Carolina Parakeet Sightings

Most museums preserve the memories of lives long lost. At times, the content of cultural heritage collections can overlap with those of natural history collections and focus on interpretations of the natural world. From now through September 30th, you have the chance to learn more about a topic of North Carolina’s past that relates to both cultural and natural history. Special Collections at UNC Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library is currently showcasing a collection of Carolina parakeet imagery and documents. Gathered together by William “Bill” Powell, a retired Keeper of the North Carolina Collection at UNC, the Carolina Parakeet materials pay homage to a colorful avian species, once plentiful in the swampy areas of the Coastal Plain. The birds have been extinct in North Carolina since the turn of the twentieth century.

Early natural historian, John Lawson, wrote in the “Birds of Carolina” section of “A Description of North-Carolina” in A New Voyage to Carolina, 1709

The Parrakeetos are of a green Colour, and Orange-Colour’d half way their Head. Of these and the Allegators, there is none found to the Northward of this Province. They visit us first, when Mulberries are ripe, which Fruit they love extremely. They peck the Apples, to eat the Kernels, so that the Fruit rots and perishes. They are mischievous to Orchards. They are often taken alive, and will become familiar and tame in two days. They have their Nests in hollow Trees, in low, swampy Ground. They devour the Birch-Buds in April, and lie hidden when the Weather is frosty and hard.

More than a century later John James Audubon documented this species in large-scale, beautiful hand-colored prints. The North Carolina Museum of Art has been exhibiting John James Audubon’s Birds of America folio books for some time. Now, thanks to a recent donation, the Museum of Forestry in Whiteville also has one of Audubon’s “Carolina Parott” prints in its collection.

In addition to documents and imagery, several North Carolina collections include preserved examples of Carolina parakeets. Both the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and Duke University contain taxidermed specimens of this bird. This example in the Museum of Natural Sciences’ collection is on permanent exhibit.

Does your collection include any references, through either artifacts or documents, to this extinct bird?


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This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on August 24, 2012, in collections access, Exhibitions, museums and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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