How many are here?

Getting an accurate count of the number of wild parrots in New York City is a challenge. The birds move around a lot, and — in winter — they’re particularly elusive, because they tend to form protective flocks that can travel for many miles — to find food or evade a persistent avian predator — before returning to their “base camps.”

The closest we have to an official monk parakeet census comes from the Audubon Society, which each December mobilizes a small volunteer army of bird watchers to count all the birds they see, using a strict set of rules to eliminate the possibility of double-counting or other counting error.

Here are the Audubon Society’s results for the past ten years. These results are for all of New York State, so the metrics for New York City would be some subset of the listed totals:

2016: 149
2015: 230
2014: 196
2013: 156
2012: 86
2011: 98
2010: 83
2009: 83
2008: 80
2007: 119

If these numbers are accurate, it would seem that the New York State population of wild parrots has taken a big hit in the past two years, falling from 230 to just 149. ¬†At the same time, however, it’s possible that due to the parrots’ wintertime habits, these counts do not reflect the actual population of birds, and should therefore be regarded as approximate estimates, not exact counts.