The death of a macaw at Hastings was noted in the New Monthly Magazine of 1814.  The macaw was said to have been 122 years old and belonged to the de Crespigny family for most of its life.

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Macaws are known to be long lived but a recent academic paper talks about a life span of less than 60 years.1 Another article states “In reality, however, life spans rarely exceed 50 years of age, although a few reliable records exist of parrots aged up to 65–70 years.”2 Newspapers report a macaw named Charlie in England who is believed to be over 100 years old. However since there is no agreement over his ownership for part of his life, then the claim that he is the same bird who hatched in 1899 must also be questionable.3 Another macaw, also in England is claimed to be 87 years old.4 however, the Guiness Book of Records states that the oldest living parrot is 39 years old.5 Presumably other parrots have not been authenticated as being older.

122 years would thus be regarded as an exceptionally long life and somewhat improbable.

The macaw had belonged to Lady de Crespigny who died in July 1812. If she had had the bird for 40 years and 10 months, she would have had it from September 1771.

Lady de Crespigny’s husband’s father was Philip Champion de Crespigny (my sixth great grandfather) who died at the age of 60 in 1765. His wife Anne (née Fonnerau) died in September 1782.

It is possible that the bird was acquired when Philip was an infant but perhaps it is more likely that he acquired it as an adult when his brother, Claude Champion Crespigny, was involved in the South Sea Company. He joined the South Sea Company as a clerk in 1720 at the age of 14 and eventually became its secretary. Claude died in October 1782.

If the bird had been owned by Mary de Crespigny’s father-in-law it would have been born before 1765 meaning that in 1814 when it died it was at least 49 years old. If Claude Champion Crespigny had owned it, it would have been at least 32 years old. Claude died unmarried and left his belongings to his nieces and nephews so it could have come to Mary de Crespigny that way.

Twenty years after its death, the de Crespigny’s bird was still remembered in The Pocket magazine of classic and polite literature published in 1833

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A beautiful illustration of a macaw by Edward Lear, who is better remembered as a poet of humerous verse:

Ara Macao by Edward Lear 1830 from where the author makes the point that Lear was a serious artist: What is not as well remembered these days are his works as a serious artist. Born in 1812, the twentieth of twenty-one children, he experienced extreme poverty as a child, and was brought up by an elder sister. Whilst still a teenager, Lear began work on his illustrations of parrots, unusually for the time drawn from life, which were published in an edition of 175, as Illustrations of the Family of the Psittacidae, or Parrots in 1832, when Lear was still only twenty. The forty-two hand-coloured lithographs are of breathtaking quality, and secured Lear’s reputation as an ornithological illustrator, (a copy of the book, of which about a hundred remain, sold in 2004 for over £50,000).

1. Clubb, Susan L., and Lorraine Karpinski. “Aging in macaws.” Journal of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (1993): 31-33. retrieved from 

2. Brouwer, K., et al. “Longevity records for Psittaciformes in captivity.” International Zoo Yearbook 37.1 (2000): 299-316. retrieved from

3. Lyall, Sarah. “Reigate Journal; Parrot May Have Been Churchill’s, but She’s Not Saying”. New York Times (March 9, 2004) retrieved from

4. “Who’s a pretty (old) Polly, then? World’s oldest parrot, 87, is a Hollywood legend, squawks catchphrases from Ace Ventura… and loves attacking the paparazzi.” Daily Mail (UK) (4 November 2012) retrieved from–loves-attacking-paparazzi.html

5. “Oldest parrot – living ” Guinness World Records retrieved from on 9 May 2013