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Friday, July 27, 2007

BrooklynParrots.com Reserves BoycottBarcelona.Com Domain

It looks like the wild parrot hunt in Barcelona, Spain, will go ahead. I've reached out to everyone I know but it no major international wildlife or humane society appears to be willing to take action.

I have therefore reserved the domain name BoycottBarcelona.com. I will build a site there alerting the public to what is happening in Barcelona. I will urge them not to visit this city or spend any dollars there.

American tourists spend $20 Billion a year in Europe. I will take the site down once I have calculated that a loss of at least $1 million U.S. dollars has occurred due to visitors going elsewhere. This money should be spent in cities in Europe and elsewhere which refrain from hunting their urban wildlife. I have no beef with the citizens of Spain or of Barcelona, but in lieu of effective opposition taken there must resort to this course of action.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Please Sign Our Petition to Protest The Upcoming Wild Parrot Hunt in Barcelona, Spain

A contact e-mailed me news that the Monk Parakeets of Spain are living on borrowed time. Apparently the City of Barcelona has authorized a program to wipe them out. So hunting will soon begin. The link to the article is here (it's in Spanish). Here is a translation of the article (thanks to Pat from the Quaker Parrot Society list for this:)

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The Hunting of the Argentina Monk Parrot as an exotic invasive species is authorized in Barcelona

There are 1,500 of the birds in Barcelona. The Department of Environment and Ecology has authorized for the first time the hunt of the Monk parrot of Argentina in consideration of its status as an exotic invasive species. The goal is to control the population and minimize the “negative” impact made on the environment.

It is estimated that in all of the province of Catalán, there are 2,000 of the birds, but 1,500 are in the city of Barcelona. They are rapidly reproducing in this capital city of Catalán and their nests are causing problems, since they build each with about 20,000 tree branches. Further, these nests weigh about 50 kilograms and can cause great damage to pedestrians if they fall on top of them.

Damage to crops
In Llobregat, 200 Monk parrots spoiled 50,000 tomatoes and half the corn of the area. Not only has the Monk parrot been conquering urban spaces, but in recent years has been spreading also to rural areas. The hunting of the American mink has also been authorized.
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This is what happens when cities fail to manage their populations of wild parrots via non-lethal means. Resorting to lethal means is an infallible indicator of gross mismanagement. Instead of investigating humane solutions, people reach for a "final solution." We've seen this happen in Connecticut, and now we're seeing it again in Spain.

My contact asks me whether anything can be done. Unfortunately, I have no contacts in Spain. But I have launched an online petition which you can sign. Please take a minute to do so: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/barcelonapetition/ (NOTE: There is a donation box which appears after you sign the petition. You don't have to donate to ipetitions.com - this is completely optional. If you don't want to donate, simply click your browser's "Back" button - your signature will still be recorded).

Here are additional steps you can take:
  • Contact the President of Spain
    President of the Government of Spain
    His Excellecy José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
    Palacio de la Moncloa
    28071 Madrid
    Spain
    +34 913 900 217 (fax)
    jlrzapatero@presidencia.gob.es

  • Contact the Spanish Interior Minister
    The Honourable Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba
    Interior Minister
    Paseo de la Castellana, 5
    28046 – Madrid
    Spain
    +34 915371111
    +34 915371003 (fax)

  • Contact the Spanish Environmental Minister
    The Honourable Cristina Narbona Ruiz
    Minister of the Environment
    Plaza de San Juan de la Cruz, s/n
    28071- Madrid
    Spain
    +34 91 5976000
    http://www.mma.es/portal/secciones/contacto/

  • Contact the Spanish Consulate in New York. E-mail address: cog.nuevayork@mae.es; phone number: 212-355-4080.

  • Contact the Spanish Embassy in Washington, DC. E-mail address: embespus@mail.mae.es.

  • Contact the official Spanish Tourism Site. Use the site's CONTACT form (at the top of the page) to send E-mail.
Be polite but inform them that unless a non-lethal way is found to control the monk population in Barcelona, and unless this hunt is called off, you will do the following:
  1. Refuse to visit Spain in the future.

