10 September 2007

What are Wild Parrots Doing in Brooklyn?

I've always heard about the wild Quaker parrots living in nests high up on lamp posts and telephone poles in certain areas of Brooklyn. Reading Sheldrake and his brilliant philosophy - morphic resonance - sort of ties in with these parrots; how they wound up in Brooklyn and how they've learned to survive, if not flourish, many miles from their hometown Argentina.

So what are the wild parrots doing in Kings County? There is much mystery surrounding the appearance of these remarkable birds, but it can safely be said that they did not fly up here from Argentina on their own. The theory has the greatest credence is that a shipment of birds destined for sale at New York area pet shops was accidentally released at Kennedy Airport in 1967 or '68. This incident was referred to as early as 1971 in an article by an ornithologist named John Bull.

where the fuck is this bus?

Much confusion remains about what actually happened at JFK. At least one source in Brooklyn has informed me that many shipments coming into the airport were opened by unauthorised people during the 1960's à la Goodfellas, when the mob was blindly opening crates to pilfer their contents.

My guy speculates that a large crate bearing an indecipherable Argentinian waybill may have been opened in this fashion. But instead of finding bottles of fine Argentinian wine, the crate opener was surprised when an unruly crowd of fully-flighted Quaker Parrots burst into the air, circled the airport, screaming, and disappeared over the horizon.

Although the escaped parrots did not turn up immediately at Brooklyn College (the earliest reported sighting was in the early 1970's), it is likely that the birds survived in the parklands surrounding the airport, and made their way in due course to the campus, where we find them today.

There are other theories: that a pet store on Flatbush Avenue went out of business and released them, that a truck overturned on a highway, that an Argentinean tramp steamer founded in New York Harbour, but the JFK airport escape theory is the one that I believe is most reliable.

After the escaped birds established themselves at Brooklyn College, they soon began expanding their domain. Over the years, "satellite" colonies appeared in Greenwood Cemetery, Marine Park, Bensonhurst, and Bay Ridge. The parrots even tried to establish a foothold in Manhattan's Central Park, but were driven off, not by high real estate prices, but by a hostile Parks Department which feared the parrots would crowd out local and migratory birds which use the Park.

"tweet chirp fuck the police tweet"

This is wild...

In 1973, the Feds became aware of the parrots' existence in the New York area, and sent out SWAT-style eradication teams which captured many birds and shot those unwilling to surrender.

Captured parrots were sent to an ultra-secure location in upstate New York, where they were kept under close observation.

One fateful morning in August, the Federal eradication teams, having achieved most of their parrot suppression efforts, approached one of the last remaining parrot strongholds, a nest complex on Rikers Island.

After loading their guns and preparing their nets, a forward observation team reported disturbing news: the parrots had withdrawn and evidently disappeared into the fog. After a thorough but fruitless search of the area, the eradication teams disbanded and returned to Washington. VICTORY! The birds outsmarted the Feds!

It will never be known whether the Rikers Island Parrots were "tipped off" by "someone on the inside" that the Feds were gunning for them. But it is likely that many of the birds we find today in Queens, the Bronx, and elsewhere are directly related to the survivors of the Great Rikers Island Quaker Parrot Standoff.

Yet still today, these intelligent, non-aggressive birds, which no self-respecting scientist has ever claimed have caused any significant crop damage in the U.S., are regarded with extreme hostility in many states.

approach with caution. extremely vicious!

If you're interested in seeing our friends, your first stop should be Brooklyn College.

Walk through the campus, cross Bedford Avenue and enter Roosevelt Hall. Your objective is the Athletic Field, and you must walk through Roosevelt Hall to access it.

If the weather is sunny, you'll quickly hear the chattering of quite a few Quaker parrots. Their calls will emanate from the six 75-foot field lighting arrays; if the weather is sunny and temperate, look for groups of them to be on the ground, foraging through the grass for food and building supplies.

There are some absolutely amazing photos on Flickr of these guys all around town. Go see! NOW!

Steve, the guy who runs Brooklyn Parrots.com sometimes gives free guided tours of the campus. You can email him here.

Hear the parrots roar!
A one minute sound recording taken of the Brooklyn Parrots last March. Two birds are perched about 15 feet up one of the light poles at the athletic field at Brooklyn College, their calls become intermixed with a larger group speaking vociferously from the nest at the top of this pole.

A longer, 11 minute sampling of the parrots as they chat, argue, signal each other, and otherwise raise a ruckus on the Brooklyn College Campus.

Steve and his crew are working on an amazing documentary about the birds. For now, you can watch a slew of clips here.

what, bitch?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

did someone cut down all thoose nests that where in manhattan beach when i was walking the other day i noticed them all gone?