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Parakeets merit respect from UI

December 27, 2005 | Monk Parakeet

Forty years ago, the bright-green South American parrots appeared along Connecticut's coast, refugees of the exotic pet trade. Now, these hardy birds -- monk parakeets, in common parlance -- have carved out an ecological niche for themselves.

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Connecticut has graciously made room for me, a Utah native; I, like any other member of my species, create more of a mess than a parrot. But now, the United Illuminating Co. wants to purge Connecticut of these birds. Rather than admit that this is for its own convenience, the company cites a factor that's irrelevant to its operations: the presumed invasive status of parrots.

The parrots, although relative newcomers, don't fit the federal definition of invasive -- according to a 1999 Executive Order, an invasive species is "an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health."

We've been harmful to the parrots, but they haven't responded in kind. Experts who predicted 30 years back that the parrots would become an agricultural nuisance turned out to be wrong.

Nor do these birds harm the natural environment. Indeed, they've become a vibrant part of the web of life, comprising part of the regular diet of hawks and peregrine falcons. The parrots themselves are herbivores, and pose no greater threats to ourselves or other species than squirrels do. The birds feed on weed species: black locust, sycamore, sumac, shadbush, autumn olive. Gracing our ecologically diminished landscapes, monk parakeets help other regional animals -- such as great horned owls, which rely on abandoned nests -- to survive and thrive.

You could send me back to Utah and the ecology wouldn't miss me at all. But it would be poorer without the monk parakeets.

Yet in mid-November, UI, with the support of the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Audubon Society, the National Audubon Society and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, decided to wipe out this innocuous avian community. State statutes prohibit the capture and killing of wild birds, but in 2003 the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection requested an amendment to exclude monk parakeets from the law's protection. Asked about the precise basis of the Department's request, state lawmakers don't seem to remember what it might have been.

UI insists that its treatment of birds is the "best solution to problem." Evidently the company thinks it need not demonstrate, first, that there is a problem. Estimates regarding problems with power lines indicate that only some 9 percent are animal-related, those mostly involve squirrels. The company hasn't suggested a round-up and gassing of squirrels, but that's what they're doing to the birds.

The company's "best solution" might suit its convenience, but that doesn't make it best for the public or the biocommunity of which we're a part. Rounding up and killing birds and snatching away their nests in the middle of winter, while described as "common practice," is as impractical as it is morally misguided.

It's incumbent upon the UI to take prudent, intelligent steps to maintain utility poles year-round. Doing so would be in the best interest of public safety and would prevent the formation of nests, about whose weight and mass the company now complains. If the company can't do that much, they've got bigger problems than nests.

The state legislature, for its part, should restore the provision that has protected monk parakeets for decades. It should acknowledge that monk parakeets have assimilated into the regional ecology. And it should understand and appreciate that public support for the birds shows Connecticut residents at their best.

"The bottom line," as U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays put the point, "is there has been an incredible outpouring of support for these animals, and we need to work with the USDA, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and United Illuminating Co. to find another viable approach."

Over time, if we ourselves are to continue to thrive, it will probably be because we learn to work with nature rather than against it. Conflicts arising from the pressures we impose on our environment will require us to gracefully weather unexpected changes in the habits and patterns of other species. The test before us is whether we can view monk parakeets not as exotic pets, not as inconveniences to be summarily done away with, but as the free birds they are.

Comments

if i could somehow not use the ui i would this is a terrible thing thay are doing i feed about 100 birds weekly from my feeders at home also i live in milford and only remember 1 TIME IN 8 YEARS WE LOST POWER and i am not too sure i believe that the birds were to blame with all their money they could fine a solution not MURDER i hope i never see a ui truck doing such a horrible thing the ui should be ashame of themselves and the workers should refuse to do this they go on strike for every little thing so why not for something they would get everyones support for doing please somehow sve our little parrots

These beautiful birds come to my bird feeder every morning. They brighten my day with their gentle manner. They are never aggressive and join in with the other birds. They are so sweet as they eat one little seed at a time. They are truly a blessing for me and a miraculous addition to our landscape. How anyone could harm one of these is beyond my ken. I need to know what I can do to protect them for always.

What can we do to make this stop? This is absolutely barbaric.

With all the issues we have in West Haven one would think that the monk parakeets would, at most, be of no consequence. These beautiful creatures grace our neighborhoods and should be encouraged to live in alternative nests, where possible, rather than being murdered! Until that can be done they should be left alone. They are a gift and I love watching them with all the other birds on the feeders in my yard. If I could I'd give them sanctuary myself. Destroy the monk parakeets? What an outrage!

I visualize a past episode of "The Twilight Zone" - where the animals treated us as we have treated them - when I read this article. Sometimes we "humans" will stop at nothing to feed our egos and proove to all on earth that we are "king of the mountain".

As far what is happening to the monk parakeets in West Haven, It is sad to know that these beautiful bird have to suffer for man mistake. We captured these birds for pets and then when the escape from their owner, they try to survive in ahabitat that they are not from. If they survive they deserve to live here. They are just one of many of Gods creatures that have the right to live. We should make a safer place for them to live and not kill them.

Monk parakeets are such a symbol of intelligence, family life and love, survival, pleasure. There are some people who can't stand their noise, but perhaps just need education in re-framing what they see as a nuisance into joy. Show everyone "Wild Parakeets of Telegraph Hill"! How can we let UI know of the cruelty of their nest destruction?

The world is now barbaric... grr. why cruel world? why?

Im nine years old and guess how many budgies/parakeets i've had 12! and i think its wrong to harm/kill mother natuer how would we feel if animals did that to us! not very good and thats why we should keep protesting till they stop killing the animals and im not just talking about the bugies/parakeets im talking about ever animal thats being killed/harmed for no reason! so all i have to say to the people that agree with me i'm glad you're with me and you should be with me to save the animals untill there all gone

These birds are harmless and your killing them!! I have 4 parakeets, and other people treat it with no care... please stop making animals extinct!!!!! The polar bears are close to that, the frogs, squirrels , don't make these birds die!

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