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Parrots Grow in Brooklyn

Monk parakeets in Brooklyn on their stick nests

When I first heard about it more than four years ago, my reaction was, “Really!?!” Wild parrots in Brooklyn?!?

I had first met LoraKim Joyner at one of her workshops and later learned she was leading a bird walk in, of all places, a cemetery in Brooklyn. To see parrots. Wild parrots. I thought, “I’ve got to see that!”

So, I went and, sure enough, there were parrots. And there still are.

On Saturday, September 29, 2018, LoraKim once again led a group of nature lovers on a parrot tour at the old historic cemetery in Brooklyn called Green-wood Cemetery. It’s a lovely place and we had perfect weather. This walk was the last in our 2018 series of Wild Walks around the New York City metropolitan area that included visits to the New York Botanical Garden (the Bronx), the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (Manhasset, Long Island) and our second walk in Central Park (Manhattan). In 2017, we offered our first walk in Central Park and also led a group to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. But, so far, we have only seen parrots in Brooklyn.

If you arrive at the cemetery’s front entrance at the right time, you will hear a chorus of unfamiliar squawks and see flashes of green in the sunshine that will prompt involuntary cries of, “Wow!” The steeple of the beautiful old gated entrance to the cemetery is covered with nests of sticks constructed by these green and gray residents, known as monk parakeets (a.k.a. Quaker Parrots). It turns out that this is the only species of parrot that builds nests of sticks rather than nesting in holes in trees. Natives of Argentina, there are many stories told about how these birds arrived in New York (even some that involve local mobsters!), but however they got here, they are thriving, as the weather in their native country is much the same as it is in New York.

We witnessed a dramatic moment early in our visit when the parakeets, as well as many other small birds, began to loudly harass and chase a red-tailed hawk. Known as mobbing behavior, such a racket lets the predator know the element of surprise has been lost and alerts other birds in the area of a nearby threat. The hawk soon took off for quieter pastures as we discussed among ourselves how lucky we were to be able to cheer on the plucky parrots and their avian companions.

With the colder weather arriving and LoraKim’s travels to Latin America starting up again, there will likely be no other Wild Walks until spring 2019. In the meantime, please check our Nurture Nature page for upcoming webinars and indoor events, such as our December Parrot Holiday Party and Fundraiser that features three short films about our work in Latin America and a chance to ask LoraKim in person about her experiences there…read more about that here. You can also find on our website other resources that will help you nurture yourself so you can in turn nurture nature. And enjoy the fall weather!

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