New Tattoo

This isn’t related to falconry, but it might be of interest to people reading this blog so I thought I’d share.  I got my second tattoo a few days ago.  The first was a celtic knot design I had done almost a decade ago.  I turned 18 and wanted to rebel a bit.  This one had a bit more thought put into it.  I’ve been mulling over designs for a few years and decided last year to get a Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis).

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The story of the Carolina parakeet for me encompasses every failure of conservation possible.

– They were shot for their feathers for ladies’ hats and shot by farmers because they ate crops (turns out they ate cocklebur, a problematic weed for farmers, and that the cocklebur control they gave outweighed the small amounts of corn and other crops they consumed).
– Most of the skins in scientific collections are from the late 1800’s in Florida – scientists heard they were going extinct and wanted to get as many examples as possible before they were gone, and that was the last largeish population.

– The flock would return to a wounded or dead bird, so it was quite easy for one person to wipe out an entire flock with a shotgun and enough ammo.

– There was a reliable sighting of a pair in North or South Carolina around the time the last known specimen died; the president of the Audubon Society went to check out the site, which is mostly swampland.  It rained the entire week he was in the field and he reportedly had a terrible time and didn’t see the birds.  Because of that he decided not to use funds from the society to buy up the land the birds were seen on, and it was later cut down and developed.
– The parakeets bred readily and easily in captivity, but because they couldn’t mimic human voices well and were abundant in the wild a breeding program was never established.

– The last known population in Florida declined quite rapidly when it had been stable for a decade or more.  There’s some speculation that they contracted a virus or other disease from chickens in the area (the parakeets were known to root on the rafters of chicken houses) and that it tore though the population and wiped them out.

– And there was a general apathy among those who knew they were declining that there was nothing to be done.  Kind of “well, they’re going extinct, that’s too bad…”

On top of all of that they’re really pretty and cool birds!  They’re the only parrot native to the US east of the Rockies, the only parrot that is though to go into torpor at night, and the only parrot I know of that can thrive in northern climates.  There are reports of flocks flying around during white-out snow storms.  I think it would be really neat to see that, an undulating flock of bright green parrots flying in snow.  And it’s thought they may have been slightly toxic, perhaps picking up some of the compounds from cocklebur.  They weren’t eaten even though they were easy to harvest because the meat tasted bad, and snakes didn’t seem to eat them when they were in torpor at night.  But we’ll never know now.

My wife Sarah also got a tattoo, her first.  She decided on an Io moth, because “they’re the artsiest of moths”.  I think it turned out really well.

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