Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Photo-Essay: The Wild Parrots of The Bronx!

Wild parrots fly free in The Bronx's Pelham Bay Park
The wild parrots of Brooklyn are the main subject of this site, but a thriving bunch of wild parrots lives up in the Bronx and deserves study.

The parrots resideat the South corner of Pelham Bay Park, a lush, wild park that's convenient to public transportation (just take the #6 train to the end of the line: the park is just across the big highway). Why parrots in the Bronx? From multiple conversations with local residents and e-mail correspondents, I pieced together several possible stories.

The first one goes like this: back in 1998, a truck filled with parrots overturned and crashed on the Hutchinson River Parkway. Nine or ten birds survived the crash and found their way to Pelham Bay Park.

A second story cites a winter storm cave-in at an aviary at the Bronx Zoo which happened years ago.

A third account, which comes from someone who has studied the flora and fauna of Pelham Bay Park since 1983, is perhaps more reliable. According to this source, the parrots have been living in the park since 1970: a time pre-dating the construction of the stadium pole lights. How they got there, however, is not known (although it is impossible not to note a certain coincidence: the distance from Pelham Bay Park to LaGuardia Airport is almost exactly the same distance that Brooklyn College is from JFK Airport. Which leaves open the possibility: might a shipping accident at LaGuardia be responsible for the parrots' release?)

However they got to the park, the parrots have been thriving, despite the presence of multiple predators such as Red-tailed Hawks and Merlins, which would naturally regard one of these green birds as a tasty meal.

Fortunately, human predators are in short supply. I've spoken to NYC Parks Department officials and have been told that there are no plans to remove the parrots or the parrot nests, which is great news! These charming birds are lucky to live in New York, and are widely admired by park goers and the nice folks who work in the Park. In the words of one jogger, "they rule!"

Here are some pictures I took of the Wild Parrots of the Bronx (click on any photo to see an enlargement).

The baseball field where the parrots live looks ordinary from a distance, but take a good look at those light towers and open your ears: the park is teeming with wild parrots!

The light tower nests are strikingly similar to those in Brooklyn. Did these parrots arrive on our shores with blueprints of these structures or is "stadium light" simply ingrained in their DNA? Whatever the reason, these steel poles provide excellent support for large parrot condos housing up to 15 parrots.

There's plenty of action in the nests (rebuilding and renovating goes on constantly) but the real action is on the ground, where the parrots spend a lot of time foraging on any given afternoon.

There's a lot to eat on the ground, including a special kind of clover which the Quakers can't get enough of. Foraging goes on for most of the day, although it isn't by any means a continuous activity. Usually one bold bird (the elder, perhaps?) will land on the ground first, followed by several others, and then the whole Quaker clan!

The Bronx Parrots are stylish birds who seem to practice a unique brand of choreography. They are especially beautiful in flight.

Some have commented that the Bronx Parrots are especially "Phat." Their "Phatness" can perhaps be explained by their rich diet, which includes plenty of acorns.

The tannin in acorns is considered by many authorities to be toxic to parrots, but it's clear that the Bronx Quakers aren't troubled by it. These are tough little birds!

Even on very cold days, the Bronx parrots are an especially fastidious lot, who practice good parrot hygiene. Here a bold bird, perhaps one of the elders, seeks out a small frozen puddle to take a bath in. Keeping clean is part of the Quaker ethos, even if it means getting a very cold tail. The birds huddle together to offset the bracing effects of the frozen water on their tail feathers. Soon, a dozen birds are taking a cold one. Brrr!

The flapping is furious at these communal baths, and sometimes feathers get ruffled. Cleaned up and chilled out, the Bronx parrots take to the air.

The Bronx parrots, splendid in flight, are lucky to be living in New York State, which is generally friendly to their exotic kind.

Pelham Bay Park is a wonderful place, and the parrots are just one of its many attractions. For more information on Pelham Bay Park, visit the City of New York Parks and Recreation Department.

Here is a brief video I shot about the Bronx Parrots

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Wild Parrots in UK Get a Break

Wild Quaker Parrot
Tireless work by pro-wild parrot activists in the UK to save the remaining wild Monk Parakeets (AKA Quaker Parrots) from eradication has been rewarded with action by the locality of Hertfordshire to cease eradication efforts by DEFRA if these efforts occur on local land. Activists have also prepared a report, which you can download, meant to counter claims by DEFRA that these parrots need to be wiped out because they threaten crops, the electrical infrastructure, and other species.

A new web site,, has been created for interested parties to download this report.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Little More Music From Occupy Wall Street