14 April 2010

Carolina Parakeet


On the third floor of the Downtown Public Library, there is a room, I think it is called the Cincinnati Room. It is on the bridge over Ninth Street. We rarely make it up to the third floor, but when we do, we are often rewarded with an excellent exhibit of some sort.

On permanent display in that room, there is a very large Audubon book of birds. It is in a glass case, and is opened to this beautiful page of the Carolina Parakeet. This now extinct species was found in very great numbers in the Millcreek valley by early white farmers in Cincinnati. James Audubon describes their slaughter:

..the Parakeets 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.

Can you imagine the Millcreek river in it's natural state, surrounded fertile floodplains and the ancient forest thick with these colorful birds?


5chw4r7z said...

Cincinnati has a direct connection to the Carolina Parakeet. Roadside America talking about the Martha and the Cincinnati zoo says,
"Martha spent her last years in the Cincinnati Zoo, in a pagoda aviary that has been restored. It's an official National Historic Landmark... Perched on a rock in front of the hut is a life-size bronze likeness of Martha. Also here is the stuffed carcass of the last Carolina Parakeet, "Incus," who died in this same aviary in 1918, four years after Martha. That makes this place a uniquely bad spot in the history of bird extermination."
Every time I read this I'm over come with sadness.

Catherine said...

Such a beautiful find and an unbelievable image: those birds, a lush millcreek. So glad you take the kids out for these fascinating spontaneous moments.