Wild Monk Parrots of Brooklyn

Sunday, December 07 2003 @ 07:22 AM UTC

Contributed by: MikeSchindlinger

In and around streets and fields of Brooklyn College, Monk parrots thrive. The neighborhood values these transplanted bits of the wild, and reseachers at the college are observing their everyday habits.

BROOKLYN COLLEGE MONK PARAKEETS BEHAVIOR Hi. Allow me to introduce our group. The group consists of four members, Aly Betances, Jean-Robert Fougere, Janette O. Paul and Gennie Tim. We are presently pursuing our Master of Science Degree in Elementary Science and Environmental Education at Brooklyn College. This is our first semester in this pursuit. Performing a study of the Monk Parakeets on the college campus is our first project. Our group is involved in the observation of the behavior of these birds. Such behaviors include those of flight frequencies, nest maintenance, grooming, vocalization and socialization. Come with us, as together we learn more about these new members of the North America's ecosystem. ABSTRACT A research study focusing on the social behavior of a feral group of Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) living on the Brooklyn College Campus has been made by a group of graduate students in Science and Environmental Elementary Education. Those Parakeets were observed during the fall í99 semester at different times of the day: morning, noon and evening. Different typical behaviors such as grooming, maintaining nests, kissing and vocal communication were observed.

GROUP MEMBERS: Jean-Robert Fougere, Aly Betances, Gennie Tim and Janette O. Paul.


Our research concerned the social behavior of a feral group of Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) living on the Campus of Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York. We were interested in observing the typical behaviors of these birds. The specific group we were focusing on has their nests located on a tall lamp pole and on a short lamp pole nearest to the Field Library on the athletic field of Brooklyn College.


Little scientific research has been done on the ecology, biology, and behavior of Monks ( 1 ). The Quaker, (also called the Monk) Myiopsitta monachus, is known for two distinct characteristics: its ability to colonize outside of its native continent, and for the fact that it builds colonial nests of stick and twigs. Native of South America from central Bolivia and southern Brazil south to central Argentina, the Monk Parakeet is popular as a pet bird in the United States ( 2 ). Bright green and noisier than a kindergarten class at playtime, flocks of monk parakeets have become a vivid - and growing- addition to the fauna of many U.S. towns and cities. The creatures now thrive in at least 76 localities in 15 States, according to Stephen Pruett-Jones, an associate professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago. " In the next twenty years", he adds, "I believe they will be all over the United States." Ornithologists generally agree that the bird is highly unusual. "It is one of the most interesting parrot species in the world," Pruett-Jones says. It is one of the 330-odd species of parrot that builds its own nest. The nests can be simple abodes for one nesting pair or compact-car-size monstrosities that shelter half a dozen or more families in separate chambers, apartment style.
The social behavior of monk parakeets also appears to be unusual. Eberhard has found that some breeding pairs were assisted by a third monk parakeet, probably an offspring, which performed various odd jobs, such as helping to build the nest or bringing food to the female during incubation and brooding. Altruism like that had never been seen before in wild parrots
( 3 ).
Monk Parakeets are not picky eaters and will readily eat corn and other grains as well as bread scraps. Their diet for the most part consists of the seeds and nuts of Chinese tallow, hackle berry and seed pods from the various palms.
Leaving to forage at dawn, they break up into smaller groups and range several miles from the nest. Returning at dusk, they quite vociferously discuss their successes and failures. On inclement days, they will perch near the nest and complain long and loud to all who venture near ( 2 ).
Most calls are uttered during general social interactions within the colony. This finding suggests that vocal communication in those parrots is very important in maintaining coordination and cohesion among members of a colony that are in constant, close association ( 1 ).

According to Theresa Jordan in Understanding Your Bird's Body Language:

Monk Parakeets often exhibit certain behaviors at certain times of the day. Some of the behaviors that the birds exhibit are as follows:

Purring - Very similar to the growling sound, but not usually accompanied by dilating pupils. Bird's body is usually relaxed and feathers are fluffed up. This behavior indicates contentment.

