The complex social world of Monk Parakeets

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Wild Monk Parakeet Aggression in Brooklyn.

A new study by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis sheds light on the complex social world of Monk Parakeets.

The study was based on observations of 29,776 Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta Monachus) flocks. It is the first study to attempt to quantify complex parrot behavior using social network analysis.

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High-ranked individuals do not win every conflict.

Highlights

  1. Pairs are the fundamental structural unit in monk parakeet social life. However “additional tiers of social structure, akin to social levels documented in elephants, sea lions, and dolphins, may also be present.”
  2. Monk parakeet life is structured by aggression. The researchers noted about 4,400 aggressive events in two captive flocks studied, ” although the severity of aggression was relatively low and observed injuries rare in each group.”
  3. Dominance hierarchies exist but these hierarchies are relatively flat. While there are always “winners” and “losers” in every social conflict, “winning” individuals don’t always win (and “losers” don’t always lose).
  4. “Fission and fusion” (flocks splitting up and rejoining) is common.
  5. There appears to be no vocal sharing of foraging information among disparate flocks.
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Monk parakeet flocks exhibit a high level of both fission and fusion.

The study was carried out by E.A. Hobson, M. L. Avery, and T.F. Wright. It is important because “understanding the social systems of parrots is critical to understanding social processes such as vocal learning and the spread of behaviors. Many parrot species are now threatened or endangered, and increased understanding of how they structure their social interactions could improve our ability to manage these populations.”

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Cognitive complexity results in complex behavior.

The findings in this report are consistent with my own observations of wild Monk Parakeet flocks in Brooklyn. I am grateful to have been invited to share photos with the researchers.

You can read the full study here:

http://aoucospubs.org/doi/abs/10.1642/AUK-14-14.1

The Auk Ornithological Advances, Volume 131, 2014, pp. 756-775

DOI: 10:1642/AUK-14-14.1

Next Wild Parrot Safari: Saturday, October 4, 2014

midwood_parrots_3_wise_birdThe next Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari is on Saturday, October 4, 2014, at 11 AM. Please gather at Brooklyn College‘s Hillel Gate, which is at the intersection of Hillel Place and Campus Road.

(What are wild parrots doing in Brooklyn anyway? It’s a long story…)

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How To Get To the Parrot Zone
Brooklyn College is the wild parrots’ “Ellis Island” and it’s easy to get to via public transportation. From Manhattan, take the Number 2 (7th Avenue IRT) southbound express to the end of the line.The stop is Flatbush Avenue/Brooklyn College.

Go to street level, and look for a street called Hillel Place. Walk one block southwest on Hillel Place past Starbucks, to the intersection of Hillel and Campus Road, and look for the main Brooklyn College gate – it’s just to the North, across the street.

The tour begins at the entrance at 11:00 AM sharp. Please give yourself extra time because the MTA is doing construction on their lines during weekends. Driving instructions are at Brooklyn College’s main Web site. Parking is easy to come by in the neighborhood. NOTE: the entrance to Brooklyn College on Hillel Place has relocated due to construction. The new temporary entrance is a few steps to the north along Campus Road – by the security booth. Please meet us there.

Please send e-mail if you’d like to attend. This allows me to notify you if the safari for some reason must be cancelled. Note: there is no rain/snow date. I do not cancel the tour unless the forecast is for sustained inclement weather in which birds will not fly.

What We’ll Do
We’ll take a walk through the Brooklyn Parrots’ main colony area — the wild parrots’ “Ellis Island,” where the parrots were first spotted in the 1970s. I’ll tell you about the parrots’ history in Brooklyn and you can ask questions. We’ll listen for the birds and try to determine where they’re hanging out. We’ll also inspect that tall light poles to mark the progress of the parrots’ nest reconstruction project. Be ready for photo opportunities.

What to Bring/What to Wear
Please bring a photo ID (this is required by Brooklyn College security). Bring binoculars and a camera. Please feel free to wear anything except bright orange. Wild Quaker Parrots freak out when they see this color.

The Safari is Free to the Public
The Wild Parrot Safari is free. You may donate bird seed, however. Bring some bird feed and other treats. See you in wild, exotic Brooklyn!

Next wild parrot safari: 9/6/2014

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The next Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari is on Saturday, September 6, 2014, at 11 AM.

LOCATION: Green-Wood Cemetery (25th street entrance on 5th Avenue).

RSVP by Email:  Steve (at) BrooklynParrots.com

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Green-Wood Cemetery is a fabulous place to become acquainted with the wild parrots of Brooklyn, who — legend has it — have lived at the Cemetery since 1962.

Let’s meet on the benches outside the cemetery — Southwest corner of 25th Street and 5th Avenue (Brooklyn, not Manhattan).

Coming from Manhattan? Take the N or D to Atlantic-Pacific/Barclays.

Change to the R and ride four stops to 25th Street. Walk one block East (uphill) and you’ll be there.

Please RSVP via email that you want to be on the Safari. This way, if poor weather or other incident occurs I can let you know the Safari is cancelled. Thanks!

Moving BrooklynParrots.com to WordPress

DSC_0071At long last, BrooklynParrots.com moves to WordPress. There have been some bumps along the way, but WordPress offers functionality that Google’s Blogger does not.

Blogger is not a terrible platform for blogging — if you want to launch something quickly, on a blogspot domain, it’s a fun way to publish. But WordPress is the defacto CMS of the Web, and it was time we move.

I will be building an archive section that will contain selections from our most popular articles.