Monday, January 30, 2006

Brooklyn: Land of the Pizza-Eating Parrots!

Two wild quaker parakeets eat pizza. Brooklyn, NY, January 21, 2006
Two wild parrots on Bedford Avenue enjoy some freshly-baked Brooklyn pizza.

I was walking down Brooklyn's Bedford Avenue on Friday when I heard a pronounced crunching sound coming from overhead. I looked up, and there in a tree was a pair of wild monk parrots sharing a slice of pizza.

"Eureka!" - I shouted, reaching for my trusty camera, cognizant that I was on the cusp of a new discovery that would forever enlighten scientists studying the fascinating species known as Myiopsitta Monachus. For while it has been known since Charles Darwin studied the monk parrot in the 1830's that the species is "omnivorous" (meaning that it will eat almost anything, as long as it tastes good), and that bagel-eating among New Jersey wild parrots has been demonstrated in the field (Evans-Fragale, 2004) no actual evidence of pizza-eating among wild parrots has, to my knowledge, existed in the formal literature, until now.

It stands to reason, however, that in a place like Brooklyn, where good pizzarias are as nearly numerous as parking meters, wild monk parrots would adapt to the practice of pizza-eating, and even the time-honored Brooklyn folk custom of discarding the uneaten part of one's pizza slice on the street to supply food for other needy life forms.

Two wild quaker parakeets in Brooklyn share a pizza crust. January 21, 2006
Like many Brooklynites on a budget, wild parrots in Brooklyn share slices when cash reserves are low.

Two wild quaker parakeets in Brooklyn munch on a pizza crust. January 21, 2006
The thick, glutenous crust of this pizza slice is no match for the monk parrot's sharp beak, honed to razor sharpness by months of cutting through tree branches.


A contented wild parrot enjoys a slice of pizza on Bedford Avenue
Judging from this parrot's contented expression, pizza appears to have the same mood-altering properties in monk parrots that it has in people.


A sparrow thanks the wild parrots for dropping the pizza slice, Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
After eating through most of the slice, the parrots simply drop the remainder on the pavement below, honoring a time-honored Brooklyn tradition that is gratefully appreciated by other hungry species, such as this English sparrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

New Stuff in the BrooklynParrots.com Store

Wild Parrots of Bay Ridge Coffee MugWild urban parrot coffee mugI've created three new coffee mugs based on recent photographs of the wild parrots. You can get a mug displaying a bunch of wild parrots frolicking in the snow, a muscular Bay Ridge parrot, twig in beak, gliding towards his nest, and a mug with a photo of a big flock of wild parrots flying past a rusty cyclone fence.

Any profits received get plowed back into bird seed for the parrotss. So enjoy, drink that coffee, and keep 'em flying!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

BrooklynParrots.com Moves to Brooklyn

A wild monk parrot on Fort Hamilton Avenue glides toward his pole nest with construction materials
I am happy to say that after many months of wandering, BrooklynParrots.com has now formerly moved to Brooklyn; specifically the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, home to a significant flock of wild parrots and within striking distance of all the major flocks in this wild, wild borough.

I've lived in Brooklyn before; back in the 1980's, when, it seemed, it was rare that a day went by without a drive-by shooting happening on a nearby street. I went to high school here, at a school called St. Anne's, in Brooklyn Heights. I've had girlfriends who lived in Brooklyn; some were angels, some were -- well, we won't go there. I've seen the best and worst of humanity in this borough; and as much as I've tried to flee Brooklyn, something always drew me back.

Little did I suspect that it would be a bunch of little green refugees from Argentina that would convince me to return to this place. How long will I stay? Only time will tell. But I'd like to think that if Brooklyn has room in its heart for "the world's most persecuted parrot," there will be room here for me too.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Yankee Ingenuity Trumps Cruelty in Connecticut

Wild Quaker Parrots in Julie Cook's artificial nest, West Haven, Connecticut, January 18, 2004
Two surviving and formerly homeless Quaker parrots displaced by United Illuminating's wild parrot eradication campaign found safe haven in Julie Cook's artificial nest on January 18th, 2005. Photo by Joanne Smith.

During the darkest moments of the Connecticut Quaker Parrot Crisis of 2005, Julie Cook's example gave pro wild parrot activists strength. When United Illuminating came for the parrots she knew and loved in West Haven, she refused to step aside. Instead, she actively blocked the "death squad", and was promptly handcuffed, fingerprinted, and locked up for the night. Only after it was discovered that she had not been read her Miranda rights was Julie freed.

