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).

Friday, March 31, 2006

Big-Hearted Texas Builds Its Wild Monk Parrots a Penthouse

An article by Katie Menzer in The Dallas Morning News recounts the efforts of Texas' utility company, TXU, to develop a highly creative solution to the problem of wild monk parrots building nests in utility lines (note: free subscription required to access this story). Instead of harassing the parrots, TXU is building the birds a tower that they can call their own. Three cheers for the Lone Star State! (Note: if you have trouble accessing the Dallas Morning News story, you can also read about this development on the site of a local Texas TV station).

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Bill to Protect Wild Parrots Advances in Connecticut

The feral parrots of Brooklyn rejoiced when they read an article in The Connecticut Post reporting that on March 21st, the CT State Legislature's Environment Committee approved, by unanimous vote, a bill protecting southwestern Connecticut's monk parakeet population from eradication.

This is terrific news: just a few months ago, United Illuminating's deadly and misguided wild parrot eradication campaign made headlines around the world. With a little luck, some skillful politicking, and a lot of hard work, Connecticut's wild parrots may be spared this kind of cruelty in the future.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Green-Wood Cemetery Parrots

The gorgeous Greenwood Cemetery gate in morning light.
The beautiful Civil War-era gate to Greenwood Cemetery is spectacular in its own right; add vociferous parrots and you've got one of the most sublime, most surreal locales on the planet.

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!

Living and breathing gargoyles distinguish the Greenwood cemetery gate from any other on the planet.The Greenwood Cemetery Gate is, to my knowledge, the only example of Gothic architecture incorporating actual, living gargoyles in the form of monk parrots.

The monk 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!

Monk parrot nests integrate well with the visual elements of Greenwood Cemetery gate.
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.

A monk parrot prepares to make a landing at the Greenwood Cemetery gate
A monk parrot prepares to make a landing at the Greenwood Cemetery Gate.

Monk parrot aerobatics at Greenwood Cemetery Gate, Brooklyn, NY
There's always a lot of action at the nests at the gate as parrots come and go throughout the day.

A wild parrot at Greenwood Cemetery perches on a tree.
The parrots often come down from their lofty gothic perches to sit on trees, making close-up photos easier.

A wild monk parrot at Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery calls to his friendsA wild monk calls to his friends from a concealed perch inside a pine tree.

Two parrots in Greenwood Cemetery have a spirited argument on a concrete pathThe parrots sometimes can be found on the ground, eating grass and occasionally, getting into arguments.

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

Five monk parrots colonize a tall pine tree at Brooklyn's  Greenwood Cemetery
Five monks spend a few minutes conversing before heading out again over Brooklyn.

A beautiful figure at a pre-Civil War memorial supports a nightengale at Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery
If I didn't plan on being cremated when I expire, I'd definitely opt for burial in this beautiful cemetery, where I could listen to a monk parrot-style "raucous caucus" for all eternity!

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 super-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.

For more info on the wild parrots of Green-Wood Cemetery, see:

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Jersey Parrots Win Small Victory in Trenton

New Jersey Monk Parakeets conversing about the issues of the dayI was in Trenton last Thursday with a group of fellow pro-monk parrot citizens, testifying on behalf of the Jersey Monks before the State Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. It was an enlightening experience and I am glad to say that NJ Bill A1237, which removes the monk parakeet from the list of "potentially dangerous" species, was released from the committee after receiving a unanimous bi-partisan vote. Today, the Bergen Record published a good article summarizing Thursday's events.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Wild Bronx Parrots in the News

Bronx Wild Parrots Frolicking in the SnowAndrea Ford, a reporter for The Columbia Journalist, wrote a nice article on the wild parrots which live in Pelham Bay Park. Featured in this article are interviews with Bronx residents Yvonne McDermott, Patricia Diaz, and myself.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Photo-Essay: March Monk Parrot Madness!

A male monk parrot defends his mate against the entreaties of an unwanted suitor in New Jersey
"Not with my wife, you don't!" announces this male monk parrot to an unwanted New Jersey suitor.

Among wild monk parrots living on the streets of New York City, "March Madness" has nothing to do with basketball. Instead, the season is notable among our loveable avian invaders for being one in which personal rivalries, hostility, and general boorishness temporarily overtake this ordinarily peaceful community of urban parrots.

What's going on? Well, the days are lengthening, mating season is approaching, the hormones are pumping, and that gangly group of youngsters, both male and female, born in the last few years, are feeling their oats. Unfortunately, these adolescent birds have yet to learn that it's against Quaker etiquette to try to break up a lifelong pair by provacatively "stutting their wild parrot stuff," and will learn quickly enough that pair-members will defend their relationships against any gratuitious offers of parrot passion!

Sometime in the next few months, these lone youngsters will find each other and pair off, but right now, there are plenty of ruffling feathers caused by the madness of the young and single in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and New Jersey.

