Facts About Wild Parrots

 








Species:

The wild parrot is formally known as a Quaker parrot, Quaker parakeet, or Monk parrot or parakeet. 'Parakeet' is the common classification for smaller members of the parrot family. They are officially classified as: Myiopsitta Monachus.

Origin:

The birds originate from South America, including parts of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay. Due to owners releasing these birds either deliberately or accidentally, and well-documented events in the Northeast of a more massive release of the breed, over time wild parrots have established themselves in the U.S. from Florida to Illinois. How did they get here?

Appearance:

The overall color of the wild parrot is green, with pale grey on the forehead, cheeks and throat that extends down to the chest. On the chest, the grey feathers are white-tipped, giving a scalloped effect. Some blue can be found in the tail and flight feathers. The eyes are a dark brown, and the bill is horn colored. Young parrots look much the same except the colors are not as bright as on adult parrots. The sex of the bird cannot be identified by its physical appearance; it is determined only by DNA or surgical sexing. What do wild parrots look like?

Size:

Around 11 inches, weight range is 85-150 grams, but the average wild parrot is about 90-120 grams (apx. 1/4 of a pound). These parrots are about the size of a common pigeon, but have a stockier build.

Life span:

Barring accident, disease or mass destruction by man, wild parrots can be expected to live around 20-30 years.

Nesting and Why It's a Problem:

Quakers are unique among parrots in their construction of large, elaborate, free-standing communal nests, built largely from twigs and vines. Unfortunately, they like to build these nests on electrical poles, especially ones which contain transformers that generate heat. Because this poses a fire hazard, which could result in power outages the utility company routinely removes the nests.

The nests themselves can weigh in excess of 200 pounds, which would house more than 40 birds. In their original South American habitat - and unlike most parrots - these birds do not prefer to build nests in trees; rather, their nests are built into the side of cliffs. It is believed for this reason the Quakers continue to make the unfortunate choice of building nests on electrical poles. Why is this an unfortunate choice?

Habitat/Climate:

Regardless of the fact that these birds originated from a South American tropical climate, they are nevertheless quite adaptable to even the most frigid climates. In North America, wild parrots have been spotted in the following U.S. States: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia.

Breeding Habits:

Wild parrots are prolific and easy breeders and are usually sexually mature at about two years of age. The number of eggs birds lay each cycle is called a 'clutch'. The average clutch size is four to eight eggs; a second clutch is usually started when the first hatchlings (baby birds) are about four weeks old. Mortality rate amongst their young is generally 50% or more. Thus, only one or two offspring are expected to reach full maturation with each breeding cycle.

Food/Diet:

During the coldest months of the year, December to February, the birds feed almost exclusively on bird seed at backyard feeders. In warmer months, wild parrots usually search for food in groups of two to fifty-five birds on plant buds, weeds and fruits and berries found on common shrubs and trees. Information on attracting birds to backyard feeders is available at frequently asked questions.

Parrots Interaction with the Environment:

When the wild parrots were first observed in the U.S. there were concerns that they would drive out native birds and quickly spread across the country, potentially even endangering farmer's crops. In over forty years, that threat has never been realized. As an example, using this formula in this time frame would suggest that the wild parrot population in Connecticut has only grown to about 1,000 birds. It has been reported that this is nowhere near the predicted rate, and in fact proves far less than other ‘invasive’ breeds, such as starlings.

Parrots Interaction with Other Species:

Wild parrots do not drive out  local inhabitants or interfere with other species 'native' or otherwise; rather, they happily live amongst other birds and animals. Indeed, their nests are often shared with many familiar backyard birds such as starlings, finches, osprey or even (as documented by the Connecticut Audubon Society) the great horned owl. Even squirrels have been found to be living within parrot nests.

Parrot Migration and Expansion:

Wild parrots are basically sedentary birds, meaning they won't venture far from their original nest. The cold climate in the northeast areas of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey is only one of many factors keeping their numbers stable. Another factor is food supply, particularly in the winter months when parrots are almost solely reliant on outdoor feeders. Lastly, this breed has their own method of managing the size of their flock. If the existing birds consider the nest to be too crowded (in excess of forty birds) the young females are passed over for breeding that season. Being a family-orientated and communal species; these young females help feed the existing young rather than starting a family of their own.





Wild Parrots of New York 2013