Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Monk Parakeets in New Jersey

Monk Parakeets / Uploaded to Flickr by David Reeves

As Patrick mentioned yesterday, New Jersey's records committee decided to add Monk Parakeet, an exotic species native to Argentina, to the state checklist of birds. What that means is that the committee regards the species as having an established population in the state. New Jersey's birders are now free to count the species on any of their state lists that they submit to birding organizations, such as for the World Series of Birding. No doubt this will be cause for celebration among parrot fans.

The longest established population in the state is in Edgewater at Veteran's Memorial Park, a park so small that it appears not to be in Google's location database. The records committee has posted an older article about the Edgewater parrots that first appeared in New Jersey Birds. Monk Parakeets have had an active colony there since at least the early 1970s and possibly earlier. New Jersey's wild population descends from birds released, either deliberately or accidently, in New York in the 1960s, who then decided to move out to the suburbs. As of the date of the article, that colony was estimated to contain about 50 birds.

According to the announcement on JerseyBirds, there is also an established population in Middlesex County. At this point I do not know its location, nor has the location been reported on JerseyBirds or eBird.

Growing colonies in both states have been persecuted by utility companies because of the parrots' preference for building massive stick nests on telephone poles. Apparently transformers provide warmth to help parrots survive the cold winter months. Utility companies fear that the nests could result in blown transformers or other problems. The growth of the parrot population also inspires concern in the agricultural sector in the agricultural sector, as the species is considered a pest in Argentina. So far Monk Parakeets in New York and New Jersey have only colonized urban locations, so that has not occurred here. Whether the species will become invasive or be confined to a few scattered colonies remains to be seen.