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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Spain Declares War Against The Monk Parakeet

A July 23 article in the International Business Times reports that the monk parakeets (AKA Quaker Parrots) in Spain will soon be subject to a lethal eradication campaign. The article, written by Palash Ghosh -- a business journalist who does not claim to be a bird expert -- simply quotes another publication in his passage "parakeets are very aggressive birds, which frequently muscle out pigeons and sparrows from local nests, and also carry parrot disease." The author appears to have not verified these claims with independent ornithologists, instead, relying on official sources in the Spanish Popular Party. Still, if a lethal eradication program will soon be under way in Spain, this is very troubling news indeed for people who like parrots.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Look Out: The Mockingbirds Are Strafing Brooklyn

Image Source: The New York Times
Over in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a local mockingbird has been terrorizing residents with aerial strafing attacks, and The New York Times has the story. Mockingbirds are fiercely protective creatures and if you've ever been "buzzed" by one of them, you're probably walking too close to the bird's nest, which are often well concealed in hedges.

Mockingbirds rank near the the bottom of the canonical list of Annoying Urban Birds compiled by William D. Fitzwater in his 1988 treatise, Solutions to Urban Bird Problems. This is likely because the birds only seem to go ballistic in mid-summer, when their young are vulnerable.

Do yourself a favor and take another route home -- the craziness should pass in a week or so, according to The Times.

You Can Help Fight Wild Parrot Poaching

The good news is that the parrot poachers in Brooklyn have been rounded up; but parrot poaching in other places where wild parrots reside is out of control. Case in point: the Caribbean island of Bonaire. There poachers routinely help themselves to the young of Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots to the point that the entire population is threatened.

The World Parrot Trust is leading the effort against parrot poaching in Bonaire and other areas where this practice endangers wild populations. You can help them fight the good fight by visiting the Trust's fund-raising web site and making a donation.

Donated funds will be used to:

  • Remove the "infrastructure" that poachers leave at nests, making it harder for them to steal chicks
     
  • Monitor nests in person and with motion-sensing cameras to catch poachers
     
  • Work with the authorities to enforce the Yellow-shouldered Amazon’s protected status

Thank you, Stephen C. Baldwin/BrooklynParrots.com

Monday, July 15, 2013

Brooklyn Parrot Appears in Hipster Comic

Octopus Pie has been chronicling hipster life in Brooklyn since 2005. In Issue 114, a Quaker Parrot -- poisoned by drinking from a lead-laced puddle in a Superfund Site, is resuscitated by the Octupus Pie crew. This incident is based on a real rescue event involving yours truly, although Meredith Gran -- the comic series' author and graphic artist -- amps it up in a way that would please Quentin Tarantino fans.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Monk Parakeets Occupy Melilla

Monk Parakeets appear to have successfully occupied the port city of Melilla, one of only two permanently inhabited Spanish territories in mainland Africa. Mellia, an enclave of Morocco, was the site used by General Francisco Franco to stage the Spanish Rebellion of 1936; a statue of him still stands there.

Reports of the parrots' advance into the city were first published on the web site of moroccanbirds.blogspot.com. According to correspondent Diego Jerez, on April 23, 2013, he "saw something which I feared, and it is this.Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) 8 individuals in 3 new colonial nests, 2 located in Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis), and 1 in date palm (Phoenix dactylifera). These new colonies demonstrate the proliferation of this alien species."

Initial public sentiment appears to be against the parrots' presence in the city. On two comments on the site, residents favored "extirpation and eradication." It is not known whether the parrots currently have any allies among the local population.

Who's The Most Annoying Urban Bird?

In March, 1988, William D. Fitzwater, Secretary of the National Animal Damage Control Association, appeared at the Thirteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference to report on the state of urban bird pestilence in the U.S.A. Included within his report -- titled Solutions To Urban Bird Problems -- was the result of a survey conducted among a wide range of U.S. agencies involved with wild animal control, including the USDA, local health and animal control departments, state wildlife agencies, and police, sanitation, and fire departments.


