Feral monk parakeets attack New York!
July 15, 2005 9:16 AM   Subscribe

The Wild Parrots of Brooklyn. "I'm amazed at how many people living on the island of Manhattan regard these birds as urban legends, just like the crocodiles once reputed to live in the sewers. But these birds are real, they're thriving and yet they're also endangered." Theories, studies, photos and an audio sample of these non-native birds, which are found elsewhere in the US, throughout the world and on film. [prior discussion, first link via memepool.]
posted by myopicman (42 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry to be a nitpicker, but one those "parrots" -- the big brown one crammed into the bird feeder -- is actually a mourning dove.

(There's also a carniverous Vlad Canary clearly visible in one of the photos, but I'm not going to ruin that one for you. Hell, we have to keep some suspense in the story, right?)
posted by Mike D at 9:23 AM on July 15, 2005

I actually had a run-in with some monk parakeets here in Austin. They were in the parking lot of a Home Depot, hanging out with rock doves. Not the sort of thing you expect to see, though Texas is at least more plausible than NY.
posted by Gilbert at 9:36 AM on July 15, 2005

A flock (about a dozen) live on my block, up in the palm trees and the fruit trees (course this is LA which makes some sense). I also used to see a flock around the Art Institute in San Francisco. They are very pretty, but kinda noisy for my taste (though anything is better than the friggin crows).
posted by johngumbo at 9:41 AM on July 15, 2005

The goose reaction to the wooden dog (second story down on the first link) is quite intresting.
posted by delmoi at 9:59 AM on July 15, 2005

Sorry to be a nitpicker, but one those "parrots" -- the big brown one crammed into the bird feeder -- is actually a mourning dove... There's also a carniverous Vlad Canary clearly visible in one of the photos..

You're good Mike D.

myopicman This is an example of a really great post that, because it doesn't include Bush, Rove, or some other rant tag, goes almost unnoticed.

Excellent FPP myopicman: interesting, far off-the-well-beaten-path subject, well-researched, with excellent supporting links.
posted by three blind mice at 10:01 AM on July 15, 2005

c.f. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.
posted by obloquy at 10:13 AM on July 15, 2005

Which picture Mike D.?

ps. Does the M stand for Money and the D for Diamond?
posted by mrs.pants at 10:33 AM on July 15, 2005

If it's the one with it's back to us they mention "Rock doves and other birds use the feeders."...
posted by mrs.pants at 10:35 AM on July 15, 2005

I, for one, welcome our new parrot overlords.
posted by stbalbach at 10:37 AM on July 15, 2005

The parrot thing is indeed longstanding urban legend, unless you see them. I live across the street from the Greenwood cemetary, which as far as I know is their Alamo, for the following reason: the mausoleums. The parrots, who were originally kept as pets by hippies, escaped, and in the winter, they nest in the only warm and snuggly places they can find (that's the cemetary guard's story).

Greenwood cemetary does indeed have some huge and ostentatious crypts--isn't it nice to know that Boss Tweed and the wife of the Pfizer family are now home to families of little green parrots?
posted by goodglovin77 at 10:40 AM on July 15, 2005

This is a good post. At first I was annoyed by the anthropomorphizing of some of the photo captions, then I relaxed and really liked it. Beautiful birds.
posted by OmieWise at 10:50 AM on July 15, 2005

Mike D: Sorry to be a nitpicker, but one those "parrots" -- the big brown one crammed into the bird feeder -- is actually a mourning dove.

mrs.pants: Which picture Mike D.?

I believe he's talking about this one. To be fair, the caption does say, "Rock doves and other birds use the feeders." Kind of hard to tell, but it looks less like a rock pigeon (which is your average feral city pigeon) than a mourning dove. But their plumage is so variable, anyway.
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:51 AM on July 15, 2005

We were moving from Texas to Cali, my wife and I driving the Uhaul and my dad behind in the Honda. He had our Orange-Winged Amazon on the seat next to him. As we went through customs at the border they kept asking him "is that a Quaker?". Finally they called us on the walkie-talkie and asked us, we said no, he's not a Quaker, so they let him in.

They don't like Quakers much around these parts. (Though it seems as thought he cat is out of the bag, is it not?)
posted by belling at 10:55 AM on July 15, 2005

I guess for me personally "Rock Dove" counts any flyer in the order Columbiformes....

ps. I'm a bird dork.
posted by mrs.pants at 11:09 AM on July 15, 2005

There are massive (thousands strong) flocks in Los Angeles' San Gabriel Valley (SGV) of loud green birds. There are also smaller groups all over the place. For example, at my place near Pasadena, you get a few of them at a time making a racket in the early mornings and early evenings.

