Carolina Parakeet

The Carolina Parakeet is an extinct bird belonging to the small green Neotropical parrot species. Its natural features include a reddish-orange face, pale beak native to the United States, and a reddish-orange face. 

Apart from the thick-billed parrot, the Carolina parakeet is the only other parrot native to the United States. Moreover, it is the only indigenous parrot within its range. 

After becoming rare in the middle of the 19th century, the last confirmed sightings of the bird in its natural habitat were of the ludovicianus subspecies in 1910. In 1918, Its last known species perished at the Cincinnati Zoo, but the declaration of its extinction was in 1939. 

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carolina-parakeet
Image: The Carolina parakeet preserved as a stuffed animal at Tring Museum, England Source: karishuker.blogspot.com

Distribution and Habitat

Stretching from Southern New England, through New York and Wisconsin to Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Gulf of New Mexico, the Carolina Parakeet, is known to have the northern-most range of any parrot.  The parrots would locate their habitats in the old-growth wetland forests situated along rivers and in swamps. 

An example is the Mississippi-Missouri drainage basins having massive hollow trees such as sycamore and cypress where the birds could roost and nest. 

As far north as Southern Ontario, one could observe the species, making it a rare vagrant bird. The possibility remains open in that people took the parrot to southern Ontario for ceremonial purposes. 

Reasons for their Extinction

Current evidence indicates that humans contributed to the extinction of the Carolina parakeet through various means. The main contributor was the rampant deforestation of the 18th and 19th centuries. People also hunted these parrots to reduce their crop predation and to use their colorful feathers as a decorative adornment of women’s hat. 

Additionally, people captured them for the pet trade in various regions. One biologist argued in the Pacific Standard that the introduction of European honeybees for crop pollination resulted in a competition for nesting sites between the two.  

Moreover, the parrots flocking behavior enabled wholesale slaughter whenever they returned to the vicinity of dying and dead birds, such as birds downed through hunting. 

Nevertheless, the final extinction of its species is somewhat a mystery due to its rapid disappearance in the early years of the 20th century. Although there were flocks noted having numerous juveniles and many reproducing pairs in 1896, the birds had virtually disappeared, by 1904. The extinction occurred even with the bird’s ability to live for a long time while in captivity. 

Deforestation couldn’t have been the final cause because there was a sufficient number of nest sites that remained intact after their extinction.

The most likely cause speculated by Noel F. Snyde, an American ornithologist, was the birds succumbing to a poultry disease. However, there is the existence of neither historical nor current records indicating domestic poultry diseases ever afflicting new world parrot populations. 

Scientists did not detect the modern poultry menace, the Newcastle disease, until 1926  in Indonesia. Furthermore, in 1938, they reported a subacute form in the United States. 


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