Today if you take the B. I. R. D. S. scavenger hunt in downtown Summerville you can use the hidden clues on your guide to find the Carolina Parakeet.
The rhyming limerick clue reads: “At Town Hall, there’s a bird in the glass, from flocks of great numbers, one’s been cast. They once ruled the air, but now they’re not there… Sad to say, this bird’s lost to the past.”
Sadly the Carolina parakeet is extinct today. One of the last verified sightings was in the Santee Delta near Georgetown in 1939 by none other than our own Hampton Plantation owner, Archibald Rutledge.
What lead to the extinction-there were many factors but the main enemy-man. Deforestation to make room for agricultural fields thus removing its habitat. The green, yellow, and red feathers were in demand for ladies’ hats. Farmers shot the parakeets in large numbers thinking they were protecting their crops and sadly because these parakeets had built in ” flocking behaviors” – meaning the air borne flocks of parakeets would gather around the wounded and dead parakeets on the ground while more shots rang out from the farmers.
Actually the Carolina parakeets were helping humans by controlling the invasive cocklebur or sand spur.
I love this first adolescent story written for middle schoolers by Mary Alice Monroe -her first young people’s novel-I bought a copy for Eva Cate and couldn’t help reading it first! I thoroughly enjoyed it!
In the story Grandmother is carefully picking out sand spurs from a mangy dog the children bring home. It is the first time they hear Honey call the sand spurs ” the revenge of the Carolina Parakeet. ”
When the children excitedly ask about the curse … Grandmother Honey explains that the Carolina Parakeet was beautiful and used to fill the Carolina skies-their favorite food was sand spurs…but humans drove the bird to extinction and now all the islanders are stuck with seeds of these devil sand spurs. Revenge!
The children discover that the dog was probably abandoned on Capers Island and like wild deer swam across the channel to Dewees Island in search of food.
This explanation reminded me of one of the most beautiful scenes I ever witnessed in my life -Brooke had a friend from her hometown who was in charge of clearing out forest areas near the shore for what would be called Kiawah Island. We walked to the shore and there were deer frolicking in the surf . Unbelievably beautiful! It was 1971.
So until tomorrow… we are all connected-what we do to another living creature will circle back around to us -completing a good effect or a tragic one. It is up to us.
” Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh