Pennsylvania Game News - July 2017 - 34
Artist Walton Ford's "Dying Words" depicts the
Carolina parakeet's clannish commitment. Like
crows, they circled back to grounded members
of their squadrons, a poor response for birds
being shot by farmers for crop damage. In
Pennsylvania, the birds fed on seeds and fruits
including mulberries, and they braved the
winter months as permanent residents.
Throughout their American range,
Carolina parakeets went into decline in
the 1800s. Pennsylvania's last record of
a sighting occurred about 150 years ago.
But even after the death of the last
captive Carolina parakeet, reports of wild
Carolinas came out of the South into the
1930s. That kept the species from being
declared extinct, until just before World
The Commonwealth surely wouldn't
seem to have been one of the parakeet's
most comfortable states of residence.
Found from the Midwest to the MidAtlantic states, south to the Gulf, the
colorful bird occurred in both temperate
and subtropical climate zones.
They weren't seasonal migrants.
Where they lived, they stayed, unless food
shortages forced them to move.
They wandered as far as necessary, but
even then, they returned to the places they
left as soon as food became more readily
This mourning dove-sized bird was
usually in the company of other parakeets,
sometimes scores. They flew, fed and
Most historical accounts peg them as
colonial cavity-nesters, preferring sycamores and cypress trees in lowlands.
Their brilliant green bodies and yellowand-orange helmets made Carolinas as
striking as any neotropical songbird that
nested in Pennsylvania.
There remains indecision over the
nesting of Carolinas. Some researchers
have them nesting communally in large
tree cavities. Others point to pairs using
individual nesting cavities.
Some even refer to stick nests.
The same for eggs: some say two,
others five to six.
Most researchers believe the birds
nested in March and April. Chicks fledged
through July. Immature parakeets did
not have the characteristic yellow head
Most people who encountered parakeets likely heard them before they saw
They were noisy in flight, when feeding and always when threatened. In a
phrase, they were clannishly committed.
Some researchers believe one of this
species' biggest flaws was an inability to