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Monk parakeets get to fly

December 07, 2005 | Monk Parakeet
By Ken Dixon, published in The Connecticut Post on December 7, 2005

Deal allows UI to destroy nests but not send birds to death

A showdown over the extermination of hundreds of monk parakeets was short-circuited in Superior Court in New Haven Tuesday, after The United Illuminating Co. promised to cease capturing the birds - for the time being.

Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based Friends of Animals, was relieved that dozens or more birds that have escaped capture - and death - will not be asphyxiated.

She said, however, it was a Pyrrhic victory, after about 200 of the gregarious green birds were killed in the UI's three-week campaign to remove nests from 103 utility poles from West Haven to Fairfield.

The Friends of Animals withdrew their court challenge Tuesday after UI agreed to stop netting the birds and turning them over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has been destroying them in carbon dioxide chambers.

A spokesman for UI, which said the nests had to be removed to prevent outages and fires, downplayed the deal reached Tuesday, stressing that the nest-eradication effort remains on schedule, although no more birds would be captured and killed this month.

"The point is, we may never know whether they were done gassing the birds or not," Feral said. "We know a lot escaped and UI had planned on going back and getting every one they could."

She said she wished the lawsuit could have been filed sooner, but it took three weeks to research the case.

But the free birds will have to confront the winter without their nests, as the UI pulls down their thatched-stick shelters, which can weigh 200 pounds or more. Feral said her animal rights group will return to court in January to try to protect the pigeon-sized birds over the long term. "It a terrible time of year to yank their nests down," she said.

Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, co-chairman of the Legislature's Environment Committee, said he is relieved that UI's eradication plan was apparently altered. Roy credited rising public pressure against the utility as the reason the company let the remaining birds go.

"This gives us some breathing room in the Legislature to develop some amendments for the law that has allowed the UI to capture these birds and give them to the USDA," Roy said. Roy said there was no reason for UI to kill the birds that have survived - mostly in fir trees and oaks - along the Connecticut shore for 30 years. Albert Carbone, UI's spokesman, would not say that the Friends of Animals won any concessions during a closed-door meeting Tuesday in the chambers of Superior Court Judge Linda K. Lager.

"It's just part of the work plan," Carbone said. "We didn't alter our work plan in response to the complaint."

Alan Schwartz, a New Haven attorney representing UI, issued a statement after the meeting, saying: "As planned, the remaining work involves the removal of the inventoried nests and any parakeets encountered in this phase of the work will not be captured. UI has no plans to capture more parakeets during the remainder of the year."

Derek V. Oatis, a Manchester lawyer representing Friends of Animals, said he believes that UI did not raid all of the nests and that a substantial number of birds will now avoid euthanasia at the hands of the USDA.

"All that I know is that as of Friday, when I agreed to bring the action, UI were continuing to capture more birds," he said. "My understanding is there were a number of inventoried nests they hadn't gotten to yet. I don't care how anyone spins it, if there aren't birds being killed it's a good thing."

The Friends of Animals lawsuit included testimony from Dwight G. Smith, a monk parakeet expert who is chairman of the biology department at Southern Connecticut State University. He said that the monk parakeets - actually parrots because of their long tails - have established a niche in the state's ecosystem.

Carbone said it may take weeks to remove the nests.

"If there are birds, they'll just fly away," Carbone said.

The premise of the campaign was to clear transformers and poles for public safety and electric reliability, he said. Customers will receive a week's notice of any planned UI outages as the nests are pulled down with grappling hooks.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, a member of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, questioning the extermination campaign, requesting that he explore other options. U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, D-4, a Bridgeport resident who has seen the monk parakeets in his neighborhood, also wrote to the USDA, expressing his concern about the euthanization of the colorful birds.

By Ken Dixon, published in The Connecticut Post on December 7, 2005. Washington bureau writer Peter Urban contributed to this report.

Comments

I sure wish I had these birds more inland in Bethel CT. I had a stray here years back and was so thrilled thinking he would nest here, but I never saw him/her again. I would love them on my property. I already house bluebirds, tree swallows and ALL others. These birds are more than welcone here. Hopefully they will move inland. I would erect a place for them and maybe then they would come up here. I know the immediate priority is where they are now. Add me to list for inland homes . My animals/wildlife get top priority with care and food and water year round.

