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Thread: Bright Birds, Dark City? Not This Time - Brooklyn Parrots

  1. #1

    Default Bright Birds, Dark City? Not This Time - Brooklyn Parrots

    August 16, 2003


    Bright Birds, Dark City? Not This Time


    SOME of the residents of Avenue I sat on front stoops Thursday night, chatting in the glow of flashlights about the blackout that had enveloped their corner of Brooklyn. But even in this precious moment of conviviality, Janelle Barabash could not help herself; she had to say it.

    You know, she said. The parrots didn't do this.

    Every neighborhood has its special people: those who wear hats of aluminum foil; who speak in code, or to themselves. Ms. Barabash is not among them. She is a high school English teacher who has never before taken up a cause. And when she talks parrot, her neighbors all nod, because they talk parrot, too. "I was just joking," she said. "But in the beginning, that's what you think." That being, uhh, parrots and power shortages — in Brooklyn.

    It all began 30-odd years ago, when monk parrots — exotic birds native to South America — started dappling the Brooklyn skies with their bright-green plumage. Some suspect that weary pet owners opened their cages and said shoo; others stick to the theory that the birds escaped from broken crates at Kennedy Airport.

    For years these hardy 12-inch creatures quietly provided a shade of lime to this city's ballyhooed mosaic, nesting in weird little places that generate year-round heat: under the powerful lights that shine on Brooklyn College's playing field, for example, or around the warm transformers at the tops of utility poles. But they were picky about their choice of neighborhoods.

    A few years ago, some monk parrots moved to temperate Midwood in Brooklyn, less for the school system and more for the desirable utility poles along Avenue I. They soon flaunted their architectural talents, building multichambered nests nearly large enough to have takeout menus slipped under the doors.

    "They take twigs from the trees, measure them, and cut them," said Harold Glatter, a retired assistant principal whose house on Avenue I faces a nest. "And what they don't like, they discard. In the most violent windstorms, where trees come down, their nests stay 100 percent intact."

    Residents along Avenue I became accustomed to the parrot ritual: greet dawn with squawks, peck for breakfast, hunt for worthy twigs, exchange good-night squawks, then lights out at dusk. They granted a gracious distinction to the street, Ms. Barabash said. "You walk out the door, and there's something delightful to look at."

    But monk parrots have not beguiled utility companies around the country, including Consolidated Edison, because their intricately built nests block the ventilation ports on transformers. Heat can build up, Con Ed officials say, creating fire hazards and causing disruptions in local service.

    AL WILLIAMS, a senior scientist with Con Ed, has spent a lot of time in recent years studying monk parrots, and gladly recited some of his knowledge: they can live more than 30 years; they can double their population in 4.8 years; they can rebuild their nests in 12.6 days. He also knows where they hang out.

    "Avenue L and East 49th Street. Avenue L and East 45th. Avenue M and Flatbush. Avenue M and Troy Avenue. Avenue O and East 54th," he said. "I can run them all day long for you. Avenue T as in Tom; Avenue V as in Victor . . ."

    And Avenue I as in Interrupted Service. Responding to a complaint about low voltage, Con Ed workers in cherry pickers arrived three weeks ago and dismantled five nests. Their explanation, that people on life support could die if the power goes out, did not mollify many residents. Some wept; Ms. Barabash said she was hysterical.

    Utility officials agreed that their solution was not perfect, and they emphasized their commitment to the environment. But in the end, they said, the safety of people trumps the sanctuaries of parrots.

    Con Ed's actions mobilized Ms. Barabash, who lives with five cats, three turtles, some fish, and a human or two. She formed a group called Save Our Wild Parrots, and worked out plans with Con Ed officials to have a meeting on parrots. "We're not against Con Ed," she said. "We just want to say: You're filled with engineering geniuses. Think of a way to protect the parrots and the public."

    It took the parrots about 12.6 days to erect starter homes of twigs on the same utility poles. By Wednesday evening, those starter homes had expanded to three-story walk-ups, and their tenants were out on the wire, squawking in territorial pride.

    Whether parrots are to blame for the Blackout of 2003 remains unclear; Con Ed officials were too preoccupied yesterday to entertain such a question. What is known is that in the last two nights the monk parrots of Avenue I slept better than most.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    West Harlem

    Default Bright Birds, Dark City? Not This Time

    I love them. They used to be in Mill Basin too but they got booted.

  3. #3

    Default Bright Birds, Dark City? Not This Time

    Those bastards!

    I never liked Mill Basin.
    I had a girlfriend from Mill Basin. * *

  4. #4

    Default Bright Birds, Dark City? Not This Time

    By the way, some interesting photography at

    Todd Cam

  5. #5


    Quaker parrots invade Barcelona

    By Danny Wood
    BBC correspondent in Madrid

    A plague of Quaker parrots is causing alarm in the Spanish city Barcelona.

