CarolinaParakeetPet

Reprinted from The Bird Watcher’s Anthology - Edited by Roger Tory Peterson 1967

Dr. Paul Bartsch, now well along in his eighties, is a living link with the great naturalists of the old school — Ridgway, Coues, Mearns, and the others who built the framework of American ornithology after Audubon and Wilson had laid its foundations. Although Bartsch’s great field is mollusks (he is one of our two foremost authorities) he can rightfully be called the father of modern bird banding. Nearly a hundred years had elapsed since Audubon placed the silver wires on the legs of nestling phoebes beside the Perkiomen when, in 1902, Bartsch ringed twenty-three night herons in the District of Columbia with sections of aluminum tubing bearing the inscription “Return to Smithsonian Institution.” At least eight million American birds have been banded since that historic experiment. During his lifetime Paul Bartsch has seen the passing of three or four North American birds into the void of extinction. He must have been one of the last to see a live Carolina paroquet—his own pet—which died in 1914, the year the last captive passenger pigeon died. There are only two accredited records in the literature of wild paroquets seen after this date.
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If you ever wondered what it would be like to have a Carolina Parakeet as a companion, this will give you an idea. The bird would most like be classed as a Carolina Conure Aratinga species if this beautiful bird still existed today.

A PET CAROLINA PAROQUET 1906      
by Paul Bartsch 

- Doodles was the son of Jack and Jackness, a pair of Carolina paroquets We had first christened him Jaekatapes, and how that came to be perverted to Doodles is a mystery to meyen now. 

- Mr. Robert Ridgway, the famous ornithologist, on his collecting trip to Florida in 1896 brought home the parent birds, which he housed in a cage at his home. They rewarded him by setting up housekeeping and producing a family. 
- When I came to Washington to work in the Division of Mollusks in 1896 my office occupied the southeast balcony of the main hail of the Smithsonian Institution while Mr. Ridgway and Mr. Charles W. Richmond, his assistant, and the Division of Birds were housed in the southwest balcony. 
- In 1902 Mr. Ridgway came to our gallery and said, “Bartsch, how would you like a Carolina paroquet?” I replied, “Shame to tease me so cruelly.” But said he, “I mean it. My paroquets are neglecting one of their young and the poor fellow will die if he hasn’t some one to take care of him.” (Mrs. Ridgway was on a visit in Illinois at the time. Had she been home Doodles would not have become a member of our household.) 
- Doodles was in poor shape, a neglected mite who had been cast out by his parents. So I had to tease him to open his bill to accept soft food, bread soaked in milk, bits of meat and many things as well as water. It was then and there that he adopted me as a parent. While he also displayed affection for Mrs. Bartsch, there never was a question as to who was his favorite. Within two days I persuaded him to use the pecking method to pick up food and shift for himself. 
- Doodles was a member of the family and like the other members had the run of the house. He shared our meals, was well behaved, and stuck to his own plate almost always. 
- He was a mischief, and rings and pins with stone settings were irresistible objects to him. I am confident that no jeweler could have competed with him in the speedy removal of a setting. Such things had to be kept under cover. His favorite perch was the top of a door, and from such a vantage point he would sally forth to a bureau top in quest of gems. If I shouted, “DOODLES!” he would return to his perch and croon and talk paroquet fashion (Doodles never learned to use English) until he thought I had forgotten his sally. He might fly to the floor and amble in his pigeon-toed way, steadily heading back for the bureau, and slyly climb to the top only to be intercepted with another “DOODLES!” which usually caused him to return to his door perch. Doodles enjoyed playing with marbles and would roll them over the floor and chase them about. He also enjoyed being petted and frequently came to me practically asking to be mussed up.
- For sleeping quarters he selected the furnace room, which contained the furnace, coal bin and many odds and ends. He probably chose that because it was a little warmer at all times than the rest of the rooms. His favorite daytime habitat was the window in the dining room facing the street, which gave him a conspicuous perch from which to watch the passersby. 
- In the morning Doodles would fly up two flights of stairs, come to my room, fly up on my bed, push his pointed tail down under the covers near my neck, place his cheek against mine, purr for a while and then take a nap with me. And woe betide anyone who would dare disturb us.
- Several times Doodles managed to get out. He seemed fascinated with the pigeons that frequented the neighborhood and tried his best to be friends with them. But the pigeons would have none of his company. As the bunch flew away he would give pursuit, and he could outfly them. Fortunately they always returned to the neighborhood and I was eventually able to recover him by climbing out of windows on roofs in pursuit until he finally grew weary of the new sport and waited for me to gather him in. Later, when he was on such escapades, I would whistle the bob-white assembly call and he would answer in his own language and come to my hand. 
- One big scare he gave me was on an occasion when Mrs. Bartsch was sick in the hospital, and I returned home late, called to Doodles, and received no reply. I turned over everything in the furnace room thinking that he might have fallen down, as he sometimes did when he missed his perch, and had hidden away shamedly. No Doodles! Then my heart sank with fear—did the little red squirrel which was also a pet kill him and drag him into his lair? Looking for the squirrel’s quarters, I found that one of a group of empty trays stacked upside down had a hole in its side. Shaking this caused the squirrel to pop out, followed slowly by Doodles, who had wanted companionship and had gone to sleep with the squirrel. 
- I might continue to tell stories about Doodles, but perhaps these are enough to show what a wonderful companion the only known real pet Carolina paroquet was. 
- It only remains to say that Doodles followed the pattern set by his parents in Mr. Ridgway’s cage. Mr. Ridgway believed that something had frightened them and scared them to death. I do not believe so, for Doodles had several strokes of apoplexy before his final demise. In his final passage he dropped from his favored perch on the top of a door, and when he was picked up and held gently, slowly closed his eyes and stiffened. Thus passed one of the last members of his species.
(From Atlantic Naturalist)


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