Parakeet is the common term for the members of more than 100 species of small, slender parrots scattered over more than a dozen genera in the subfamily Psittacinae of the family Psittacidae. Parakeets (or parrakeets) typically are characterized by a long, tapering tail, are seed-eating, and form flocks. Many species, such as the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), are popular as pets and kept in cages.
Parakeets add to the human wonder of nature, with their various colors, behaviors, sounds, and, for some species, ability to mimic human speech. Yet, human activities have not always been so beneficial for parakeets. The Carolina parakeet was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States, but became extinct in the early twentieth century due to a loss of habitat and overhunting.
Parrots or psittacines, comprise an order (Psittaciformes) of birds that includes about 350 species. Parrots usually are grouped into two families—the Cacatuidae (cockatoo), and the Psittacidae (parrots), but one may find many variations. In addition to birds called cockatoos and true parrots, the order includes birds with the common names of parakeets, lories, lorikeets, kakapos, rosellas, racquet-tails, lovebirds, macaws, and amazons, among others.
All members of the order have a generally erect stance and a characteristic curved beak shape with the upper mandible having slight mobility in the joint with the skull. All parrots are zygodactyl, with two toes at the front of each foot and two at the back, and all parrot eggs are white in color.
Parakeet is a term that encompasses diverse species, widely scattered taxonomically, within the subfamily Psittacinae of the family Psittacidae. The term mainly is used for small, long-tailed members of the Arini tribe in the Americas, and in Australia colloquially for many species. The term is descriptive and used for small, long-tailed parrots but does not imply an actual relationship between the different parakeets. Not all parakeets have long tails. An older orthography still sometimes encountered is paroquet.
Select genera and species of parakeets
- Subfamily Loriinae
- Subfamily Psittacinae
- Tribe Platycercini
- Genus Eunymphicus
- Horned Parakeet, Eunymphicus cornutus
- Uvea Parakeet, Eunymphicus uvaeensis
- Genus Cyanoramphus
- Black-fronted Parakeet, Cyanoramphus zealandicus (extinct, c.1850)
- Society Parakeet, Cyanoramphus ulietanus (extinct, late 18th century)
- Antipodes Parakeet, Cyanoramphus unicolor
- Red-crowned Parakeet, Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae
- Subantarctic Red-crowned Parakeet, Cyanoramphus erythrotis
- Reischek's Parakeet, Cyanoramphus (erythrotis) hochstetteri
- Yellow-fronted Parakeet, Cyanoramphus auriceps
- Chatham Parakeet, Cyanoramphus forbesi
- Malherbe's Parakeet, Cyanoramphus malherbi
- Genus Barnardius - sometimes included in Platycercus
- Australian Ringneck, Barnardius zonarius (includes Port Lincoln, Mallee Ringneck, Cloncurry and Twenty Eight parakeets)
- Genus Melopsittacus
- Budgerigar, Melopsittacus undulatus
- Genus Eunymphicus
- Tribe Psittaculini
- Genus Psittacula
- Alexandrine Parakeet, Psittacula eupatria
- Seychelles Parakeet, Psittacula wardi (extinct)
- Rose-ringed Parakeet, Psittacula krameri
- Réunion Parakeet, Psittacula (eques) eques (extinct, disputed)
- Mauritius Parakeet, Psittacula (eques) echo
- Newton's Parakeet, Psittacula exsul (extinct)
- Slaty-headed Parakeet, Psittacula himalayana
- Grey-headed Parakeet, Psittacula finschii
- Plum-headed Parakeet, Psittacula cyanocephala
- Blossom-headed Parakeet, Psittacula roseata
- Malabar Parakeet, Psittacula columboides
- Layard's Parakeet, Psittacula calthropae
- Derbyan Parakeet, Psittacula derbiana
- Red-breasted Parakeet, Psittacula alexandri
- Nicobar Parakeet, Psittacula caniceps
- Long-tailed Parakeet, Psittacula longicauda
- Genus Psittacula
- Tribe Arini
- Genus Guarouba
- Golden Parakeet, Guarouba guarouba
- Genus Conuropsis
- Carolina Parakeet, Conuropsis carolinensis (extinct)
- Genus Aratinga
- Blue-crowned Parakeet, Aratinga acuticaudata
- Green Parakeet, Aratinga holochlora
- Pacific Parakeet, Aratinga strenua
- Socorro Parakeet, Aratinga brevipes
- Red-throated Parakeet, Aratinga rubritorquis
- Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Aratinga wagleri
- Mitred Parakeet, Aratinga mitrata
- Chapman's Mitred Parakeet, Aratinga alticola
- Hocking's Parakeet, Aratinga hockingi
- Red-masked Parakeet, Aratinga erythrogenys
- Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Aratinga finschi
- White-eyed Parakeet, Aratinga leucophthalmus
- Cuban Parakeet, Aratinga euops
- Guadeloupe Parakeet, Aratinga labati (extinct)
- Hispaniolan Parakeet, Aratinga chloroptera
- Sun Parakeet, Aratinga solstitialis
- Sulphur-breasted Parakeet, Aratinga pintoi
- Jandaya Parakeet, Aratinga jandaya
- Golden-capped Parakeet, Aratinga auricapilla
- Dusky-headed Parakeet, Aratinga weddellii
- Brown-throated Parakeet, Aratinga pertinax
- Olive-throated Parakeet, Aratinga nana
- Orange-fronted Parakeet, Aratinga canicularis
- Peach-fronted Parakeet, Aratinga aurea
- Caatinga Parakeet, Aratinga cactorum
- Genus Nandayus
- Nanday Parakeet, Nandayus nenday
- Genus Leptosittaca
- Golden-plumed Parakeet, Leptosittaca branickii
- Genus Pyrrhura
- Blue-throated Parakeet, Pyrrhura cruentata.
- Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Pyrrhura frontalis.
- Blaze-winged Parakeet, Pyrrhura (frontalis) devillei.
- Crimson-bellied Parakeet, Pyrrhura perlata (formerly P. rhodogaster).
- Pearly Parakeet, Pyrrhura lepida (formerly P. perlata).
- Green-cheeked Parakeet, Pyrrhura molinae.
- Painted Parakeet, Pyrrhura picta.
- Hellmayr's Parakeet, Pyrrhura (picta) amazonum.
- Madeira Parakeet, Pyrrhura (picta/amazonum) snethlageae.
- Deville's Parakeet, Pyrrhura (picta) lucianii.
- Red-crowned Parakeet, Pyrrhura (picta) roseifrons. (not to be confused with Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae).
- Wavy-breasted Parakeet, Pyrrhura (picta/roseifrons) peruviana.
- Sinú Parakeet, Pyrrhura (picta) subandina (possibly extinct).
- Todd's (Perijá) Parakeet, Pyrrhura (picta) caeruleiceps.
- Fiery-shouldered Parakeet, Pyrrhura egregia.
- White-eared (Maroon-faced) Parakeet, Pyrrhura leucotis.
- Grey-breasted Parakeet, Pyrrhura (leucotis) griseipectus.
- Pfrimer's Parakeet, Pyrrhura (leucotis) pfrimeri.
- Venezuelan Parakeet, Pyrrhura (leucotis) emma.
- Santa Marta Parakeet, Pyrrhura viridicata.
- Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Pyrrhura melanura.
- El Oro Parakeet, Pyrrhura orcesi.
- Black-capped (Rock) Parakeet, Pyrrhura rupicola.
- White-necked Parakeet, Pyrrhura albipectus.
- Flame-winged (Brown-breasted) Parakeet, Pyrrhura calliptera.
- Red-eared Parakeet, Pyrrhura hoematotis.
- Rose-headed (Rose-crowned) Parakeet, Pyrrhura rhodocephala.
- Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Pyrrhura hoffmanni.
- Genus Enicognathus
- Austral Parakeet, Enicognathus ferrugineus
- Slender-billed Parakeet, Enicognathus leptorhynchus
- Genus Myiopsitta
- Monk Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus
- Cliff Parakeet, Myiopsitta luchsi
- Genus Bolborhynchus
- Andean Parakeet, Bolborhynchus orbygnesius
- Barred Parakeet, Bolborhynchus lineola
- Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons
- Genus Psilopsiagon
- Grey-hooded Parakeet, Psilopsiagon aymara
- Mountain Parakeet, Psilopsiagon aurifrons
- Genus Brotogeris
- Plain Parakeet, Brotogeris tirica
- Canary-winged Parakeet, Brotogeris versicolurus
- Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Brotogeris chiriri
- Gray-cheeked Parakeet, Brotogeris pyrrhopterus
- Orange-chinned Parakeet, Brotogeris jugularis
- Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Brotogeris cyanoptera
- Tui Parakeet, Brotogeris sanctithomae
- Golden-winged Parakeet, Brotogeris chrysopterus
- Genus Guarouba
- Tribe Platycercini
The Carolina parakeet was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. The last wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County in Florida in 1904, and the last captive bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918. This was the male specimen "Incas," who died within a year of his mate "Lady Jane." It was not until 1939, however, that it was determined that the Carolina parakeet had ceased to be.
The Carolina parakeet died out because of a number of different threats, and in particular, a loss of habitat and overhunting. To make space for more agricultural land, large areas of forest were cut down, taking away its living space. The colorful feathers (green body, yellow head, and red around the bill) were in demand as decorations in ladies' hats, and the birds were kept as pets. Even though the birds bred easily in captivity, little was done by owners to increase the population of tamed birds. Finally, they were killed in large numbers because farmers considered them a pest, although many farmers valued them for controlling invasive cockleburs.
A factor that contributed to their extinction was the unfortunate flocking behavior that led them to return immediately to a location where some of the birds had just been killed. This led to even more being shot by hunters as they gathered about the wounded and dead members of the flock.
This combination of factors extirpated the species from most of its range until the early years of the twentieth century. However, the last populations were not much hunted for food or feathers, nor did the farmers in rural Florida consider them a pest as the benefit of the birds' love of cockleburs clearly outweighed the minor damage they did to the small-scale garden plots. The final extinction of the species is somewhat of a mystery, but the most likely cause seems to be that the birds succumbed to poultry disease, as suggested by the rapid disappearance of the last, small, but apparently healthy and reproducing flocks of these highly social birds. If this is true, the very fact that the Carolina parakeet finally was tolerated to roam in the vicinity of human settlements proved its undoing (Snyder and Russell 2002).
- Alderton, D. A Birdkeeper's Guide to Budgies. Morris Plains, NJ: Tetra Press, 1988. ISBN 3923880758
- Mancini, J. R. Parakeet. Hoboken, N. J.: Howell Book House/Wiley Pub., 2006. ISBN 0764599194
- Snyder, N. F. R. and K. Russell. Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis). In A. Poole and F. Gill, eds., The Birds of North America. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, 2002.
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