Sunday, September 23, 2007

Marching Monk Parrots of Brooklyn Support Marching Monks of Burma

Marching Monk Parrots in Brooklyn, photo 2
Monk Parrots Marching Peacefully at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery has been following the dramatic story of the marching monks in Burma, and hopes that these demonstrations remain peaceful. At least 100,000 people have expressed their solidarity with the monks, and the wild monk parrots of Brooklyn are with them in spirit. For more on the marching monks of Brooklyn, see Photo-Essay: March of the Monk Parrots!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hawk or Falcon? You Decide!

A deadly Peregrine Falcon attacks a wild Quaker Parrot nest in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. Photo 1 of 2. Photo by Steve Baldwin.
This raptor, spotted at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, is evidently a Red-Tail (although he looks a lot like a Peregrine to me!)

Stefan Woltmann, at Tulane University's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, informed me via e-mail that I may have misidentified one of the raptors featured in a recent photo essay titled Marauding Falcon Nearly Ruins Brooklyn Parrots' Labor Day Celebration.
According to Mr. Woltmann, only the first photo in the Photo-Essay is of a Peregrine; the others are of a Red-Tailed Hawk. I defer to his judgement on this matter (I know parrots a lot better than raptors).

An obvious question arises: since these two raptors showed up within seconds of each other, does that mean they're hunting together? While Mr. Woltmann notes that there may be definite benefits to attacking the same flock at the same time, cooperative hunting among raptors is not typical. He also notes that there are plenty of migrating Peregrines and Red-Tails at this time of year.

Of course, from a monk parrot perspective, the fewer raptors around, the better. Let's hope these bad boys move along sometime soon.

A Monk Parrot raises the anti-Hawk alarm
"Sentinel Five to Quaker Command: I count one, make that two Extreme Bogies at 2:00 O'Clock High! Scramble the flock and prepare to fire!"

Wild parrot gunner stands at the ready by his turret-mounted 9-mm cannon
"Fire Team to Sentinel Five - tracking and ready, sir!" (Photo Credit: Mark Johnson)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Video: The Great Baby Quaker Parrot Rescue (Part 1)

If you're a regular reader of, you're aware that on June 7th of this year, a big nest teardown took place in Throggs Neck, The Bronx. (See: A Bronx Tale: The Great Baby Quaker Parrot Rescue)

Unlike many Quaker Parrot nest teardowns, this one was done with extraordinary care, with the full participation of many experts from the City of New York and private groups, including my own. 50 baby birds were rescued and are now being raised in private facilities provided by and other bird rehab groups.

This video, which I shot for inclusion in the still in-production Brooklyn Parrots Movie, runs for about six and a half minutes. It does not cover all the events which happened that day, or all the people who contributed to this successful rescue operation. But it does give a flavor of the day, especially in terms of showing how concerned the neighbors were about the parrots' well being.

There are still many unresolved issues which I intend to cover in Part 2 (and possibly Part 3) of this sequence. How are the rescued babies doing? What will happen to them? Will they ever be reunited with their parents? Please stay tuned to this site to find out the answers to these questions.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sad News: Alex the Parrot Crosses "The Rainbow Bridge"

Sad News: Alex the Parrot Crosses The Rainbow BridgeWe were very sad to learn of the death of Alex the Parrot this past weekend at the age of 31. Alex, an extraordinary African Grey belonging to parrot intelligence researcher Irene Pepperberg, demonstrated that parrots are much more thoughtful than formerly believed. His formal memorial on Dr. Pepperberg's site,, notes that "Alex has left a significant legacy—not only have he and Dr. Pepperberg and their landmark experiments in modern comparative psychology changed our views of the capabilities of avian minds, but they have forever changed our perception of the term 'bird brains.'"

We can only imagine the grief that Dr. Pepperberg is going through now but hope she continues her worthwhile research into the intelligence of parrots. She has set up a Yahoo Group dedicated to remembering Alex: if you have an anecdote or a condolence message, please go to:

Update 9/11/2007: The New York Times has published an obituary for Alex.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Photo-Essay: Marauding Falcon Nearly Ruins Brooklyn Parrots' Labor Day Celebration

A Peregrine Falcon in Brooklyn's Green-Wood
Cemetery does his best to terrorize the local
parrots. All photos and text by Steve Baldwin.
I know there are many fine people in New York City who admire raptors, but from a wild Quaker Parrot perspective they're a total nightmare. Raptors such as Red-Tailed Hawks and Peregrine Falcons prey on the parrots, and the parrots have to use every tool in their arsenal, including their patented Sentinel Early Warning System (SEWS) to stay one step ahead of these fearsome flesh-eaters. In this photo-essay, shot on Labor Day, 2007, takes a close look at how a Peregrine Falcon nearly ruined the Brooklyn Parrots' annual Labor Day parade held in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.

At precisely seven A.M. on Monday, September 3rd, 2007, the Brooklyn Parrots' Green-Wood Cemetery division begins their annual Labor Day celebration. As is the custom, an aerobatics display is conducted in which four parrots from the famed "Green Angel" squadron fly tight loops around Green-Wood Cemetery's historic gate.

Security always being a concern at any Quaker Parrot celebration, sharp-eyed sentries are strategically posted on the Gothic spires and in trees overlooking the parade and picnic grounds.

After a few minutes of inspiring speeches celebrating the Quaker Parrots' hard-working habits (they are among the hardest working animals in Brooklyn), a tasty breakfast consisting of Sugar Maple fruit is served to the merry-makers.

This seasonal delicacy is second only to pine cones on the wild Quaker Parrot menu.

After breakfast, several parrots use the opportunity provided by the day's enhanced security to pay their respects to the Forgotten Civil War Veterans of Green-Wood Cemetery.

At 7:55 AM, although the Labor Day celebration has barely begun, an unexpectedly urgent call from a sentry calls the birds back to their airy fortress. Something is afoot - but what?

The Quakers assemble in and around their nests, each watching something invisible to the human eye that is fast approaching from the East.

Suddenly, a strident ACK! ACK! ACK! ACK! ACK!, the Quaker Parrot equivalent of "Mayday, Mayday!" sounds throughout the cemetery. Escaping parrots fly out of nest portals like feathery projectiles shot from a catapult.

At last, the predator shows his face: a large Peregrine Falcon heading straight for the parrot nests!

The predator dives directly at the nests (he may even have crashed into them).

But the parrots have already taken to the air seconds before the Falcon's arrival, gaining altitude above the predator while shrieking wildly to maintain flock cohesion. Soon they land on the branches of a tall pine tree about 100 yards from the nest complex.

The Falcon will not give up, and dives at the tree where the parrots have taken shelter. He is clearly savoring a little green meal!

The parrots split left and right, a half-second before the raptor arrives.

The parrots rise again, screaming. Within minutes, they head off in the general direction of Park Slope, a neighborhood just to the north providing protective cover against the raptor's assault. It will be several hours before they return.

Only in the late afternoon do the parrots feel safe enough to continue their Labor Day parade.

The Falcon's attack was an unwelcome event, but it does succeed in cementing a sense of solidarity between Brooklyn's Parrots and the local pigeons who are also preyed upon by Brooklyn's merciless raptors. As one parrot noted, "we're all birds of prey here and despite our obvious differences should be working together to defeat the raptor class once and for all!"