The Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis Carolinensis) was native to the US. They are now extinct. However, there are many parakeets that have established themselves from escaped pets. Can non-native parakeets (in my opinion the best species would be the Sun Parakeet (Aratinga solstitialis), which are called Sun Conures as pets) take the place and fill in the ecological gap? Or would that cause more problems than it solves? Would it solve anything at all?
I suppose that would depend on many factors. Why did the original parakeet go extinct, and what prevents the new birds from suffering the same fate? Do they eat the same foods? Does the local environment support parakeets any more?
and as for benefits or demerits – do they carry parasites and diseases that may harm the local ecosystem? Will they displace some other species which had already taken over the old parakeet niche?
lots to think about.
This article says that researchers at the New York State Museum and New Mexico State University are working on steps to bring back the Carolina Parakeet. However the Smithsonian article it references for that statement doesn’t say anything about that; just that they’ve sequenced its DNA and are researching its diet… I haven’t seen anything else about de-extinction plans for this species.
I would guess that Sun Conures could survive in southern Florida, but not into the Midwest where Carolina Parakeet got to. Monk Parakeets can’t even seem to make it out of cities in the northern US and they’re from temperate South America.
Wasn’t there another species that went extinct because parakeets went extinct? If that’s true, no new species could fully play the same role. Even without that this new species is adapted to another conditions, it being morphologically similar doesn’t equal being same ecologically, e.g. all Anthus are more or less same looking birds, but one doesn’t live exactly like the other, even though niches are close, so parrots too probably can replace each other in one aspect, but not the other.
Thought so too… Good point :)
And yes. We must spend money on resurrecting these species, no thanks for your mammoths.
And we cannot forget that Sun parakeets are also at risk of going the way of the Carolinas; They’re Endangered (IUCN)
Better keep one than lose both trying to bring back the one that was lost first. Better one than nothing.
I don’t think it would really solve anything. Their main habitat appears to have been old growth forests. They ate seeds and fruits, along with cockleburs which are toxic. So I don’t think they would have been prey for very much, although hunting (for their feathers) played a part in their decline. Deforestation was the main cause of their decline.
Sun Conures have been seen in the wild in Florida, ranging from single birds to pairs to flocks. They are a popular pet trade species, and presumably escape frequently enough that small populations may occasionally form. However, unlike Nandays and the green Psittacaras, and whatever mishmash of parrots is in Florida these days, the Sun Conures don’t seem to have been able to cling on; possibly from getting trapped out for the pet trade, or just some other reason that prevents them from getting established.
Non-native parrots and parakeets in the US seem to be largely tied to human settlements, and don’t seem to have taken to native habitats in a way that’s reflective of the Carolina Parakeet. They’re neat to see around sometimes, but I doubt that the Carolina can be “substituted” in this sense, at least not by a species presently known to be free-flying in North America.
There aren’t any parrots particularly suited to replace the Carolina Parakeet that already have populations/introduced into the US. The Carolina Parakeet survived in a wide range of habitats and included a range that I believe extended up to the NE down through Kansas. The climate and food sources they used are very different than the parrots that are in Florida and California. That said, were a species to take over that niche, it would likely be if Rose-ringed Parakeets expanded out of Florida; they are suited for colder climates and are well established in Italy and I believe England and Germany. However, outside of Naples, FL, Rose-ringed are uncommon and aren’t considered established in the US with a viable long-term population.
The ecological gap I would say has largely been filled by things like European Starlings, or possibly an increase in Red-winged Blackbirds. Many Carolina Parakeets were killed because they fed on crops.
As for another species dying; that may have been confused with Thick-billed Parrot, which were extirpated from the US in Arizona in the mid 20th century. They were reintroduced with little success, but have a large population in Mexico.
For various reasons I’ve done a bunch of work looking at the establishment patterns of parrots in Florida, so this is based purely on the research I’ve done, so take it as you will :-)
Hope thing long-winded answer helps.
Sun Parakeets, like Carolina Parakeets, nest in tree cavities. However, they prefer palm tree cavities, which is probably why they haven’t been successful in the US. It’s possible they could become established in Florida, but there’s stiff competition there for tree cavities (including from European honey bees). There just isn’t enough old-growth forest for all these species to thrive. It also doesn’t help that a lot of parrots and parakeets are susceptible to poultry disease, which is widespread in the US thanks to industrial farming.
Their social behavior appears to have been a major factor in their extinction. When one was killed, others would gather around shrieking about their lost flock mate. This gave humans the opportunity to slaughter them.
No, not at all these parrots, though closely related, fill different niches
Carolina keets fed on cocklebur and nested in old growth wetlands and all that throughout temperate and subtropical eastern north america
Sun Conures are tropical parrots that occur in savannas, forests, etc
Its like suggesting that you plop african elephants, dromedaries, and lions in yellowstone for “Pleistocene Rewilding”, sure they’re related to extinct counterparts, but these animals dont fill precisely the same niche in the first place
Additionally the feral parrot populations in the US generally only exist in/around and depend on urban environments
Are honey bees actually a significant factor for cavity nesters in the US? They can’t survive the winter up here so I hadn’t considered it, but it was mentioned among the reasons for the decline of Carolina Parakeets. I imagine starlings would also be a big competitor given what I’ve heard about them and woodpeckers.
Do NA woopeckers use one nest for many years? Starlings use holes from previous year(s). Were they so abundant as now the time parakeets died out?
Maybe it’s a bit “old-fashioned,” but I don’t necessarily think it’s ethical for humans to choose what species we feel like should fill an ecological niche. That thought process took out the Carolina Parakeet in the first place…
Can’t forget the possibility of Disease, though.
But other than prize hunting, there was not much to kill, since their poisonous cocklebur diet made them good for farmers (weed control) and bad for eating (they tasted bad and were poisonous in large amounts).
Well, scientists are on the way to bringing the actual(ish) Carolina Parakeet back via genome sequencing and stuff, but it will be easier only if we can get rid of the starlings and sparrows. And disease. And cool the planet. Gahd, what a mess we’ve made!
Coincidentally, a paper came out yesterday answering this exact question (from an island perspective): https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abj5790. The answer is largely no.
From what I’ve read, there had been a noticable decline in the parakeet populations as early as 1832. The Starling was introduced in New York around the 1890’s. By 1860 the parakeets were rarely seen outside of the Florida area, so if Starlings played a part, it would have been minimal.
…“minimal” or perhaps terminal? Starlings may have finished off a species that was vulnerable and declining for decades prior. But that’s very speculative.
Agree. I don’t know how fast, or far, Starlings traveled after their introduction. As you say, they may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. I should have said “it likely would have been minimal”.