When I lived in Hollywood (just West of La Brea between Santa Monica and Melrose) I used to see green parakeet-like birds living in hollows they'd made in the tops of palm trees. These were smaller and less loud than the ones in the SGV.

I had a rather intense beautiful moment at the Los Angeles County Arboretum (in Arcadia, across the street from the Santa Anita Racetrack) early one drizzly Sunday morning in January '98 after a great psy-trance party (rave) in Downtown. I snuck in (very hard to do, btw) and wandered around all over the place. After a while, I made it up to an elevated hill garden/forest area and I heard a huge, strange sound. I had no idea what it was. Then, just as some clouds were clearing the way for some blue sky, I saw a flock of well over a thousand squawking green birds go right over me, across a meadow, and land in several trees in the park. I had never seen urban parrots before that. I will never forget that moment.

I think the urban legend part is how they came to be in an area. There are several competing theories. Here's a page for wild parrots in LA. Also, there's a thread on the Snopes site about Wild Parrots in Los Angeles.
posted by redteam at 11:15 AM on July 15, 2005

> The parrots, who were originally kept as pets by hippies

This is making me laugh. Thank you.
posted by chowder at 11:21 AM on July 15, 2005

Like goodglovin77, I live right next to Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, and we have parrots and/or parakeets nesting in the trees on our block.

There's a large colony of them esconced on the decorative backside of the ornate Gothic entrance to the cemetery at 25th Street -- the structure referred to as the Willow Rosenberg Memorial Satanic Temple.
posted by pnh at 11:33 AM on July 15, 2005

Great post.

Anybody know what happened to the wild parrots of Key West? Similar thing with them escaping from captivity and roaming the area but with the added bonus of being 100 miles from the mainland. I last saw them around 1996. Maybe they eventually made their way up the Keys to Homestead...
posted by soyjoy at 11:58 AM on July 15, 2005


There are documented, credible reports of secret gas chambers being constructed by Florida Power & Light where captured parrots are reportedly killed en masse.
posted by Captaintripps at 12:07 PM on July 15, 2005

I live in Hyde Park, Chicago, home of a breeding population of about 150-200 monk parakeets. You can't ignore the little buggers in these parts... I've been awakened many mornings by flocks of them chattering to each other — and it's not exactly the most musical sound. Don't get me wrong, I like having something more interesting than pigeons & sparrows in the neighbourhood; but there's also times where I want to throw something at them.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:40 PM on July 15, 2005

A green colored parakeet has been living in a tree in the front yard of my parents' place in Omaha, Nebraska for almost a year now. It found a deep hole in the tree and decided to hang out. I thought my mom was pulling my leg when she told me this bird was living in the tree and had survived the winter, but I finally got to visit my family a few weeks ago, and there was the parakeet, peering at me from the tree.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:16 PM on July 15, 2005

They're thriving, and they're endangered? You can't have it both ways...
posted by anthill at 1:32 PM on July 15, 2005

We used to play a game called "Fictionary". You need the biggest dictionary you can find (more strange words in it), a pad of paper and pencils. The dictionary holder finds a word no one has heard. Then everyone writes down a dictionary-style fabricated meaning while the dictionary holder writes down the real one.

The results are pooled and you try to figure out which is the actual definition. I remember once when "kakapo" was the word, we all howled at "nocturnal burrowing parrot native to New Zealand", because something that sounded that bizarre just had to be a fabrication.

Uh uh.

(By the way, so far as I know, the "carniverous [sic] Vlad Canary" is a fabrication. Have a great weekend, everybody. On slow Fridays, MeFi helps keep me sane.)
posted by Mike D at 1:40 PM on July 15, 2005

Alligators have been sighted recently in Lake Washington in Seattle but scientists think it's more likely a giant sturgeon. Swimmers are undeterred.
posted by commonmedia at 2:21 PM on July 15, 2005

Anthill - a thriving population of an endangered species. Both ways, had.
posted by bloomicy at 2:23 PM on July 15, 2005

stupid question but i will ask anyway.

if a person buys a bird at a pet store are they "fixed" like dogs or cats are? i was wondering if these are birds that were all established a long time ago or if people are still buying exotic birds and releasing them and creating new populations.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 2:28 PM on July 15, 2005

Pet birds are almost never spayed or neutered. They don't have any external genitalia so the procedure is risky.