    Quaker parrots munched through over 50,000 tomatoes

    Also known as the South American Monk parakeet and originally from Latin America, the bird has a prodigious appetite and its mushrooming population in the city is driving the citizens to distraction.

    The Quaker parrot is an aggressive bird and eats just about everything green it can find - flowers, grass, even tree branches.

    With a high rate of reproduction, the Quaker is threatening the survival of local bird species.

    Citizens of Barcelona are growing increasingly worried as more and more of these grey-green parrots occupy their city.

    Parrot controls

    The first birds arrived as pets in the 1970s.

    Owners, tired of their chirping, released them. Now a population of 50 has grown to well over 2,000.

    There are even more in the Catalonian countryside. Farmers say last year Quaker parrots munched through over 50,000 tomatoes.

    Experts from Barcelona's Museum of Natural Sciences are now trying to control the bird.

    They will have to act quickly - Quaker parrots' breeding season has just started and continues until November.

    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Published: 2003/08/28 17:14:43 GMT

    © BBC MMIV

    Barely related but interesting:

    Parrot's oratory stuns scientists

    By Alex Kirby
    BBC News Online environment correspondent

    The finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short.

    Feathered prodigy: N'kisi leads the field

    The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour.

    He invents his own words and phrases if he is confronted with novel ideas with which his existing repertoire cannot cope - just as a human child would do.

    N'kisi's remarkable abilities, which are said to include telepathy, feature in the latest BBC Wildlife Magazine.

    N'kisi is believed to be one of the most advanced users of human language in the animal world.

    About 100 words are needed for half of all reading in English, so if N'kisi could read he would be able to cope with a wide range of material.

    Polished wordsmith

    He uses words in context, with past, present and future tenses, and is often inventive.

    One N'kisi-ism was "flied" for "flew", and another "pretty smell medicine" to describe the aromatherapy oils used by his owner, an artist based in New York.

    When he first met Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, after seeing her in a picture with apes, N'kisi said: "Got a chimp?"

    He appears to fancy himself as a humourist. When another parrot hung upside down from its perch, he commented: "You got to put this bird on the camera."

    Dr Goodall says N'kisi's verbal fireworks are an "outstanding example of interspecies communication".

    In an experiment, the bird and his owner were put in separate rooms and filmed as the artist opened random envelopes containing picture cards.

    Analysis showed the parrot had used appropriate keywords three times more often than would be likely by chance.

    School's in: He is a willing learner

    Captives' frustrations

    This was despite the researchers discounting responses like "What ya doing on the phone?" when N'kisi saw a card of a man with a telephone, and "Can I give you a hug?" with one of a couple embracing.

    Professor Donald Broom, of the University of Cambridge's School of Veterinary Medicine, said: "The more we look at the cognitive abilities of animals, the more advanced they appear, and the biggest leap of all has been with parrots."

    Alison Hales, of the World Parrot Trust, told BBC News Online: "N'kisi's amazing vocabulary and sense of humour should make everyone who has a pet parrot consider whether they are meeting its needs.

    "They may not be able to ask directly, but parrots are long-lived, and a bit of research now could mean an improved quality of life for years."

    All images courtesy and copyright of Grace Roselli.

    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Published: 2004/01/26 15:27:18 GMT

    © BBC MMIV

  6. #6

  7. #7
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    A few things though.

    i know that these birds are not indigenous, but somehow something bothers me with the idea that they somehow do not have a right to live there or boot other speciaes out.

    We have been doing that to everything out there, but somehow they do the same and we find it alarming?

    Also, couldn't we find some predatory species to put the bird in balance? I have been noticing a HELL of a lot more hawks hanging out all over recently (mostly suburban) and I am wondering what would help to keep a balance of different species, OURSELVES INCLUDED, in these areas.....

  8. #8


    December 17, 2006

    Brooklyn Up Close

    Polly Takes a Powder


    Nobody knows for sure how or when the wild green parrots showed up in central Brooklyn, though most accounts have them escaping from a shipping crate at Kennedy Airport in the 1960s, or even earlier, and making themselves at home. That mystery, though, is an old one. What has been worrying residents lately is where all the parrots are going.

    Last summer, people in some areas where the parrots had lived started noticing empty nests, along with an absence of the parrots’ signature squawk. By fall, a parrot aficionado from Bay Ridge named Steve Baldwin was highlighting the situation on his Web site, Some residents raised the specter of poaching, reporting sightings of men with long nets climbing utility poles toward the birds’ nests.

    Borough President Marty Markowitz himself, the owner of a domesticated parrot, was quoted calling the poaching “reprehensible.”

