Are all Americans stupid?

I am, of course, only referring to American bird species.

I ask the question because of a conversation I had back at the Bird Fair but first let me tell you about the Carolina parakeet.

The Carolina parakeet was a native north American parrot that was widespread in the east of the USA when the European settlers arrived, and for long afterwards, but not now.  For this is another species that went extinct at around the same time as the passenger pigeon.  Not only was it around the same time but also in exactly the same place – Cincinnati Zoo – as the last known Carolina parakeet, this time a male, called Incas, died in perhaps the very same cage as the last passenger pigeon, but a few years later in 1918 (21 February) .

And Carolina parakeets did act a bit stupid.  They wandered around in flocks and when a few of their number were shot the surviving flock members would fly off but then come back soon later to see what had happened – and more would get shot. And so on!  Not a suite of behaviours that looks very bright when people are shooting at you – who said evolution was perfect?

The conversation I had at the Bird Fair was with an old (to be fair, he can’t complain about that adjective) acquaintance from when I lived in Bristol, who was on the British Birds stand.  We somehow got onto the subject of ruddy ducks and the fact that the eradication programme seems to have worked very well in that we neither of us see them these days.  My acquaintance said that ruddy ducks dive when shot at but don’t fly off and so they are a bit like Carolina parakeets.  which made me think along the lines of the title of this blog.

The ruddy duck eradication is not quite completed but I gather there are precious few birds left.  It would not be seemly to give a cheer as no slaughter of birds can be a subject for rejoicing, but if you are trying to eradicate a species then the worst possible outcome is almost to eradicate them, as then the whole thing has either been a bit of a waste of time and money or you have to start again at some stage.  So, given that there may not be many self-congratulatory press releases issued on this subject maybe we should all hope that this is the beginning of the end rather than the end of the beginning.

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4 Replies to “Are all Americans stupid?”

  1. As the professionals have already said in this matter if any one would listen to them - it is best to kill the Ruddy Duck once it gets to Spain not in the UK. But when money dose not matter the politicians will always win!

    1. Not the professionals to whom I have spoken. Surely killing ruddy ducks in Spain is like mopping up a leak - you have to keep doing it forever and the leak gets bigger and bigger. Better to mend the leak and then mop up afterwards.

  2. Mark, while I (and perhaps shouldn't) found the shortened URL for this post rather amusing given how removed from the real word so many of our Nearctic cousins seem to have become, it does seem a little unfair to blame evolutionary shortcomings for the demise of the poor Carolina parakeet when the species had only about 200 years to adapt to the arrival of the gun, habitat destruction, and mass slaughter. I know you had your tongue firmly lodged in your cheek, but it would be something if nature could adapt that fast though wouldn't it: the Dodo might have learnt to hide (and maybe even glide to escape), the Passenger Pigeon could have adapted to living in small colonies in small copses, the Great Auk might have developed gills and learnt to nest beneath the ice, Giant Tortoises could have become ninja-like and fought back using their razor sharp claws to slash attackers, and the Yangtze River Dolphin might have adapted to live off effluent and industrial discharge. Who knows even humans could still develop some kind of ability to - unlike the fabled frog in the pot of water coming to the boil - actually comprehend that massive loss of biodiversity will most definitely impact on our own survival. Ah, we can but dream...


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