Conuropsis carolinensis

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Kingdom Animalia

Carolina Parakeets by John James Audubon and R. Havell from Audubon's Birds of America (1827-1838). This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the European Union, Canada, the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

Phylum Chordata 
Class Aves (birds) 
Order Psittaciformes
Family Psittacidae
Genus Conuropsis
Species Conuropsis carolinensis
Authority (Linnaeus, 1758)
 
TEW Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2010
IUCN Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2008
 
English Name Carolina Parakeet
Chinese Name 卡羅萊納長尾鸚鵡
Dutch Name Carolinaparkiet
French Name Perruche de Caroline, Conure à tête jaune
German Name Karolinasittich
Japanese Name カロライナインコ
Portuguese Name Periquito-da-carolina
Spanish Name Periquito de Carolina, Cotorrita de Carolina
Swedish Name Karolinaparakit
 
Synonyms Arara carolinensis (Linnaeus, 1758), Aratinga carolinensis (Linnaeus, 1758), Aratinga ludoviciana (Gmelin, 1788), Centurus carolinensis (Linnaeus, 1758), Conuropsis carolinenis Salvadori, 1891, Conuropsis carolinensis interior Bangs, 1913 (=Conuropsis carolinensis ludoviciana), Conurus carolinensis (Linnaeus, 1758), Conurus ludovicianus (Gmelin, 1788), Psittacus carolinensis Linnaeus, 1758, Psittacus ludovicianus Gmelin, 1789, Psittacus luteocapillus Vieillot, 1823, Psittacus thalassinus Vieillot, 1823, Psittacus septentrionalis Wied, 1839, Sittace ludoviciana (Gmelin, 1788).
 
Taxonomy

Two subspecies are recognised: the Carolina parakeet Conuropsis carolinensis carolinensis (Linnaeus, 1758), and the Louisiana parakeet Conuropsis carolinensis ludovicaina (Gmelin, 1788). 

 
Characteristics

The Carolina Parakeet was small, about 30 cm. (12 inches) in length and weighed approximately 280 gram (10 ounces). The male and female were similar. Their forehead, lores, area around the eyes and the upper cheeks are orange, while the rest of the head and the upper part of the neck is yellow. The outer webs of primaries are marked with yellow towards their base. The bend of the wing, carpal edge and the thighs are yellow. The rest of their plumage is green, but paler on the under parts. This parakeet's bill is horn coloured. Their legs and feet are coloured pinkish brown. The juvenile Carolina parakeet's forehead, lores and the area around the eyes is brownish orange and the rest of the head and body is green. It has no yellow at the bend of the wing or on the thighs. Like other parakeets it has a pointed tail. The rest of the head and neck was yellow. The tail was pointed.  Conuropsis carolinensis carolinensis  had more yellow on the wings and a bluer tint of green. Conuropsis carolinensis ludovicaina was paler than Conuropsis carolinensis carolinensis.  (Arndt 2000; Fuller 2000)

 
Lifestyle Carolina Parakeets were social animals. They lived in pairs or small groups, but are also seen in flocks of 200-300 birds in feeding places. They were active during early morning and evening hours. They rested during day sleeping in foliage of leafy trees and roosted on the highest branches. These birds flew in 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 birds.

In captivity they were shy and wild as imported bird from the wild. Only hand-reared birds were tame. They were very noisy and hard chewier. They could be kept in a colony system. A metal flight was recommended because of chewing. They were even sometimes kept free flying. (Arndt 2000)

 
Range & Habitat 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. The birds were wide-ranged but their typical habitat was cypress and sycamore trees along rivers and swamps. (Bill 2003; BirdLife International 2004)
 
Food The diet of the Carolina Parakeet was seeds of grasses, maple, elm, pine etc. and especially cocklebur (Xanthium sp.). The Carolina Parakeet switched to seeds of apple, peach, mulberry, pecan, grape, dogwood, and grains, after the forests were cleared for farms. (Bill 2003)

They regularly foraged in grain fields and orchards causing considerable damage. They were also feeding off mineral-rich soil. In captivity they were fed canary grass seed, hemp, maize, oats and breadcrumbs.

 
Reproduction Carolina Parakeets were monogamous and formed rookeries in cavities of deciduous trees. They laid two white 34.2 x 27.8 mm (1.35 x 1.09 in) long eggs. (Bill 2003)
 
History & Population These birds were still common at the beginning of the 19th century, but in 1832, Audubon noted their decline. The last bird collected probably was a female taken at Orlando, Florida, in December 1913. The species survived a couple of years as a cage-bird, until there were only Lady Jane and Incas. These two birds had shared a cage in Cincinnati Zoo for 32 years. When Lady Jane died she left Incas hearth-broken. Half a year later Incas died on 21 February 1918. It is suggested that Incas was not the very last of his species. Sightings of wild Carolina Parakeets have been recorded in the 1920's and even 1930's. But most of these have been dismissed as misidentifications.
 
Extinction Causes Its extinction was the result of the rapid cultivation of North America. This affected the parakeet in two ways. Its favourite habitat was destroyed and the birds were relentlessly persecuted, because their large flocks destroyed complete harvests of fruit farmers. They were considered a pest and large numbers were killed.
 
Conservation Attempts During the 1880s Carolina parakeets could still be found in various zoos and aviaries. For example, at an unspecified date during this decade sixteen Carolina parakeets were delivered to the Cincinnati Zoo. (Fuller 2000) At least three Carolina parakeets have been kept in Amsterdam Zoo. These three are now in the collection of the Leiden Museum (Van den Hoek Ostende 1999).

Breeding among caged Carolina parakeets was never particularly successful. 

 
Museum Specimens More than 700 skins of Carolina parakeet are kept in museums all over the world. Paul Hahn recorded 76 specimens in Washington alone (Hahn 1963). The National Museum of Natural History ‘Naturalis’ in Leiden (the Netherlands) has 6 specimens in its collection. One specimen of the Carolina subspecies and five of the Louisiana subspecies. Other specimens can be found in the Rosensteinmuseum (Stuttgart, Germany), Museum of Zoology at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA), KU Natural History Museum (Lawrence, Kansas, USA), North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh, North Carolina, USA), The Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), etc. Do you know another museum that has Carolina parakeet specimens? Contact this website.

Photos: The left-hand photograph shows a Carolina parakeet in Wiesbaden Museum in Germany. Photographed by Fritz Geller-Grimm in 2005. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 Licence. (See also Wikimedia Commons). The right-hand photograph shows a Carolina parakeet in the Rosensteinmuseum in Stuttgart, Germany. Copyright and courtesy by Sordes. All rights reserved.

 
Co-extinction We know that six species of mites went extinct along with the Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) only because some researchers happened to examine a stuffed parakeet in a museum, and found the mites still attached. (Koh et al. 2004)
 
Relatives

There are no native parakeets left in the United States. However, a parakeet introduced from South America, the Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) is very similar in size and colour to the extinct Carolina Parakeet. The Monk Parakeet has a white forehead, chin, and breast, blue flight feathers and primaries and an entirely green tail. (Georgia Wildlife Web Site 2000)

 
Links

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – Conuropsis carolinensis.

Naturalis Extinct Birds

300 Pearls - Museum Highlights of Natural Diversity

 
References Arndt, T. 2000. Carolina Conure - Conuropsis carolinensis (Linné 1758). The complete Lexicon of Parrots (Online). Downloaded on 20 January 2007.

Bill, R. 2003. The Carolina Parakeet (Conuropis carolinensis). Mr. Rick's Extinct Birds of North America. Mr. Rick's Science Web Site. Downloaded on 20 January 2007.

BirdLife International 2004. Conuropsis carolinensis. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 January 2007.

Fuller, E. 2000. Extinct birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Georgia Wildlife Web Site. 2000. Birds: Conuropsis carolinensis. The Georgia Museum of Natural History and Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Downloaded on 20 January 2007.

Hahn, P. 1963. Where is that Vanished Bird? Royal Ontario Museum: Toronto.

Koh, L.P., Dunn, R.R., Sodhi, N.S., Colwell, R.K., Proctor, H.C., Smith, V.S. 2004. Species Co-Extinctions and the Biodiversity Crisis. Science, vol. 305, no. 5690. pp. 1632-1634. (PDF of support supplement)

Van den Hoek Ostende, L.W. 1999. Carolina Parakeet - A love story. 300 Pearls - Museum highlights of natural diversity. Downloaded on 20 January 2007.

Last updated: 11th April 2010.

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