Monk Parakeets find downtown trees fruitful

This Monk Parakeet, on a tree behind Milford City Hall, was among many of the bright green birds flying, climbing and eating at downtown trees last week.

This Monk Parakeet, on a tree behind Milford City Hall, was among many of the bright green birds flying, climbing and eating at downtown trees last week.

When Monk Parakeets first showed up in Milford on the western side of the city perhaps 20 years ago or so, they were a bit of a novelty.

Not so anymore, as the noisy birds can be found in many Milford locations, building nests in trees and, to the chagrin of power companies for a number of years, atop power line poles.

The parrots were recently spotted in downtown Milford, near Milford City Hall, where they joined the already abundant population of geese and ducks near the downtown duck pond.

The colorful birds squeaked and squawked, and nibbled on fruit growing on downtown trees.

“Right now they’re moving around,” said Frank Gallo, associate director of the Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center at Milford Point.

Gallo doesn’t think the birds have settled near the downtown duck ponds, but are rather moving around looking for food. He doesn’t live far from downtown, and he’s noticed them near his house.

Typically the birds nest closer to the water: Their huge, sprawling nests can be found in various shoreline parts of Milford, including Milford Point and Woodmont, along Gulf Street, and in neighborhoods near the Audubon.

The Monk Parakeet, or Myiopsitta monachus, according to Audubon.org, is a native of South America that “builds bulky stick nests among the branches, both for raising young and for sleeping in at night.”

Many North American cities now have local colonies of Monk Parakeets, established by birds escaped from captivity, the site states.

In an article on the Connecticut Audubon website, Kathy Van Der Aue, president of the Connecticut Ornithological Society, wrote about the birds, noting that she first saw one in 1975 in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport.

“Urban legends abound on the question of how they got here,” she wrote. “These parrots, known as Quaker Parrots in the pet trade, are imported from temperate regions of South America. One persistent theory is ‘the dropped crate at Kennedy Airport,’ another ‘the truck accident on I-95 in New Haven.’”

She noted that the urban legend she remembers is that the birds arrived on one of the many  banana boats unloading in Bridgeport Harbor.

“None of these can be independently verified,” Van Der Aue wrote. “Because Monk Parakeets are concentrated along our coastline, from the New York border to Old Lyme, there may be some credence to these stories that they escaped from accidents at transportation hubs like Kennedy. They are noisy pets and perhaps irresponsible pet owners grew tired of the constant squawks and released them outside.”

She noted that the birds have been spotted in downtown Milford, among other locations.

At the Milford-based Audubon, Gallo said that some people really love the birds.

Others, however, find them a bit too loud.

But other than their loud squawking, and problems created when they nested on powerlines and transformers, the birds don’t seem to be a big problem here, environmentally speaking. Gallo said they eat larger seeds and fruits than other birds, so don’t really compete with them.

And many people find their bold, green color a colorful addition outdoors.

“They sort of make a statement,” Gallo said.

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