There are a number of Wild Parrot Hot Spots in Brooklyn. If you’re just starting out, I’d head to Green-Wood Cemetery, because the wild Monk Parakeet’s nests are very visible, and the birds generally hang around locally (they don’t like venturing far into Green-Wood because of patrolling hawks and other predators).
Brooklyn College is also another excellent place to see the parrots. Although the colony there appears to have shrunk somewhat, probably due to renovations made to the lighting poles where the parrot nests are situated, there’s still a lively colony of birds at this location. Our monthly Wild Parrot Safaris alternate between Brooklyn College and Green-Wood Cemetery.
There are other colonies in Brooklyn that are worthy of inspection, including populations in Red Hook, Bay Ridge, Manhattan Beach, and Canarsie. But many of these colonies in South Brooklyn have been under major stress in recent years, due to poaching, nest removals, and replacement of grass athletic fields with artificial turf.
There are also wild parrot populations in Queens, The Bronx, and in Edgewater, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
The Brooklyn College Flock
Brooklyn College, located in Midwood, has been the traditional home for a sizable flock of wild Monk Parakeets since the 1970s.
The parrots have long lived on the tall 75-foot tall light towers surrounding the soccer field at the west end of the campus. Until 2007, this field was composed of grass, but has since been converted to synthetic turf. The number of light towers has also been reduced from 6 to 4, resulting in more birds living off campus.
The management of Brooklyn College is friendly to the parrots, and made provision for the birds during a massive upgrade of the athletic facility that necessitated removal of the colonial nests at the top of four light towers. These nests have been partially rebuilt by the parrots, although they are much smaller than in the pre-2006 era.
A local Midwood source who’s lived in the neighborhood told me that the colony used to be much larger — “about 200 birds.” By the time I began studying the Brooklyn College Flock in early 2005, the count was down to about 50. It is possible that some of the birds at Brooklyn College broke off to form new colonies to the south or to the west.
The Green-Wood Cemetery Flock
Green-Wood Cemetery is one of the “anchor” Monk Parakeet colonies in Brooklyn (the other is Brooklyn College). The Monk Parakeets, after busting out of JFK airport, settled here, although there is some debate as to when this occurred. While official Bird Control and Ornithological literature names 1967 as the first year Monk Parakeets appeared in New York City, I’ve also been told by a reliable source that the big break out actually happened in 1962 (when JFK Airport was still known as Idlewild).
There are approximately 75 birds located in Green-Wood according to my own estimates. Most reside in the main gate that is just east of the intersection of 25th and 5th Avenue. The Gate is, to my knowledge, the only example of Gothic architecture incorporating actual, living gargoyles.
The parrots at Green-Wood Cemetery probably have the best situation of any wild parrot in Brooklyn. They’re not just tolerated by the cemetery’s management: their presence is considered a benefit. Why? Because unlike the pigeons which roosted in the gate before the parrots arrived, their excrement does not damage the structure.
South Brooklyn Flocks
The wild parrot populations at Green-Wood Cemetery and Brooklyn College have served as “anchor” colonies from which other flocks appear to have split over the years. These satellite colonies are more tenuous — they come and go, and have not fared well over the years for several reasons, notably aggressive nest removals, poaching, and the increased use of artificial turf at athletic fields.
Proximity to Green-Wood Cemetery appears to account for the parrot colony in Bay Ridge, which is less than 2 miles away. The parrots occupied stadium light poles around “The Dust Bowl,” a long-neglected playing field on 8th Avenue between 65th and 66th Street. When this facility was renovated, artificial turf was installed and the light poles were modified. About 18 birds lived at this site during their heyday; only a few remain today.
The Bath Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn sported several nests in the early 2000s, but the colony appears to have ceased operations. It is possible that poaching contributed to this decline.
A significant population of parrots resided on Oriental Boulevard near Manhattan Beach Park, nesting in Con Ed Poles. A removal that occurred during the winter of 2008 appears to have reduced and perhaps eliminated this colony.
An unknown number of parrots lived up and down Quentin Road, nesting in utility poles. Con Ed removals, plus poaching, have reduced this community significantly over the years.