1902 Encyclopedia > Parrot > Disribution of Parrots

Parrot
(Part 2)





(2) Distribution of Parrots

The home of the vast majority of parrot-forms is unquestionably within the tropics, but the popular belief that Parrots are tropical birds only is a great mistake.

In North America the Carolina Parakeet, Conurus carolinensis, at the beginning of the present century used to range in summer as high as the shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario -- a latitude equal to that of the south of France; and even within the last forty years it reached, according to trustworthy information, the junction of the Ohio and the Mississippi, though now its limits have been so much curtailed that its occurrence is any but the Gulf States is doubtful.

In South America, at least four species of Parrots are found in Chili or La Plata, and one, Conurus patagonus, is pretty common on the bleak coast of the Strait of Magellan.

In Africa, it is true that no species is known to extend to within some ten degrees of the tropic of Cancer; but Pianias robustus inhabits territories lying quite as far to the southward of the tropic of Capricorn.





In India the northern range of the group is only bounded by the slopes of the Himalaya, and further to the eastward parrots are not only abundant over the whole of the Malay Archipelago, as well as Australia and Tasmania, but two very well-defined Families are peculiar to New Zealand and its adjacent islands (see KAKAPO, vol. xiii. P. 825; and NESTOR, vol. xvii. P. 354).

No Parrot has recently inhabited the Palaearctic Region, (Footnote 322-1) and but one (the Conurus carolinenis, just mentioned) probably belongs to the Neartic; nor are Parrots represented by many different forms in either the Ethiopian or the Indian Regions.

In continental Asia the distribution of Parrots is rather remarkable. None extend further to the westward than the valley of the Indus, (Footnote 322-2) which, considering the nature of the country in Baluchistan and Afghanistan, is perhaps intelligible enough; but it is not so easy to understand why none are found either in Cochin China or China proper; and they are also wanting in the Philippine Islands, which is the more remarkable and instructive when we find how abundant they are in the groups a little further to the southward.

Indeed Mr Wallace has well remarked that the portion of the earth’s surface which contains the largest number of Parrots, in proportion to its area, is undoubtedly that covered by the islands extending from Celebes to the Solomon group. "The area of these islands is probably not one-fifteenth of that of the four tropical regions, yet they contain from one-fifth to one-fourth of all the known Parrots" (Geogr. Distr. Animals, ii. P.330). he goes on to observe also that in this area are found many of the most remarkable forms -- all the red Lories, the great black Cockatoos, the pigmy Nasiternae, and other singularities.

In South America the species of Parrots, though numerically nearly as abundant, are far less diversified in form, and all of them seem capable of being referred to two or, at most, three sections.

The species that has the wildest range, and that by far, is the common Ring-necked parakeet, Palaeornis torquatus, a well-known cage-bird which is found from the mouth of the Gambia across Africa to the coast of the Red Sea, as well as throughout the whole of India, Ceylon, and Burmah to Tenasserim. (Footnotes 322-3)

On the other hand there are plenty of cases of Parrots which are restricted to an extremely small area -- often an island of insignificant size, as Conurus xantholaemus, confined to the island of St. Thomas in the Antilles, and Palaeornis exsul to that of Rodriquez in the Indian Ocean -- to say nothing of the remarkable instance of Nestor productus before mentioned (vol. xvii. P. 355).





FOOTNOTES

(322-1) A few remains of a Parrot have been recognized from the Miocene of the Allier in France, by Prof. A. Milne-Edwards (Ois. Foss. France, ii. P. 525, pl. cc), and are said by him to show the greatest resemblance to the common Grey Parrot of Africa, Psittacus erithacus, through having also some affinity to the Ring-necked Parakeet of the same country, Palaeornis torquatus. He refers them however, to the same genus as the former, under the name of Psittacus verreauxi.

(322-2) The statements that have been made, and even repeated by writers of authority, as to the occurrence of "a green parrot" in Syria (Chesney, Exped. Survey Euphrates and Tigris, i. pp. 443, 537) and of a Parrot in Turkestan (Jour. As. Soc. Bengal, viii. P. 1007) originated with gentlemen who had no ornithological knowledge, and are evidently erroneous.

(322-3) It is right to state, however, that the African examples of this bird are said to be distinguishable from the Asiatic by their somewhat shorter wings and weaker bill, and hence they are considered by some authorities to form a distinct species or subspecies, P. docilis; but in thus regarding them the differences of locality seems to have influenced opinion, and without that difference they would scarcely have been separated, for in many other groups of birds distinctions so slight are regarded as barely evidence of local races.


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