Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Carolina Parakeet

The Carolina Parakeet was the only parrot native to North America. Notice that I said "was" and not "is." You see, the Carolina Parakeet went extinct about 100 years ago. Bizarrely, the last captive specimen, a male named Incas, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918. What's so bizarre about that? Well, he died in the exact same aviary cage that the world's last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, died in four years earlier.
(Image Source)

When they were alive, Carolina Parakeets inhabited the eastern parts of the United States in deciduous forests and near forest edges. They sported green bodies, bright yellow heads and orange cheeks.

The extinction of the Carolina Parakeet has a couple of causes. The first was deforestation and habitat loss. The second was hunting for both their feathers and for use as pets. The third was that as land was developed and agriculture grew, the birds took a liking to various crops and were slaughtered as pests. By the 1860s the species was in major decline and seen rarely outside of Florida. It was considered officially extinct in the 1920s.

The image I'm using for this post is one of the most iconic of the species. Painted by John James Audubon around 1825, this portrait contains depictions of adults and juveniles (the fully green birds) and was completed while the species was still abundant. An additional portrait exists for his comprehensive work, "Birds of America," featuring only four birds- two males, a female and a juvenile.

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