The Audubon Illustrated Handbook
of American Birds 1968

Editor: Edgar m. Reilly, Jr.


These are small to medium-sized land birds; their general characteristics are usually well known to Americans, as they are very popular cage birds. There are about 815 species occurring in the tropics and subtropics of the N. Hemisphere and through most of the S. Hemisphere except Antarctica, the more remote oceanic islands, and the s. tip of Africa.

Formerly occurred farther north into the temperate region of N. America. There were 4 American species; the only true native is now extinct, 1 species is a rare straggler, and 2 are established through introduction or escape from cages. Very few species are even partially migratory. Their feathers are usually stiff, glossy, and brightly colored; some species are crested. The strong wings are pointed or slightly rounded; the tail varies from long to short, and it may be square, rounded, pointed, or even racquet- tipped. The sturdy bill is short, strongly decurved, and hooked. The head is relatively large, and the neck is and rather short. The legs are short and thick. The birds characteristically perch and climb with 2 toes forward and 2 to the rear; the bill is also used in climbing. The sexes are usually alike. Their voices are commonly raucous screams, shrieks, whistles, and grunts. Most parrots are arboreal and prefer woodlands, but some are found in semiarid scrub areas. Many parrots are gregarious, and some are colonial. Their nests are often unlined hollows in trees, rocks, or banks; some nest on the ground, and a few build nests of sticks and twigs in tree branches. Their eggs are almost always white, and any number from 1—12 constitutes a clutch; incubation may be by both sexes or by the females alone. The young are naked on hatching and shortly acquire a coat of down; both parents share in rearing the nestlings. A great variety of vegetable produce is eaten, including fruit, nuts, and grain; some species also eat some animal matter.

CAROLINA PARAKEET (Conurosis carolinensis)

Appearance: Extinct. Small (11—13 in.); green, with a yellow head and orange  forehead and face. There was some yellow and dark blue on the wing; the tail was long and graduated. The bill was pale yellow or buffy, the legs and feet light pink or flesh-colored. Recently fledged young had green heads with tawny or orange foreheads.

Voice: Loud, cacophonous screams in flight.

Range and status: Formerly found (apparently resident, but status uncertain) from N.Dak., Nebr., Iowa, s. Wig., Ohio, and c. N.Y. south to the Gulf Coast and s.-c. Fla. The bird was a pest around farms and was easily killed, since the flocks would merely flush and circle the spot where some of their members had been shot, then settle down again at the same place if food was still available. It was also in demand as a pet, and for food and millinery items.

Habitat: Forests, forest edges, coppices, wooded river bottoms and ravines in plains areas.

Seasonal movements: None recorded.

Biology: Nest: Unlined hollow in trees. Eggs: 2—3, white.

Incubation: 19—20 days (1 record). Age at 1st flight unknown.

Food: In the wild, and before tempted by the abundance of cultivated grains and fruit, it apparently subsisted largely on the seeds of trees (including conifers) and weeds and on wild fruits




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