Martinique macaw

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Martinique Macaw
Ara martinica.jpg
Restoration by John Gerrard Keulemans, based on Bouton's description
Scientific classification (disputed)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Family: Psittacidae
Subfamily: Psittacinae
Tribe: Arini
Genus: Ara
Species: A. martinica
Binomial name
Ara martinica
(Rothschild, 1905)
Martinique in France.svg
Location of Martinique
  • Ara martinicus (Rothschild, 1905)
  • Anodorhynchus martinicus
  • Ara erythrura (Rothschild, 1907)

The Martinique Macaw, Ara martinica, als known as Orange-bellied Macaw,[1] is an hypothetical extinct species of parrot that may have been native to Martinique, a French island in the eastern Caribbean Sea.[2]


Unidentified parrot supposedly from Jamaica, which may be this bird, by Eleazar Albin, mid-1700s

The species was first scientifically described and named by Walter Rothschild in 1905 (and later in his 1907 book, Extinct Birds), in the absence of a specimen and based on a brief 17th-century report from the island by Pere Bouton. Bouton described the Martinique Macaw as follows:

The macaws are two or three times as large as the other parrots, [and] have a plumage much different in colour: those that I have seen have their plumage blue and orange-yellow (saffron). They also learn to talk and have a good body.[3][4]

Rothschild initially called these parrots Anodorhynchus martinicus and later Ara martinicus. There are no remains of the parrots that lived on the island, and so the existence of a unique island species may never be proven. They could have been a feral population of parrots originating from Blue-and-yellow Macaws that were taken to the island as pets by humans.[5] No evidence other than Bouton's account is known, but a 1626 painting by Roelant Savery has been suggested to show this bird alongside a Dodo.[1]

Rothschild also named Ara erythrura (Red-tailed Blue-and-yellow Macaw or Satin Macaw[1]) in 1907, based on the following 1658 description by Charles de Rochefort:

Among them are some which have the head, the upper side of the neck, and the back of a satiny sky blue; the underside of the neck, the belly, and undersurface of the wings, yellow, and the tail entirely red.[4]

This species was supposed to have been native to Jamaica or Martinique.[6] However, James Greenway suggested Rochefort's description was dubious, as he had never visited Jamaica, and appeared to have based his account on Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre's.[6][7][8] It is considered the same as the Martinique Macaw today, if either has ever existed.[1]

Extinct Caribbean macaws[edit]

keulemans' restoration of Ara Erythrura

Macaws are known to have been transported between the Caribbean islands and from mainland South America both in historic times by Europeans and natives, and prehistoric times by Paleoamericans. Parrots were important in the culture of native Caribbeans, were traded between islands, and were among the gifts offered to Christopher Columbus when he reached the Bahamas in 1492. It is therefore difficult to determine whether the numerous historical records of macaws on these islands mention distinct, endemic species, since they could have been escaped individuals or feral populations of foreign macaws of known species that had been transported there.[9] As many as thirteen extinct macaws have at times been suggested to have lived on the islands until recently.[10] Only two endemic Caribbean macaw species are known from physical remains; the Cuban Macaw is known from nine museum skins and subfossils, and the Saint Croix Macaw (Ara autochthones), is only known from subfossils.[9] No endemic Caribbean macaws remain today; they were likely driven to extinction by humans in historic and prehistoric times.[11]

Several hypothetical extinct macaws were based only on contemporaneous accounts, but these species are considered dubious today. Many of these species were named in the early 20th century by Walter Rothschild, who had a tendency to name species based on little tangible evidence.[5] The Violet Macaw (Anodorhynchus purpurascens) was named for accounts of blue parrots also reported from Guadeloupe, the Red-headed Macaw (Ara erythrocephala) and the Jamaican Red Macaw (Ara gossei) were named for accounts of macaws on Jamaica, the Martinique Macaw (Ara martinica) from Martinique island and the Dominican Green-and-yellow Macaw (Ara atwoodi) was supposedly from Dominica island.[12]

1626 painting by Roelant Savery, possibly showing this bird on right

Other species of macaw have also been mentioned, but many never received binomials, or are considered junior synonyms of other species.[1] Woods and Steadman defended the validity of most named Caribbean macaw species, and wrote that each Greater and Lesser Antillean island had its own endemic species.[11] Olson and Maíz doubted the validity of the hypothetical macaws, and that all Antillean islands once had endemic species, but wrote that the island of Hispaniola would be the most likely place for another macaw species to have existed because of the large land area, though no descriptions or remains of such are known. They wrote that such a species could have been driven to extinction before the arrival of Europeans.[9] The prehistoric distribution of indigenous macaws in the Caribbean can only be determined through further palaeontological discoveries.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e Hume, J. P.; Walters, M. (2012). Extinct Birds. A & C Black. ISBN 140815725X. 
  2. ^ "Species Info: Ara martinica". The Extinction Website (2008). Retrieved 5 October 2008. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b Fuller, Errol (1987). Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England). pp. 148–149. ISBN 0-670-81787-2. 
  6. ^ a b "Species Info: Ara erythrura". The Extinction Website (2008). Retrieved 8 October 2008. 
  7. ^ Greenway, J. C. 1958. Extinct and vanishing birds of the world. American Committee for International Wild Life Protection 13, New York.
  8. ^ Williams, M. I. & D. V. Steadman (2001): The historic and prehistoric distribution of parrots (Psittacidae) in the West Indies. Pp 175-489 in Biogeography of the West Indies: patterns and perspectives. 2nd ed. (Woods, C. A. & F. E. Sergile, eds.) Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  9. ^ a b c Olson, S. L.; Maíz López, E. J. (2008). "New evidence of Ara autochthones from an archaeological site in Puerto Rico: a valid species of West Indian macaw of unknown geographical origin (Aves: Psittacidae)" (pdf). Caribbean Journal of Science 44 (2): 215–222. 
  10. ^ Turvey, S. T. (2010). "A new historical record of macaws on Jamaica". Archives of Natural History 37 (2): 348–351. doi:10.3366/anh.2010.0016.  edit
  11. ^ a b Williams, M. I.; D. W. Steadman (2001). "The historic and prehistoric distribution of parrots (Psittacidae) in the West Indies" (pdf). In Woods, Charles A. and Florence E. Sergile (eds.). Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and Perspectives (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. pp. 175–189. ISBN 0-8493-2001-1. 
  12. ^ Rothschild, W. (1907). Extinct Birds. London: Hutchinson & Co. pp. 51–55. 
  13. ^ Olson, S. L.; Suárez, W. (2008). "A fossil cranium of the Cuban Macaw Ara tricolor (Aves: Psittacidae) from Villa Clara Province, Cuba". Caribbean Journal of Science. 3 44: 287–290. 

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