Sometimes the whole flock gets in on the tussling, which can result in incredible aerial battles and group squawking that you can hear for twenty five blocks.

Without further ado, here are some captioned pictures I snapped of the wild parrots of New York in the throes of March Monk Parrot Madness. Click on any picture for an enlarged view.

An adolescent monk parrot approaches a paired male and female in the Bronx
"Hey Babe," croons the confident young Bronx male monk on the left. "How about you and me fly off to City Island together?" "In your dreams, acorn breath!" she answers. In the meantime, her husband (right) is plotting a retaliatory attack.

An aerial skirmish among monk parrots in the Bronx
The elder and younger male (left) engage in a brief aerial skirmish as other quakers watch.

The Bronx aerial skirmish among monk parrots at full force
Soon it's parrot pandamonium, with brothers, cousins, in-laws and neighbors battling each other. Where will all this raging fury end?

The big parrot battle cools off after much squawking and aggressive display
Fortunately, after much display and squawking, the battle cools off. The young male has learned his lesson, and the whole flock has had a chance to engage in some symbolic combat which, I suspect, is probably enjoyable on a primitive level. After such combative displays conclude, monk parrot pairs are often observed huddling and preening together, behavior supporting the claim that such aggressive displays actually encourage pair cohesion, which is, naturally, good for the flock.

Bronx wild monk parrots exhibit aggression while on the ground
One often notices aggression among Quakers when they're foraging on the ground. The way it usually works is that one bird will get in another's face, and when one of the birds won't budge, the first one hops into the air. I still haven't figured out if it's the bird who's been hassled who jumps, or the hassler. But when these birds get feisty there's an awful lot of hopping on the grass!

A Bronx monk parrot hops aggressively near a mated pair
"Will you please leave us alone?" asks the male of this pair, which was just minding his own business until the hopping teenage parrot appeared. "Nothing doing, pops" replies the youngster.

Brooklyn wild quaker parakeets occasionally display combative behavior
Even the normally peaceful parrots of Brooklyn have been getting into more than a few fights recently.

These two parrots look like they're ready to do some serious physical damage to each other, but thankfully all this aggression is just for show
Parrot 1 to Parrot 2: "!#$*(%)^!!!"
Parrot 2 to Parrot 1: "*@^#$&$##+!!!!!"

Some Brooklyn parrots are too mature to get drawn into silly battles with teenage competitors
Mating-related fighting and aggressive displays are commonplace in March, but many birds don't buy into the mania. Note the middle-aged bird on the right, likely an important bird in the flock, whose confident expression and steady demeanor suggests he's not going to dignify any foolishly gratiuitous challenges from youngsters ranking low in the pecking order.

Two parrots decide to call off their aggressive displays until the photographer leaves
The presence of the photographer is something that may or may not encourage aggressive displays. "There's nothing to see here, buddy" I imagine the tough-looking Brooklyn bird on the left saying. "Just move along."

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Monday, March 06, 2006

NYC Wild Parrots Bid Farewell to Snow

Wild parrots in the Bronx march past the last remains of what will likely be New York's last snowfall of the season.

Many of us wouldn't expect wild parrots in New York to like snow much, but they do. True, too much snow makes life very difficult for them, especially when a heavy coat makes their foraging grounds inaccessible. When this happens, they have rely upon leaf buds and the occasional backyard bird feeder to survive. But just a little snow is great, and our Parrot Paparazzi caught up with the Pelham Bay Parrots, when the last traces of what will likely be New York's last snowfall of the season had almost disappeared.

Why do these parrots like the snow? Well, it's a ready source of relatively pure water, and when it melts, puddles for bathing are formed. Even during the coldest months, these parrots prefer to stay clean, and it doesn't matter how cold the bathwater is!

These two wild parrots enjoy exploring the receding urban snowdrifts. It almost looks like they're on skis!

Like all urban birds, the wild parrots in NYC take real chances with their lives should they ever be foolish enough to drink from dirty, polluted puddles, which can contain toxic lead, benzine, and other killing chemicals created by automobiles. Fortunately, these birds generally stay away from such hazards. While water from melted snow in the Bronx may not be as pure as Artesian well water, it's healthy enough for these tough urban parrots.

Now THAT's a good tasting pile of snow!

The water from melted snow creates cool, relatively pure puddles. Here a Bronx parrot comes down to get a cool drink from a snow puddle.

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Brooklyn Parrots in the News: NY Newsday

Sunday's NY Newsday did a nice piece on the formation of the Brooklyn Parrot Society called Practicing Law on the Wild Side. Thanks much to reporter Caryn Eve Murray, Bill Bird, Diane Bahrenberg, and all the fine folks at the Touro Law Center for helping the wild parrots of Brooklyn!


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