foam Lake Birding 130


No. 130

After a three week tour of the New England states it is nice to be back home and, happily, to no snow. Besides doing the touristy things, as expected, we did see some interesting birds including four lifers: Brant (geese), Eurasian Widgeon (duck), Mute Swans and Monk Parakeets. Of the four only the Brant is native. The widgeon is a casual visitor from Europe and eastern Russia while the swans and parakeets are exotics that have established feral (tame birds that have gone wild and bred successfully) populations.

The Monk Parakeet is a native of South America that was widely used in the caged bird trade. As always happens, some birds escaped while others were deliberately released when taking care of them became too bothersome. Most exotic birds, Budgies for example, do not do well in the wild in a strange country but the Monk Parakeet is one of the few exceptions. It is now common from Florida north to Connecticut and west to Chicago where breeding colonies have been well established.

The long tailed, Robin-sized Monk Parakeet is bright green overall sporting a greenish-yellow belly band, with grey breast, throat and forehead and blue fore wings. A pretty bird. Ignoring the beak, it looks like a green Mourning Dove. Being a typical parrot it constantly squawks and chirps and a colony of them make quite a racket.

These parrots are very social and live in small colonies (10 - 100 birds) centred about their huge stick nests which they utilize all year round. Depending on the number of birds, the colony may build only one or several nests close together like an apartment complex. The irregularly shaped nests vary in size but often reach two metres in width and/or height with several entrances in each. The sticks used in nest construction are rather coarse and vary in thickness from a soda straw to a pencil and often longer than either. These nests are not only used for raising young but for roosting and providing shelter during bad weather. In severe winter weather groups of birds huddle together in these nests for warmth enabling them to survive. The nests are usually built high up in large trees but utility poles are also often used. Inevitably, the nests would catch fire so authorities had the nests removed but local people liked the birds enough that they have built special structures for them on which to build their nests and leave the power poles alone. A nice move.

It should be pointed out that the word, parakeet, has no scientific meaning but through common usage is applied to smaller parrots with long tails. For a more detailed discussion on names of parrots see Article No. 73. (Go to my website:

This week's pictures of a Monk Parakeet and the nests were taken in western Connecticut. We were actually on the lookout for them and drove with our windows open in order to hear them. We did. The parakeets were busy adding to their nests and put on quite a performance for us.