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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Photo-Essay: March Monk Parrot Madness

"Not with my wife, you don't!" announces  this male parrot to an unwanted 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.

Confrontation behavior exhibited by male (left). Female is at far right.

An extended aerial battle ensures that involves members of the parrot's extended family. Soon it's parrot pandemonium, with brothers, cousins, in-laws and neighbors battling each other. Where will all this raging fury end?

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.

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!

"Will you please leave us alone?" the male of this pair seems to ask "Nothing doing, pops" replies the youngster.

Even the normally peaceful parrots of Brooklyn have been getting into more than a few fights recently.

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.

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.

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!