Conuropsis carolinensisCarolina parakeet

Geographic Range

Found in the Americas, the extinct Conuropsis carolinensis was found from southern Florida to North Carolina and in coastal areas as far north as New York. Carolina parakeets occurred in the Gulf states as far west as eastern Texas and north along the Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers and their tributaries. Carolina parakeets were also recorded in South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia. Westernmost occurrences were in eastern Colorado. ("Nature Serve, Conuropsis carolinensis", 2005; Fuller, 2001; Laycock, Audobon Magazine, March 1969; Snyder and Russell, 2002)


Overgrown and heavily timbered lands bordering swamps and rivers were preferred habitats of Carolina parakeets. These parakeets also lived on farmlands and ate the crops. They nested in hollowed trees in large groups. They preferred sycamore woodlands and cypress swamps. ("Parakeets", 2000; Fuller, 2001; Mauler, 2001; Snyder and Russell, 2002)

Physical Description

Male and female adults were identical in plumage, however males were slightly larger than females. The majority of the plumage was green with lighter green underparts. The primary feathers were mostly green, but with yellow edges on the outer primaries. The shoulders were yellow, continuing down the outer edge of the wings. Thighs were green towards the top and yellow towards the feet. The legs and feet were light brown. The most distinguishing characteristic of this species was the orange forehead and face. The orange feathers extended to behind the eyes and upper cheeks (lores). The skin around the eyes was white and the beak was pale flesh colored. The plumage on the head was entirely bright yellow.

Young Carolina parakeets differed slightly in coloration from adults. The face and entire body was green, with paler underparts. They lacked yellow or orange plumage on the face, wings, and thighs. Hatchlings were covered in mouse-gray down, until about 39-40 days when green wings and tails appear. Fledglings had full adult plumage at around 1 year of age. ("Nature Serve, Conuropsis carolinensis", 2005; Fuller, 2001; Mauler, 2001; Rising, 2004; Snyder and Russell, 2002)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Average mass
    280 g
    9.87 oz
  • Range length
    32 to 34 cm
    12.60 to 13.39 in
  • Range wingspan
    53 to 58 cm
    20.87 to 22.83 in


Some sources say that Carolina parakeets were monogamous, having only one partner for their entire lives. However, no studies were conducted on mating systems and many birds apparently shared nests. (Laycock, Audobon Magazine, March 1969; Snyder and Russell, 2002)

There is little information available on reproduction in Carolina parakeets. They bred in the spring, producing 2 to 5 eggs in each clutch that were then incubated for 23 days. (Snyder and Russell, 2002; Snyder and Russell, 2002)

  • Breeding interval
    Carolina parakeets bred once a year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding usually occurred between March and April.
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 5
  • Average time to hatching
    23 days
  • Range fledging age
    18 to 19 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

It is thought that females were responsible for the eggs during the incubation period. Both parents cared for young parakeets. Adults were observed as careless when feeding the offspring and were often unsuccessful in rearing young. (Howell, 1932; Rising, 2004; Snyder and Russell, 2002; Strattersfield and Capper, 2000)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


No studies on lifespan were conducted while Carolina parakeets were still living. They lived up to 30 years in captivity. (Snyder and Russell, 2002)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    10 to 30 years


Carolina parakeets traveled in flocks from 100 to 1000 birds. They nested with as many as 30 birds in one nest. They were presumed to be monogamous. These were highly social birds, which was probably one of the many factors that led to their extinction. When a human shot one bird, flockmates would hover over their lost flock member, making them vulnerable as well. Farmers would shoot the entire flock to save their crops. It is doubtful that Carolina parakeets migrated, as they were seen in northern states during cold winters. They were attracted to salt licks and were observed ingesting saline waters and earth as well as sand.

