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Carolina Parakeet

Carolina Parakeet, mounted specimen, Museum Wiesbaden, Deutschland, Germany. Date 2005. Author Fritz Geller-Grimm (photo available from Wikimedia)

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Conuropsis carolinensis

 

DESCRIPTION: Now extinct, the Carolina parakeet was only about 12 inches in length and weighed approximately 10 ounces.  The male and female were similar.  Their forehead, lores (the space between the eye and the bill), and area around the eyes and the upper cheeks were orange, while the rest of the head and the upper part of the neck was yellow.  The outer webs of primaries were marked with yellow towards their base.  The bend of the wing, carpal edge and the thighs were yellow as well.  The rest of their plumage was green, but paler on the under parts.  This parakeet's bill was horn colored.  Their legs and feet were pinkish brown.  The juvenile Carolina parakeet's forehead, lores and the area around the eyes was brownish orange and the rest of the head and body was green.  It had no yellow at the bend of the wing or on the thighs.  Like other parakeets it had a pointed tail.  The rest of the head and neck was yellow.  The tail was pointed. 
 
Two sub-species were recognized. Conuropsis carolinensis carolinensis, the Carolina parakeet, had more yellow on the wings and a bluer tint of green.  And Conuropsis carolinensis ludovicaina, the Louisiana parakeet, was paler than Conuropsis carolinensis carolinensis.
 
Carolina parakeets were social animals.  They lived in pairs or small groups, but were often seen in flocks of 200-300 birds in feeding places.  They were active during early morning and evening hours.  They rested during the day, sleeping in the foliage of leafy trees and roosted on the highest branches.  These birds flew during early morning in small groups to feeding places and spent 2 to 3 hours there, and then they flew to a water hole to drink.  Like many parrots, they had the unfortunate habit of returning to aid a wounded flock member.  This made it possible for farmers to destroy whole flocks of the gregarious (social) birds.
 
DISTRIBUTION: The Carolina parakeet occurred in the U.S.A., in the states of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico.  Conuropsis carolinensis carolinensis occurred in southeastern USA ranged from central Texas to Colorado and southern Wisconsin across to the District of Columbia.  Conuropsis carolinensis ludovicaina was found also in the United States on the western side of the Appalachian Mountain Ridge, through the Mississippi-Missouri drainage.
 
HABITAT: The birds were wide-ranged but their typical habitat was cypress and sycamore trees along rivers and swamps. They preferred deciduous forests and forest edges. Loss of this habitat undoubtedly contributed to their ultimate demise.
 
FEEDING HABITS: Their diet consisted of grass seeds such as; maple, elm, pine and especially cocklebur (Xanthium sp.).  They switched to seeds of apple, peach, mulberry, pecan, grape, dogwood, and grains, after the forests were cleared for farming.  They regularly foraged in grain fields and orchards causing considerable damage.  
 
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: The Carolina parakeet generally had a long life span, but produced few offspring that needed high parental care. Their nesting habits were poorly understood. It is speculated that the nesting cycle was tied to food availability. Therefore populations may have bred at different times of the year depending upon their location. The parakeet nested in the hollow cavities of large trees. They also use riverbank holes excavated by kingfishers. They would lay two round white eggs at the bottom of their nest.  The eggs were typically 1.35 x 1.09 inches in length. The chicks hatched in an altricial state (helpless, blind, with wisps of downy feathers covering their bodies). They were reported as being communal nesters which was unusual for parrots. There are no native parakeets left in the United States today.
 
References:
 
“Carolina Parakeet”
 
“Carolina Parakeet: Removal of a Menace”
 
“Conuropsis carolinensis”
 
“Carolina Parakeet- South Dakota Birds”
 
“Carolina Parakeet- Birds of North America”
 
“Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis)”
 
“The Atkins Institute of Extinct Animals”
 
“Carolina parakeet bird”
 
AUTHOR: Justin C. Monk, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

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