  2. Tell everyone you know who's going to Europe to avoid Spain, and specifically avoid the City of Barcelona.

  3. Do not buy any products imported from Spain. Tell everyone you know that Spanish products should not be consumed.
There are probably other good ways to protest this incident of irresponsible animal cruelty. If you can think of any, please send me e-mail.

Ultimately, it will be up to the citizens of Barcelona whether they want to countenance this kind of cruelty. I would hate to think that Barcelona will forever be known as the "Capital of Cruelty to Parrots in Europe."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Photo-Essay: Learning the Ropes at the Wild Baby Quaker Parrot Training School

A wild baby Quaker Parrot, born in Green-Wood
Cemetery, takes a break from survival school
to enjoy a beautiful summer morning in Brooklyn.
July has become one of my favorite months, because it's the month when Brooklyn's latest crop of wild baby Quaker Parrots emerges from their nests. (See The New Boids in Town: Wild Quaker Babies Storm Brooklyn for a look at last summer's newborns).

Parrots, unlike many other creatures that seem to have all the information needed for their survival "hard-wired" into them, must learn a lot from their parents to acquire basic survival skills. For this reason, young parrots stay with their parents for up to a year while their parents nurture and instruct them on how to communicate, how to build, and how to evade predators.

Right now, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery is one of the best places in the New York area to watch wild baby parrots "learn the ropes." If you know where to look, you can find trees packed with these charming youngsters and watch them learn lessons from their elders and teach themselves (through trial and error) how to accomplish basic wild parrot tasks.

Here are some pictures I got of Brooklyn's latest crop of wild Quakers at Green-Wood Cemetery.


This tree at Green-Wood Cemetery looks ordinary enough. But unplug your iPod for a moment and listen: this tree is packed with baby parrots!











There's a lot of self-education going on in this tree. Here, three fresh babies practice some basic tree-trimming techniques. These skills are vital to learn because they'll eventually be assigned nest-building duties, and someday build nests of their own. But where are these babies' parents?








Well, they've "parked" their young ones in the tree, where they're relatively safe from predators, and are out foraging and filling their crops, so they can later allofeed (feed via direct beak-to-beak transfer) their youngsters later. This pair of grown-ups is eating grass, which forms a large part of wild Quaker Parrots' diet. Foraging is a dangerous activity because of occasional hawk attacks, so the parents are wise to leave their children in the trees where cover protects them.




Here, we see two babies who are testing out their tree-trimming skills. The one on the right appears to be having second thoughts about attempting to trim a branch that's about an inch thick. Smart move!










And what's this baby doing, dangling from the end of a supple limb? Is he so clueless as to attempt to trim the same limb he's hanging from?










Don't cut the limb you're hanging from, kid - this mistake has injured many a lumberjack!

Of course, the baby did exactly that a second after I snapped the photo, falling backward out of the tree like a stone. Fortunately, his wings kicked in, and what would have been a disaster for a human was just a minor embarrassment for a winged creature. Wild baby parrots are surprisingly inept, leading to much head-scratching among the older generation.




"Kids keep getting dumber and dumber," this old Brooklyn bird seems to muse.












Now that's more like it! Cut the twig in the middle, or at the end furthest from the tree trunk. Hey, I think this little guy is on his way to becoming a master architect of the bird world!










All right. Enough tree-trimming for today. Mom's back from foraging and it's time for a snack.












Even though the babies still depend on allofeeding, they're already learning to enjoy the many natural delights provided by Green-Wood Cemetery's many trees. Here, two babies "parked" in a tree by their parents enjoy some fresh pine cones. (Note: I've actually tried these and they're not bad).







Another baby tastes fresh berries for the first time. By the end of summer, these babies, through nature and nurture, will have acquired all of the basic skills required to be a wild Brooklyn Parrot.










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

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Wild Parrots of Brooklyn Wish You a Happy Independence Day!

Brooklyn wild quaker parakeets enjoying leaf buds at Green-Wood Cemetery. Photo 2 of 9
A wild Quaker Parrot in Brooklyn poses in front of an American flag.

The wild parrots of Brooklyn wish you a happy Independence Day. Like many who live in America today, they didn't arrive of their own will. In fact, they were involuntarily deported from their native land of Argentina, and have done their best to survive and thrive in a new land that didn't initially accept them.

