Have you ever heard of the Carolina parakeet, the only native parrot to
the U.S.? I hadn’t either. There is a sad story why you haven’t heard of
them. These birds have a small place in the our country’s history. They
were sweet, yellow-headed parakeets and their homes ranged from the
states of Florida to Michigan during Colonial days.
Lewis and Clark were ones who included them in their travel diaries.
They spied them on a tributary of the Kansas River. The birds flocked
in large numbers, sometimes up to 3o0! Imagine the shock or startled
expressions on the faces of the ones who were traveling in Northern
American and seeing what you might expect in the tropics!
The Conestoga wagons carrying people west and south, saw these
lovely winged creatures, bright and cheery in their appearance.
A report of a large flock on a southern Louisiana bayou was made
as far back as 1895. When the sun rose, the description details the
birds rose in a “clamor in a stand of black mulberries.”
Parrots and parakeets are considered “conures.” (Latin name:
conuropsis carolinensis.) Farmers, unfortunately protecting their
berry crops and also seeking food sources, shot them. They wanted
the fruit supplies and found them an annoyance.
Parrots are defined as a “bright colored tropical bird of a family
characterized by a strong hooked bill, by toes arranged in pairs with
two in front and two behind, often with ability to mimic speech.”
Parakeets (or parrakeets) are “any of numerous small slender parrots
with a long pointed tail. Spanish- “periquito” from Middle French,
Early European explorers were known also for killing, cooking and
eating macaws. Some gorgeous species were found in the Caribbeans
and on the island of Guadaloupe in the Lesser Antilles, their colors
being a gorgeous “hyacinth” (macaw) with a rich cobalt blue coat of
feathers and “Lear’s” macaw with an aquamarine variation have
been slaughtered into extinction.
Poor parakeets were the victims of firearms unfortunately and
sadly killed by the 100’s in the United States. They are known
for their curiosity and their comradely acts, sticking by ones who
are sick or felled. They showed no fear of the farmers’ aims and
sometimes stayed behind, getting themselves killed along the way.
John James Audubon, known for his books, the magazine using
his name and his exquisite drawings, killed dozens of the golden
parakeets. He would bring home bushel baskets of the dead birds
to provide the “models” for his beautiful and well recognized sketches.
The last Carolina parakeet on record was named “Uncas.” Using James
Fenimore Cooper’s Indian character’s name. This Uncas was known as
“The Last of the Mohicans.” How appropriate a name for such a fine
and lovely winged “angel.” Uncas was kept in the Cincinnati, Ohio zoo
and died in 1918.
As a person who has a bird name, Robin, I have held birds in my heart
for all my life. I have collected feathers, especially since my Grandpa
died and beat his beak upon my window in 1980. (Story is held in the
post, “Cardinals carry special messages”). I think this story emphasizes
once more how very self-centered mankind can be, sometimes not
thinking or looking ahead to the future of our world. The gifts given by
our Higher Being, God, Mother Nature or if you don’t believe in such,
even still we have gifts here to appreciate. I would have loved to see
flocks of Carolina parakeets, their golden brilliance shining in the sun-
rise or sunset! We are very short-sighted in so many ways, when you
ponder all the baby seals, buffaloes, big wild cats and other creatures
that are killed for sometimes just for their skins, leaving carcasses
behind. In the case of the wild parakeets, there were not even meals
made of the birds. Did we not also get created, made to have the finer
brain to help protect and guard all the creatures.
Thinking of the beauty of the Carolina parakeets and singing a sad
tribute in my head. What comes to mind is Michael Jackson’s “Earth
Song” with its mournful lyrics and eerie vocals.
I hope the birds found a lovely place and peace while flying with the other
winged angels in Heaven.
Reminds me of Psalm 91:4 in the Bible:
“He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armour and
There is absolutely nothing to fear about
For God is already there.”