Monk (Quaker) Parakeets


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Once upon a time (in 1967) at Kennedy Airport in New York, while unloading a cargo plane, several crates were broken open when accidentally dropped. The crates contained Monk Parakeets imported for sale as "exotic" pets. Needless to say, the abruptly freed parakeets made a beeline for the nearest tree line. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Soon joined by accidentally and deliberately released pets, large breeding colonies of parakeets can now be found in many parts of the county. Monk parakeets are from the temperate zones in South America and have flourished as far north as New York. Experts estimate parakeets in the wild number in the thousands, with the population expected to double every 4.8 years.

The parakeets entered the United States with their own baggage, a reputation as a destructive agriculturial pest and, for their unsuspecting new owners, ear-splitting and unending squawking. More than likely, the parakeets' raucous squawking led to many deliberate releases. By 1973, the large number of wild parakeets combined with their reputation as a pest prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to launch a less than successful eradication program. Since that time, populations have rebounded and continued to flourish.

The birds are now a subject of some controversy. Not all experts agree the the parakeets are a potential agriculturial pest. Ornithologist Enrique H. Bucher says that the parakeets "do not fit the typical profile of a successful pest species. They lack the typical combination of high mobility, flock feeding and roosting, opportunistic breeding, and high productivity that characterize successful pest birds." However, there are farmers in Florida who will vehemently disagree with Mr. Burcher.

Monk Parakeets exhibit two other traits that are the reasons for including them here. First, like many other animals, parakeets survive very well in urban areas. But, unlike pigeons, rats, mice, sparrows, and starlings, parakeets are, for the most part, very popular with the community. We can't really be surprised that folks in New York, Connecicut, and Chicago are enchanted with the sight of bright green, tropical "parrots" living in the middle of the city.

Second, Monk Parakeets are the only species of parrot that build nests. But saying parakeets build nests is like saying Michaelangelo painted pictures. These small birds (approximately 11-12") build dome shaped nests of woven twigs that can reach the size of a compact car. There is a nest in Bridgeport, Connecticut that measures 9 feet by 5 feet. These huge nests are actually apartments and may house as many as 20 birds.

Since it's not uncommon that urban areas have a shortage of tall tress, parakeets have resorted to building their nests on transmission structures, distribution poles, and on tops of transformers. The picture on the left (Courtsey of Rick Harness of EDM, Inc.)dramatically demonstrates why these huge nests are so potentially dangerous. Simply removing the nests is usually not the best answer. Aside from the community's adverse reaction to the destruction of the nests, these birds are sedentry and don't range far. More than likely, they will simply re-build the nest as soon as possible.

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