Tongue Clicking - Rapid "clicking" of the tongue against the beak which generally means, "I want to be friendly, I won't hurt you".

Beak Wiping - When done in the presence of another bird, it usually an attempt to tell the other bird that is intruding on personal territory. When done while alone, it usually indicates one of two things: the bird is trying to dislodge something stuck to his beak, or the beak wiping is a displacement aggression activity. Displaced aggression means that the bird cannot perform the activity he would like to do and is aggravated, which he displays by wiping his beak on another object.

Whistling, Singing, Talking - These activities are usually indulged in when the bird is feeling safe, secure and content in his surroundings. Expected times are during the early morning hours when the sun rises, and at dusk when the sun is going down, but also occur anytime the bird is feeling especially exuberant and happy.

Chattering - Loud chattering or crowing is usually heard at dusk, when bird(s) are settling down for the night. It is believed to be an attempt to make their presence known to the other birds, or possibly to re-establish relationships among the flock. Soft chattering is often how a parrot amuses itself, and is normally a sign that the parrot is feeling safe and content. (See reference #3)


Monk Parakeets behavior will vary throughout the day.


Paper, pencil / pen, binocular, wris*censored*ch, map of Brooklyn College Campus.


Each member of the group was assigned a particular time of the day to come on to the Brooklyn College athletic field to observe the parakeets for a range of time: Gennie and Jean-Robert for morning and noon; Aly and Janette for afternoon and evening. We selected two specific lamp poles: a tall and a short lamp pole located nearest to the Field Library on the athletic field where the parakeets have their nests on the top. Each of us was to observe for about two hours and take notes regarding the social behavior of the parakeets. On the assigned day each student was armed with the materials listed above and began his/her observation. Time of arrival was recorded, and this was followed by continuously recording all the activities of the Monk Parakeets observed. The time of each pattern of behavior was recorded. Group members then chose a day for sharing and discussing the information. Our findings are listed on a table for easy reading. See tables below.

Throughout the course of observations typical social behaviors were observed. These included grooming, kissing, flying together, building and maintaining nests and some feeding.
Our observations of the monk parakeet behavior were consistent with those of other observers. For example, at the San Leon site, the birds left early in the mornings for foraging. This type of behavior was also observed on the tall pole at the Brooklyn College Athletic Field and probably explains why many birds were not seen in the middle of the day on the tall pole.
On the short pole the birds were observed building their nest in the morning and noon.
On October 25, 1999, no nests were found on the short pole. These nests were probably destroyed by Hurricane Floyd. The nests on the tall pole stayed intact. We believe the presence of the gate on the tall pole protected the nests from storm damage. Therefore, we were not able to continue to study the monks seen on the short pole after the hurricane.
On the tall pole the nests were observed being constantly maintained mornings, noons and afternoons.
Grooming and kissing among those left behind after the morning flight were observed during the day in the mornings, noons and afternoons.
At dusk, when the other parakeets returned from their trips, lots of vocal communication and socialization were observed.
Therefore, Monk Parakeets in Brooklyn exhibit a pattern of typical social behaviors that vary throughout the day.


1. Monk Parakeets at Brooklyn College; Invaders from the South? http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/MonkParakeets.htm

2. Spreyer, Mark F and Enrique H. Bucher. The Birds of the North America, No.322, 1998 (Excerpts). 9/9/99. http://www.birdsofna.org/excerpts/monk.html

3. Jordan, Theresa/Jordan Enterprises, 1998. Understanding Your Birdís Body Language, September 6,1999. http://www.smalltalkbirds.com/quakersite/ezine/97Issue5/charades.html

4. Feral Monk Parakeets (Quaker Parakeets) in North America; http://www.monkparakeet.com/research.htm

5. The San Leon Quakers; http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/8735/monk.html

6. Parrots and Plunder; http://www/sciam.com/0797issue/0797scicit2.html

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