Almost all parrots for sale today in the US are captive bred. They make much better pets and are much more disease free.

Lots of stupid people buy birds not realizing they live 30-70 years. Then they get sick of them and let them go. Most don't survive in the wild. Some, like the Quakers, do.

I'm pretty sure Quaker parrots are nowhere near endangered. Maybe in NYC though...
posted by belling at 3:41 PM on July 15, 2005

I thought most of these Parrots lived at Brooklyn College, no?
posted by ParisParamus at 3:42 PM on July 15, 2005

We saw a parakeet on our fire escape birdfeeder in Manhattan last year. It was fall, and we thought he was just an escapee who would soon freeze, and we had no way to catch him. But maybe he found his way to a new home in the cemetary.

Our feeder in Manhattan always got sparrows, pigeons and doves, and the doves made our cat go crazy for some reason. Here in Bklyn, pigeons never make it to our backyard feeder but all the other birds do, including a nesting pair of cardinals who live next door, I think.

Aren't rock pigeons and sparrows both non-native too? So parakeets are just the latest wave.
posted by emjaybee at 4:02 PM on July 15, 2005

Great post. I had never before heard of the wild urban parrot phenomenon.
posted by Galvatron at 4:04 PM on July 15, 2005

New Zealand has these big green parrots called keas, which like to eat windshield wipers and are very aggressive.

I was there a couple of years ago; when my friend and I returned to our car, a kea was sitting on the roof and would attack us when we tried to open the door. We had to come up with a plan to outsmart the bird. I went for one door, the bird attacked me, my friend got in the car on the other side, the bird tried to attack them, and I got in the car on my side.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:52 PM on July 15, 2005

We have a large population of wild parrots here on New Orleans too. I've seen them in the trees in Gentilly.
posted by djeo at 6:03 PM on July 15, 2005

How interesting! Thanks for the info. I didn't know there were feral parrots in Brooklyn. I had a peach-faced lovebird when I was a young hippie, *smile*, and after making lace of the bathroom shower curtains he flew out the window. I'd like to think he met up happily with some other escapees.
posted by nickyskye at 6:44 PM on July 15, 2005

Wau. Though I'm no longer in Edgewater (still work there), it's funny seeing it on the internet. It's gotten to be quite the tourist destination, I see. Maybe that's why I can't afford to rent there anymore.

For anyone who does not want to RTFA, they roost on the transformers for warmth in the winter. In the summer, the swamplands of New Jersey are plenty tropical. And yes, those nests are a PITA to clean up when they fall out of the tree. Several thousand sticks EVERYWHERE.
posted by Eideteker at 7:43 PM on July 15, 2005

I used to live near one of the flocks of wild parrots here in LA. They sound like cats as they fly over head at dusk.
posted by filchyboy at 7:47 PM on July 15, 2005

Always late to the party, it seems. heh.

I am a proud(?) victim caretaker of one of these little bastards charming characters and can definitely vouch for the noise. They do have very strong personalities, and can be quite affectionate if the mood takes them. They're good talkers, although they usually pick up the things you don't want them to learn.

belling, they are considered pests and are illegal in quite a few states. They are legal here in Oregon, and we do have a colony of them living out by the airport. They're unique in that they're the only parrot/parrotlet which builds nests as opposed to using a preexisting hollow on/near the ground, apparently.

see also.
posted by geckoinpdx at 8:45 PM on July 15, 2005

>Anybody know what happened to the wild parrots of Key West? Similar thing with them escaping from captivity and roaming the area but with the added bonus of being 100 miles from the mainland. I last saw them around 1996. Maybe they eventually made their way up the Keys to Homestead...

There is a large colony of these Hurricane Andrew parrots up here in north Broward and south West Palm Beach counties.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 1:55 AM on July 16, 2005

If you ever go to Amsterdam, watch the trees in the Vondelpark and you'll find that there are plenty of parrots hanging out in them as well.
posted by dabitch at 2:27 AM on July 16, 2005

Here in London, too.
posted by Lleyam at 4:44 AM on July 16, 2005

Cool thread.
posted by nickyskye at 6:25 AM on July 16, 2005

I would love to have a scarlet macaw, but damn. I can't afford one. =)
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 8:38 AM on July 16, 2005

There is no urban legend regarding crocodiles in the sewers.

Alligators are another matter.
posted by anser at 9:54 PM on July 16, 2005

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