Two months later, a lot has happened in Connecticut. United Illuminating, pressed by a lawsuit, has temporarily stopped killing the parrots. Citizens are building artificial nesting platforms designed by Marc Johnson (see photos below). And yesterday: wonder of wonders, a pair of the displaced parrots decided to take up residence right in the artificial nest that Julie built in her yard: the first birds to do so in West Haven.

This development isn't just a beautifully poetic event for Julie and the birds she likely saved from the gas chamber. The success of artificial nesting platforms in Connecticut is likely to inspire further development of artificial nesting platforms - not by expensive consulting firms, well-endowed universities, or profit-through-the-roof energy companies - but by private citizens who love the birds and want to help them.

Last Saturday, I attended one of these grass-roots parrot nest building workshops, held in Fairfield. I hope to use these photos to generate, with Marc Johnson's help, a "how to build a wild monk parrot nest" e-book that can be freely distributed on the Web. In the meantime, here are some photos of the process: more info and a materials list are available at friendsofanimals.org.

Quaker Parrot Nest Construction, Fairfield, Connecticut, January 7, 2004
9-foot sections of chicken wire are folded over, stuffed with hay and laid with twigs. This encourages the monk parrots to investigate the structure and help themselves to building materials.

Quaker Parrot Nest Construction, Fairfield, Connecticut, January 7, 2004
4-inch PVC pipe, bonded into a channel, supports the main nest subassembly. The "walls" that will eventually support an upper "roof" are screwed in from below using a screw gun.

Quaker Parrot Nest Construction, Fairfield, Connecticut, January 7, 2004
A view of the completed nest subassembly.

Quaker Parrot Nest Construction, Fairfield, Connecticut, January 7, 2004
Marc Johnson attaches chicken wire to the nearly completed nest subassembly. The chicken wire gives the wild Quaker Parrots a surface into which they can easily weave thorny twigs.

Quaker Parrot Nest Construction, Fairfield, Connecticut, January 7, 2004
The nest subassembly is "rolled" across the 9-foot "chicken wire stuffed with twigs and-hay" assembly. Excess is clipped using wire cutters.

Quaker Parrot Nest Construction, Fairfield, Connecticut, January 7, 2004
Twigs are used to create nest entrances characteristic of those engineered by Quaker Parrots.

Quaker Parrot Nest Construction, Fairfield, Connecticut, January 7, 2004
Excess chicken wire is stapled to the wooden underside of the main nest subassembly.

Quaker Parrot Nest Construction, Fairfield, Connecticut, January 7, 2004
Seven nest assemblies were completed last Saturday in one 4-hour work session. They were shipped to West Haven for installation on private property, where, it is hoped, parrots will want to move into them.


Wild parrot gunner stands at the ready by his turret-mounted 9-mm cannon
A wild monk parrot in Connecticut guarding his human-engineered "monk bunker" against hostile forces from the USDA and United Illuminating. Photo credit: Marc Johnson

A view of a West Haven backyard where multiple wild parrot monk bunkers have been erected by local citizens
An early 2006 view of "Monk Bunker Alley" in West Haven, Connecticut. Photo credit: Marc Johnson

Friday, January 13, 2006

Pro-Parrot Lawsuit Filed Against Connecticut Utility Company

Shorty: Brooklyn Parrots official mascotI received this message via e-mail today. It directly relates to the Connecticut Quaker Parakeet Crisis of 2005. Needless to say, I support this effort, and am also supporting efforts to get the parrots off the poles via alternate nest structures built on private property.

Media Advisory: Friends of Animals Sues United Illuminating Over Parakeet Gassing

For Immediate Release
12 January 2006
ContactPriscilla Feral, President: feral@friendsofanimals.org
Operation Parakeet Hotline: 203.656.1522
Lee Hall, Legal Director: leehall@friendsofanimals.org

Darien, CT -- Friends of Animals, a leading voice for responsible policies for animals, is immediately serving a Complaint against the United Illuminating Co. on behalf of Connecticut’s monk parakeets.

Refugees of the exotic pet trade, monk parakeets have lived freely in Connecticut, mostly in fir trees and oaks, for 30 to 40 years. Dwight G. Smith, who chairs the biology department at Southern Connecticut State University, said the birds -- actually small parrots -- provide nests for sparrows, finches, and owls, as well as themselves.

But the United Illuminating Co. (UI), an electric utility for southern Connecticut’s New Haven and Bridgeport areas, claims the green birds are a nuisance and a hazard.

With the blessing of the Connecticut Audubon Society and the National Audubon Society, UI has set about killing the birds in a campaign to remove their thatched-stick shelters from utility poles.

Friends of Animals seeks long-term policy change

United Illuminating’s parrot extermination campaign was short-circuited in December, after the company assured the Court it would stop netting the birds and turning them over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has been asphyxiating them in carbon dioxide chambers.

“We came out of Court with news of a temporary halt in the roundups and gassings of parakeets,” said Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral.

“But we need responsible, long-term policies,” Feral explained. “The UI Co. dimmed the lights of holiday cheer in Connecticut. We’re demanding brighter ideas for the future, and, from state policy-makers, less flighty conduct.”

While UI has failed to implement prudent methods of dissuading these birds from nesting upon utility poles, people in the community have risen to the occasion. A platform construction workshop will be held this Saturday (14 Jan.) to show how to make a viable alternative that can keep parrots off poles, yet living and flying free.

Derek V. Oatis, a Manchester lawyer representing Friends of Animals, said, “We’re asking for a judgment declaring that the law requires UI to implement routine maintenance and prevent nesting, and a permanent injunction against the capturing and killing of the monk parakeets.”

Added Priscilla Feral, “Maintaining the public trust requires a redirection of resources from the tormenting of the birds to an enlightened response, one that rejects killing or experimenting on the birds or holding them captive.”

Controversy over the extermination has reached newspapers nationwide, and as far as London, England. And a growing concern for the birds has come from Connecticut legislators, including U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Christopher Shays, and state Rep. Richard Roy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Squawking At the Moon: The Wild Parrots of Bay Ridge (Revisited)

A wild Bay Ridge monk parrot on a power line watches the darkening sky
I visited the wild monk parrots of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in the summer of 2005 but was never satisfied with the photos I took. My trusty film camera was showing its age and the parrots were elusive, so I charged back in early January, 2006, with digital camera in hand. The parrots were out in force, and I got some credible pix. I plan to keep close tabs on this fabulous flock, which is lucky to live in one of Brooklyn's most interesting neighborhoods. (Click on any picture for an enlarged view).

A wild Bay Ridge monk parrot works to liberate a twig from a tree
The Bay Ridge Parrots are an industrious bunch who work tirelessly through the day to upgrade their dwellings.

Bay Ridge's Dust Bowl at sunset
The parrots nests are in large stadium light fixtures positioned around the athletic field known as "The Dust Bowl." It's uncanny how much this scene resembles that in Brooklyn College and in the Bronx. The high stadium light poles, built of Corten steel, provide an unbeatable substructure for expansive nests that can house up to 12 parrots in each fixture.

A Bay Ridge parrot begins the hard work of severing a twig
Trees around the field provide a convenient supply of nest materials. Let's examine this intrepid Brooklynite as she begins work on a formidable looking twig.

A Bay Ridge parrot is nearly complete with his twig severing job
Good work, kid: you're nearly there!

A Bay Ridge parrot is nearly through severing his twig
With a snap the twig is turned into raw material for a wild parrot condominium.

A Bay Ridge parrot revs up his rotors with twig in beak
Now it's time to make like a hummingbird and airlift that fresh-cut lumber to the construction site.

Two Brooklyn wild quaker parrots munch on leaf buds in Bay Ridge
The trees don't just provide construction material for nests. This one is packed with calorie-packed leaf buds, which the parrots depend upon to survive and thrive through the chilly abyss of a New York winter.

Moon over Bay Ridge
I imagine this pensive Bay Ridge parrot might be speculating that the same moon above him is beaming down on his long-lost relatives in the pampas of Argentina.

He's so far from home, in such a strange jungle of stone, yet I'd like to think he's glad to be living in Brooklyn, because there's likely a future for his hardy band of immigrant avians here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Photo Essay: The Miracle on Avenue I

Wild monk parrot on Avenue I January 2006
Wild Monk Parrot on Brooklyn's Avenue I preparing raw materials for nest renovations.

Several months ago, BrooklynParrots.com began recieving distressing reports from residents along Brooklyn's Avenue I, who noted that the parrots which had been living for many years in pole nests along the avenue had mysteriously disappeared. Brooklyn Parrots.com's essay, Where Have All The Parrots Gone? documents this very unhappy event.

