by Dr. Karl Russ


Psittacus carolinensis, L.

(Ger., Nordarnerilcanischer Keilsohwanzsiitieh, Keilseliwanzsjttieli von Karolina, Karolinensittiele; Fr., Perruche de la

Caroline, Perruche a tête jaune;

Dut., Zon Parkiet of’ Carolina Parkiet)

Description—Habitat—As a Cage Bird.

This, the only species indigenous to North America, is one of the commonest in the market, and, at the same time, one of the most beautiful and brilliant. It might, therefore, rejoice in universal admiration if it had not attributes which render it altogether unbearable. It was described by Catesby, 1731 scientifically named by Linne, 1766; spoken of by Buffon as a cage bird; and delineated by Buffon and others.

The Carolina Parrakeet, as it is mostly called, is of orange-vermilion on the forehead and front of the head, as far as the eyes, and on the cheeks down to the base of the beak; the crown, back, and sides of the head, the region of the ear, and the upper part of the throat, a pure sulphur-yellow; the quills dark-green, bluish on the outer web, and black on the inner; the covert feathers of the primaries bluish-green; the small coverts on the bend of the wing and the spurious wing lemon-yellow, a few edged with orange-red; the tail dark grass-green, the tip bluish-green, the outer web on the reverse side blackish, the inner web greyish-yellow; all the rest of the upper parts of the body dark grass-green; the hinder part of the back somewhat lighter; all the under part of the body a light yellowish-green the hinder part orange-yellow; the beak horn-grey white; eyes brownish-grey; feet greyish flesh-colour; claws black. In the old male bird the orange-yellow colouring on the bend of the wing is very broad; in the female it is sometimes totally absent. In size it is equal to the jackdaw, but slimmer, with a much longer tail (length, 12 ¼ in.; wings, 6 5/8 in. to 7in.; longest feather in the tail, 5 3/8 in. to 7 3/8 in; outer tail feathers, 3 in, to 3 ¼ in.)

Its home is in the south of North America, and is said to extend from the north-east of Maryland and north-west of Missouri, as far as Upper Arkansas, South-west Texas, and south of Florida. Although this parrakeet has been observed by the most eminent of American explorers—Wilson, Audubon, Prince Wied, Coues, and others—yet there are many gaps in our knowledge of its habits in freedom. Beckstein says that in his time it had been frequently imported into Europe; that it was fed on hemp seed; and that, though it screamed much and spoke little, on account of its beauty and tameness it had many admirers. It occupies a similar position at the present day for many novices, dazzled by its brilliant plumage, buy it, and then discover that it is far from suitable as a cage bird. It is true Dr. N. Rey, of Halle, describes it as one which, if treated properly, may develop great intelligence. One couple, indeed, showed so much cleverness that the ornithologist was of opinion that, in this respect, the Carolina Parrakeet took precedence of all the Long-tailed Parrots (either those which he bad kept himself or otherwise observed), and, moreover, that it even surpassed many of the highly gifted Short-tailed species. Yet this same fancier admits that it never becomes so affectionate as the other parrots; but, on the contrary, always displays distrust and caution.

The experience and observation of years has convinced me that a Carolina Parrakeet, caught when old, is never susceptible of taming and training, but always remains stupidly shy, obstinate, and untamable; though a very young bird, which happens to fall into the hands of a judicious trainer who treats it properly, becomes as completely tame and familiar as any of its congeners. As regards capacity for speech, certainly it can only attain to second or third rank, and, even if it becomes unusually tame and affectionate, it will at the best be wearisome by reason of its intolerable screaming. It is extremely hardy and long-lived. First, Dr. Rey, and afterwards Baron H. von Berlepsch (the latter in several instances), accustomed it to fly in and out of the house, and left it for the winter in a boarded apartment, the walls of which were also of wood, and which was, of course, a very cold place.

It is generally kept in zoological gardens in swing cages, which are left in the open air, usually quite unprotected. The various attempts made at breeding have in but few cases produced any satisfactory result, in the Zoological Gardens the only effect was the laying of eggs; but in my aviary the young have become fledged, and Dr. Nowotny has met with similar success. The Carolina Conure appears among us in large numbers and is common in the trade.