Arriving with great chatter, vibrant flocks of tens to hundreds flitted about the forests and swamps, ate cockleburs and nuts, and roosted together in hollow trees.
As swamps were drained and forests became fields and orchards, the parakeets turned to grain and seeds. While the birds helped to rid fields of the unwanted cocklebur, they also added crops to their diet. Farmers began to shoot them in numbers. The Carolina Parakeet was a communal bird, and its ranks were easily decimated. When a parakeet fell, the flock flew to its side or stayed nearby, ensuring the demise of many more.
Feather hunters and trappers, who captured the birds and sold them as caged pets, further diminished flagging populations. Competition from European honeybees for the hollow trees in which the Carolina Parakeet roosted also contributed to the species decline.
No one knows precisely where the last parakeet died in the wild. The last two known parakeets, Lady Jane and Incas, lived together for thirty-two years in the Cincinnati Zoo. Lady Jane died in 1917 and Incas, soon after, on February 21, 1918.
- essay by Todd McGrain
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