Monk Parakeets at Brooklyn College

Saturday I went on a tour of the Monk Parakeet nests at Brooklyn College led by Steve Baldwin. He estimates they’re about 70 parakeets living in the near vicinity of Brooklyn College. City-wide they’re probably a few hundred. They’re additional nests at Greenwood Cemetery, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Marine Park and vicinity in Brooklyn, and a few other locations. No one’s sure where they first came from, but the most common hypothesis is that they escaped from a dropped crate at Kennedy airport in the 60’s or some such. Likely escaped pets have also contributed to the population.

Monk parakeets near Brooklyn College

Saturday was cold, and not the best day for parakeets, primarily thanks to two Peregrine Falcons that showed up unexpectedly and perched on one of the field light poles for about half an hour, but we did see somewhere between 11 and 20 or so parakeets. Their large nests were more visible than they were.

Peregrine Falcons perched over a Monk Parakeet nest at Brooklyn College

These are the only members of the parrot family that build such nests. Most parrots nest in tree cavities. (Steve mentioned that there may also be some Cherry-headed Conures in Queens somewhere. If anyone knows where, please let me know.) The nests are a nuisance. Brooklyn College doesn’t really seem to mind them. They even use the monks in their recruiting. However, they also nest on power poles, and can cause fires. exactly how many fires and how often is a subject of some dispute. Some utility companies including United Illuminating in Connecticut have begun exterminating the parrots. Con Edison here in New York takes a more casual view of the birds, and only removes a nest when they see a specific voltage drop on a pole.

Monk Parakeet nests on light poles at Brooklyn College

Personally I’m not sure what to think of the monks. Contrary to what Steve and other parrot lovers claim, they are most definitely an invasive species. However, as invasive species go, they’re relatively benign. So far they seem less damaging than pigeons; and far less so than House Sparrows and European Starlings. They don’t really compete for food and nest space with any native species. In north America, at least so far, they don’t eat crops. Here they’re essentially an urban bird that’s carved out a niche where no other native bird species can survive.

On the other hand, they’re only a thousand or so in the Tristate area. What happens when they’re a few hundred thousand like there are now in Florida? Pigeons probably didn’t seem like much of a nuisance either when the first few escaped in the early 1600s. Now their sheer numbers make them a significant nuisance that does real damage to buildings even though they’re still a relatively inoffensive bird. We could eliminate the Monk Parakeet population in the Northeast now if we wanted to. (At least I think we could. Some earlier efforts to eliminate the nests at Greenwood Cemetery failed. Monks are smart birds.) But if their population keeps growing 5% a year, that won’t be true much longer.

2 Responses to “Monk Parakeets at Brooklyn College”

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  2. liz Says:

    i have seen alot those nest by my house and see the birds every morning but im in queens NY. i find so cool.

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