Pizza parrots!

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Two wild parrots on Brooklyn’s Bedford Avenue enjoy some fresh-caught pizza.

With all the hoopla surrounding Pizza Rat, I’d thought I’d add a few photos I snapped a few years back of some wild Brooklyn Parrots (AKA Monk Parakeets/Quaker Parrots) enjoying pizza on Bedford Avenue.

These photos were NOT staged. The pizza slice in question was discarded on the sidewalk. Two parrots on watch saw the slice, they flew over, and air-lifted it into the tree. The slice was shared and largely devoured by the parrots; but one large fragment was dropped and enjoyed subsequently by a local sparrow.

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Thin crust, sauce, and cheese: perfection!
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Pizza isn’t unknown in Argentina, but it’s a lot easier to come by in Brooklyn.
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Look at this bird’s face. That is one satisfied example of charismatic megafauna!
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Sparrows like it too.

Wild Parrots in Manhattan…

parrots_with_pigeon2-correctedOkay — 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:

  1. The birds are somewhere on the upper part of the island.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

The hawk in Jamaica

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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.

Here’s a Google Maps Link:
https://goo.gl/maps/thaeWCjJM7t

I wonder where the nest is?

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

Do 32 cockatiels really deserve $100,000?

By Jim Bendon from Karratha, Australia (cockatiel 2) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Jim Bendon from Karratha, Australia (cockatiel 2) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A wealthy New York woman — Leslie Ann Mandel — made a $100,000 provision in her will so that her 32 cockatiels will be taken care of for the rest of their natural lives. The story — broken by the New York Post — has now gotten worldwide media attention and sparked blowback on social media. To some, she’s the latest incarnation of Leona Helmsley, who left her dog Trouble $12 million.

But is $100,000 really that extravagant an amount? Only to those who don’t know how expensive it is to keep pet parrots.

Cockatiels are members of the parrot family who live, in captivity, for about 20 years. $100,000 divided by 20 is $5,000 a year. Yes, the funds will probably be invested in some interest-bearing account, so let’s say the fund lasts longer and we up the yearly allotment to $6,000 a year.

$6,000 divided by 365 = equals a daily budget of $16 a day.

That’s $0.50 per bird.

That’s not a lot for food, sanitation, and care. It doesn’t provide for any medical attention (people who operate on tiny bird bones don’t come cheap).

With larger parrots (for example cockatoos), the food, space, and recreational requirements may extend far beyond $16 a day. A friend who takes in abandoned cockatoos now requires donees to post a minimum bond of $75,000 for each bird he takes in. This sounds like a lot of money, but doled over the life of a cockatoo it’s not much.

Give Leslie Ann Mandel a break. Her gift wasn’t extravagant. Parrots live a long time. They’re expensive to buy, expensive to keep, and expensive to provide for. She did the responsible thing – something that more parrot owners need to do.

Sure, you can argue that there are deserving humans out there who should have been the beneficiaries, but unless we abolish the institution of private property, rich people can do whatever they want with their money as long as they pay their taxes. Unlike Leona Hemsley, Mandel appears to have done so, so she’s OK in my book.

 

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.