Ara atwoodi Clark, 1908

Domincan macaw, Dominican green and yellow macaw, Dominican green-and-yellow macaw, Atwood's macaw (proposed)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

This species is no longer recognised as valid by the IUCN fide (Wiley & Kirwan, 2013).


The Dominican green and yellow macaw (Ara atwoodi) was described by (Clark, 1908) based upon the account of Thomas Atwood (1791), who mentioned "mackaws" (sic) who had "delightful green and yellow plumage, with a scarlet coloured fleshy substance from the ears to the root of the bill, of which colour is likewise the chief feathers of the wings and tail" (cited by Day, 1981:74).

As a hypothetical species, based upon a single account, and concerning a group (the [i]Ara[/i] macaws) whose pre-European biogeography has likely been skewed to a large degree (through inter-island trade of live specimens), the designation of a binomial is tentative. Although the description does not match that of any extant or recently extinct species (or subspecies) whose plumage is known for certain, the ease of creating aviary hybrids (F1, F2, etc.) suggests that they may hybridize naturally, and almost certainly would have done so on occasion in relation to the bird trade, members of the opposite sex of different species being confined together regularly. It is also possible that aviary escapees mated with the native species. Thus descriptions of plumage which differ greatly from those of any known species should not automatically be supposed to be completely new species. Although, hybridization would only result in a limited number of plumage combinations, the genetics of the hybrids being derived from their parent species. So that any description which cannot hypothetically be "produced" by the purely theoretical hybridising of every possible combination of taxa, should warrant recognition as a potentially undescribed (at least regards plumage, as some macaws are only known from subfossil material) taxon.

It is interesting to note that (Shuker, 2014) has pointed to Bartholomeus van Bassen's painting [i]Renaissance Interior With Banqueters'[/i] (1618-1620) as a possible depiction of [i]Ara atwoodi[/i]. From the accuracy of the depictions of the other elements in the painting there is no suggestion that the bird is anything other than a [i]bona fide[/i] representation of what van Bassen saw. And the bird cannot be perfectly reconciled with any known species, so that it probably at the very least represents a hybrid individual or mutant form. But this divergence from known plumages also extends to [i]Ara atwoodi[/i] as well. Shuker (Ibid.) laudably points these out, and is uncertain of their significance, as am I. Perhaps, as he points out, these can be explained away by recourse to known variations. Or perhaps they cannot. Either way, it is an intriguing notion to think that we might yet discover the plumage of a long lost macaw from a source contemporary with it and its observers other than written accounts. Scouring paintings for clues about recently extinct species, not just birds, may pay dividends!


Conservation Status

A hypothetical species

Last record: 1791 or before (Day, 1981:74)

IUCN RedList status: Extinct



Dominica, Lesser Antilles, Caribbean


Biology & Ecology










Original scientific description:

Clark, A. H. (1908). The macaw of Dominica. Auk 25: 309-311.


Other references:

Atwood, Thomas. (1791). The history of the island of Dominica.: Containing a description of its situation, extent, climate, mountains, rivers, natural productions, &c. &c. Together with an account of the civil government, trade, laws, customs, and manners of the different inhabitants of that island. Its conquest by the French, and restoration to the British dominions. London: "printed for J. Johnson"

BirdLife International. (2000). Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.

BirdLife International. (2012). Ara atwoodi. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. ( Downloaded on 01 June 2013.

Clark, A. (1905). [The?] Lesser Antilles macaws. Auk 22: 266-273.

Day, David. (1981). The Doomsday Book of Animals: A Natural History of Vanished Species. New York, N.Y.: The Viking Press.

Greenway James C. (1967). Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World. American Committee for International Wild Life Protection, Special Publication no 13, 2nd edn. Dover Publications, New York.

Shuker, Karl. (2014). Dominica's Dead Parrot - A Perfect Picture of Mystery? Blog post on ShukerNature (Sunday, 23 February), available online:

Tyrberg, Tommy. (2009). Holocene avian extinctions, pp. 63-106. In: Turvey, Samuel T. (ed.). Holocene Extinctions. Oxford, UK & New York, USA: Oxford University Press. xii + 352 pp.

Wiley, James W. and Kirwan, Guy M. (2013). The extinct macaws of the West Indies, with special reference to Cuban Macaw Ara tricolor. The Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 133(2): 125-156. [automatic download]

Williams, Mathew I. and Steadman, David W. (2001). The historic and prehistoric distribution of parrots (Psittacidae) in the West Indies, pp. 175-189. In: Woods, Charles A. and Sergile, Florence E. (eds.). Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and Perspectives, 2nd ed. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.



I thank Daniel Jimenez for correcting the distribution data, from the Domincan Republic (i.e. Hispaniola) to Dominica in the Lesser Antilles.


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