Their journey here has not been without controversy, but they have persevered, and while I cannot read their minds, I believe they love this land as much as any red-blooded American human does. Yes, they're small, green, and considered by some to be "illegal avians," but in my book they have the hearts of eagles.

May and yours have a happy Fourth of July, be fruitful and multiply, and may your spirit always soar free in these great azure skies.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Urban Parrot News: Wild Parrot Nests Removed at Brooklyn College (But Light Towers Will Remain)

Wild parrot nest removals at Brooklyn College, June 2007. Photo 1 of 3
Two of the remaining four light towers at Brooklyn College where wild parrots build their communal nests. Photo taken June 28, 2007.

If you've been to BrooklynParrots.com before, you know that there are two main wild parrot colonies in Brooklyn, one at Brooklyn College, and the other at Green-Wood Cemetery. These colonies have been in existence since the 1970's and represent the parrots' first permanent homes in the New York City area. At Brooklyn College, the parrots build their elaborate communal nests on four large light tower arrays situated around the soccer field. Originally there were six of these towers, but two were removed in May of 2006 to make room for Brooklyn College's new athletic center.

Last week, several concerned neighborhood residents approached me with news that the parrots' nests were being removed from the four remaining light towers, and I personally inspected the scene this past Saturday. I have subsequently learned that these nests were removed in order that the lamps in the towers could be replaced.

While it always troubles me to see wild parrot nests removed, the fact that that wild Quaker Parrots often build their nests in structures built to support electrical fixtures such as stadium light towers creates a situation in which these nests must be removed from time to time. As long as the parrots cannot avail themselves of strong steel structures where there are no active electrical elements, such nest removals will be required in the interest of public safety.

My hope is that someday such non-electrified but nest-suitable structures shall be built in New York State (Texas already builds such structures to woo the monks away from live power poles). In fact, if you inspect the photos below, you can easily see the features of stadium light towers which provide such an excellent substructure for Quaker Parrot nests: a gridwork floor (ideal for weaving twigs into), vertical and diagonal support struts (which keep the nests from being blown away or toppling of their own weight), and even "perching platforms" in the form of stepladder elements.

I am convinced that if similar, but non-electrified structures were erected somewhere the Quaker Parrots could easily be convinced to use it, instead of "live" poles, for their nests. But only a real-live field test could prove my theory in the real world, and I plan to continue to work with Marc Johnson, of FosterParrots.com, to determine which alternative nest platform design works best with wild Quakers. Establishing an effective alternative nest design and successfully field-testing such a structure would help both the wild parrots and those charged with maintaining electrical systems, such as power companies and institutions such as Brooklyn College.

While it's sad to lose these nests, I think it's important to look on the bright side of this story. First and most importantly, Brooklyn College continues to regard the presence of wild parrots on its campus as a good thing, and has no plans to eradicate them. Secondly, the fact that new lights have been installed on the light towers means that the next removal of this kind will likely not occur for several years. Thirdly, the fact that the light towers have been upgraded clearly indicates that the towers themselves will not be removed any time soon, which means that the colony's future is ensured for the foreseeable future. Finally, the parrots will have plenty of time to rebuild their impressive structures before the cold winter descends, and they have already commenced reconstruction operations.

Wild parrot nest removals at Brooklyn College, June 2007. Photo 2 of 3
The nest-less light towers on Saturday. If you look carefully, you can see a wild parrot sitting next to the access box directly above the pole. He looks a bit depressed right now, but will soon spring into action again with his fellows as they rebuild their home.

Brooklyn College Light Tower with Parrot Nest, 2005
The same light tower (photo taken from the opposite side) in 2005.

Wild parrot nest removals at Brooklyn College, June 2007. Photo 3 of 3
Here, two parrots begin the task of rebuilding. My hope is that someday, non-electrified structures based closely on this proven stadium light pole design will be deployed in areas where Quaker Parrots need to be convinced not to build their nests on active electrical infrastruture. If this were to happen, the parrots' presence would cause fewer problems for those charged with maintaining such electrical systems.