Hey guys, welcome back! Today is our first parrot. That’s right, parrot. The monk parakeet is not native to the US. Some of you may be thinking there’s no parrots native to the US. Well, there are. Very few, and mostly just stragglers that wander north from Mexico and Central America. The eastern US actually used to have its own native parrot. The Carolina parakeet was once very common in the eastern US. It ranged from New York state west to Wisconsin, and then south to the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly, the Carolina parakeet is now extinct, with the last known wild one dying in 1904, and the last captive one dying at the Cincinatti Zoo in 1918. They became extinct through a number of factors, most of which man-made. But We’re here to talk about the monk parakeet. For more on the Carolina, here‘s an article from Audubon about them.
The monk parakeet is native to South America, and was/is popular in the pet trade. Thanks to a few escaped birds, there are now established breeding populations in numerous US cities including Boston, New York, Chicago, and Houston. New York had three colonies that I personally witnessed, and more that I knew of. There’s a colony in my old neighborhood of Astoria in Queens. They have a nest in the structure of the Hellgate Bridge overpass where is goes over Steinway St. There’s also a famous colony in the gothic arch at the entrance of Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery. They are loud birds, and the only parrot species to nest in colonies and build stick nests. It’s believed this helps them survive the cold winters of the Northeast US. Monk parakeets are green with light gray bellies and blue-tipped wings. They aren’t the only species of parrot to escape the pet trade and establish themselves in the US, and with my birding trip to LA scheduled for April, I have a feeling they also won’t be the only ones on my lifelist soon either. Up next is the fastest animal in the world. See you then!
When I lived in Virginia, I had heard about possible Monk Parakeets nearby, but never made the effort to look. Wish I had! And by the way, my friend lives and pastors a small church in Astoria. I went there last November after the NYC Marathon and ate at Geno’s Pizza. Nice town! William
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