Don’t be alarmed if you see unexpected visitors at your bird feeder this spring. If you have been hearing loud noises emanating from the trees or flocks of brightly colored birds fluttering overhead, don’t worry, you aren’t crazy. Believe it or not, there are flocks of over a thousand South American parrots roaming wild in NYC and on Long Island.Although the origin of these parrots is the subject of urban legend, the most credible explanation is that in the 1960’s, at the height of the animal trade, a shipment of parrots was released at JFK airport. Experts believe that over time the descendants of the original botched parrot shipment have been supplemented by other released/escaped exotic birds from a variety of species.
To this day the vast majority of wild parrots in NY are Quaker Parrots, a species native to many South American countries. Incredibly, they have been able to adapt to northern climates despite our harsh winters. This is due to a variety of factors. Of the roughly 350 species of parrots, the Quaker Parrot is the only one that lives in their nest on a daily basis year round. They construct enormous nests that serve as shelters during the harsh winters.Although they can be found in tropical climates, these birds are also native to temperate zones of Argentina that bare similarities to our own environment. They have a varied diet of foods like grasses, seeds, and stems that are widely available in an urban environment. Some experts believe that they may seeks out urban environments because they rely on backyard bird feeders as a way to survive the winter. The pest factor- Although onlookers are often pleasantly surprised to discover wild exotic birds flying around the city, some residents living near the nesting sites are less than thrilled. The Monk Parrot is a highly intelligent bird species with an elaborate repertoire of vocalizations. This not only make them excellent pets, but also warns the flock of predators and enables them to adapt to new environments. Unfortunately, their raucous squawking also makes them less than ideal neighbors. Although initially there was some concern that these parrots would compete with native bird species, it is now clear that they will remain small in number and are not a threat to local ecology. The biggest nuisance posed by these birds is due to their nesting habits.
Monk Parrots are unique in their ability to build free standing nests. As they adapt to life in New York, they frequently select telephone poles as places to settle down. The parrots especially favor transistors because of the heat they emit. In the winter, as all of the soggy wet twigs and branches of their nests freeze, the ice conducts an electric current straight through the transistor. This is a dangerous situation that can lead to fires, blackouts, and loss of service. Although the parrots are not a protected species, local electric companies have been accommodating of these birds. Workers have discovered that even if the entire nest is destroyed the parrots will often rebuild in the exact same location rather than moving their homes elsewhere. Instead of seeking to eradicate these birds, Con Edison is looking into methods of securing their phone lines and transistors in a way that will not permit the birds to cause damage.More Information About Wild Parrots in New York: