16 Jul 2014
Is it a dinosaur? Is it a plucked chicken? No, it’s a parrot! Keepers at Chester Zoo are providing around-the-clock care to a rare hyacinth macaw chick named Jessie. 

The rare chick, which is described as looking like a “cross between a dinosaur and a plucked chicken”, is so small that it is being kept in a Tupperware tub that is doubling up as a crib.

Keepers, who are providing the baby bird with around-the-clock care, have given the youngster the unisex name Jessie – as it will be some time until it develops feathers that they can send away for DNA analysis in order to sex the youngster. 

Keeper Karen Neech said:

“It’s hard to believe that our chick will eventually start to spring some beautiful deep blue feathers – at the moment it looks more like a dinosaur crossed with a plucked chicken! 

“But with all of the care and attention we’re giving, it’s growing bigger and stronger by the day. At the moment I’m feeding it a special mixture of powdered vitamins every two hours between 6am until 11pm. This will go on for around three months until the bird is weaned and can feed by itself.

“At this stage our new charge is doing really well – we’re really pleased.” 

Hyacinth macaws are the world’s largest parrot and are found in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. They are considered an endangered species as wild populations have undergone rapid reductions in recent years due to the illegal pet trade and habitat loss as a result of land clearance for cattle ranching.

The striking birds also have a naturally slow reproductive rate, which means that once a population is reduced through over trapping and habitat loss, it takes a long time to recover.

Karen added:

“The hatching of this chick is a major step forward in our efforts to ensure a healthy insurance population of these stunning birds exists in zoos.

“On top of that, the skills that the bird keeping team develop whilst hand-rearing the chick at the zoo can be applied to our conservation programmes in the wild – something we’ve been able to do successfully with species such as the endangered echo parakeet in Mauritius.” 

Jesse’s parents, who can be seen in the zoo’s Tropical Realm, are affectionately known as James Bond and Miss Moneypenny. Dad gets his name from his ring number – 007.

Hyacinth macaw facts 

  • Hyacinth macaws are the biggest birds in the parrot family, reaching up to 100cm tall
  • In the wild they live in north and central Brazil, north west Paraguay and eastern Bolivia
  • Adults have deep blue feathers, a yellow ring around their eye and yellow near their black, curved beaks
  • Most of their feeding is done on the ground where they use their bumper sized beaks to crack large palm nuts that are much too tough for any other animal to break open. They have a bone inside their tongue which makes it an excellent tool for breaking open and eating food
  • In the wild they live in South America, mainly Brazil, but numbers have fallen drastically
  • Over recent decades they were relentlessly hunted for the pet trade and also suffered as farms and urban developers took over large parts of the forests where they live
  • The availability of the palm tree species from which they get the nuts to feed on is crucial for their continued survival. Pairs mostly nest in tree hollows, but sometimes in holes or caves
  • Females usually lay two white eggs, which they sit on for 30 days, then chicks stay in the nest, getting stronger, for another 100 days.
  • They are part of a European endangered species breeding programme, a carefully managed scheme overseeing the breeding of the birds in different countries 
  • By visiting the zoo, visitors help to continue valuable breeding programmes and research into the world’s rare and exotic bird species 
  • Parents James Bond and Miss Moneypenny arrived at Chester from USA in 1992
  • The chick hatched on 15/06/2014