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NFC: Carolina Parakeet.......

Imagine if  say 20 Conservation minded folks had taken up the challenge
of saving the Parakeet in 1890..Imagine what will be gone in another 100
years  if we do not take uo the conservation challenge today...........

About the Carolina Parakeet

Ever since I started keeping my own pet birds, I have been fascinated by
the fact that there was once a variety of parrot native to the eastern
United States. As I began painting birds, I started toying with the idea
of painting a Carolina parakeet, to remember the beauty of these birds,
and to remind people why avian conservation is so important. This spring,
I decided to tackle my project, and I began by visiting N.C. State's
library to do a little research. This article is a summary of the
information that I found. 
"As we tracked the vanished bird it seemed unreal that the parakeets had
once flown in colorful flocks along the nearby Ohio river. Where a
traveler saw one parakeet, he was likely to see a flock of a dozen or
more. If disturbed in their feeding, they flashed into the sky as if all
were triggered by the same instantaneous force." Audubon field editor
George Laycock wrote this passage in his 1969 study of the demise of
America's only native parrot. 

The Carolina parakeet once ranged over most of the United States east of
the great plains. The birds preferred to roost in hollow trees, usually
deep in the heart of a swamp forest. At feeding time, the entire flock
would head for the nearest field of cockleburs, where they would "settle
in a green mantle over the weeds, crawl about them, and feed until
satisfied." John James Audubon wrote, "the richness of their plumage,
their beautiful mode of flight, and even their screams lend charm to our
darkest forests and most sequestered swamps." I find myself trying to
picture these sights whenever I am passing through the swampland areas of
North Carolina. Indeed, it seems unreal. 

The Carolina parakeet was a member of the conure family. They appeared
somewhat similar to the Jenday conure. Their bodies were bright green,
with a yellow head splashed with brilliant orange. From head to tail,
they were about twelve inches long. Their beaks were sharp and quite
strong for their size, apparently for opening tough- shelled seeds such
as the cocklebur. Their eggs were light greenish white in color. Many
females laid their eggs together, with each laying two or three.
Parakeets would occasionally breed in captivity, but seldom with much

During a period of about 90 years, the parakeets gradually disappeared.
When cockleburs were not available, these birds would flock to farmers'
orchards and fields, rapidly destroying the precious crops. Farmers could
easily retaliate: when one member of the flock was shot, the others would
fly around over their fallen companion instead of leaving for safety. In
this manner, the entire flock could easily be destroyed. These birds were
also collected for their colorful feathers and because the young birds
were considered good to eat. It is speculated that habitat destruction
may have also contributed to their decline. By the 1890's, the parakeets
were quite uncommon, and collectors eagerly caught the few remaining
birds to sell them to zoos. 

The death of the last Carolina parakeet is often incorrectly quoted as
occurring in September 1914. Through careful research, Laycock has
uncovered a more accurate account. The last known pair of parakeets were
called "Incas" and "Lady Jane." They lived in the Cincinnati Zoo for some
35 years. In the late summer of 1917, Lady Jane passed away, leaving her
mate listless and mournful. Alone, and the last of his kind, Incas
quietly "died of grief" on February 21, 1918. 


George Laycock's article, "The Last Parakeet," appeared in Audubon
magazine, March 1969. 

JPG image of two specimens.

Robert Rice
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