The Connecticut Post

By Ken Dixon

HARTFORD — The Friends of Animals on Friday asked the Connecticut Appellate Court to overturn a Superior Court ruling that dismissed an attempt by the animal-rights group to stop the United Illuminating Co. from killing monk parakeets.

Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based Friends of Animals, said Friday that it’s important to protect the birds, nearly 100 of which were asphyxiated by federal Department of Agriculture crews who assisted UI in a controversial 2005 program.

In response, Albert Carbone, spokesman for UI, said Friday that the utility believes the Superior Court ruled correctly last May when a trial referee threw out the animal activists’ case.

The 35-page appeal says the trial court committed reversible errors, including the exclusion of evidence from the proceedings.

“We’re appealing because we believe we were stopped short of being able to call some witnesses and to present our case,” Feral said Friday. “Unless UI’s feet are held to the fire, we’re concerned they’ll return to an eradication scheme as they continue to exaggerate their claims that the parakeets are hazardous.”

“We think the trial court got it right and we expect to prevail in the appeal,” Carbone said Friday in a phone interview. “We plan to file a response.” The utility has maintained that the birds, which create large stick nests in trees and on top of utility poles, create safety hazards.

But no birds have been killed since the late fall
2005 campaign, which resulted in public outcry and the Friends of Animals’ lawsuit.

In recent years, UI crews have continued tearing down nests, but letting the birds fly free. Most of the time the parakeets return and rebuild nests at the sites of their former homes.

Carbone said that the last tear-down campaign was in October, when 82 nests were removed from utility poles in Stratford, West Haven, New Haven and Orange. Carbone said the birds, which for years seemed to stay close to the Long Island Sound coast, have also been found in utility poles in North Haven.

Efforts by bird lovers to create alternative nesting platforms have had mixed results attracting the colorful, tenacious, noisy birds, which are native to South America, but have made their homes in Connecticut, Brooklyn, N.Y., New Jersey, even Chicago, for about 30 years.