The Carolina parakeet's habitat is reported as being the cane understory ("canebrake") that was common in the southern states before it was "settled" by Europeans.  The can still grows is small clumps in the south, and I'm wondering if anyone knows why it mostly disappeared.  Wild hogs?  It was certainly cleared for farming, of course, but there were many areas that were never cleared and others that have returned to native habitat.


On Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 6:36 PM, Michael Rothman <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Hi Barry,

I heard the same story from Noel Synder back in l984.  Dr. Synder is the author of "The Carolina Parakeet - Glimpses of a Vanished Bird"ISBN 0-691-11795-0).  Apparently a movie was shown at a meeting of the American Ornithologist's Union, possibly in the early 1970's (that detail I can't recall specifically), depicting what appeared to possibly be some Carolina parakeets in the Okeefenokee swamp in southern Georgia.  The quality of the movie apparently was mediocre and Dr. Peterson's skepticism was apparently shared by many of the ornithologists who were present, who felt the birds were escaped exotics.  Unfortunately the film was reported as missing, including a copy that RTP had, and it hasn't resurfaced.

As a separate matter, there were supposedly black and while pictures taken at a wild turkey station near the Santee Swamp in South Carolina in the 1930's by an ornithologist named Melamphy.  It was said that parakeets showed up at the station at one point to forage on the feed and Melamphy photographed them.   I tried locating the prints/negatives during the 1980's.   Dr. Synder told me he was in touch with the fellow's family members and Melamphy died the year before, so he couldn't be interviewed and his family members had no idea as to the location of the images. (Ironically, the family members stated he was still "sharp as a tack" until his death).   The Melamphy sighting certainly contributed to the urgency to visit the Santee.  RTP and some other folks, including Robert Sprunt and Ludlow Griscom made to the area in 1937.   (I don't think Noel Synder mentioned the Melamphy photograph in his book.  But if any of these film records exist, it might be useful to have them examined under modern forensic techniques…).  But unequivocal records weren't attained during forays by such reseachers as and Sprunt and Griscom and they fell into a dispute as to whether any observations made by local residents of the area should be given validity.  The area wasn't spared when the Santee River was damned and the surrounding forest flooded not that long afterwards.

Very interesting stuff, for sure.  Synder's book provides ample evidence that the parakeet survived in extremely diminished numbers in some scattered locations in the American South ((though not necessarily in the Santee region per se), until roughly the late 1930's.
Mike R.

Roger Tory Peterson once told me that he had seen a COLOUR movie clip of Carolina Parakeets, only lasting a few seconds, as I recall.  He said it looked like early colour film (not counting hand-coloured, the earliest film showing colour dates back, according to Google, to around 1912 or `14), and certainly he was sceptical, and I’ve never heard of it since. 
Barry Kent MacKay
Bird Artist, Illustrator


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