!!!! I have recently learned that the parakeet slaughter in Connecticut has been hallted! In my school many have said that they hate the parakeets and wish them to be dead but to me they have only been a gift. They have given me enjoyment and happiness to see such magnificent birds. They say they MIGHT cut out power shortages but for me I'd rather go with out power for a while than kill defenseless birds. I am so happy that the madness has stopped at least temperarily and we can enjoy these great birds.

I want everyone to keep writing emails and letters to UI to get them to stop the removal of the nests until spring. If we keep the pressure on, maybe they will come around. If we continue to embarass them in the media, they may hold off until spring. Keep those letters going. Anyone and everyone who are in the areas where the parakeets will lose their nests, PLEASE offer to have a platform erected in your yard to attract them for the winter. If I lived closer to the shore, I would fill my yard with these platforms. I would love to have them! I sadly live in Shelton and they do not come this far north. I would do anything to save them. Keep coming back to this site for more updates. I will continue to protest or anything else to save these beautiful birds. I won't sleep until they are protected from UI.

Thank God for Friends of Animals and God bless those poor little birds who have suffered at the hands of the UI and the USDA. Keep the lights turned off. I teach, and I pull up the blinds in my classes and turned the lights off. I've purchased a huge flashlight with rechargeable batteries as well as a book light. Let's fight the rate hike that the UI wants next year. Let's do as Al Carbone suggests and conserve, conserve, conserve.

A BIG Thank you to everyone who cares about this situation. I thought I was the only one who cared, and this thing made me sick and sad. My faith in humankind is slightly restored, but we need to help the poor, cold, and homeless birds. I heard a seminar is being planned on Monday in CT. The seminar is to help people build/set up shelters for the birds whose nests shall be impacted by these jerks!!! Does anyone know where in CT. the seminar will occur? Does anyone have any other information about this???? Please share. Thanks, Marya Blog editor's note: The seminar is in Norwalk at City Hall -- Exit 16 off I-95. , at 5:30 pm.

I have just heard about this horrible, senseless act of cruelty committed by UI and it absoulutely amazes me that it never occurred to them to (lightbulb, please) simply relocate the nests. Is that something that is hard to do? These poor birds are doing nothing but what they have been "hardwired" to do and they should not have to pay with their lives simply because they are trying to survive. Las Vegas does get cold, but nothing like what CT does. You have my heartfelt support and I will pray for the birds safety and protection.

Seems UI, Carbone and Woodson just want these birds dead. They could care less if these birds have no homes to go to. They want them to freeze to death. They are still performing cruelty. Let them stay till spring as we ALL WILL HAVE solutions without killing. This is so mean of them and Carbone seems so proud of the kill, when he was on the news. This is far from over and no holidays will deter our efforts. I do not know what the urgency is after all these years to HAVE to take these nests down in WINTER. UI and all others probably planned all this purposely during this time. KILL, KILL ,KILL is the only language they know. Please leave these nests till spring and we will solve the problem humanely.

I can't thank you enough for coming to the aid of the parakeets. They have been a source of delight for me at my backyard feeder, and I was horrified by the news. It makes me sick that the Audubon Society condones this. Surely they could help come up with a solution rather than being part of the problem. Refusing to protect birds that are not native to this country seems to me to be the avian equivalent of racism. I just don't get it. I'm going to send you an extra donation as a token of my appreciation. Please keep up the fight.

I couldn't have said it better PO. TO ALL POLITICIANS: WE WILL NOT FORGET THIS AT ELECTION TIME. But right now we are in emergency mode, we have to save our babies. I would love to erect a parrot platform on my property, but since I live in Vernon and there are not parrots here I will do the next best thing. I will volunteer my labor every Sunday, all day, as many Sundays as it takes to erect these parrot platforms on property whose owners who desire one. I am not a carpenter but can follow directions and a saw, hammer, drill, etc. are not foreign devices to me. In fact, we can establish a team that becomes expert at these erections (of course pun intended) to go from property to property becoming more efficient as we learn from each installation. What say peeps? Sincerely, Ken Bernacky

The platform-building workshop is at the Norwalk City Hall on Monday, December 12 at 5:30 p.m in Room 101. Anyone who would like to volunteer their property, time or resources (including bird seed) to this effort please contact me. Norwalk City Hall is located at 125 East Ave., Norwalk, Conn., 06851 Directions to Norwalk City Hall from New Haven: Take I-95 to Exit 16 Follow the ramp to Route 1 Make a slight Right on East Ave. City Hall is on the right by a light. Turn right at light and another right into parking lot. We will meet on the first floor in room 101 at 5:30 p.m. Laurel Lundstrom FoA Program Coordinator

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