Pigeons unsurprisingly won the top pestilential spot, followed by other avian introducees such as the starling and sparrow. Monk parakeets -- despite their reputation for urban havoc -- ranked near the bottom. The survey results are national, so might seem odd to those of us in, say, Brooklyn, where waxwings and woodpeckers are so rare that any appearance would be greeted with applause, not opposition.

Fitzwater doesn't have anything positive about the monk parakeet, noting that it is "among the most raucous" of birds, a destroyer of decorative plants, an eater of crops, and a possible carrier of Newcastle disease. He tells the disturbing tale of a homeowner who first interceded when authorities arrived to capture monk parakeets on his property, but then recanted within a week because he had become annoyed by the birds' squawking.

This survey was conducted 25 years ago, so it's possible that the monks -- as they've expanded their presence in many U.S. cities -- have moved up a few notches on the Top Pest List. At the same time, however, the wild monk parakeet has gathered fans in cities as well, so it's hard to gauge what the results of a poll taken today would be. Unfortunately, the National Animal Damage Control Association appears to have gone out of business, so we will not a follow-up survey anytime soon.

Jane Goodall Releases 17 African Grey Parrots To The Wild

Photo Credit: TheInquisitor.com
According to the Inquisitor, Dame Jane Goodall -- whose work with primates has done so much to broaden our understanding of the creatures with whom we share this planet -- on Friday released 17 African Grey parrots to the wild in Uganda, Africa. The parrots were part of a much larger group that had been captured by smugglers and was intercepted by Bulgarian authorities several years ago. After spending a long time in limbo, the surviving birds were returned to Uganda for safe release in an area where poaching is forbidden. The web site of the Inquisitor contains a video of the release; this is a happy day for parrot conservation. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wild Parrots Spotted in Rochester, New York

Wild Parrots Building a Nest in Rochester, New York.
Photo Credit: Jim Tarolli
Sightings of wild Monk Parakeets (AKA Quaker Parrots) in western New York have been rare. Although the birds are reputed to have occasionally ranged as far north as Montreal, they exist in far greater numbers in the lower regions of the Empire State, relatively close to their original point of escape and dispersion at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

However in late 2012, a team of five monk parakeets was identified building a nest on a cell phone tower in Rochester, New York. This identification was credible, being made by Michael R. Wasilco, Regional Wildlife Manager, at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Subsequent visits from observers, including Jim Tarolli, who took the photo included with this article, substantiated the sighting on a popular bird board. It appears that the parrots have built their colonial nest on a tall (approximately 75-foot) cell phone tower in back of a shopping mall in a relatively suburban part of Rochester known as "Kodak Park."

The large (approximately 50 to 75 foot tall)
cell tower in Rochester, New York, that is
home to the parrots. Image Source:
Google Street View
To my knowledge, this is the first instance of a sighting in Monroe County, New York. Earlier in 2012, it appears that a pair of parrots had built a nest somewhere in Albany, far to the East of Rochester but still "upstate" relative to the birds' downstate habitat, but the birds' plans were interrupted when the female was captured by authorities, an event followed by destruction of the nest and the disappearance of the male.

No one has yet advanced an hypothesis explaining why wild parrots are now appearing so far north and west of New York City. It's unlikely that "The Rochester Five" flew all the way up the Hudson River and Mohawk Valleys from Brooklyn. Quaker Parrots are legal in New York State so it's possible that the "Rochester Five" are birds that were released from a home or a pet store and "went native." Only time will tell whether authorities in Rochester welcome or attempt to repel these new additions to Rochester's diverse list of birds.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Swearing Parrot Shocks Rescue Staff

Photo Credit: Telegraph.Co.Uk
A rescued African Grey parrot has reportedly startled staffers who recovered him in good health from a garden in Livingston, Scotland, by demonstrating a shockingly ribald command of the English Language, according to a new article on the web site of The Telegraph. The parrot, whose real name is unknown but is called "Sam" by the staff of the Scottish SPCA, has been described as "a real character" who also whistles and dances when he feels he's not being paid proper attention to.

