Monday, January 26, 2009

Legal Protection for Brooklyn's Parrots?

Fans of Brooklyn College, visitors to Greenwood Cemetery, and others around Brooklyn are often treated to some surprising sights: green and gray wild parrots flying free in the New York skies, and the massive stick nests where they live in raucous communes.

Monk Parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus, are originally native to Argentina. They are popular cage birds, and the origins of the Brooklyn flock, though murky, are presumed to lie with escapees from the pet trade. The parrots are hardy and adaptable, and they have made many other parts of North America their home as well – including such unlikely spots as Chicago and suburban New Jersey.

Naturally, the birds charm many people. Like the famed parrots of Telegraph Hill, they have a devoted fan base and have even become a minor tourist attraction. On the other hand, as non-native birds they have no legal protection either from those who have a legitimate problem with them – including Con Ed, which sometimes suffers from power outages when nests overwhelm utility poles – or those who seek to make a quick buck by netting the birds and selling them back to pet stores.

Now, New York City Councilman Tony Avello hopes to extend legal protection to the parakeets of Brooklyn with legislation to end the unregulated destruction of parrots and impose fines on parrot poachers.

While some non-native birds, such as European Starlings and Mute Swans, can cause severe environmental damage, the Monk Parakeet has shown little inclination to displace native species or overwhelm native ecosystems in the 30 years that it has lived in Brooklyn. And of course, the eastern U.S. has already lost the only native parrot it ever had – the glamorous Carolina Parakeet, which was declared extinct in 1939.

With these facts in mind, to support pro-parrot legislation, contact:

NYC Council Member Tony Avella
38-50 Bell Blvd., Suite C,
Bayside, NY 11361

If you prefer email, please send it to the attention of Rebecca Sheehan, of Councilman Avella's office: m19sheeh@council.nyc.ny.us

To learn more about Brooklyn's parrots and what you can do to help them, check out www.brooklynparrots.com.

Image from Lip Kee's Flickr pool.

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