Carolina Parakeet (Complete Description and Reasons for Extinction)

Last Updated on March 8, 2023 by Ali Shahid

There was one parrot that was indigenous to North America, and that was the Carolina parakeet. This is one of those species of birds that have become extinct due to human activity.

During the 1800s, forest habitat in the east of the United States was cleared and agriculture was planted, causing the bird to consume cultivated fruit in addition to the fruits and seeds it used to eat.

In fields and orchards, farmers regarded these birds as pests, so they killed them. Additionally, they had their feathers cut so that they could be used as decoration by women on their hats.

The species became rare in the mid-1800s, and all of the remaining populations lived in Florida. The last sightings occurred in the early 1900s.

Carolina Parakeet

It took the American Ornithologists’ Association an entire decade longer to permit this species to be extinct, even though the IUCN Red List declared its extinction in 1920.

It took so long because many people claimed to have seen this bird, but there is no evidence supporting those claims.

In the study, it was confirmed that the Carolina parakeet was wiped out solely as a result of humans because it suddenly and sharply declined in numbers over a very short period and there was no evidence of inbreeding or viruses in the species.

Carolina Parakeet Habitat

There is no parrot with a more northern range than the Carolina Parakeet. The existence of this species was documented in southern New England, New York, and Wisconsin, as well as Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Gulf of Mexico.

As well as that, the species has had a wide geographical range west of the Mississippi River, spreading as far as eastern Colorado. In total at least 28 states were included in the species’ range.

Typical habitats of this species consist of wetland ecosystems along rivers and in swamps, especially in the Mississippi-Missouri drainage basin, which is home to some hollow trees such as the sycamore, cypress, and black locust.

Carolina Parakeet Appearance

Carolina parakeets were one of the most colorful and distinctive native birds in the United States when they were still living. A scarlet or orange band surrounded its face.

As part of the plumage, this bird had a green body with lighter green underparts, a yellow head, and a bright orange head and face that extended to behind its eyes as well as its upper cheeks.

The shoulders of the wings were yellow, which continued down the outside edge. There were mostly green feathers in the primary feathers, with yellow edging on the outer primaries. There was a green tint on the upper thigh and a yellow tint on these bids.

Carolina Parakeet Size

There was a difference in size between males and females, with perhaps at least 14 inches between head and tail, although females had similar plumage. Parrots of this species weigh around 280 grams.

Because of their hollow bones and ability to fly high, they were very lightweight. Among other things, this species was known to possess a large, sharp beak that could crack open nuts and seeds.

Carolina Parakeet Behavior

National Wildlife Federation reports that the Carolina parakeet traveled in groups of up to 1,000 birds at any given time. It was unclear whether they migrated across great distances as they mostly stayed within a 30-mile radius of their native area.

However, some populations may have been forced to move around a bit to deal with the harsh winter conditions. One of the most important aspects of their behavior can not be overstated is the social cohesion they display.

To keep clean, and also to strengthen their relationship with each other, they were reported to practice the art of mutual preening and scratching.

In the daytime, the animals hunted for food between the first light of dawn and the first light of sunset and spent the majority of the daylight hours sleeping, roosting, and bathing between the two periods.

The Carolina parakeet was once known to scream as a warning call when predators were nearby, and it was once believed they would do this to protect themselves from harm.

The bird made a variety of noises whether it was roosting or flying, but when it was roosting, its voice was relatively quiet, but when it flew, its noise could be heard for miles around.

Reasons for Extinction for Carolina Parakeets

Several factors are responsible for the extinction of this species of bird at the beginning of the 20th century.

According to one theory, human intervention played the most important role. Invading their habitat in search of natural resources was the main reason for human intervention.

As well as this, the loud nature of these pests used to be viewed as a pest and they were shot for it as well.

The newspapers have reported that hundreds along with thousands of these birds were being shot the same way some birds are being shot today simply because humans are annoyed by them. Their population may have declined because of this.

In the study published today in the journal Current Biology, teams of scientists from around the world sequenced the genome of the Carolina parakeet and concluded that its rapid decline reveals that humans have had a significant influence on its extinction.

As a result of their flocking behavior, which prompted them to go to dead and dying birds, their extinction was accelerated.

There is a suspicion that they could not compete with non-native honeybees for tree cavities nest building sites, seed resources, and other resources in the environment, and thus became unsuccessful and extinct.

The final theory explaining the disappearance of the Carolina Parakeet is that it was wiped out by a mysterious disease. We will never know whether this disease was entirely human-caused, but many scholars suggest it was.

However, there have been speculations that other factors could have played a role as well. Fires and floods are natural disasters that could have fragmented the birds’ habitat, and they can have contracted diseases from stray chickens.

Does Carolina parakeet De-extinction Possible

De-extinction is certainly a feasible option from a technical standpoint. The DNA of a long-dead Carolina parakeet has been taken and sequenced, after it was determined that intact DNA could be extracted from the remains. 

Researchers have proposed taking a few individuals of the closely related sun parakeet and modifying them to look like Carolina parakeets.

No matter how far technology advances in the future regarding being able to reproduce identical animals with DNA fragments, there will be debates over how rational de-extinction would be.

What Did Carolina Parakeet Eat?

As part of its diet, the Carolina parakeet craved fruits and seeds from a wide variety of plants and trees, including sweet gum trees, elm trees, sycamore trees, maple trees, oak trees, and pine trees, as well as insects that provided additional nutrients.

It was found that they liked cockleburs as well, and the Carolina parakeets preferred such food as well.

Carolina parakeets also appear to consume salt licks and possibly salty water, which might be supplementing their diet with a small amount of salt.

Carolina Parakeet Scientific Name

Parakeets of the Carolina range are scientifically described as Conuropsis carolinensis. The term Carolina is a Latin translation of that name.

There is no evidence that the name Conuropsis, from which this species derives its name, has anything to do with the term conure, which gives its name to a variety of small to medium-sized parrots.

The terms conure and parakeet are sometimes used interchangeably, although the term conure is more of a bird-keeping term rather than a true scientific term.

What is the lifespan of the Carolina parakeet?

It is estimated that the lifespan of a Carolina parakeet is about 30 years on average, although some have been known to live up to 35 years.

Conclusion

If the Caroline Parakeet had not become extinct, it would have been a wonderful thing to watch. There would have been a lot of pleasure for those who like birds. Unfortunately, this bird species as well as many others have become extinct because of human selfishness.

The fact is that there has been some effort to bring it back, but first of all it has to go through a debate on moral values. I think it’s fair to say that we have slowly destroyed one of our best-feathered friends because of our negligence.

Author

  • Ali Shahid

    Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.

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