Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Green-Wood Cemetery Parrots

The beautiful pre-Civil War-era gate to
Greenwood Cemetery, home to wild 

Quaker Parrots
I had a chance last weekend to visit Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery, a site where feral monk parrots have long lived. Although I'd say that there numbered no more than twenty monks visible at any time, the nest they've built, nestled into the gothic spire atop the main cemetery gate at 25th and 4th Avenue, is among the most architecturally integrated nests I've seen. And it proves that monks don't need an electrically heated platform to survive the Brooklyn winters.

The Greenwood Cemetery Gate is, to my knowledge, the only example of Gothic architecture incorporating actual, living gargoyles..The parrots at Greenwood Cemetery aren't just tolerated by the cemetery's management: their presence is considered a benefit. Why? Because unlike the pigeons which roosted in the gate before the parrots arrived, their excrement does not damage the structure. This is the first documented case of the monk parrots being used to displace another species for the benefit of mankind.

The monk parrots elaborate twig nests
blend exquisitely well with the gate's brownstone exterior. This is the most architecturally integrated monk parrot structure in Brooklyn and validates Charles Darwin's idea that avians are the only non-human animals to possess a refined aesthetic sense. 
The parrots sometimes can be found on the
ground, eating grass and occasionally, getting
into arguments.

The parrots can often be found high in the
trees at Greenwood Cemetery. This tree is about
100 yards away from the main gate.

I spent about an hour an a half walking through this lovely cemetery and saw plenty of wild birds, including Canada Geese, a lone Mallard duck, three hawks, several woodpeckers, robins, jays, and other small birds. The parrots seem to be clustered solely around their large nest at the gate, but have been reported to make trips within several hundred yards, often showing up en masse at backyard bird feeders.

A nice place to see the parrots up close is right by the bird feeder just to the South of the gate. The birds come to feed there and also gnaw on buds on a nearby tree. True to their reputation as being harmless to indigenous species, this feeder was shared among the monks, jays, starlings, finches, sparrows, and other small avians without any ruffled feathers amongst them.

It's easy to get out to Greenwood. Just take the R train (BMT line) to the 25th Street Stop and walk one block East. It took me about a half hour to get out there from lower Manhattan.

Note: the Greenwood Cemetery parrots are featured on the Animal Planet report linked to elsewhere on this site. Click here to view the video.