bought some more birds!
While attending the Pomona Bird Mart, I observed this young Military macaw, it was love at first sight. She was only seven months old and we hit it off right a way. I bought her on the spot. But,...all I time, I kept eyeing a big blue creature in the corner. There he stood, in all his blue feathered glory, a Hyacinth Macaw. His name was Alex. I was immediately hooked! We played, and looked, and talked to each other. I knew right then in my mind I had to have him!
After two 220 mile round trips from San Bernardino to San Diego, CA., to see this magnificent bird, I finally sent his owner a check for a down payment. Little did I know at this time, what I had in store for me. I called Jay, the owner of Bird Land in San Diego, and asked him to bring Alex to the next Bird Mart, held in Pomona, CA. where I would pick him up. This would save me another long drive to San Diego.
At last the day of the Bird Mart arrived and there he was, the most beautiful bird in the world. He was mine! I cried! Yes, I cried, big old bad me, veteran of two wars. There I was, tears streaming down both my cheeks right in the middle of a thousand people.
Alex was a 2 year old hand raised male Hyacinth macaw that could only say, "Come here, and hello," in a beckoning New Zealand accent. His hand feeder was from of course, ..New Zealand. He could have just as easily stood at the end of a freeway ramp with a big sign that said, "Come here!" He knew well what it meant, and what he had in mind for you. As with any bird of his rare splendor, he was accustomed to lots of attention and awe. In other words, as I was soon to find out, Alex is spoiled rotten.
I was then about to under take, Hyacinth macaw lesson number one! You dont own the bird. The bird actually owns you!
We bonded right away and Alex knew right off he had a sucker. The big bird really should have been a used car salesman, as he immediately tried to take advantage of me with those big black beautiful inviting eyes. Did you know that you cant see a Hyacinths pupils? I guess that I could best compare him with that of having the manners of a young, large Great Dane puppy that loves you, and having the jaws of a pit bull.
That first week Alex even gave me a black eye. He wanted to be on my shoulder so badly, that he just leaped, not with the typical macaw caution that I was used to, but he just blindly jumped at me when I happened to walk by his cage, and his large head (well talk about its size later) hit me right square in the eye. Oh yes, I was still hooked on him, but boy was I ever learning fast. I even had to endure a lot of rude jokes for the time it took my eye return to its normal color. How do you tell people that it was your pet bird that gave you the black eye? "Yah, yah, sure." They would say, in a disbelieving manner. Regardless, Alex loved me, and I loved him. You might say I was his daddy.
Well, anyway, Alex and I became quite good buddies. Everything I did, Alex wanted to do, everywhere I went, he wanted to go. It also became extremely difficult to divide up the time spent with him and my other birds. Honest, I really try to be fair and give every one ample time. I really do love all my birds. Alex wanted it all, and talk about, jealous!
Lesson number two: Alex loves to play.
Like the great Dane puppy I mentioned before, Alex loves to play. He figures that any time not spent sleeping is for playing. I naturally bought him all the little neat toys that one gets for his birds. Only to find out that "macaw proof" does not include the species hyacinth. A brick has been the only thing that has survived his huge beak for more than a few minutes.
Once while visiting another bird person, Alex had his eye on one of her birds
favorite toys. These were three rather large colorful interlocking acrylic plastic rings,
each about three quarters of an inch thick. "Oh! Alex cant possibly hurt those,
my green-winged macaw has tried for years to eat those!" What a joke! About a minute
later each of the three rings was missing a rather large chunk, and the pieces came
rattling noisily down through her cages. An expensive Crystal Flight also lasted ten
minutes before crashing to the floor. Its supporting structure neatly severed by his busy
Alex also loves my eye glasses. Three pairs, and the steering wheel of my car has several obviously large pieces missing. My biggest mistake was the purchase of a chew toy that included pieces of lava rock that did nothing more than turn his formidable beak into a chomping buzz saw. The little whisk broom that I use to clean his cage is also about three inches shorter.
Then again, Alex and I do spend lots of quality play time together. His favorite thing, after he destroys my morning newspaper, is to roll around in my lap and have his belly scratched, gently knawing on my hand the whole time I play with him. Alex also loves to ride in my Corvette. Sometimes I take Alex and Spike (my Green Winged) out for a Sunday drive. I guarantee you havent done anything until youve driven a car with a six speed manual transmission with two very large macaws competing for your attention all at the same time.
Lesson number three, which is really part of lesson two: Getting Alex to eat.
Food is definitely not very high on Alexis list of priorities. You guessed it! He would rather play, and then when he gets those eating urges, he gets extremely picky. What he eats today, is not what he wants tomorrow, unless its an ice cube. Alex loves ice cubes. He will die for an ice cube.
All those good nutritious fruits and veggies that I so laboriously wash and cut up for him, are the first things to hit the floor. His favorite food is macadamia nuts, which he cracks open, plays with for a while, and after a few quick nibbles, throws the nut on the floor where my already overweight dog lies in wait. He then chews the empty shell into zillions of pieces, which also goes down to the floor. Thats $2.00 a pound for those things. He also likes raw peanuts, Brazil nuts, and of course, peanut butter.
Hyacinth macaws being the largest of all parrots also have a voice to match. At least twice a day all my macaws join together and try to contact their relatives in South America. None of them know how to use the telephone, so they do the next best thing, which is,... SCREAM !!! I really don't think they need a phone either. Guess who is the loudest? Do you know how many blocks away you can hear him? Even my 91 year old father who couldn't hear an atom bomb go off, complains!
I finally got the best of Alex on one note. Remember the ice cubes? One day I got the brilliant idea of freezing all the fruits and veggies he normally wouldnt eat and giving them to him frozen. Hey it worked! He actually started eating his veggies.
Returning home from a recent business trip to Idaho, all I could hear was the familiar sound of Alex screaming as he recognized my car entering the driveway. A quiet tear slid down my cheek. Daddy was home!
Alex and his dad!
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