The New Haven Register

By Mark Zaretsky, Register Staff

The director of an animal rights group that is battling United Illuminating in court over UI’s efforts to get rid of monk parakeet nests on its equipment blasted the utility Monday for its latest attempt, saying it’s coming too late in the season and could kill incubating eggs and chicks that have not yet learned to fly.

“It’s sinister and insensitive of UI to destroy nests after late March and up until August or later if the birds and their young are expected to survive the nest destruction,” said Priscilla Feral, executive director of Darien-based Friends of Animals.

UI had planned to begin getting rid of the nests Monday, but postponed the start of the program until today because of Monday’s rain.

“There’s no exact science” with regard to the monk parakeet breeding season, but “I’m saying there’s a high probability that the breeding season has started, and that they’re laying eggs and sitting on eggs,” said Feral, adding that her organization may seek an injunction to stop the program.

“This is practically May,” Feral said, pointing out that similar, past efforts by a New Jersey utility in the first week of May resulted in broken eggs in Edgewater, N.J. “We think May is too late, and we’re a day away from that.”

“It would be nice if UI would agree to hold off until August …” she said.

UI spokesman Al Carbone stressed that while UI is destroying the distinctive birds’ nests, it is not killing the parakeets themselves and is only removing nests from UI property, not from nearby trees or shrubs.

“We don’t touch the birds,” he said, and “there are many, many nests in trees and bushes that we do not touch.”

In addition, “We work with bird experts to determine what the best time is to remove the nest,” Carbone said.

“Obviously, the nests on electrical equipment are risks to public safety and they need to be removed,” he said.

The timing of the nest removal “is consistent with prior years,” he said, “and no eggs were observed” in the past.

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

Friends of Animals sued UI in the wake of the 2005 eradication effort. That case is scheduled to go to trial May 21.

Monk parakeets, originally from South America, have found a home along the Connecticut coast in recent years and stay all year round.

They are known for their eye-catching, condo-style stick nests, as well as their gregarious – and often loud – social nature.

This spring’s effort aims to remove 66 nests from utility poles in West Haven, New Haven, East Haven, Orange and Stratford, Carbone has said.