Mascarene Parrot, Mascannus mascannus

The Mascarene Parrot (Mascannus mascannus) is an extinct species of parrot that was native to the Mascarene Island of Reunion located in the Indian Ocean. The taxonomic relationships of this species has been subjected to some debate. It has been connected to the Psittaculini parrots based on that anatomical grounds, but the vasa parrots based on the genetic grounds. The precise placement is unresolved.

The Mascarene Parrot was 14 inches long with a large red colored tail and long, rounded tail feathers. The legs were red and it had a masked red skin around the eyes and the nostrils. It had a black colored facial mask and partially white tail feathers but the coloration of the body, wings, and the head are unclear. Some descriptions from life signify that the body and the head were ash grey colored, and the white part of the tail featured two dark central feathers. In contrast, the descriptions based on stuffed specimens state that they body was brown and the head a bluish colored but do not mention the dark central tail feathers. This might be because of the specimens having changed color as a result of aging and the exposure to light, along with other forms of damage. Not much is known about the bird in life.

It was first mentioned in 1674 and live specimens were later brought to Europe where they lived in captivity. The species was scientifically described in 1771. Only two stuffed are still in existence today, in Vienna and Paris. The date and the cause of extinction for this parrot in not clear. The latest account from 1834 is considered dubious so it is probably that the species became extinct before 1800 and might have become extinct in the wild even earlier.

Image Caption: Le Perroquet Mascarin Plate 139 from François Levaillant’s Histoire naturelle des Perroquets. Paris, 1801-1805. Credit: Jacques Barraband/Wikipedia