Carolina parakeets walked, hopped, and climbed in the trees using their beaks as a third limb. Their flight was recorded as swift and graceful, but very loud as the birds nearly never stay silent during flight. They engaged in mutual preening and scratching to maintain social cohesion. They bathed with water and were observed "anting" as well. During the day they mainly rested, roosted, or sunbathed. They fed in the morning hours and at sunset. ("Parakeets", 2000; "Nature Serve, Conuropsis carolinensis", 2005; Howell, 1932; Rising, 2004; Snyder and Russell, 2002; Strattersfield and Capper, 2000)

Home Range

Carolina parakeets travelled as far as 48 km away from nesting sites. ("Parakeets", 2000; Howell, 1932; Snyder and Russell, 2002)

Communication and Perception

Carolina parakeets cried loudly while flying. Flocks could be heard from miles away. They were often silent when roosting, murmuring occasionally. During feeding a low, consistent chatter was observed. When predators were sighted, Carolina parakeets would emit shrill warning cries. Flock mates were attracted to the cries of injured birds. Carolina parakeets also probably communicated among themselves with visual cues and mutual preening. ("Parakeets", 2000; "Nature Serve, Conuropsis carolinensis", 2005; Laycock, Audobon Magazine, March 1969; Snyder and Russell, 2002)

Food Habits

Carolina parakeets ate primarily seeds of cockleburs (Xanthium sp.). They also ate the fruits and seeds of many other plants, as well as flower buds and, occasionally, insects. They were recorded as ruining many fruit crops. They would rip the unripe fruit off of the tree and eat the seeds. Flocks could ruin the fruit of a particular tree in a matter of minutes. When eating, Carolina parakeets grabbed food items with their beaks, placed it in their claws, and held onto it while using the beak to eat the item. (Greenway, JR., 1967; Howell, 1932; Snyder and Russell, 2002; Strattersfield and Capper, 2000; Greenway, JR., 1967; Howell, 1932; Snyder and Russell, 2002; Strattersfield and Capper, 2000)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers


Humans preyed on Carolina parakeets, they were shot and eaten as food, stuffed as prizes, traded, and domesticated as pets. It is likely that birds of prey, such as Cooper's hawks (Accipiter cooperi) and other birds of prey preyed on adults and fledglings. Eggs and hatchlings in nests likely fell prey to nest predators such as raccoons (Procyon lotor), skunks (Mephitidae), squirrels (Sciuridae), and snakes (Serpentes). (Fuller, 2001; Greenway, JR., 1967; Snyder and Russell, 2002)

  • Known Predators
    • Humans (Homo sapiens)

Ecosystem Roles

Carolina parakeets fed mainly on cocklebur seeds (Xanthium strumarium) and other seeds. They played an important role in seed dispersal of these plants. (Snyder and Russell, 2002)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Carolina parakeets served a certain aesthetic role to humans. They were kept as pets, eaten, and their feathers were traded. (Laycock, Audobon Magazine, March 1969; Snyder and Russell, 2002)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Carolina parakeets ruined many fruit crops, causing economic loss for farmers. ("Nature Serve, Conuropsis carolinensis", 2005; Fuller, 2001; Howell, 1932; Mauler, 2001; "Nature Serve, Conuropsis carolinensis", 2005; Fuller, 2001; Howell, 1932; Mauler, 2001)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

This species is extinct. The last sighting of the Carolina parakeet in the wild was in 1920, however questionable sightings occurred as late as 1938. The last bird in captivity died at the Cincinnati Zoological Garden in September 1914. (Howell, 1932; Mauler, 2001; Rising, 2004; Snyder and Russell, 2002; Strattersfield and Capper, 2000)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Kelly Amrhein (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.


active at dawn and dusk

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


uses sight to communicate


Copyright © 2005 NatureServe. 2005. "Nature Serve, Conuropsis carolinensis" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2005 at

2000. "Parakeets" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2005 at

Fuller, E. 2001. Extinct Birds. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press.

Greenway, JR., J. 1967. Extinct and Vanishing Birds of North America. New York, New York: Dover Publications.

Howell, A. 1932. Florida Bird Life. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc..

Laycock, G. Audobon Magazine, March 1969. "The Carolina Parakeet" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2005 at

Mauler, 2001. "Carolina Parakeet" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2005 at

Rising, G. 2004. "The Carolina Parakeet" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2005 at

Snyder, N., K. Russell. 2002. Birds of North America. Philadelphia, PA.: The Birds of North America, Inc..

Strattersfield, A., D. Capper. 2000. Threatened Birds of the World. Cambridge, UK: Birdlife International.