The Carolina parakeet was the only indigenous parrot in North America. As its forest habitat was cleared in the 1800s, and crops were planted in its range in the eastern United States, the Carolina parakeet began to feed on cultivated fruit in addition to its traditional diet of fruits and the seeds of plants. Farmers exterminated the birds in fields and orchards, as they saw them as agricultural pests. They were also hunted for their colourful feathers, used to adorn women’s hats. The task of hunting was made easier by the highly social parakeet’s flock behaviour of returning to where birds had been killed or injured.
By the mid-1800s the species was rare and the remaining population was restricted to Florida, with the last sightings made in the early 1900s. Ironically, by then the remnant flocks in Florida were tolerated by farmers and hunting for their decorative feathers had stopped. It is thought that poultry disease and competition for tree nesting cavities from newly introduced honeybees were the final causes of extinction. The last Carolina parakeets died in 1918 in the Cincinnati Zoo, in the same aviary where Martha, the last passenger pigeon, had died four years earlier.