Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, photo Ujorge at en.wikimedia, CC
I've been using a new medication lately. I was told by my very careful physician that I might experience some "visual disturbances" but that it was nothing to worry about. In fact, I've enjoyed frightfully intense colors from time to time as if the Photoshop module in my brain has set saturation to maximum. It's the only pleasant side-effect, so much better than headache, nausea, muscle weakness and aching ovaries when, in fact, I'm a dude and don't have those structures as part of my physical make-up, at least, that I know of. Heh heh. Ahem..

Briefly, I thought that I might have to have the dosing adjusted. The other day, while walking to my car in an east Jersey parking lot, I heard a flock of birds ack-acking their way in my direction. When I focused on the source of what is a non-typical bird sound for the area, I saw a group of greenish feather-bullets headed right at me. They swooped upward and landed as a group in a tree to my left. I stopped dead and peered into the leaves to see if what I thought I saw was actually what I thought I saw. There they were, hacking away at the berries of the tree: parrots. Green enough up top to be almost lost in the still-leafy canopy of the tree but with grey-ish chests, or breasts or whatever it is that birds have. Parrots. Frickin' parrots. In New Jersey. In New Jersey? Wha?

If it had been one parrot, it could be an escaped bird, sure, but seven of them? Squawking and clipping the berries off the tree, they stayed for a while and I watched them, dumbfounded.

Naturally, I didn't have a camera at the ready. It seems that whenever something extraorinarily beautiful or amazing or frightening or news-worthy happens, I am sans lens. And with my reputation as a weaver of what-must-be-a-tall-tale-since-there-are-no-photos-to-prove-it, my sighting might not be believed, had I had anyone to tell. But, I swear that they looked like parrots and I swear that I saw them. I swear, I tell ya, thems was parrots.

I set out to discover whether I was experiencing a particulary severe distortion of reality. Could they have migrated from somewhere? Were they the descendants of pirate-owned runaway parrot-slaves who had somehow heard of the liberal tendencies of the North and pledged to rendezvous to survive al fresco, free as a bird, which they in fact were?

Having lived for two decades right in the path of the Atlantic Flyway, I would see all kinds of odd birds, that is, birds not typically seen 'round these parts, during times of their migration, but never parrots. My discovery was both fascinating and exciting and I couldn't wait to call the bird people at Cornell to announce my find. Perhaps it would be called capnmorganus misanthropicus? Not so fast, bud. Those birds were merely an aweigh team.

Photo courtesy Steven Baldwin,, used by permission

As it turns out, parrots, or rather, a particular species of parakeet called a Monk Parakeet or Quaker Parrot, have been hanging out in the New York area for a very long time. There's an excellent source of information about these very neato-cool birds to be found at Steven Baldwin's and you should visit this link for his very thorough explanation on how these critters may have been introduced to the area and what's happened to them since. Not as a second mention, the photos are really fantastic. There's also this article in the New York Times from 2008 about parrot colonies in Edgewater, NJ, not too far from the location of my personal encounter with the birds.

There's going to be a Parrot Safari in Brooklyn on November 6th, according to Wanna go? Contact Steve Baldwin at

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for curious critters. They're out there for us to enjoy and cherish.

No comments: