A look into the life – and death – of one of the more infamous recent extinctions: the Carolina parakeet (which, turns out, is not a parakeet at all, but a small parrot). I hadn't realised how successful the species had been pre-European agriculture arriving in the US, nor how rapid and unexplained its extinction was; unlike the similarly fated passenger pigeon, there doesn't seem to have been any specific attempt at eradication, and whilst the pet trade and the market for bird feathers likely played a part, there's no clear reason why the last populations in Florida disappeared so quickly.
On the timeline of extinction:
The last official sighting of a wild Carolina parakeet was in 1920, though unconfirmed report of birds in southern Florida and along the Santee River in South Carolina trickled in until the 1940s. The species was officially declared extinct in 1939.
On the original range of the bird; I had no idea it was this common:
The wild birds were a common sight in America’s fields and forests when the first European colonizers arrived, inhabiting a sizeable swath of the eastern United States, from the Midwest to the Atlantic Coast.
On how they didn't adapt well to guns:
A flock of the birds could decimate an apple orchard or cornfield; landowners often shot them when they descended on crops. And because the sociable parakeets typically stopped to mourn fallen members of their flock, they were an easy target for gun-wielding agriculturalists.
On the results of genetic studies done recently to determine if the population was more fragile than expected (it wasn't):
They found no genetic indication of inbreeding and few genomic signs that the species was destined for extinction.
On a recent theory that there were two species/sub-species, the western-most having gone extinct first, which may help explain some of the rapidity of the decline:
... there may have been two subspecies of the bird—one found in the Midwest, with a range that extended south to Texas and Louisiana, and an Eastern subspecies, with a range that extended from Florida to Virginia.
On de-extinction and the Long Now's involvement:
The Long Now Foundation's Revive & Restore project is working to restore the passenger pigeon, a species that disappeared just a couple decades before the Carolina parakeet.