The hot deformation behavior of nano-sized hydroxylapatite (HA) reinforced Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr composites were performed by means of Gleeble-1500D thermal simulation machine in a temperature range of 523–673 K and a strain rate range of 0.001–1 s− 1, and the microstructure evolution during hot compression deformation were also investigated. The results show that the flow stress increases increasing strain rates at a constant temperature, and decreases with increasing deforming temperatures at a constant strain rate. Under the same processing conditions, the flow stresses of the 1HA/Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr specimens are higher than those of the Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr alloy specimens, and the difference is getting closer with increasing deformation temperature. The hot deformation behaviors of Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr and 1HA/Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr can be described by constitutive equation of hyperbolic sine function with the hot deformation activation energy being 124.6 kJ/mol and 125.3 kJ/mol, respectively. Comparing with Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr alloy, the instability region in the process map of 1HA/Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr expanded to a bigger extent at the same conditions. The optimum process conditions of 1HA/Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr composite is concluded as between the temperature window of 573–623 K with a strain rate range of 0.001–0.1 s− 1. A higher volume fraction and smaller grain size of dynamic recrystallization (DRX) grains was observed in 1HA/Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr specimens after the hot compression deformation compared with Mg-3Zn-0.8Zr alloy, which was ascribed to the presence of the HA particles that play an important role in particle-stimulated nucleation (PSN) mechanism and can effectively hinder the migration of interfaces.