Friday, August 18, 2006
Last Sunday afternoon, the Greenwood Cemetery Division of the Brooklyn Parrots were perched in several pine trees, enjoying a peaceful lunch.
At about 4:00 PM, a large group of local pigeons began foraging on the cemetery grounds.
A group of quakers simultaneously began to stroll the grounds. Here, a small family is walking: Dad is on the right, Mom in the middle and Junior on the left.
The Quaker Parakeets, employing their "Sentinel Alert System" are broadcasting "medium alert" signals. A predator has been rumored to be patrolling the grounds, but has not been sighted in the near vicinity of the grazing birds for some time. Reflecting this eased threat level, every 20 seconds or so, "orange" codes (the monks have 11 different distinct calls and several are reserved for "situation" alrts) are issued by the parrots. In the prior hour, several "red" alerts were issued, but each proved to be a false alarm.
Suddenly, silently, a red-tailed hawk dives from above. With only seconds to spare before death strikes the flock, the monks shriek out their "reserved word" for hawk attack - a strident four-part call: AK-AK-AK-AK!!!
Immediately heeding the parrots' alarm signal, the pigeons take off and wheel in the skies, hoping to shake off their fearsome predator.
The hawk, having lost considerable kinetic energy in his plunge, as well as the advantage of surprise, locks onto a fleeing pigeon but is unable to overtake the bird.
Meanwhile,the parrots group together and fly evasively to the sheltered safety of the trees.
Protected by thorny pine needles, the parrots perch, hoping that the hawk will leave.
The hawk circles widely, rises on a gust of wind, and flies east to his tombside home bereft of a successful kill. This unnamed hawk - a possible offspring of Pale Male and Lola, Manhattan's famous hawks - appears to have lost the feathers on his right leg. If prey birds refer to predators by name, his appellation might therefore be "One Leg" or perhaps "Torn Pants."
After five minutes of peace, the monk parakeets declare the return of "orange" alert. The hawk is gone.
Hawks are an everyday hazard for the wild parrots of Brooklyn, as they are for quakers living in other urban areas where these predators roam the skies. Although hawks eat pigeons more frequently than they do parrots, wild quakers can feel the fatal clutch of the hawk's talons if they are not careful. The flock continues to survive, using teamwork, vigilance, and the Sentinel Alert System. This burly sentinel feels the heavy weight of flock safety on his shoulders - let's wish him well, because life is not easy for a wild parrot in Brooklyn.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
This fresh wild-born baby, born in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery in May and fledged this month, seems to embody all the eternal optimism of youth.
In Brooklyn and elsewhere in the Northeast where wild monk parrots now live, July is a month of joy and wonder, because a fresh new crop of young parrots emerges from their nests and takes to the air.
These newcomers are amusing to watch. Closely supervised by doting parents, the adventerous young birds are seeing Brooklyn for the first time, and what they see seems to please them. Spotting them is easy -- in flight, their tail feathers are noticeably shorter than adults', and their calls are less strident. They look palpably "fresher" than their weathered parents, who've been laboring for months to provide them a good home in all kinds of gritty weather. They're clumsier, and much, much hungrier. They're also, well - I might as well come right out and say it - cute as a button.
If all goes well, these youngsters will nicely survive the next few crucial months and begin to think of finding mates next year. In the meantime, it's a time of welcoming in Brooklyn for the Wild Quaker Crop of 2006.
Without further ado, here are some recent photos of the freshly fledged. Click on any image for an enlarged view.
How do you spot a baby Quaker in the wild? Well, they're a little lighter, smaller, trimmer, and hungrier. Also, their voices aren't strong, nor can they yet "speak Quaker" to their fellows. They will learn these and other skills, including the essential techniques of colonial nest bulding, soon.
Mother parrot (left) observes "quaking" behavior from her chick.
The "quaking" continues with no sign of abatement. This youngster is hungry!
The mother, who's recently gorged herself on rich berries, steps forward to help out her hungry youngster.
"Now, THAT was a meal," thinks this young monk, whose contented experssion suggests he has entered a state of satieted Satori.
While the young monk on the left clearly prefers a beak-served meal from Mom, he's also being taught how to forage, an important step on the road to self-sufficiency.
Quaker babies don't take long to develop the degree of eye-hand coordination required for foraging and beginning construction skills. This little one is evaluating which tasty leaf bud to nosh on next.
It takes a lot of quality time and parrot-to-parrot tutoring to instruct these young birds in survival skills. Here, the mother (right) appears to be lecturing this youngster on an important topic (perhaps hawk evasion tactics).
Here are a couple of proud parents of a recent Brooklyn baby (Dad on Left, Mom on Right). These two, plus junior, will form a trio that will stick together closely for the next year.