Thursday, March 26, 2009

The world's most persecuted parrot

Today, Monk (or Quaker) parakeets comprise the largest group of the nine species of parrots known to live in the wild in the United States. But their success in establishing an ecological niche for themselves didn't come easily. The birds, Myiopsitta Monachus, originate from South America. A government-sponsored program in Argentina managed to kill more than 400,000 of them in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But in the mid 1960's, someone had a bright idea: instead of killing them, why not ship them to the U.S.A. and make a few extra dollars? More than 60,000 wild parrots were shipped from South America to the U.S.A. during the 1960s and early 1970s. Brooklyn has a large population of these wild parrots and many theories as to how the birds first were released into the wild. In 1973, the Federal Government became aware of the parrots' existence in the New York area, and sent out SWAT-style eradication teams which captured many birds and shot those unwilling to surrender. One of the last remaining parrot strongholds, a nest complex on Rikers Island, Queens, managed to survive the eradication teams and are the probable ancestors of the parrots alive today all over Brooklyn. These intelligent, non-aggressive birds, which no self-respecting scientist has ever claimed have caused any significant crop damage in the U.S., are regarded with extreme hostility in many states. In New Jersey and Connecticut, they are classified as a "potentially dangerous species." In Pennsylvania, they are reportedly euthanized on the spot whenever power companies find them nesting on transmission lines. In Florida, both the state Department of Transportation and the Florida Power & Light utility company do the same thing. Florida Power & Light has for years maintained secret gas chambers where captured parrots are killed en masse. Stephen Carl Baldwin, at Brooklyn Parrots, writes, "The fact that North America has a new parrot on its shores is in my view a blessing, especially because our countrymen wiped out our only native parrot - the Carolina Parakeet - nearly a hundred years ago. Nature has given us the rarest of gifts: a second chance." Source Yes - we do have Monk parakeets in Illinois! There are monk parakeet colonies in nearly 20 Chicago suburbs. I took the following photo in Alsip, Illinois, on December 6, 2006. It was 8:30 am, temperature was 36 degrees. There were about a dozen of these gorgeous, vivid green birds at 116th and Springfield.

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