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Monk Parakeets Gain Legal Protection

September 28, 2006 | Monk Parakeet

KEN DIXON
Connecticut Post

Animal rights activists have won in their attempt to protect shoreline monk parakeets colonies from slaughter at the hands of the United Illuminating Co. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A state trial referee in New Haven Superior Court last week ruled against UI's motion to dismiss a request to prevent the type of capture-and-slaughter program that resulted in the deaths of 179 of the bright green parrots last year.

The decision may already be paying dividends. UI officials said Wednesday that while they plan to remove new nests from dozens of utility poles in October, they will not use lethal methods, instead allowing the birds to fly away. In a 19-page decision, Judge Trial Referee David W. Skolnick ruled that UI never developed a way to discourage the birds from nesting in its wooden utility poles. "Therefore, it is likely that the birds will continue to do so," Skolnick wrote, noting that alternatives exist.

"The defendant's failure to implement these measures is likely to cause the unnecessary destruction of monk parakeets, unnecessary harm to other species of wildlife, and impairment of the public trust in the ability of the state to protect its natural resources" in violation of state law, Skolnick wrote.

Priscilla Feral, president of the Friends of Animals group, said Wednesday that she hopes the decision paves the way for a court-ordered discovery phase, including an in-depth investigation into UI's long-term maintenance plan for utility poles and potential alternatives to capturing and killing.

Derek V. Oatis, Friends of Animals' attorney, said the ruling is important.

"For me, the biggest thing is that UI has claimed that its hands are tied by state or federal law and they had no choice but to gas these birds," Oatis said Wednesday. "The judge said that's not true as a matter of law." Feral, who began the legal challenge last year after the eradication program was first reported in the Connecticut Post, said killing animals is never the right response.

"The judge agreed there might be alternatives that UI didn't try," Feral said. "Certainly, companies that can light up every home in the region can find methods to spare parrots' lives.

"As the case proceeds, we're confident that the law will be changed to reflect the most enlightened attributes of the residents of our state."

Last November, UI crews raided the large nests and turned captured birds over to USDA crews, which asphyxiated them with carbon dioxide.

Dwight G. Smith, chairman of Southern Connecticut State University's Biology Department and an expert on the state's monk parakeets, agreed there are better ways to deal with the birds than killing them.

"United Illuminating has the right to protect its customers, but I hope that they will not again resort to slaughtering these interesting and entertaining birds," said Smith, who in court documents is prepared to testify on behalf of the Friends of Animals.

While most of southwestern Connecticut's monk parakeets nest in trees, Smith said UI has continually ignored his attempts to research whether the birds on poles can be enticed to nest elsewhere. Meanwhile, UI said on Wednesday that as early as next week, it will begin a non-lethal nest-removal program that does not include capture of the gregarious parrots.

While last year's $125,000 program resulted in public controversy and the eventual removal of 119 nests in West Haven, Milford, Stratford and Bridgeport, surviving birds returned to nest at nearly half the utility poles, according to Albert Carbone, the UI spokesman.

Carbone downplayed the ruling. "It's just a technical decision," he said. "The case proceeds to the next stage of litigation because the decision is not on the merits of the case."

Carbone said the next step is the company's response to the FOA complaint, including the denial of breaking any laws that might protect the birds, which have lived in the state since the early 1970s.

"We're confident that if and when this is heard on its merits, the court will reject the Friends of Animals' claims of wrongdoing," Carbone said.

He said that in June, around the time Skolnick heard arguments in New Haven, birds had restarted nests on 39 poles, which have now more than doubled, to 76.

Forty-nine colonies have reformed on poles in West Haven; 19 in Stratford, one in Bridgeport; none in Fairfield and Milford; five in New Haven and two in East Haven. The birds live in colonies of up to 40 members.

This week, six UI customers in West Haven were without power for more than an hour, an outage that Carbone said was caused by a parrot nest, which was then knocked down.

"In the next couple of weeks we'll go and knock down those nests," Carbone said. "It's important to say we have no plans to capture birds. This is something that has been advocated by all parties."

Carbone said the breeding season finished in August, so this season's fledglings will be able to fly away when the crews arrive to reclaim the poles.

Comments

I am thrilled with the outcome of this case. I live in the Lordship section of Stratford and I have a monk parrot nesting platform in my yard. I am happy to say that I have about 10-15 parrots occupying the nest all living very happily together. Seeing that UI is going to start nest teardowns any day, I encourage anyone living in one of the towns that are home to parrots to erect a platform. Thanks to everyone who was involved in this great cause!!! Michele

I am thrilled to say that a colony of these magnificent monk parakeets are living and thriving in the Bronx. They enjoy eating the pinecones from the tops of my trees.They also fly back and forth to adjoining yards for the fruit off of neighbors trees. We are in such awe to have them living amongst us!

"oh yeah! we saved the cute little monk parakeet!" A NON-NATIVE SPECIES. I read a comment in one of the other stories that they found a "niche" in the area. Their "niche" is living on utility poles building their nests around transformers for the warmth they provide. They need the warmth from the transformer to survive the winters because THEY DO NOT BELONG IN NEW ENGLAND. Isn't there also the possibility that they have a negative impact on native bird species? Have there been studies to determine these possible effects? What about plant and insect species (food sources)? Have they impacted food sources for native species? If they have a negative impact on native species from any kingdom, then that problem needs to be resolved. "They look pretty" shouldn't be grounds for protecting a non-native species. [Blog editors note: When hunters are fixated on offering comments here, we receive a small variety of loose-tongued reactions, some of which we post for the psychology these mental burps provide. Thanks for informing our views, Scott.

I am not a hunter. Thanks for making assumptions. Besides, the Monk Parakeet would probably never be a hunting issue since they like to make their nests around step-down transformers on utility poles which tend to be in populated areas where hunting is restricted/prohibited by state law (500 ft from occupied structures for firearm if on land where hunting is permitted). [Blog editors' note: If it walks like a hunter and talks like a hunter it's a ..... Monk parakeets also nest in trees. One thought is to stop trashing them and to regard the life around us as worthy of respect. What a brainstorm.

Bad grammer Scott, and now that I've countered some of the rediculous claims you've made (on the other hand, you might not be the same Scott as in GOOD NEWS FOR DEER IN MISSOURI), I will now tell you that monk parakeets can be found naturally in Argentina. The are TEMPERATE-ZONE PARAKEETS. Got it? Oh, and there are almost no native bird species in the big cities, where these birds are usually found. Also, while your attacking the monk parakeet, perhaps you'd like to know that starlings, brush-tailed rock-wallabies (yes, there is a breeding population in Hawaii (and it's a good thing too, because they are critically endangered in Australia), and house sparrows are introduced. Oh, and the human species is non-native to everywhere except Africa. Last time I checked, we're having a much larger effect on the ecosystem than the monk parakeets. They might compete with native bird species, but not enough to cause trouble. If two species couldn't share a niche, we would not two species of ants in the U.S., or two species of seagull, or two species of fox, or two species of big cats, or two species of wallabys in Australia, or two species of burrowing crabs in the mangroves of Kenya. Anyway, animal species naturally spread, and even though we are accelerating it, we should be more worried about kudzu (a truly harmful invasive) than parakeets. Oh, and one last note: since you like hunting (otherwise you wouldn't know about the 500 ft. rule), the trout and pheasants you fish for and shoot at are also introduced. Most exotic animals that have established themselves well were introduced by the government for people to shoot.

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