Some birders travel the world seeking exotic species to add to their life list. Steve Baldwin found one in his backyard, and stopped there.
The Bay Ridge Internet marketer first spotted the Monk Parakeet, a South American species of parrot, at Brooklyn College in 2005, and their massive nests atop the stadium lights. Each nest — “incredible structures that look like sculpture” — weighs in at a hundred-plus pounds, the better to survive the winters here.
Typically, says Baldwin, “you have to travel several thousand miles to see parrots flocking in the wild.” But the Monks (also known as Quaker Parrots) came to us, most likely as cargo destined for pet shops in the late ’60s. Someone accidentally opened the crate at Kennedy airport (as the story goes) and they relocated as far as Texas and Florida. In NYC, Brooklyn has the lion’s share: there are 300 in the borough, with two major colonies at Brooklyn College and Green-Wood Cemetery.
Now Baldwin is the unofficial spokesperson for these “avian invaders” (his words). He regularly blogs about them (BrooklynParrots.com), using headlines that could easily be mistaken for The Onion’s (Breaking News: Wild “Teenage” Parrots Invading Park Slope!). He writes songs like “The Little Green Parrots of the Argentine” for their very own music videos, and has a movie in the works.
He even began leading parrot tours so others could benefit from his obsession. The first one, held in March 2005, “was an astounding success” he reported on his site, even though he was the only one who showed. Now about 20 people arrive for his free, monthly tours at the college and Green-Wood — “a spectacularly beautiful place,” which, incidentally, was the inspiration for Central Park.
The real reason Baldwin leads these tours is because he feels the Quaker is the “world’s most persecuted parrot.” Power companies hate them nesting on their poles, and have gone about removing them cruelly–two years ago, the Connecticut United Illuminating Company gassed nearly 200 of them.
“I’m trying to make them famous, because this way it’s harder for the utility company to say we’re just going to kill them … Cruelty happens because it happens in secret.”
But there are ancillary benefits to seeing the parrots in person: A German man on one recent tour told Baldwin that the bright green birds made his clinically depressed wife smile for the first time in five years.
Baldwin’s next Brooklyn tour is Sept. 15. Rsvp here. He also leads tours in Edgewater, NJ.
Sent by Nicole. Photos by Steve Baldwin.