The monk parakeet, also known as the quaker parrot, is a large, mainly green bird with blue accent feathers and a broad, pale gray underbelly. The birds were first introduced to North America as pets, and feral populations of the parakeets were noted in the wild on Long Island as early as the late 1960s. Many theories exist as to how and when the birds were introduced to the area, but the most viable is that the birds were released by or escaped from pet owners throughout the 1960s and 1970s. From there, the birds most likely flocked, mated, and produced viable colonies that have proliferated to this day.
The monk parakeets have been sighted mainly in New York and Connecticut, where several colonies have been studied and observed. The most famous of these colonies is that of Brooklyn College in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Sightings of the parakeets have been rare in New Jersey, according to records published by the New Jersey Audubon Society and information available on popular bird watching website ebird.com. Established colonies exist in Edgewater and Middlesex, New Jersey, but sightings have been extremely rare in Essex County in the last five years.
Monk parakeets are highly intelligent birds, and they have a demonstrated ability to learn and recite words and phrases. They are also exceptionally vocal, and the casual observer can usually spot the birds after following their loud cackling squawks.
These parakeets are unique among the parrot family in that they build their own nests rather than utilize a tree or other area for breeding and hatching. The nests, comprised mainly of large sticks, can be as high as six feet tall, with separate compartments for mated pairs. Because of the tendency of these birds to build nests on power lines for warmth, the parakeets have been designated as “pests” in some areas. Conservation groups and local bird lovers have maintained efforts to protect these relatively new bird neighbors.
According to the New Jersey Audubon Society, several states have placed the monk parakeet on the list of established exotic species. It remains to be seen whether New Jersey will also consider the monk parakeet an established resident. In the meantime, at least six of these unique birds can be observed feeding and flying in the trees surrounding our very own Maplewood Memorial Park.
Rhode Island native Nicole Champagne is a newcomer to Maplewood. After several years of enjoying city life as a resident of Brooklyn, Nicole made the move to the area earlier this year. An English teacher at Newark Academy in Livingston, Nicole has a BA in English from the College of Charleston and an MA in English from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Letters degree in the Humanities from Drew University in Madison. Aside from teaching and bird watching, Nicole also enjoys writing and photography. Nicole’s photography has been featured in the New Jersey Jewish News, on the cover of Outreach Magazine and in Drew University’s publication, Insanity’s Horse. She can be reached at email@example.com.