Pointless Mass Murders Of Monk Parakeets

Injured Monks, crammed into a small cage, following the destruction of their nest.  They were all euthanized.

The beautiful and highly intelligent Monk Parakeet, also called Wild Quaker Parrots, comprises the largest group of the nine species of wild parrots in the United States. They are originally a sub-tropical species, native to Brazil and Argentina, but have acclimated themselves to North American climates as feral descendants of the many original birds imported as pets.

Although this urban and suburban parrot is non-aggressive and poses no significant threat to agriculture, the US Fish and Wildlife Service 30 years ago mistakenly deemed them to be a pest, and has cooperated with utility companies in efforts to eradicate the birds. In the early 1970s, 40% of the birds were eliminated nationwide, and in California, the bird colonies were wiped out.

Power company workers routinely kill the birds when they find their nests on transmission lines. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut are among the states that sanction the wanton murders of these harmless birds. In Florida, the Department of Transportation also assists power companies in the mass killings.

To take just one horrific instance, in Connecticut, the United Illuminating Company asked the US Fish and Wildlife Service to kill over 150 parakeets, and they complied! Among methods used to kill the birds is the use of carbon dioxide. Birds who escaped were equally doomed, as the large nests they need to survive northern winters were destroyed at night in the dead of winter weather, ensuring that the helpless birds and their young would freeze to death.

Part of the problem, at least in New Jersey and Connecticut, is that the Monk Parakeet was wrongly classified over 30 years ago as a “potentially dangerous species,” despite the fact that they are not harmful to native species or crops.

The birds live mostly in urban and suburban areas, not farmland. Writing in Bird Talk magazine, Dr. Donald Brightsmith said, “Their potential for causing great damage to US agriculture is minimal.”

In an interesting case of an alleged “invasive” species being welcomed, the management of Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery considers the Monk who roost in the magnificent Gothic spire on the cemetery gate to be beneficial in comparison to other species as the Monk’s excrement does not cause deterioration of the civil-war era structure.

In New Jersey, an effort is underway to pass a Senate bill that would remove the Monk Parakeet from the dangerous list, and help to protect their nests and eggs, which currently suffer terribly inhumane treatment because of sheer ignorance. It would also remove the fine of $5000 currently levied for anyone aiding these beleaguered birds. And even more useful for preserving the parakeets, the bill would permit caring people to build alternative nesting platforms to help prevent future clashes with utility companies.

The bill, which states that the birds and their nests must be protected by the DEP and other government agencies, just as other non-game birds are, passed the NJ State Assembly unanimously, but it has yet to go to the Senate Environmental Committee. It is an urgent matter, for if the bill is not entered into the Senate schedule within a brief time frame, it lapses, and its supporters have to start from scratch. Any delay means the potential unnecessary death of many more birds.

Monk parakeets have lived wild and free in New Jersey and other parts of the nation for over 30 years. It would be a terrible shame if this very simple protective measure were not enacted quickly to save them from more needless suffering.

If you’d like to help save the Monk Parakeet and get them off the “dangerous” list, call, write or e-mail the members of the New Jersey Senate Environmental Committee today, asking them for an immediate hearing on S1768. Be sure to include your name and address for verification.

Bill S1768 is awaiting hearing by the Senate Environmental Committee. The sister bill (A1237) already passed unanimously in the State Assembly.

Wild Monk Parakeets are not deserving of their notorious reputation. The Edgewater Parrots team can’t do anything unless the bill is passed.

For more information on these delightful birds, go to:

C.A.S.H. is very grateful to Alison Evans-Fragale for all of the information that she shares on www.edgewaterparrots.com and all of her work to protect the Monks.

This article was compiled by E.M. Fay Associate Editor, Wildlife Watch Binocular.

What we’ve been up to:

A fitting sidebar to this is that Wildlife Watch was contacted about a parrot who was flying around a monastery in Esopus NY. We should have known he was a Monk! The priests were worried that he would freeze to death in the winter. Wildlife Watch set up a large parrot cage on the property with a string that ran into the TV room of the monastery facing the cage and the bird feeder that had originally attracted the bird. Sadly, we could never get him, but when someone identified him as a Monk, we were relieved to hear that he most likely had a safe warm home for the winter. –


The Ferrater Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics

One Day International Conference on the Relationship between Animal Abuse and Human Violence

Keble College, Oxford, United Kingdom, 18 September, 2007
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