The 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.
Labels: Brooklyn College, Wild Parrot Poaching