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The Cuban Macaw

Ria Winters | May 26, 2013


So now and then I try to bring extinct parrots back to life with my paintings.

This effort is of the Cuban Macaw -- Ara tricolor -- that disappeared in the 19th century.

This beautiful orange-blue-and-brown coloured member of  the Ara genus lived in the damp forests of West and Central Cuba. It lived in pairs or in small groups and that is unfortunately about the only information left of its social behavior. Its habitat were areas with narrow-trunked trees native to lowlands.

It was smaller than its larger red and blue cousins, approximately 45–50 centimetres (18–20 inches) but no less stunning with its orange and complementary blue.

The last two individuals were shot in 1864 from a White Cedar tree (Melia azedarach), which is an introduced tree species to Cuba, on the grounds of the Hazienda “Colonia Zarabanda“.

A friend of mine who visited Cuba recently noticed an indigenous trace of the lost macaw. It was portrayed as decoration on a vase which is part of the collection of the "Museo Provincial" in Cienfuegos.*

Although it must be admitted that the artist allowed several modifications to its appearance, it’s still nice to see that the parrot served as inspiration for a native artwork. The Cubans, by the way, maintain the belief that the macaw is still alive in the remaining patches of their forests.

* With thanks to writer/photographer Jan den Hengst