June 17, 2007

ornithology for beginners....


I'm sure glad I have a bicycle and a pair of binoculars.....today I explored Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn where I got to see lots of amazing headstones, mausoleums, and exotic carved for the dead stuff......I also got to see a now native population of monk parrots / parakeets.

The parrots, which live mostly in the spire at the Green-Wood Cemetery gate, are believed to have come from a shipment of birds that got loose at JFK in the late 1960s. Somehow, the birds survived around Jamaica Bay, and immigrated to Brooklyn, where they were first sighted at Brooklyn College in the early 1970s. Another theory has them escaping from a pet shop on Flatbush Avenue or an overturned truck. Over the years, other colonies established themselves in Marine Park, Bensenhurst and Bay Ridge.

This Monk Parakeet is, on average, 29 cm long with a 48 cm wingspan, and weighs 100 g. Females tend to be 10-20% smaller. It has bright green upperparts. The forehead and breast are pale grey and the rest of the under parts are very-light green to yellow. The flight feathers are dark blue, and the tail is long and tapering. The bill is orange. The call is a loud and throaty graaa or skveet.

The Monk Parakeet is the only parrot that builds a stick nest, in a tree or on a man-made structure, rather than using a hole in a tree. This gregarious species often breeds colonially, building a single large nest with separate entrances for each pair. In the wild, the colonies can become quite large, with pairs occupying separate "apartments" in nests that can reach the size of a small automobile. Their 5-12 eggs hatch in about 24 days. At Green-Wood Cemetery, with a pair of binoculars, I was able to see 8-10 parrots flying around, adding sticks to their complex nest at the cemetery's main entrance.


Unusually for a parrot, Monk Parakeet pairs occasionally have helper individuals, often a grown offspring, which assists with feeding the young.

Monk Parakeets are highly intelligent, social birds. Those kept as pets routinely develop large vocabularies.

As one of the few temperate-zone parrots, the Monk Parakeet is more able than most to survive cold climates, and colonies exist as far north as New York City, Chicago, Cincinnati, and communities in coastal Rhode Island and Connecticut. This hardiness makes this species second only to the Rose-ringed Parakeet amongst parrots as a successful introduced species.

The lifespan of Monk Parakeets has been quoted to be from 15-20 years, to 25-30 years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very interesting! you should really see the documentary, "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," about a flock in San Fran. find it here on IMDB