BrooklynParrots.com: 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).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Wild Parrots Sighted in New Rochelle, New York

A wild monk parrot in the Bronx munches on a berry tree
The wild parrots of Westchester may be offsprings of the thriving colony in the Bronx.

Today, I received the first reliable eyewitness account of wild parrots in the eastern part of Westchester. According to my correspondent, she first saw two at the Huguenot Yacht Club in New Rochelle. Over the next few days, she saw an additional seven, and then a large flock at Glen Island.

These locations are all within a few miles of the Pelham Bay Parrot Colony, so it's quite probable that these parrots are all related to the Bronx birds. On the other hand, I've also received reports that monk parrots have taken up residence in parts of Greenwich, Connecticut. It is therfore possible that the birds at Glen Island moved South.

There's still a lot we don't know about the Westchester Parrots. Might they have moved East from a colony rumored to exist at the Yonkers Reservoir? Where are their nests? If none can be spotted, one must consider the possibility that these parrots are simply summering at Glen Island, and will return to the Bronx when the weather gets cold. It will be interesting to see which of these hypotheses are true.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood of Glen Island or New Rochelle generally, hear peculiar shrieks, and see green parrot-like birds in the sky, please take note of them, and send me e-mail with any field notes that you might be able to make.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Girl Rescues Pet Parrots From War Zone

The BBC reports a touching story concerning Bhovana Nishanthini Lomberta, a 15-year old girl who was forced from her home in Sri Lanka by war but refused to leave her pet parrots behind. Instead, she made her long, arduous escape from the war zone with the two birds perched on her shoulder. Upon reaching a safe zone in India, the two birds were allowed entry with Bhovena, after border control officials classed them as "accompanying warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrates".

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Wild Monk Parrots Sighted in New Windsor, New York

The Times Herald Record, an upstate New York newspaper, reports that at least one pair of monk parrots is currently nesting on Route 207 in the town of New Windsor. These are the same type of birds which now live in Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and New Jersey. Although the monk parrot mating season has passed in the Northeast, the article describes amorous behavior that suggests that the birds are attempting to breed. Late breeding is not unusual among monks in New York State.

Although the article does not address how the parrots wound up in New Windsor, late last year, BrooklynParrots.com received a reliable monk parrot sighting from Bear Mountain State Park, which is only about 10 miles away. So these might be the same birds. On a related topic, I recently received a report, still yet to to be verified, that monk parrots are now building nests in the city of Syracuse. If you know anything about this, please send me e-mail.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

New Book on the The Carolina Parakeet: The U.S.A's Lost Parrot

One of the core reasons I'm interested in wil parrots in urban areas is that this phenomenon represents a curious and wonderful healing of the wound opened by the extinction of North America's only truly indigenous parrot, the Carolina Parakeet.

This gentle, intelligent parrot was wiped out by farmers, hunters, and the millinery industry in the late 19th Century.
Carole Boston Weatherford has written a new book, The Carolina Parakeet: America's Lost Parrot in Art and Memory, tackling the heartbreaking story of the extinction carried out by our forefathers.

This is sobering story of how a young nation loved, laid waste, and lost its only parrot. This much is certain. There was once a gem in the Great Forest, a winged jewel rivaling any in the tropics. It was the Carolina Parakeet, North America's only native parrot. Curiously, within the span of a century, the great flocks dwindled to nothing and this beautiful bird disappeared. Now, it is almost forgotten. All that remain are romantic tableaux penned by pioneers, likenesses limned by artists, specimens cataloged in collections, and longing, wistful longing.

I intend to read this book, to deepen my appreciation of how lucky the U.S.A is to have a second chance to host a parrot on our shores - the less colorful, more racuous, but still wonderful monk parrots we see in the skies over many North American cities. No human willed that parrots would get a second chance to flourish in the U.S.A., but Nature seems to have decided that America cannot get along without a parrot in its skies, and those sensing the wonder of this gift must cherish it.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Discouraging Wild Parrot Poaching in the Borough of Brooklyn

Several residents of Marine Park have approached me recently, asking what happened to their once-thriving colony of wild parrots.

I have been able to verify through a source that these parrots have been stolen by thieves. According to this source, two men, one with a long pole, have been taking live parrots from the pole nests in Marine Park. They work at night, and have been seen by residents. If this is the same operation that has stolen parrots in Midwood, their MO is to sell the parrots to local pet stores for $25 a piece, where they have value not as pets, but as breeding pairs.

