Photo-Essay: The Wild Parrots of The Bronx!
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).
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 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.
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.
There's a lot to eat on the ground, including a special kind of clover which the Quakers can't get enough of.
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!
The Bronx Parrots are stylish birds who seem to practice a unique brand of choreography.
They are especially beautiful in flight.
Some claim that the Bronx parrots are a bit standoffish to outsiders to whom they have not been properly introduced.
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.
Some have commented that the Bronx Parrots are especially "Phat."
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!
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.
His idea quickly takes hold among the other parrots, who join in.
Keeping clean is part of the Quaker ethos, even if it means getting a very cold tail.
The birds huddle together to offset the bracing effects of the frozen water on their tailfeathers.
Soon, a dozen birds are taking a cold one. Brrr!
The flapping is furious at these communal baths, and sometimes feathers get ruffled.
Cleaned up and chilled out, the Bronx parrots take to the air.
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 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.