Posted in: Animal News

Quaker Parakeets Celebrate 40 Years In United States

Quaker parakeets have celebrated 40 years in the USA

The spunky Quaker parakeet has been quietly — or perhaps not so quietly — nesting successfully in the United States for at least 40 years. The Chicago colony was perhaps the first and the most famous, and Chicago magazine itself recently wished the nest-building parrot a happy 40th anniversary.

Over the years, the parrots nesting in Hyde Park have become a welcome sign of spring after Chicago’s long, notoriously cold winters. However, when it first arrived on this continent, the United States Department of Agriculture regarded it as an invasive species because of its impact on agricultural crops back home in its native South America.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Quaker parakeets and their close cousins, cliff parakeets, are the only parrot species known to build elaborate stick nests. Most parrots prefer to nest in termite mounds, cavities in trees, or even artificial nest boxes.

Audubon magazine reported that Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African-American mayor, lived across the street from a well-known colony. As long as he was alive, he protected them because he believed that they brought good luck. When he died in 1987, the USDA tried to remove the Quakers.

However, a neighborhood defense committee fought for the right to keep the birds.

And a later USDA study done on the growing population in Florida acknowledged that the introduced Quaker parakeets are not important crop pests. They seem to be urban or suburban birds, and the biggest problem they cause is the power outages that occur when they build their huge colony nests too close to electrical equipment.

Advocacy groups for the wild parrots can help power companies figure out the best time to remove nuisance nests. On Wednesday, New Jersey power company PSE&G safely removed badly situated nests from utility poles in Edgewater, Fort Lee, and Leonia, NJ. The date was chosen with the help of the Edgewater Parrot Society, who explained that if the nests are removed at this time of year, it gives the birds time to re-build and lay their eggs in a safer spot.

I live in New Orleans, where we too are hosting a small colony of Quaker parakeets. Do you have Quaker parakeets in your city?

[Quaker parakeet photo by Juan Emilio via Wikipedia Commons]

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