October 22, 2021

I mentioned how excited I was last week to be able to drive to Kansas for some vacation time.  I also had high expectations of scoring several new birds while I was there.  I mentioned the bust I encountered while visiting the wildlife refuge in Oklahoma.  The marshes were dry, and the birds scare, even though I was able to spot a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).  Having lived in Kansas I was confident I could identify an Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) since this is the Kansas state bird.  I also knew the pigeons are rampant in Wichita’s downtown section.  Even driving downtown and through the prairies I saw neither.  While I was able to id several different hawks, they were all too quick to get a picture.  At least I saw three different pair of parakeets at my mom’s new location.

When I looked online, I found that a parakeet is any one of many small to medium-sized species of parrot comprising multiple genera.  The name parakeet is derived from the French word perroquet, but is a pseudo-francism, as perroquet means parrot in French, while the French for parakeet is perruche.  The parakeet comprises about 115 species of birds that are seed-eating parrots of small size, slender build, and long, tapering tails.  The Australian budgerigar, also known as “budgie” (Melopsittacus undulatus), is the most common parakeet and was first described by zoologists in 1891.  It is the most popular species of parakeet kept as a pet in North America and Europe.  Budgies are the only species in the genus Melopsittacus.  In the wild, the species is green and yellow with black, scalloped markings on the nape, back, and wings.  Coloration varies in captive colonies. 

I was recently asked how many birds I had in my bird count.  The first year I was able to identify (and photograph) 32 different species.  This year I am up to 51 different species (with 2 ½ months left).  It is not that I have traveled more as much as I have been more attentive when I do travel and stop to photograph the birds.  Even though I saw three different variations of parakeet at mom’s, I knew I could not add them to my bird count.  The count is designed to identify the existence and range of wild birds, not captive birds. 

Thoughts:  Less than a century after being discovered by Europeans, parakeets were being kept as pets. British sailors returning from the east coast of Australia reported seeing huge flocks of small green birds, later identified as budgerigars.  According to legend, the merchants marketing parakeets in the early 20th century decided that the word “budgerigar” was too weird for Americans, so they marketed the bird as a “parakeet.”  The Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was once a common bird known to people in in the East and Midwest America but had been hunted to extinction by 1918.  Extinction was the result of deforestation in the 18th and 19th centuries, combined with hunting for their feathers (women’s hats) and to reduce crop predation.  Much like the European beaver, the Carolina parakeet fell prey to the insatiable human need to “display.”  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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