Eggs, some splattered and some intact, litter the ground

The New Haven Register

By Mark Zaretsky, Register Staff

The United Illuminating Co. followed through on its effort to get rid of monk parakeet nests on its electrical equipment Thursday, bringing down 37 nests – and a hail of splattered eggs – in West Haven and Stratford as animal rights activists followed at least one of the crews.

The nest removal, which will continue today, also brought down some additional surprises: several smaller birds’ nests that had been built, apparently by birds other than the bright green monk parakeets, inside much larger monk parakeet nests. The smaller nests in several cases also contained eggs.

Two smaller nests – one holding three speckled gray eggs, one holding five speckled gray eggs – came down, each with their jelly bean-size eggs intact, when UI crews brought down a much larger monk parakeet nest from a utility pole on Baldwin Avenue off Ocean Avenue in West Haven.

The monk parakeet eggs that came down in other places were slightly larger, about as big around as a quarter, and were a solid cream color.

Monk parakeets are the only species of parrot to build nests out of sticks. Frequently, they build those nests in proximity to the relative warmth of electrical transformers.

UI has removed nests four times over the past 18 months after drawing unwanted publicity and strong criticism in November 2005 for a program that, early on, included capturing birds and turning them over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be gassed.

The UI workers on a crew in West Haven were accompanied by four off-duty police officers and a UI-hired videographer.

They were shadowed by two people, one an employee of Friends of Animals, the Darien-based organization whose director, Priscilla Feral, warned earlier this week that if UI took down the nests this late in the season, it would likely find eggs.

UI also was shadowed by loudly chattering, frantic, bright green monk parakeets that swooped back and forth from time to time as some of the nests were taken down.

Observers watched two UI workers in opposing bucket trucks use 6-foot poles with hooks on the ends to take apart a nest nestled alongside a transformer on a utility pole on Contact Drive on West Haven’s West Shore.

When they finished, at least two broken, cream-colored eggs lay in a mass of goo on the ground, on the edge of a mound of sticks.

Nancy Rice of Fairfield, who works for Friends of Animals and followed the crew along with Cindy Erickson of Killingworth, said she watched UI bring down about a dozen nests prior to that one, and all but two had at least two or three smashed eggs come down with them. The other two had intact eggs, which Erickson planned to bring to someone she knew who had an incubator to try to hatch them.

“It’s just so disrespectful,” Rice said as UI workers took poles to the next nest on Contact Drive.

UI spokesman Al Carbone confirmed that 30 nests in West Haven and seven in Stratford were removed. He wouldn’t say whether it was UI’s strategy to smash monk parakeet eggs, or if it was an unintended consequence.

“The important thing is that the nests have been cleared,” Carbone said, pointing out that “the nests that are on the electrical equipment were a risk to health and safety.”

“We work closely with bird experts to find the most appropriate time to do the nest removal … outside the breeding season where possible,” he said. “I guess the timing of our nest removal is relatively consistent with past years. … We’ve tried to accommodate the breeding season whenever possible.”

Carbone noted that “the birds are considered invasive” and aren’t protected by state law.

Carbone said there were four reported fires on UI utility poles where monk parakeets nested from 2002 to 2005 – in West Haven, Milford, Stratford and most recently on July 14, 2005, in Bridgeport.

West Haven Fire Department Firefighter Bill Wilson, who lives on Contact Drive, near a removed nest site, said he has never responded to a fire caused by a parakeet nest.

Wilson said he understood UI needs to maintain its equipment, but wasn’t happy to see it destroying parakeet nests.

“I’ve always enjoyed the birds being here,” said Wilson, who has lived on the street for 14 years and the birds – which trace their roots to Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay – “have been here just as long as I have.”

On Baldwin Avenue, some neighbors were glad to see the nest fall and others weren’t.

Joyce Donegan, who lives across the street from it, said “it doesn’t bother me one way or another, but the birds were a pain in the neck. The racket they made was incredible.”

Her next-door neighbor, Meegan Keefe Carrier, was sad to see UI take down the nest – and her daughter, Shannon, 3, yelled “Stop it!” as they did so.

“I think it’s really sad,” Carrier said.