Okay — I’m getting a lot of private reports about wild monk parakeets showing up in Manhattan. These reports are reliable, and they’re consistent with what I know about who these parrots are, where they’re residing, and why (perhaps) they’ve decided to make a stand on Manhattan.
I’m in the uncomfortable position of knowing more than I’m prepared to report in these pages. I’m not ready to publish X’s and Y’s. Why am I so skittish? Because the last time the Manhattan parrots got a lot of media attention, their nests were vandalized within a week.
I’m paranoid, becaause a similar thing also happened in Brooklyn — right after a big pulse of press attention hit the wires about certain colonies in 2006, an organized gang started poaching them (this gang was ultimately busted in New Jersey but that’s a whole ‘nother story).
It’s frustrating not being able to tell you in detail about what I know. Frankly, it’s a huge thrill that there appears to be a self-sustaining wild parrot colony on “The Rock.” I feel like jumping for joy!
At the same time, however, I’ve realized through bitter experience that I need to keep my big beak shut about them, because — well, lots of people read this site and no — I have no idea who they are, where they’re coming from, or what their intentions are.
So here’s what I’m willing to say:
The birds are somewhere on the upper part of the island.
Their nesting situation appears to be more secure than it was when the vandals struck several years ago. But unfortunately, where they’ve moved may put them in conflict with the City.
At least two good Manhattan residents have agreed to “keep an eye” on the birds
If you want to know more, please contact me personally (steve at brooklynparrots.com).
This morning, around 9:00 AM, I saw a big Red-Tail (I think) hawk diving from a high floor of the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. The hawk Appears to be hunting pigeons and perhaps other game across the LIRR tracks at York College. Hawk can be viewed from the train or the bus island across from 45 Archer Avenue.
A group of Red-Crowned Parrots (AKA Mexican Red-Headed Parrots) appear to be attempting to establish a presence in Brownsville, Texas, a town just north of the Mexican border, according to local news site ValleyCentral.com. Red-crowned parrots are a IUCN class-EN (threatened) species in their native land of Mexico. Only 1,000 to 2,000 are known to exist there now, due to habitat loss and capture by the pet trade.
The Brownsville parrots — currently just five (three nestlings plus parents) — are cavity-nesters (unlike Brooklyn’s local Monk Parakeets, who build free-standing nests). They appear to be making good use of Brownsville’s many old palm trees to build nests within.
The parrots’ presence appears to be generating some sympathy in South Texas, if the sentiments of article author Richard Moore are any indication. He writes: “whether they are considered native or not doesn’t really matter, as they enhance our homeland with their enamoring tropical flair.”
The article does not make reference to the causes which originally brought the parrots to New Jersey, which remain obscure and perhaps unknowable, even to those who, like this reporter, claim to know their story. Multiple anecdotal reports attributing the parrots’ arrival to bankrupt pet stores, sinking barges, breached containers at the old SeaLand terminal in Weehawken, or mass avian migrations across the Hudson River have never been substantiated. However it is known that the parrots have been active in the Garden State since the early 1970s; in fact these original tribes were the targets of the famous (some would say infamous) 1973 multi-agency eradication campaign which nearly resulted in this species’ elimination in the Northeast.
Scott Barnes, a spokesman for New Jersey Audubon, notes in the article that while the birds are “a non-native introdued species that can be problematic to electric transmission, one has to admire the birds’ tenacity for hanging on in several locations in New Jersey for decades.” This sympathetic statement is a major departure from prior statements form NJ Audubon, whose chief once remarked that “the only solution to these birds is to send them back to Argentina.”
Allison Evans-Fragale — a great friend to the NJ parrots with whom this reporter has worked — is mentioned in this story, as is Karen Johnson, a spokesman for PSE&G, the local utility charged with maintenance of the power lines upon which the wild parrots often build nests. PSE&G, in its encounters with the parrots, has consistently demonstrated sensitivity both to the parrots and community members in New Jersey who, over the years, have grown to like them.
A correspondent informs me that two large wild parrot nests were recently demolished on Staten Island in the vicinity of the westward approach to the Verrazono Bridge. The nests had been constructed upon power transmission lines belonging to Con Edison. According to my source, Con Ed workers reportedly took care to remove at least seven eggs remaining in the nest, but the disposition of these eggs remains uncertain. The six adult residents of the nest were dispersed; no effort was made to capture or harm them.
Wild parrots have had a difficult time colonizing Staten Island over the years. The multi-agency eradication campaigns of the 1970s were quite successful, and sightings have been comparatively rare since then. Staten Island is, of course, an island and parrots of this kind (Myopsitta Monachus) have an aversion to flying over large bodies of water, effectively isolating the birds from fellows of their species residing in Brooklyn.
While my correspondent (who likes the birds) was greatly aggrieved by this removal, I tried to make it clear to him that this removal was by no means a “worst practice” example of nest removal. Con Ed in this case did have a bird specialist on hand, workers evidently acted carefully, and the removals were done at a time of year in which the adult birds would have enough warm months ahead of them to survive and hopefully rebuild somewhere else. At the same time, however, it’s important to note that removing a nest while eggs and or young birds are in situ is not ideal; my hope is that in the future Con Ed more carefully times such removals to take account of the birds’ breeding cycle in the same way that its utility neighbor, PSE&G does.
My correspondent notes that wildlife appears to currently be under seige in his part of the island. Developers reportely felled 500 large trees to make way for condomiums, reducing the greenspace and scattering the local animals.
All Media New York surveys the wide range of unusual animals who’ve made New York City home over the years. In addition to our charismatic wild Quaker Parrots, they include turkeys and bald eagles (Staten Island), chipmunks and rabbits (Brooklyn), and bats (Manhattan). As the author notes, flying squirrels, red foxes, salamanders, and the occasional wandering coyote can also be found.
Diversity — among humans and the animal kingdom alike — remains one of this city’s greatest charms.