In my experience, parrots usually begin swearing because doing so usually stimulates a response from a human auditor; usually laughter or perhaps the utterance of a statement such as "woah - you are a naughty bird." Responses like this signal the bird that his signal is getting through to human members of "his flock." If you want your bird to stop swearing, the best thing to do is just to bite your tongue and display a poker face. In the meantime Sam appears to be supplying a lively dose of amusing, but family-unfriendly entertainment to the SPCA's staff.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cockatoos Are Deep Thinkers And Serious Lock-Pickers

Photo Credit: theguardian.co.uk
Over at the Guardian, a fascinating article was published this week about the remarkable puzzzle-solving intelligence of Cockatoos.

Apparently a team of Cockatoos at the University of Vienna has mastered the art of lock-picking, succeeding in opening a series of five complex locks in sequence without any prior experience. Accomplishing this kind of complex puzzle-solving involves keen observation, the ability to think on one's feet, and a mastery of "strategic and spatial reasoning."

Parrot owners -- and wild parrot watchers -- won't be too surprised by these findings. After all, the parrots that we see in Brooklyn are constantly involved in complex engineering and construction tasks -- this is why they are often referred to as the "master architects of the bird world." Parrots are smart, resourceful, clever, and persistent: once they've set their mind on a problem, they won't give up until the objective is met.

Additionally, this new information supports the hypothesis that the ancestors of today's wild Brooklyn parrots didn't just take advantage of an open window at the airport's old Quarantine Facility, but instead planned and executed a complex jailbreak in order to gain their freedom.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Wild Parrots Face Tough Time in London's East End

The Isle of Dogs is a small area in London's legendarily tough East End. And unfortunately, things have become very hard for the Isle's small population of wild Quaker Parrots (the same kind we have here in Brooklyn), who have been subject to a wrong-headed, expensive, inhumane eradication campaign.

According to wharf.co.uk, a local news site, DEFRA -- the U.K.'s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs -- is spending 50,000 pounds a year hunting down and capturing the parrots. Due to popular opposition, DEFRA is not allowed to kill the birds, but because a fair number of the captured birds have died in captivity, opponents are understandably angry about the way the eradication program is being conducted.

BrooklynParrots.com would like to associate ourselves with the remarks of Dr. Christine Brock, who has campaigned against the DEFRA culling program: "It is shocking that Defra is wasting taxpayers' money on such a pointless and futile exercise. "It is not only causing the deaths of these wonderful parakeets, it is also harming other wild birds as they get caught in the traps."

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Rare Night Parrot Reportedly Spotted, Photographed

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org
The Night Parrot - an extremely rare member of the parrot family known for its wary elusiveness, has reportedly been photographed in the western Queensland part of Australia, according to the web site of the Australian Geographic Society. Night Parrots have been almost impossible to photograph -- or even see -- by humans, with none being visually identified between 1912 and 1979. In the past few years, however, more evidence has been accumulated that this nocturnal, ground-walking, grass-eating parrot, once thought to be extinct, is still alive, although its population is thought to be as small as 50 birds.

There is much concern that this extraordinary discovery might lead to unauthorized human attempts to view the Night Parrot, thus disrupting its routine and possibly endangering its existence, which remains precarious. For this reason the location of the night parrot is being kept a secret. Explorer John Young, who sometime this past May photographed the Night Parrot a few minutes after midnight, has reportedly said that he would "rather go to jail than tell anyone where I found it,," according to the web site of The Australian newspaper."The last thing I want to see is hundreds of people out there with night lights," said Young.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Big State, Big Flock: The Story of UT's Monk Parakeets

Photo Credit: http://alcalde.texasexes.org
The Lone Star State's monk parakeets received some favorable press this week when a new article was published on the Web site of Alcade (The Official Publication of the Texas Exes) discussing their presence on the campus of the University of Texas.

Like the Brooklyn Parrots, the Texan monks build their capacious colonial nests atop tall steel light poles. According to the article, UT is taking steps to accommodate the parrots; this position is similar to the generous stance taken by Brooklyn College, which regards the birds living on campus as unofficial mascots and has taken special care not to bother the birds when the light poles are maintained. The UT parrots constitute a big, Texas-sized flock of some 2,000 birds -- a much larger population than is found in the entire borough of Brooklyn!