A Web Site About the Wild Parrots of Brooklyn

Quaker Parrot Facts, lore, audio files, video clips, photos, pictures, photo comics, and other information about Brooklyn's flocks of wild Quaker Parrots (AKA Monk Parakeets).

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Photo-Essay: The Wild Parrots of The Bronx!

Bronx wild parrots in flight
I've been following the wild parrots in Brooklyn for almost a year now, but only about a month ago did I learn that there are wild Quaker Parrots in the Bronx, so I made a trip up to see them.

These delightful birds live at the South corner of Pelham Bay Park, a beautiful park that's very convenient to public transportation (just take the #6 train to the end of the line: the park is just across the big highway).

I've done my best to learn how the wild parrots got to Pelham Bay Park, but their arrival is shrouded in even more mystery than that of their Brooklyn cousins.

From multiple conversations with local residents and e-mail correspondents, I pieced together several possible stories. The first one goes like this: back in 1998, a truck filled with parrots overturned and crashed on the Hutchinson River Parkway. Nine or ten birds survived the crash and found their way to Pelham Bay Park.

A second story cites a cave-in at an aviary at the Bronx Zoo which happened back in 2000 or so.

A third account, which comes from someone who has studied the flora and fauna of Pelham Bay Park since 1983, is perhaps more reliable. According to this source, the parrots have been living in the park since 1970: a time pre-dating the construction of the stadium pole lights. How they got there, however, is not known (although it is impossible not to note a certain coincidence: the distance from Pelham Bay Park to LaGuardia Airport is almost exactly the same distance that Brooklyn College is from JFK Airport. Which leaves open the possibility: might a shipping accident at LaGuardia be responsible for the parrots' release?)

However they got to the park, the parrots have been thriving, despite the presence of multiple predators such as Red-tailed Hawks and Merlins, which would naturally regard one of these green birds as a tasty meal.

Fortunately, human predators are in short supply. I've spoken to NYC Parks Department officials and have been told that there are no plans to remove the parrots or the parrot nests, which is great news! These charming birds are lucky to live in New York, and are widely admired by park goers and the nice folks who work in the Park. In the words of one jogger, "they rule!"

Without further ado, here are some pictures I took of the Wild Parrots of the Bronx (click on any photo to see an enlargement).

Bronx wild parrots at home in Pelham Bay Park
The baseball field where the parrots live looks ordinary from a distance, but take a good look at those light towers and open your ears: the park is teeming with wild parrots!

The parrots live in 75-foot tall stadium light towers
The light tower nests are strikingly similar to those in Brooklyn. Did these parrots arrive on our shores with blueprints of these structures or is "stadium light" simply ingrained in their DNA? Whatever the reason, these steel poles provide excellent support for large parrot condos housing up to 15 parrots.

The Bronx parrots spend a lot of time foraging on the field
There's plenty of action in the nests (rebuilding and renovating goes on constantly) but the real action is on the ground, where the parrots spend a lot of time foraging on any given afternoon.

Bronx parrots love the clover in the ball field
There's a lot to eat on the ground, including a special kind of clover which the Quakers can't get enough of.

The parrots do foraging goes all day
Foraging goes on for most of the day, although it isn't by any means a continuous activity. Usually one bold bird (the elder, perhaps?) will land on the ground first, followed by several others, and then the whole Quaker clan!

This wild parrot looks like he stepped right out of a James Thurber cartoon
The Bronx Parrots are stylish birds who seem to practice a unique brand of choreography.

Wild parrots flocking in Pelham Bay in the Bronx
They are especially beautiful in flight.

Wild parrots flocking in Pelham Bay Park, December 2005

Close up of two wild parrots in the Bronx
Some claim that the Bronx parrots are a bit standoffish to outsiders to whom they have not been properly introduced.

Close up of two wild parrots in the Bronx who are grooming each other
But these busy birds clearly have more important things to do - things like spending quality time with a mate - than to interact with human interlopers seeking face time.

A Bronx parrot, looking very Phat, perches in a tree in Pelham Bay Park
Some have commented that the Bronx Parrots are especially "Phat."

Phatness among the parrots is directly attributable to a diet heavy in acorns
Their "Phatness" can perhaps be explained by their rich diet, which includes plenty of acorns.

The tannin in acorns is considered by many authorities to be toxic to parrots, but it's clear that the Bronx Quakers aren't troubled by it. These are tough little birds!

Wild parrots in the Bronx taking an outdoor bath
Even on very cold days, the Bronx parrots are an especially fastidious lot, who practice good parrot hygiene. Here a bold bird, perhaps one of the elders, seeks out a small frozen puddle to take a bath in.

Wild parrots in the Bronx are especially fastidious about taking baths
His idea quickly takes hold among the other parrots, who join in.

Keeping clean is an essential part of being a wild Bronx parrot
Keeping clean is part of the Quaker ethos, even if it means getting a very cold tail.

The water that the parrots are bathing in is ice-cold, so they huddle together
The birds huddle together to offset the bracing effects of the frozen water on their tailfeathers.

Wild parrots crowding into a small puddle to take a group bath
Soon, a dozen birds are taking a cold one. Brrr!

Furious flapping accompanies a group bath of wild parrots in the Bronx, December 2005
The flapping is furious at these communal baths, and sometimes feathers get ruffled.

The wild Bronx parrots take to the air after a refreshing bath
Cleaned up and chilled out, the Bronx parrots take to the air.

Wild Bronx parrots flocking in the sun light
The Bronx parrots, splendid in flight, are lucky to be living in New York State, which is generally friendly to their exotic kind.

Pelham Bay Park boasts all kinds of wildlife, including wild parrots

Pelham Bay Park is a wonderful place, and the parrots are just one of its many attractions. For more information on Pelham Bay Park, visit the City of New York Parks and Recreation Department.

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