What could have befallen the flock? West Nile Disease? Bird Flu? Wild Parrot Poachers? There were no answers; only eerie silence and brooding despair

But a week, ago, things changed again. Two pairs of monk began renovating two formerly abandoned nests, and others began gathering in trees along Avenue I, busily measuring and cutting twigs. The avenue, once as quiet as a tomb, soon echoed with parrot squawks and twig-snapping, and the sidewalks below the poles at 26th Street and 28th Street soon became littered with fresh-chewed twig cuttings.

Why had the parrots reappeared in January? Were they they same ones who had lived there before or new ones from elsewhere in Brooklyn? Again -- there are no answers -- only speculation; one credible hypothesis being that the Avenue I nests may have become infested with parasites, which caused the monks to spend some time in another location to give time for the bugs to die off.

Whatever the reason, Avenue I is a place to parrot-watch again, and in this photo-essay, we take a look at some of the renovation activities. Click on any photo for an enlarged view.

Work quickly, little birds: breeding season is just a few months away and your chicks deserve a nicely refurbished playroom!

Avenue I in Brooklyn
Avenue I's parrot pole nests are visible on the left side of this photo.


Parrot nest on 27th and Avenue I Brooklyn New York
The nest on 27th Street is one of two formerly abandoned nests that are now being renovated.


Two parrots on top of nest on Avenue I and 27th Street
This proud couple spent much of Saturday morning positioning twigs on the 27th Street Nest.


Wild monk parrot on wire over Brooklyn's Avenue I
This little guy posing on a wire over Avenue I has a nice forked twig in his beak. But where did it come from?


Wild monk parrot in pine tree Avenue I Brooklyn

The answer is: across the street (look carefully and you'll see a bunch of parrots hanging out in a pine tree).

Wild monk parrot in pine tree on Avenue I Brooklyn
Monk parrots don't use tools to cut their twigs, but their beaks are as versatile as a swiss army knife.

Wild monk parrot peeking out of pine tree Avenue I Brooklyn
Peek-a-boo! I'm a parrot in a pine tree -- is it too late to send anyone a Holiday Card?


Amorous parrots on Brooklyn's Avenue I
Two parrots in the pine tree were using the lush protective cover to conceal some amorous preening activities, even though breeding season is still several months away.

Monk parrot objecting to parrot paparazzi on Brooklyn's Avenue I
The amorous male did not appreciate our Parrot Paparazzi recording his preening session. "What the #$*&*@ is the matter with you guys -- can't I get one minute alone with my wife?" he complained. We withdrew our cameras, fearing a tirade of Brooklyn-accented insults.


Happy quaker parrot on Brooklyn's Avenue I
This monk looks awfully content to be back on Avenue I. It's a great neighborhood, but more importantly...

Two wild parrots watching each other's backs on Brooklyn's Avenue I
...because the parrots in this Brooklyn 'hood always "watch each other's backs!"

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"Parrots In Our Brooklyn Back Yard!"

Shorty: Brooklyn Parrots official mascotI got a nice e-mail from some folks in Brooklyn who were astounded to see two wild green parrots descend on their back yard bird feeder.

Upon seeing the birds, they first thought "someone's beloved pets had escaped -- but that was when there were only two -- once we'd seen 6-10 -- we knew it was a real (wild parrot flock)."

These birds were obviously very happy to arrive at this bird feeder. Currently, they're subisting on a bland wintertime diet of leaf buds and acorns, and were clearly overjoyed to discover the feeder, which featured a high-calorie "songbird treat bar" made by KAYTEE.

I'm not familar with KAYTEE but if the company is looking for an endorsement, its representatives should look no further than these photos, taken from a kitchen window, which provide a good view of a crew of very satisfied "Brooklyn Boids!"

http://www.flickr.com/photos/reneshay/sets/1708064/

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Wild Parrot's Best Friend Comes to New York

Wild monk parrots in late afternoon light, Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx, Christmas Eve, 2005
Wild Monk Parrots in the Bronx, Christmas Eve, 2005

Marc Johnson, who heroically responded to the Connecticut Monk Parrot Crisis of 2005 by documenting the crimes, working with local property owners to construct nest platforms, and teaching local citizens how to help avian refugees made homeless by the destruction, will be speaking at the New York Bird Club this Thursday, January 5th. This free event is at the New York Theosophical Society, 242 E. 53rd St, New York, NY; time 6 to 9 PM.

It's a great way to celebrate National Bird Day!