Monday, January 14, 2013

Audubon's Carolina Parakeet

my favorite Audubon's:

Carolina parrot, (today, Carolina parakeet)

If the whooping crane almost went extinct, this one surely did. The last documented Carolina parakeet died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918. But in Aududon's day they existed in great flocks. Sadly though they had a fondness for maintained orchards and their young fruits, he writes:

"Do not imagine, reader, that all these outrages are borne without severe retaliation on the part of the planters. So far from this, the Parrots are destroyed in great numbers, for whilst busily engaged in plucking off the fruits or tearing the grain from the stacks, the husbandman approaches them with perfect ease, and commits great slaughter among them. All the survivors rise, shriek, fly round about for a few minutes, and again alight on the very place of most imminent danger. The gun is kept at work; eight or ten, or even twenty, are killed at every discharge."

"The living birds, as if conscious of the death of their companions, sweep over their bodies, screaming as loud as ever, but still return to the stack to be shot at, until so few remain alive, that the farmer does not consider it worth his while to spend more of his ammunition. I have seen several hundreds destroyed in this manner in the course of a few hours, and have procured a basketful of these birds at a few shots, in order to make choice of good specimens for drawing the figures by which this species is represented in the plate now under your consideration," writes John James Audubon, the naturalist, in his  Ornithological Biography.

Why is Audubon relevant? Because in addition to his artistic talent, perseverance and derring-do, he was a d--- good naturalist. A lot of what we know today about birds, the audacious, often farouche, John James Audubon was the first to put in print.

I'll be making a presentation about Audubon's "Birds of America" this afternoon at 2:30 at Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge. Admission is free.

No comments: