2007-04-26 / Top Stories

South American Parrots Find Brooklyn's For Da Boids

Some Brooklyn parrots hang out on a fence at Brooklyn College athletic field.                     Photos by Linda Steinmuller
Some Brooklyn parrots hang out on a fence at Brooklyn College athletic field. Photos by Linda Steinmuller By Linda Steinmuller

You don't have to be a bird watcher or ornithology expert to know that a bunch of parrots have made Brooklyn their home for nearly forty years. They're often seen - and heard - in Canarsie, Marine Park and Flatbush. On pleasant mornings along Remsen Avenue, it is not uncommon to hear a family of parrots squawking away atop utility poles near Canarsie Cemetery.

The exotic green birds also seem to have taken to the everyday serenity on Conklin Avenue where they've built a sturdy nest and perch high above the pavement at East 94th Street.

Steve Baldwin, a passionate bird lover and member of the Audubon Society, founded the Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari and has been leading tours of parrot nesting areas for about two years. After being involved in the battle to save the nesting area of Pale Male and Lola, Manhattan's celebrity red-tail hawks, atop an apartment building overlooking Central Park, Baldwin turned his passion for birds to the Brooklyn Parrots. He runs free tours on the first Saturday of each month, developed his own website about the birds and even wrote a ballad for them. News of the famous birds has spread on the Internet and some of them can be seen on YouTube and have been featured on the cable channel, Animal Planet.

Afew parrots have made a nest near top of utility pole on Conklin Avenue and East 94th Street.
Afew parrots have made a nest near top of utility pole on Conklin Avenue and East 94th Street. There are several theories as to how these exotic birds, ranging from an overturned truck on the highway, an Argentinean tramp steamer sunk in New York Harbor and a Flatbush Avenue pet shop that was going out of business and released them.

However, the most popular - and sensational - speculation is that a shipment of birds from Argentina destined for New York pet shops was accidentally released at JFK about 40 years ago when some shipments were occasionally opened by unauthorized individuals. (A similar scenario was depicted in the acclaimed Martin Scorcese film, "Goodfellas.") Presumably the unlawful act took place hoping to find Argentinean wine, but when the package was opened, a group of Quaker Parrots flew out and disappeared over the horizon.

The birds' nesting place for the first few years is a mystery. The earliest reported sighting in Brooklyn did not take place until the early 1970s. It is likely that the birds survived in the marshlands surrounding the airport before making their way and settling in several Brooklyn neighborhoods. The parrots tried movin' on up to Central Park, but, Baldwin said, they were driven away by the city's Parks Department.

According to Baldwin, Brooklyn's exotic birds are Quaker Parrots, a highly-intelligent foot-long, sub-tropical species of parrot that originated in the temperate areas of Argentina and Brazil. They generally live 15 years but may live as long as 40 years.

Baldwin's tour meets at Brooklyn College where about 40 birds have made their home near the school's athletic field where they are drawn to its high floodlights. He said their nests can weigh up to 300 or 400 pounds!

Baldwin seems to think that the parrots settled in residential areas of Brooklyn, rather than the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, because that area is native to predators that make it less safe for the parrots. Quaker Parrots are one of the few species able to survive cold climates, and colonies exist as far north as Chicago.

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