By Joe Maniscalco - 09/14/2006
They’ve become as ubiquitous in many parts of Brooklyn as their much less colorful cousin the pigeon. But friends of the South American Monk Parrots, introduced to Brooklyn more than 30 years ago when a shipment of birds supposedly went awry at JFK Airport, fear that the parrots are now being poached right out of their well-constructed nests located high atop telephone poles all around Midwood and Marine Park.
Robert Nadel, present of the Fraser Civic Association, said he began to suspect something was amiss about two months ago when he noticed the telltale squawking normally heard during his morning runs around Avenue I and Quentin Road had become conspicuously absent.
On closer inspection, Nadel found more clues that gave him pause.
“Typically, what you will find underneath the nests when the birds are active are branches and twigs. But there weren’t any. I knew that they weren’t there. The nests were empty.”
In all, Nadel said that he must have surveyed 15 to 20 nests in the area and the story was the same.
“They’re stealing something that we enjoy,” he said.
Steve Baldwin is an advertising specialist from Bay Ridge who runs the non-profit Brooklyn Parrot Society and BrooklynParrots.com.
Since the spring of 2005, he’s been leading tours around Midwood on most weekends highlighting the South American Monk Parrot population.
Brooklyn College and Green-Wood Cemetery are home to two of the largest, and possibly, oldest Monk Parrot colonies in the borough.
But late last year Baldwin says he began to hear stories of a team of two young men going around the borough with a ladder and what looks like lacrosse nets and plucking Monk Parrots – or Quaker Parrots as they’re also known – out of their nests.
“A man told me that poachers got 25 birds from Campus Road,” Baldwin reported.
According to the poaching story, the young men collect the birds and then turn around and sell the kidnapped birds to neighborhood pet stores. Adult birds are allegedly used as breeders while baby parrots can be resold for hundreds of dollars.
“First, it’s nice to have an assortment of birds,” Nadel said. “They lend color to our neighborhood. Second, they may have illnesses from the streets. They’re going to get the other animals in the store sick.”
Like Nadel, Baldwin says that he has also noticed a disappearance of many birds that used to populate his weekend tours.
Monk Parrots appear to be thriving in full force on Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, where their biggest enemies could be Con Edison who doesn’t appreciate birds building nests around their transformers.
“I’m actually broken-hearted,” said Janelle Barabash, a member of the Brooklyn Parrot Society and resident of Avenue I. “Everywhere I go I hear the same story.
Not only have the parrots seemed to have disappeared from her block – including the ones that once occupied the nest right outside her bedroom window – Barabash says that they’re also missing from her daughter’s neighborhood in Mill Basin.
“Our parrots are being stolen,” Barabash said. “They were beautiful and very noisy. They gave you a sense of being in nature. They were very happy, living freely in Brooklyn the same as any other immigrants.
Barabash said that she complained to the ASPCA about the disappearance of the birds, but both the ASPCA and Animal Care & Control of New York City say that they have not received any complaints about Monk Parrots being poached from their nests.
Robert Sakowitz, owner of World Class Aquarium at 2015 Flatbush Avenue has been dealing in Monk or Quaker Parrots for 20 years. He dismissed the idea that anyone is poaching birds.
“If you go up there and try to steal one of those baby birds, the parents will attack,” he said.
Sakowitz said that all of the birds at his shop come from breeders in Florida.
Nevertheless, residents like Bob Moses, a retired construction worker from Madison Street in Marine Park maintain that the birds are being stolen.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “They used to be on every pole. No they won’t come back no more.”
There are laws about the trapping of feral animals in the city. The state, under the Department of Conservation, could potential prosecute poachers found trapping the birds without a permit or license. The ASPCA’s law enforcement unit could also act if the birds were discovered harmed during the course of capturing them.
Baldwin regularly posts maps of his popular site-seeing tours on his BrooklynParrots website, but now fears that he’s inadvertently “tipping off” would-be poachers.
“It’s kind of said, Baldwin said. “My big dream now is to get some politician involved in this. I know the birds are not native to Brooklyn but they have value. They belong to everyone.”