Monday, June 19, 2006

Monk Parrots Invading New Jersey Beaches

New Jerseyans have been "going to the
shore" on weekends since the dawn of time,
so it's only natural that on a beautiful day
in June, New Jersey's wild monk parrots would
do the same.

Last weekend, I found myself in the quiet hamlet of Edgewater, New Jersey, a place I visit on alternative weekends to broaden my parrot-watching horizons beyond Brooklyn. My first destination upon arriving by bus was Veterans' Field, a place known to be a site frequented by foraging monk parrots. After searching in vain for such parrots on the lawn areas, I settled onto a bench by the Hudson River to ponder my next move.

Suddenly, I heard remarkably parrot-like sounds emanating from the rocky beach just a few feet from my bench. I crept closer, camera armed and ready, in High-Speed Shutter mode. As the beachscape expanded in my vision, I could clearly see, among the slippery, mossy rocks, a small group of monk parrots walking on the beach, making tiny zygodactyl footprints. I began snapping pictures in quick succession, realizing that I was on the cusp of yet another significant discovery conerning the living habits of monk parrots in the New York area: just like the metropolis' human residents, in Summertime they are active beach-goers!

For a wild New Jersey parrot, this rocky
beach on the edge of Edgewater's Veterans field
offers more fun than the boardwalk in Atlantic
City. (If you really look carefully, you can
see three small green shapes on the
rocks -- they're not mossy stones, they're
monk parrots!)
It didn't take me long to see why these parrots had come to this rocky beach: for food, in the form of algea which coated the rocks, and in the seaweed which had washed up on the shore, which were both consumed continuously throughout the morning hours. The parrots seemed to find both substances delicious.

Among aviculturists, the benefits of seaweed as a nutritional supplement are well-known. Rich in minerals, seaweed is both high-protein and low fat, and contains substances which can flush toxins from the body. The benefits of algae are less well known, although at least one species of parrot, the tiny Pygmy Parrot, is an algea-eater. Less is known of the monk parrot's delight for algea, although it has been reported in UK that the parrots have been seen congregating on roof gutters containing such algea.

For those seeking to experience the surreal vision of wild parrots walking on a New Jersey beach with the spectacular island of Manhattan in the background, look no further than Edgewater's Veterans Field. Here are some photos (click on a them to see an enlarged view).

Let's see, what's on the menu today? Seaweed
or algea? Well, both!

Incoming parrots usually settle on a willow
tree before beginning their beach-walking.
Here are two which have just arrived at
"Parrot Beach."

What delights can a monk parrot hope to
find on a New Jersey beach? Well, reasonably fresh
water, delicious algae and sea vegatables,
and the chance to catch some rays!

Among wild parrot watching spots in the
Northeast, Edgewater's "Parrot Beach" is
one of the most picturesque. I shall
certainly return this summer whenever I can.