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).

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

Wild Monk Parakeets in Corpus Christie, Texas

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Texas is a long way from Brooklyn, but there’s news this week that the same kind of parrot (Myopisitta Monachus) we see in Kings County is making a strong showing in Corpus Christie, Texas. according to an article on the website of the Corpus Christie Caller Times. According to the article, the parrots have lived in Corpus Christie for the past 20 years.


Texas is no stranger to the Monk Parakeet. The state has had the bird on its official State Bird List since 1991, and the Audubon Society recently counted 445 in the state. Wild colonies have been reported in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and other localities.

The parrots’ penchant for nesting in electrical infrastructure has occasionally caused them to clash with utility company TXU, but the company, much to its credit, has sat down with bird groups and parrot fans to develop nest reduction/removal policies that are humane. TXU has even built tall steel alternative nest platforms to woo the parrots from building nests in live electrical infrastructure.

Texas is one of the best bird-watching states and it appears that the Monks have a strong future there.