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“C” is for Carolina parakeet, Conuropsis carolinenis

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“C” is for Carolina parakeet. Now extinct, the Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinenis) was a dove-sized (about thirty-five centimeters long) bird with a bright green body, yellow head, and orange face. Mark Catesby, an English naturalist living in Charleston, painted the parakeet in 1731, thus providing the first scientific description of the species. The species was abundant in early America, and its range extended to New York, Colorado, and Florida. Several theories exist regarding what caused the extinction of the species, including hunting, loss of mature swamp forests, competition with imported honeybees for nest holes, reduced food supply, and disease. One of the last sightings occurred in June 1938 in the Santee River Swamp of Georgetown County. Thus South Carolina was the site of both the first sketch and final sighting of the Carolina parakeet.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.