The two extinctions of the Carolina Parakeet Conuropsis carolinensis

Kevin R. Burgio, Colin J. Carlson, Alexander L. Bond, Margaret A. Rubega, Morgan W. Tingley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Due to climate change and habitat conversion, estimates of the resulting levels of species extinction over the next century are alarming. Devising conservation solutions will require many different approaches, including examining the extinction processes of recently extinct species. Given that parrots are one of the most threatened groups of birds, information regarding parrot extinction is pressing. While most recent parrot extinctions have been island endemics, the Carolina Parakeet Conuropsis carolinensis had an 18th-century range covering nearly half of the present-day United States, yet mostly disappeared by the end of the 19th century. Despite a great deal of speculation, the major cause of its extinction remains unknown. Establishing the date when a species went extinct is one of the first steps in determining what caused their extinction. While there have been estimates of their extinction date, these analyses used a limited dataset and did not include observational data. We used a recently published, extensive dataset of Carolina Parakeet specimens and observations combined with a Bayesian extinction estimating model to determine the most likely extinction dates. By considering each of the two subspecies independently, we found that they went extinct 30 years apart: the western subspecies C. c. ludovicianus going extinct around 1914 and the eastern subspecies C. c. carolinensis either in the late 1930s or mid-1940s. Had we only considered all observations together, this pattern would have been obscured, possibly missing a major clue in solving the mystery of the parakeet's extinction. Since the Carolina Parakeet was a wide-ranging species that went extinct during a period of rapid agricultural and industrial expansion, conditions that mirror those occurring in many parts of the world where parrot diversity is highest, any progress we make in unraveling the mystery of their disappearance may be vital to modern conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-505
Number of pages8
JournalBird Conservation International
Volume32
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022

Keywords

  • Carolina Parakeet
  • Conuropsis carolinensis
  • Extinction
  • extinction date estimation

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