Monday, April 4, 2011

Brooklyn's Monk Parakeets

A pair of monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus

Brooklyn’s famous Green-Wood cemetery invites one to take a meditative stroll. Lanes and cobbled paths lace Green-Wood's hills, leading past gothic mausoleums, ancient beeches, civil war monuments, statues of draped urns, obelisks, cherubs, stone angels in  poses of grief, weeping trees, and bronze dogs in sad attitudes on tomb steps.  The cemetery is famous for its pastoral beauty; it was landscaped to inspire reverie and to promote communion with nature. Green-Wood opened in 1838 and is still a working cemetery. 
Green-Wood cemetery is a quiet spot in Brooklyn. 
The gates at the main entrance to Green-Wood cemetery.

But there is an unexpected cacophony near the towering gothic revival gates at the front entrance. Quak! Quaki! Quak-Wi! Quarr! Kurr! Chape-Yee! Skveet! Quak Quaki Quaki-wi Quarr! And the source is really surprising, given that we are in the heart of Brooklyn. It's parakeets! Big green and blue parakeets!

A closer look at the ornate spires of the cemetery gate reveals extensive nests of sticks tucked into the crevices. And the chattering birds are always adding to and improving the communal nest.
A pair of parakeets watches from a high perch. The growing stick nest is tucked into cracks and crevices on the ledges below them.

The monk parakeet is about a foot long. It is green overall with yellow-green on the belly and lower back. Its forehead, cheeks, throat, and breast are gray. Its bill is pale pink.  There are bright blue feathers in the wings and tail.

So what are they doing here? Like lots of other Brooklynites, they immigrated. They are native to South America (from Boliva and southern Brazil south to central Argentina). Many were imported to North America as pets. Some escaped and others were deliberately released. The rest was up to them. Because they are from parts of South America with cold temperatures, they are able to survive New York winters. They have also established colonies in other American cities, and in Puerto Rico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and even in Europe, Israel, and Japan.

A few of Green-Wood's birds have started nesting at the power station across the street from the cemetery -- at the corner of 24th street and 5th avenue.
Stick nests around the bases of insulators at the power station.
Home sweet insulator. 
Monk parakeets are also called Gray-headed parakeets, Gray-breasted parakeets, Quaker parakeets, and Quaker Conures. By any name, they are established in New York and likely to stay.


  1. Hello. I run a subreddit dedicated to bird pairs ( I am interested in submitting your pair of monk parakeets at the top of this page. Could you let me know how to attribute them? (Unless you're also on Reddit and would be willing to submit it yourself, or you don't want it to be used.)

    You can contact me at jecarv[at]yahoo[dot]com.

    1. Happily granted. Details sent by email. Anyone who would like to look, go here: :-)