The Extinct Carolina Parakeet of Floyds Fork
This series of blog posts highlighting extinct species that once roamed the Floyds Fork area is not only an interpretive tool for visitors, but it recognizes the importance of conservation. The object now in The Parklands and elsewhere, is to prevent any other species from extinction such as the passenger pigeon, American bison and the Carolina parakeet. Proper land use policies, conservation, giving back, and a little hard work will begin the recovery process.
Like the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet—the only parrot native to North America—was formerly an abundant species, though not nearly as abundant as the passenger pigeon. It fell to extinction, in part, under direct persecution by farmers.
Carolina parakeets ranged throughout the Mississippi watershed as well as east of the Appalachians. They favored bottomland habitat, particularly cypress swamps in the south and sycamore woods in northern areas. These woods exist today as a narrow strip along the Fork, and formerly would have been more extensive in the now-converted agricultural bottomlands. The birds were gregarious, as most parrot species are, and this, like with the pigeons, contributed to their extinction.
The Carolina parakeet was last seen in the 1930s in South Carolina, though there were few sightings after the 1920s. A few more reports trickled in later, but none were confirmed. Though direct shooting was a contributing factor to the extinction, there were other complicating factors. Arguably, the loss of bottomland habitat, and in particular the large trees in which they nested, prevented nesting success. Other factors leading to the parakeet’s extinction include exotic honey bee’s use of tree cavities and perhaps disease.
Though many processes and pieces are for now gone from the local landscape, there are other remarkable phenomena that still do occur. The most conspicuous of this is the migration of birds around North and South America. Kentucky lies at a notable geographic location in this regard: many species arrive in Kentucky to breed in the spring; while other, northern species arrive in the fall to over-winter. Other species, such as sandhill cranes, use the area only as a travel way as they winter along the Gulf Coast and breed much farther north. Similarly, monarch butterflies, which occur in The Parklands, conduct astounding migrations from southern Canada to wintering sites in Mexico. Undoubtedly, there were and still are aquatic migrations in the Ohio River and Floyds Fork. Fish and other animals probably move about seasonally as climate changes flow rates and temperature in the water coupled with the animals’ specific life cycles.
About the Author
As Director of Education, Curtis Carman oversees The Parklands Outdoor Classroom, promoting STEAM-based education through engaging, hands-on learning both outdoors and inside the classroom. Each year, his team of Education Specialists, Interpretive Rangers and Camp Counselors guide nearly 20,000 participants of all ages through school field trips, camps, Parklands Explorer, Junior Explorer and Wednesday Wonders. Prior to his promotion to Education Director in May of 2018, Curtis first joined The Parklands team as an Interpretive Ranger and led the department as Education Coordinator for three years. A native of Louisville and a graduate of Ballard High School, Curtis returned to his hometown after having worked as an environmental educator in Maine and Colorado at Acadia and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Curtis also served as Membership Manager at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Curtis enjoys hiking, biking, camping and kayaking.