According to my source, these thieves may soon move onto Manhattan Beach, so residents should be vigilant. Next week, myself and other members of the Brooklyn Parrot Society will be flyering areas of Brooklyn where the thieves have been active. If you see suspicious activity at night around pole nests in your area, please call the police, and notify Con Edison, which does not want people probing its high voltage lines.

The Monk Parrots of Brooklyn enjoy no special protections under New York State Law. They are classified, along with pigeons and starlings, as birds that can be "taken" at any time, unlike protected species. They are vulnerable to poaching, and because Quakers are legal in New York, there is a ready market for captured birds. They are considered unworthy protection because they are classified as "introduced." This stigma is equivalent to "illegal alien" in the human world - "introduced" species don't have the same rights, protections, and privileges. When bad things happens to them, society feels free to turn its back.

Do the wild parrots of Brooklyn, which have been in the borough for 40 years, have a right not to be captured and sold into captivity? I think so. The Brooklyn Parrot Society asks the Borough of Brooklyn, the City and State of New York to recognize the unique treasure that wild monk parrots bring to the urban landscape and take action which will discourage wild parrot poaching in the borough of Brooklyn. We intend to introduce legislation, at the earliest possible date, to take the incentive out of such poaching. I hope to put up an online petition on this site soon.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sister Barbara Seawood: Friend to Abandoned Parrots

Sister Barbara Seaword, a Dominican nun in Amityville, New York, has a uniquely compassionate mission. She rescues abandoned and abused parrots, gives them love and shelter, and travels with them to cheer up distressed people. Her organization, the Wings of Love Ministry, is located at wingsofloveministry.org

In Sister Barbara's own words, "these parrots bring with them, not only their individual beauty, but also their individual personalities; interactive playful and sometimes quiet presence. We teach the marginalized, the lonely, and the suffering in mind and body, that they matter to us; that our birds, most of them once homeless and/or abused, have value. We teach that gentleness and kindness open us up to deep communion with nature, and with some aspects of God which we might otherwise miss. In respecting all life, we respect ourselves more, and come to experience our “everyday” in new and surprising ways.

Because of building renovations, it's not certain what will become of Sister Barbara and her wonderful flock of teaching parrots. I hope that her wonderful program can continue. Please take a moment to get to know her, her good works with our feathered friends, and if you'd like to, you're welcome to donate to help her efforts.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Wild Parrot Poaching in Brooklyn: What Can Be Done?

Monk Parrots in the StudioThe first time I heard about an incident of urban parrot poaching in Brooklyn, I didn't run with the story, because it was impossible for me to verify the incident. But on Saturday, during BrooklynParrots' scheduled monthly tour of the parrots' main colony in Midwood, a man approached the group and began talking with us. He claimed that several months ago, 25 wild parrots were captured by a poacher. This incident did not take place on the campus of Brooklyn College, which is well-protected, but on the sidewalk adjacent to the soccer field, where the parrots often come down to feed.

According to this man, the parrots were sold, for $25 a piece, to a local pet store, which now has them in its basement, where these wild-caught birds now serve as breeders. Their babies can command up to $200 a bird.

I was naturally troubled when I heard this story, because it agrees with my somewhat informal surveys of the population of wild parrots in the general area of Midwood. A few years ago, the population was in the hundreds. The flock is smaller this year than last, and some of the population decline is due to natural factors. But the loss of 12 or 13 breeding pairs means that there will certainly be fewer young bird this summer. Also, due to construction at the soccer field, which has resulted in the loss of two of the parrots' six large nesting platforms, another group of birds has been disrupted. The removal of the two nest platforms happened in May, and there were multiple young birds recovered by the construction workers. These birds were given away to people in the neighborhood.

Sadly, the monk parrot enjoys no protection against poaching in New York State. It can be "taken" at any time, just like pigeons, sparrows and starlings. Because this loophole exists, poachers can act with impunity, the breeders make money, and everyone's happy, except the poor wild-caught birds, who are confined to tiny cages in basements where conditions are likely poor. This is a cruel system needs to be reformed. I am interested in trying to minimize this activity. One of the main reasons I have formed a non-profit Brooklyn Parrot Society is to try to develop ways that can discourage wild urban parrot poaching by offering incentives to neighborhood people incentives to watch over and protect the parrots. This approach has been successfully used in Africa and South America, and I don't see why it should work in Brooklyn or the Bronx.

I do not think that there is any immediate danger that the parrots will disappear from Brooklyn College. At least 24 birds, perhaps as many as 36, continue to live by the soccer field. But unless poaching is controlled, the skies over midwood may become silent sooner than we think.

Do you have ideas about how to end urban parrot poaching in Brooklyn and elsewhere in New York City? Please send me an e-mail; I'd love to hear from you.

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