    Then the trail went cold. “No one really knows what happened to them,” Mr. Baldwin said last week, “except that they’re gone, and it’s questionable whether they will be coming back.”

    Plenty of parrots remain, he said, in their traditional homes of Brooklyn College and Green-Wood Cemetery and in scattered other locations. But many nests on poles throughout the neighborhoods of Marine Park and Midwood are empty, as Robert Nadel, a civic leader in the area, demonstrated on an impromptu parrot tour last week. The sidewalks under the nests are missing the little piles of discarded sticks that would, he said, be present if there were parrots at home.

    Mr. Nadel said that he could tell that another nest, a thicket of sticks wedged between power lines at the top of a pole on Avenue I in Midwood, was empty. If the parrots were there, he explained, “you would hear it.” As it was, the sound of traffic on Nostrand Avenue roared on uninterrupted.

    Mr. Baldwin, meanwhile, has stopped updating his site’s map of parrot nest locations, to avoid tipping off poachers. If, that is, poachers are the reason for the depopulation. Parrots can be unpredictable, he said, and sometimes they simply leave on their own.

    “A few turned up in Manhattan recently,” Mr. Baldwin said. “I have no idea where they came from.”

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  9. #9


    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    “A few turned up in Manhattan recently,” Mr. Baldwin said.
    Anyone know where?

  10. #10


    Parrots Grab Manhattan Real Estate

    Thursday, December 7, 2006, by Robert

    [103rd St. parrots photo courtesy of Palemaleirregulars]

    Last week, we had hipsters moving back to Manhattan from Brooklyn. This week, we've got parrots checking out Manhattan real estate. The question is, are they East Coast parrots (Brooklyn) or West Coast parrots (New Jersey)? The Monk Parrot colony is on Amsterdam Avenue at 103rd Street. Urban Hawk writes:
    The closest colony to Amsterdam Avenue, is in Edgewater, New Jersey. If a bird flew directly across the Hudson River it would arrive at around 138th and Riverside Drive going over the water for about a mile. (One of the unanswered question is do Monk Parakeets fly over large bodies of water?)
    The birds have previously been seen in Central Park, at the 79th St. Boat Basin and on Riverside Drive this summer. The nearest Brooklyn colony is, apparently, in much-in-the-news Red Hook. Maybe they're trying to escape the Brooklyn parrot poachers or all the demolition and construction noise.

    · East Vs. West, Where Did the Amsterdam Monks Come From? [Urban Hawks]
    · Breaking News: Wild Parrots on Manhattan's UWS [Brooklyn Parrots]
    · Brooklyn Mystery: Parrot Poaching in Midwood [Curbed]
    Posted in Brooklyn, City Life, Manhattan Uptown, Manhattan: Above 96th St.

    Reader Comments

    . . .

    2. We had a Monk parrot on our window sill in Brooklyn Heights 3-4 months ago...
    By Anonymous at December 7, 2006 1:37 PM

    3. There is a bunch of construction going on in Edgewater....there is a big section of the cliff/palisades that recently was chopped and carved away to make way for what one assumes is a new housing development. Possible the birds left from there. It's a pretty big hole in the cliff that it had quite a bit of untouched growth...If my memory is correct the blasting started in the summer. Poor parrots :
    By Krista at December 7, 2006 1:40 PM

    . . .

    5. You can learn all that you never wanted to know about Brooklyn parrots (and Edgewater parrots) here
    By Anonymous at December 7, 2006 2:26 PM

    6. If parrots are getting poached, then why are you giving out the exact location of these nests?
    By Eric at December 7, 2006 2:35 PM

    7. I could name about 20 different nests, but my lips are sealed.
    By amatt at December 7, 2006 3:42 PM

    . . .

    9. i got a few large nest near my house in south brooklyn. they are all over the place in brooklyn.
    By armchair_warrior at December 7, 2006 8:33 PM

    . . .

    Note: The last name of the author, Robert, was not published on the Website. I included only the readers' comments that I felt lent interesting information to this topic.

  11. #11


    Wish they were bigger.

  12. #12


    ...and came in different colors and talked!

    Wait, they peer inside people's windows, right? Maybe it's better that they don't talk.

  13. #13


    ^ Can you get them to steal jewelry?

  14. #14


    No, but I can turn them into jewelry:


    The Cat

  15. #15


    Three weeks ago, NBC-TV aired a 2.5-minute segment on the Brooklyn parrots on Today in New York. Some of the clip is silly, but the end is priceless: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz sings -- in baby talk -- "Old McDonald Had a Farm" to his pet parrot:

    Err... Markowitz's parrot is not a green monk; it's a sorta grayish thing.

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