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Extinct & Almost Extinct: Carolina Parakeet

Below is the painting and text of one of the creatures from my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct —

Carolina Parakeet, 12" X 12" acrylic on paper, 2014, Mark W. McGinnis

Carolina Parakeet extinct 1939 —

This beautiful bird was the only species of parrot native to the eastern part of North America. It was about 13 inches in length. Its range, for such a tropical looking bird, was expansive, running from New England to the Gulf Coast and from the Atlantic to eastern Colorado. It lived mostly in forests and wooded river bottoms. Experts estimate hundreds of thousands to millions of the Carolina Parakeets were living in flocks of 200 to 300 birds when America was first colonized. Their main food source was tree seeds, but they also munched on thistles and cockleburs.

In the early 19th century, women’s hats decorated with brightly-colored feathers became fashionable and the Carolina Parakeet was hunted extensively for their beautiful green and yellow feathers. At the same time, their population began a steep decline with the deforestation of the eastern United States. With the removal of wilderness forests, the birds began feeding in fruit orchards, corn fields and on other grain crops. Farmers saw them as pests and called for their wholesale slaughter. By 1860, the range for the Carolina Parakeet was reduced to the swampy lands of Florida and Georgia. After 1904, the birds were no longer seen in the wild. In addition to the population reductions by the continued hunting, there has been some speculation that the remaining healthy flocks were wiped out by a poultry disease caught from contact with domesticated fowl.

The last Carolina Parakeet died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918 and the species was declared extinct in 1939.

Carolina Parakeet, 12″ X 12″ acrylic on paper, 2014, Mark W. McGinnis

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