carolina pigeon

Look again. This pigeon is wearing a colorful, crocheted suit.

Laurel Roth Hope’s animal sculptures use humor to address the serious subject of species extinction. By putting a colorful ensemble on a common species, it masquerades as an extinct North American bird—giving the appearance of biodiversity, even if it can’t be reclaimed in real life.

See “Biodiversity Reclamation Suit: Carolina Parakeet” (2009) now at our Renwick Gallery, which is home to @americanartmuseum‘s collection of contemporary craft and decorative art.

Extinct animals on display at the Natural History Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Photo from Flickr: [x

The display features a model of a dodo skeleton and taxidermy specimens of the Great Auk, Carolina Parakeet, Przewalski’s horse, thylacine, and two Passenger Pigeons. Though it is displayed with extinct animals in this exhibit, the Przewalski’s horse is currently classified as endangered; it was once considered extinct in the wild.

Entry 41: Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis)

Once the only native parrot of the modern United States, the Carolina Parakeet was found as far west as modern Colorado and as far north as New York state.  The wetland forests along swamps and rivers were it’s favored habitat, creating roosts and nests in the hollows of large trees like the sycamore.

Flocks were as large as 300 birds as fed on the seeds of shrubs and trees, as well as fruits like figs and apples.  The Carolina Parakeet also consumed the invasive cockleburs, which contains glucoside, a toxic substance, and might have been poisonous to consume. Anecdotal evidence suggests domestic cats and other invasive species may have died due to hunting the bird.

Early colonial accounts suggest, like the Passenger Pigeon, the Carolina Parakeet was extremely prevalent throughout it’s range.  However, the clearing and settlement of deciduous forests of the south and east saw a sharp decline in their population.  Hunting of the bird, for use of it’s feathers and body in adorning women’s hats, put further pressure on their retreating flocks.  The final nail in the coffin is unknown, but some evidence suggests that poultry disease may have pressed them into extinction, despite no New World parrot ever being afflicted by the scourge.

The last known Carolina Parakeet died in the Cincinnati Zoo on February 21, 1918.  Unconfirmed sightings continued throughout southern marshlands into the mid-1900s.

Extinction Date According to the IUCN Red List: 1918