STL Science Center

STL Science Center

25 February 2017

A Subfossil Week

©John James Audubon
On infrequent occasions in the past this blog has focused on animals that are technically labeled as "subfossil" meaning that the animals are recently extinct and are known from remains that have not been buried long enough to undergo fossilization. This week is dedicated to one such animal, a small bird from north America known scientifically as Conuropsis carolinensis Linnaeus 1753. Colloquially known as the Carolina parakeet, this small colorful bird was deemed extinct in the wild as late as 1939 with the last breeding animals dying in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918; eight years after the last known wild sightings of one of the birds. Once known to range from New England to Colorado and south to the Gulf of Mexico, the Carolina parakeet was the most northern ranging parrot and the only parrot native to North America outside of Central America. As with many parrots, the Carolina parakeet was a victim of the pet industry and its feathers were used for fashionable hats. Additionally, hunting and grazing controls were employed against the flocking bird with no real regulation, allowing for mass hunting like that which caused the extinction of animals like the Passenger pigeon. A great loss for the wilds of North America, the Carolina parakeet is very recently extinct, but little is actually known about the birds, as we will see throughout the week.

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