The Passing of the Carolina Parakeet and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The Passing of the Carolina Parakeet and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

| February 1, 2018


A hundred years ago this month, a tragedy befell us when the last Carolina Parakeet died in the Cincinnati Zoo on Feb. 21, 1918. Once abundant, this noisy, attractive bird was the only native parrot that inhabited Texas and the eastern United States. John James Audubon, who painted most of the birds of North America, created one of his finest paintings with this species as its subject. Almost 200 years later, this stunning print is still sold today by many national retailers, indicating its timeless popularity and aesthetic qualities.

It is uncertain if this beautiful parakeet occurred in the Cypress area when they inhabited the forests and river bottoms of East Texas. Although I have heard stories from locals saying they were in the Big Thicket perhaps as late as the 1890s, most documentation from Texas is further north along the Red and upper Sabine Rivers. It has been suggested that the bird’s demise was not the result of irate farmers who shot them for destroying orchards and corn crops, but rather from domestic poultry diseases. Diseases could have been spread into the frontier and decimated flocks long before the arrival of people who may have made a record of their presence.

With the depletion of the vast American Buffalo herds, the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, which was perhaps once the most numerous bird in the world, and in February 1918 the loss of the beautiful Carolina Parakeet, people were finally prompted to take action. In July 1918, redemption for past wildlife abuses became part of our nation’s laws. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed by Congress and protected birds throughout the U.S. from exploitation. The act implemented the 1916 Convention for the protection of migratory birds between the U.S. and Great Britain on behalf of Canada. Later amendments implemented treaties between the U.S. and Mexico, the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. and Russia.

The Carolina Parakeet was not the last U.S. species to go extinct, but its loss helped pass the act that would buy time for other rare and declining species. Many of those would later be saved by the Endangered Species Act that was passed in 1970.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of this important statute, Cypress Top Historic Park and Kleb Woods Nature Center have special displays. Visit either site to learn more about this 1918 act that still protects birds today.

To learn more about Cypress, Texas or American history, visit Commissioner Steve Radack’s Cypress Top Historic Park at 26026 Hempstead Highway. The museums in the park are open Tues.-Thurs. from 8 a.m-4 p.m.; contact cypresstop@pct3.com or 281-357-5324. The Cypress Historical Society in the yellow train depot replica has genealogy and historical information for the greater Cypress area; contact cypresshistsociety@att.net or 281-758-0083.

Contact Fred Collins at fcndc@juno.com with questions or comments about this article.


Sponsored by North Cypress Medical Center

Sponsored by North Cypress Medical Center

Historical facts courtesy of Cypress Top Historic Park Collection &
Cypress Historical Society: Preserving Cypress History for Posterity.


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