Why exactly do Monk Parakeets fight?

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September 14, 2015: While the Monk Parakeets (AKA Quaker Parrots) we find living in Brooklyn don’t go out of their way to bother other birds, they do a fair share of fighting amongst themselves. Check out the video below, which I shot a couple of years ago at Brooklyn College.

Obviously, something is bothering several of these birds, and they’ve decided to take it out on one another. Within about 15 seconds, the whole gang of parrots is rumbling like the cast of West Side Story. Interestingly, this battle appears to be a completly infra-parrot flock happening. The pigeons, sparrows, and lone squirrel who are part of this group don’t really seem to react to it at all.

Did some bird make the mistake of issuing a Trump-class insult to another one? Or just look at a bird the wrong way? I’ve replayed this tape many times, and still can’t get to the bottom of what prompted this peculiar street brawl.

Thank goodness for scientists, especially Elizabeth Hobson, who’s probably studied Monk Parakeet societies more systematically than anyone on the planet. A new, very nicely illustrated story on Audubon.org by Sarah Gilman highlights Hobson’s latest achievement: a play-by-play analysis of how and why these parrots fight.

According to Hubson, fights happen in a stange game of “telephone aggression,” wherein Bird A bothers Bird B, who bothers Bird C, who bothers Bird D. Who’s the beneficiary of this chain of biting and feather-pulling? Bird A, who now understands who’s who in the pecking order, and where exactly Bird A fits in. Also, any birds watching the aggression (and that’s a lot of them: rubber-necking seems to be a major past time among these parrots). Who is it safe to hassle? Who should one steer clear of? The chain of aggression tells the tale.

Each moment in an aggressive outburst is, it seems, a teachable moment. Conflict — observed, analyzed, and adapted by each member of the flock, appears to be a core mechanism for socialization and, it is presumed, better flock cohesion and better chances of flock survival.

I’m very glad to know that all this fighting, biting, yelling, and feather-pulling has a noble purpose!

Elizabeth Hobson’s new study is available at the PLOS Computational Biology Website:
http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004411

NPR identifies “American’s dumbest-sounding birds”

NPR posted a very funny video identifying the most ridiculous-sounding North American birds.

Included are the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocophalus), the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), the Northern Barred Owl (Strix varia), and Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus).

Who knew that predators like the Bald Eagle sound so wimpy? Or that that the Atlantic Puffin sounds like a dissatisfied Hardee’s customer?

I’m glad to say that no Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta Monachus) made this list. Their calls are strident and often incomprehensible — that’s for sure — but in no way are they dumb-sounding.

 

 

A Brooklyn “staycation” with a (giant) Quaker Parrot named Birdie

Myself getting a good look at Birdie as he snacks on a nearby tree at Green-Wood Cemetery. Photo by Roya Kazemi/GreeNYC
Myself getting a good look at Birdie as he snacks on a nearby tree at Green-Wood Cemetery. Photo by Roya Kazemi/GreeNYC

If you’re not familiar with Birdie, he’s the official mascot of GreeNYC, New York City’s public education program ” dedicated to educating, engaging, and mobilizing New Yorkers to take simple, but meaningful, steps to reduce their energy use, generate less waste, and live more sustainable lifestyles. ”

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Birdie is a well-known urban icon known for promoting more environmentally friendly ways of living. His motto is Small Steps = Big Strides. Photo by BrooklynParrots.com.

Frankly, I’m delighted that the City of New York chose a Quaker Parrot to represent this office. Quakers are resourceful, intelligent, thoroughly urban, and decidedly green!  And while Birdie — originally developed during the Bloomberg Administration — seemed to be an endangered species a few years ago — he’s been brought back by Mayor Bill DeBlasio and is bigger than ever these days (he’s already more than 5 feet tall.)

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Birdie’s avian relatives seemed to be delighted by the giant Quaker Parrot’s appearance. Photo by BrooklynParrots.com.

I had a chance to catch up with Birdie last week when some of the nice folks at GreeNYC suggested that I serve as host for a high-level alumni conference with some of Birdie’s (much smaller) avian relatives at Green-Wood Cemetery. His appearance — part of a summer-long “staycation” that’s seen Birdie flocking to many interesting places in NYC — was welcomed by the resident parrots there, several of whom flew over to get a better look at the world’s largest Quaker Parrot.

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Birdie stands tall for recycling, sustainability, and a Green NYC! Photo by BrooklynParrots.com.


You can follow Birdie on social media at the following URLs:
https://twitter.com/birdie_nyc
https://www.facebook.com/birdienyc

 

Next Wild Parrot Safari in Brooklyn: Saturday, July 11, 2015

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Attention all urban parrot watchers: the next Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari happens on Saturday, May 2nd. Here are the details:

DATE: Saturday, July 11, 2015
TIME: 11 AM
LOCATION: Green-Wood Cemetery (25th street entrance on 5th Avenue). Please meet on the benches outside the cemetery’s iron gate (see map below).

PLEASE RSVP by Email:  Steve (you know the symbol) BrooklynParrots.com. This way, if poor weather or other incident occurs likely to keep the parrots from flying I can let you know in advance.

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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.

3150855710_30072c503b_o (1)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.

Here’s a link to the MTA subway page on the R line:
http://web.mta.info/nyct/service/rline.htm
And Google Maps coordinates to the meeting site:
https://www.google.com/maps/@40.6588549,-73.9958473,19z

All the invading animals…

Wild Quaker Parrots in New York area, photo by Stephen C. Baldwin
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.

Read complete story: http://www.allmediany.com/articles/26917-6-wild-animals-you-had-no-idea-live-in-nyc