Ara gossei


Kingdom Animalia

Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.

Phylum Chordata
Class Aves (birds)
Order Psittaciformes
Family Psittacidae
Subfamily Psittacinae
Tribe Arini
Genus Ara
Species Ara gossei
Authority Rothschild 1905
English Name Jamaican Red Macaw, Gosse's Macaw, Yellow-headed Macaw
Dutch Name Jamaica Ara,, Geelvoorhoofdara, Geelstaartara
French Name Ara Gossei
German Name Gosse's Ara, Gelbstirnara
Spanish Name Guacamayo Rojo Jamaiquino
Comments This parrot is usually considered a hypothetical extinct parrot species.
Taxonomy A number of authors have suggested that this species was conspecific with the Cuban Red Macaw Ara tricolor (Clark 1905), and it has even been suggested to have been based on a 'tapiré' artifactual specimen (Wetherbee 1985). (BirdLife International 2004) Based on old descriptions, it has been proposed to treat the parrots from Jamaica as a separate subspecies of the Cuban Red Macaw, Ara tricolor gossei. (Van den Hoek Ostende 1999)
Characteristics The Jamaican Red Macaw was probably very similar to the Cuban Red Macaw. The major difference was in the forehead, described as yellow in the Jamaican Red Macaw and red in the Cuban Red Macaw. Robinson described the preserved specimen as: “forehead, crown, and back of neck bright yellow; sides of face around eyes, anterior and lateral part of the neck, and back a fine scarlet; wing coverts and breast deep sanguine red; winglet [sic] and primaries an elegant light blue; basal half of upper mandible black, apical half ash coloured; lower mandible black; tail and feet were missing” (Greenway, 1958:318). (Williams and Steadman 2001)
Range & Habitat The Jamaican Red Macaw is only known from the work of Gosse in 1847 based on a "specimen shot about 1765 by Mr Odell" in the mountains of Hanover Parish, about 10 miles east of Lucea, Jamaica (Rothschild 1905). (BirdLife International 2004)

Image: map with the previous range of the Jamaican Red Macaw (in red). Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. The copyright holder of this work has released it into the public domain. This applies worldwide.

History & Population The skin of the specimen from the work of Gosse in 1847, shot about 1765 at Lucea near Montego Bay  by Mr Odell, was stuffed and described in detail by a Dr. Robinson, but can no longer be traced. In 1905, Rothschild gave it the name Ara gossei, because he believed this was evidence enough of a species endemic to Jamaica. (Day 1981; Fuller 2000)

Interesting is that George Edwards, an eighteenth naturalist, painter and book producer, painted a watercolour of a red parrot from Jamaica during July 1764. He added the following description: "A very uncommon parrot from Jamaica. Drawn from Nature the size of life". Edwards also wrote on the painting's reverse the following: "The inside of the wings and the under side of the tail is of a durlis (the meaning of this word is obscure) yellow, the colours of the upper sides casting faintly through them. The bird was lent to me by Dr. Alexander Russel and is preserved in his collection. It was shot in Jamaica and brought dried to England. The people in Jamaica did not remember ever to have seen one of this species of parrots before. Some of the feathers have their tips red and others have them yellow. The feathers on the under sides, back and rump have yellow with fine transverse lines of red". This parrot might have been a freak, and escaped bird that was brought to Jamaica, or maybe an endemic Jamaican Red Macaw. (Fuller 2000)

Image: Watercolour of a nameless red parrot from Jamaica by George Edwards, dated July 1764. It might be a Jamaican Red Macaw. This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the European Union, Canada, the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

Some writers didn't believe that the Jamaican Red Macaw was an endemic Jamaican macaw, they have united the Jamaican Red Macaw with Ara tricolor, the Cuban Red Macaw (Clark 1905). A painting of the specimen shot in 1765 was discovered in the Earl of Derby's collection and it seems to confirm that these writers were right (Fuller 2000).

The Jamaican Red Macaw, if it was truly an existing species, was presumably hunted to extinction around the end of the 18th century (BirdLife International 2004).

Extinction Causes It was presumably hunted to extinction. (BirdLife International 2004)
Relatives The relatives of this species are all other macaw species, including the other extinct West Indian macaw species, like the Cuban Red Macaw (Ara tricolor), Dominica Macaw (Ara atwoodi), Red-headed Green Macaw (Ara erythrocephala), Red-tailed Blue-and-Yellow Macaw (Ara erythrura), Guadeloupe Macaw (Ara guadeloupensis), and the Martinique Macaw (Ara martinica).
Links IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Ara gossei


(Complete website)

BirdLife International 2004. Ara gossei. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 24 January 2007.

Clark, A. H. (1905) The Greater Antillean macaws. Auk 22: 345-348.

Day, D., 1981, The Doomsday Book of Animals, Ebury Press, London.

Fuller, E. 2000. Extinct birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Greenway, J. C. 1958. Extinct and vanishing birds of the world. New York, American Committee for International Wild Life Protection.

Rothschild, W. 1905. Untitled. (Notes on extinct parrots from the West Indies). Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 16: 13-15.

Van den Hoek Ostende, L.W. 1999. Cuban Red Macaw - A blushing parrot. 300 Pearls - Museum highlights of natural diversity. Downloaded on 25 January 2007.

Wetherbee, D. K. (1985) The extinct Cuban and Hispaniolan Macaws (Ara: Psittacidae), and description of a new species Ara cubensis. Caribbean J. Sci. 21: 169-175.

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.

Last updated: 27th September 2008.

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