Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131
October 1, 2006
Photo credit- John James Audubon
The now-extinct Carolina parakeet
Photo credit: FWS
It's about hope!
Northeastern Carolina celebrates its protected wildlife
The Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was the only native parrot to have graced the skies of the continental U.S. It became extinct in the wild approximately 100 years ago.
As northeastern North Carolina prepares for its 10th annual Wings Over Water Festival, the parrot serves as a sad reminder of how essential wildlife conservation has become to the survival of the native species.
The parrot was abundant throughout most of the East. Its voracious plant appetite made seasonal migration unnecessary but incurred the wrath of farmers. It nested in hollow trees, especially near bodies of water.
John Audubon noticed a 50 percent drop in numbers over a 15-year period in the early 19th century. Habitat loss necessary for breeding was the likely principal cause. Hunting contributed to the decline, especially farmers protecting their crops.
Market hunters finished them off in the latter decades of the century. Their meat was tasty and their beautiful plumage commanded a tidy sum in the millinery trade. Feathers in quantity were stuffed into European mattresses and pillows. They were in demand as caged pets.
Conservation efforts that began in the late 1800s were too little, too late for these beautiful birds. They did, however, initiate continuing efforts that allow us to enjoy and to preserve the surviving wildlife.
The 10th annual Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival offers dozens of reasons to join other nature enthusiasts on the Outer Banks of North Carolina Nov. 7-12, which includes the traditional Veterans' Day weekend.
The festival offers opportunities for participants to see endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers in their natural habitat on the Air Force Bombing Range on mainland Dare County and in the Palmetto-Peartree Preserve in Tyrrell County . In addition to red-cockaded woodpeckers, the Bombing Range is home to six other species of woodpeckers.
And at a time when everyone needs a little hope, ornithologist Ken Rosenberg, director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, will be the keynote speaker for this year's festival. His presentation will include photos and recordings of the Ivory-billed woodpecker from the 1930s that, until the recent discovery of the bird in Arkansas , were assumed to be the last tangible proof that such a bird ever existed. Rosenberg is one of the leaders of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Species Recovery Team formed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. That team is working to draft a recovery plan for the species. Rosenberg is a member of the Biology Working Group.
Since the sightings in Arkansas , other researchers now think that the bird may also exist in the panhandle area of Florida .
Birders, naturalists, hunters, photographers environmentalists, conservationists and all manner of outdoor lovers have more programs to choose from than they can attend during the festival.
Birding trips are planned for locations throughout northeastern NC including, but not limited to, Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge in Currituck County, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, both Ocracoke Island and Mattamuskeet National Wildlfife Refuge in Hyde County, Alligator National Wildlife Refuge on mainland Dare County, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Pettigrew State Park, and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
Some of the sightings during recent festivals include Eared Grebe, American White Pelican, Fork-Tailed Flycatcher and the magnificent Frigatebird.
But Wings Over Water isn't just about birds. History is explored, kayaks and canoes are paddled, black bear and red wolf habitats are visited, photographic workshops are offered and there even is a ghost tour.
To learn more, visit www.wingsoverwater.org for a summary list of programs. Or call the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce at 252-441-8144 to order a program book complete with map and registration forms.
Festival partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society, Carolina Bird Club, Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, The Outer Banks Sentinel Newspaper and many local businesses.
Come and "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" and remember the lesson of the Carolina parakeet.