EDGEWATER — One of the unique sights the denizens of the New Jersey Palisades become accustomed too is the quick flash of green overhead — a tropical parrot joining his flock in the trees.
But they also present a unique problem for the region’s utility, PSEG, with their preference for utility poles as nesting sites. Crews finished work Wednesday removing some of those nests from poles in Edgewater, Fort Lee and Leonia, the company said.
PARROTS IN NEW JERSEY?
Their are plenty of origin stories for the Quaker parrots, also known as Monk parakeets, the most common being that they escaped from John F. Kennedy airport in New York during the delivery of a shipment of exotic birds in the 1970s.
They’re originally from South America, but live in a “temperate zone” climate not dissimilar enough from northern New Jersey to cause problems for the birds, Alison Evans-Fragale, who heads the Edgewater Parrot Society, told NJ.com earlier this year.
They’re now a common site in communities along the Palisades, with their large, globular nests sitting in neighborhood trees.
But they also build their homes on utility poles, often beneath transformers and other equipment, drawn in by the warmth it generates. Kristine Snodgrass, a spokeswoman for PSEG, said the nests can reduce airflow around the equipment, which can become dangerous over time.
“When there’s a lot of demand and the equipment heats up, there’s no circulation,” she said. That can lead to short-circuiting and outages — a four-hour outage in Leonia, Englewood Cliffs and Teaneck in December was attributed to a Quaker nest, Snodgrass said.
So twice a year, the utility obtains permits from the state Division of Fish and Wildlife to dismantle the nests built around the utility poles, in hopes that the birds relocate to nearby trees. In the spring, the work is timed between the post-winter thaw and the bird’s nesting season in April, so that there aren’t eggs in the nests when crews take them down.
Because the birds are non-native, they’re technically considered a “potentially dangerous species” by the state — a designation the Edgewater Parrot Society has been working for years to remove.
CONNECT WITH US
The group said on its Facebook page this week that the recent removal work by PSEG had gone smoothly.
“The wild Quakers will now spend the next few weeks frantically re-building in an effort to have a place to call home in time for the breeding season,” they wrote. “Kudos to PSEG for their humane efforts on behalf of the wild Quaker Parrots.”
Click here to see more images of the birds in Egewater, Fairview and Cliffside Park.
view slideshow (2 images)
The flocks of large, green-and-red birds around San Diego may seem unusual, but they’re a part of the beach culture now. They’re wild parrots.
Though the parrots are not native to San Diego, or California as a whole, they’ve been here for a while and are likely here to stay. According to The California Parrot Project, the birds survive on seeds, fruit and nectar from tropical trees and shrubs planted in urban and residential areas in such communities as Ocean Beach, Point Loma, Pacific Beach and La Jolla.
Karen Straus, coordinator of the San Diego Bird Festival, hosted by the San Diego Audubon Society, said the birds do not migrate, but stay in San Diego year-round. They have established communal roosts around the county that they return to each night. During the day, the birds will fly out to a variety of food sources, depending on the time of year.
“I see them often out at Lakeside because there are trees in the Lindo Lake Park area that are a good food source for them,” Straus said. “So, at certain times of the year, they’ll be out at Lindo Lake, but they’re probably roosting back here [in the beach communities].”
She said the parrots have already made an appearance flying overhead at this year’s bird festival, and they’ve caused some excitement at festivals in the past.
“At the bird festival three years ago, they landed in the trees,” Straus said. “All our guests were running out of the workshops and running down to see the parrots right here at the festival.”
While there is no single explanation as to how the birds got here, Straus said there are two main theories, both of which may be true.
One is that the parrots came to California as pets.
“People like to have birds, especially parrots, as pets,” Straus said. “But sometimes, maybe there’s a behavior problem with the bird or maybe [the owners] are moving and they can’t take the bird with them, so the birds are simply released into the wild or the birds may escape into the wild.”
According to The California Parrot Project, hundreds of released and escaped parrots throughout the state over time have led to the wild, breeding populations today.
The other theory, Straus said, is that parrots native to northern Mexico came to California in search of a suitable habitat as areas of Mexico became deforested.
Whatever the reason, the exotic birds have established themselves as a colorful addition to more than 500 species of birds found throughout San Diego County.
“San Diego has an amazing diversity of birds, and that’s because we are lucky enough to be located on a major migration flyway,” Straus said.
Straus said anyone interested in learning more about the variety of birds in San Diego should go on a San Diego Audubon Society bird walk. Throughout the month experts guide guests through local areas around the county like Santee Lake and La Jolla Shores to observe birds.
For more information about the walks, visit www.sandiegoaudubon.org.
This is the first year of seeing the wild parrots, Aug 2009.
This was taken about 8am, Aug. 2009, Sunday morning. This was just a handful of the parrots I seen that morning. There were many more up in the trees. I was told they came to the park around 8am in the mornings, down by the mesquite trees, so I made it a point to be down there about that time and I met up with a lady that walks her dogs every day in the park and we both walked down to the other end of the park and we counted about 40 to 50 parrots…in several trees and flying. We stood there a while, looking in amazement at all these parrots. I never imagined I’d ever see so many parrots at one time, especially in the wild! They decided I took enough pictures of them and a lot of them flew off and landed on the sidewalk in the park. I then walked over there and took some pictures of them…there was probably about 25 parrots down on the ground in the park. I’ve never seen that many at one time in the park again. But every year when the mesquite trees put on the seed pods you can still see them in the trees and hear them flying overhead going to and from the park.
We have be seeing the parrots now for 3 or 4 years. We live next to Wyche Park in Irving, TX and the parrots come to the park during the months when the mesquite trees put out seed pods…around July,Aug,Sept. Sometimes while standing out in the backyard on the weekends we’ll hear the parrots flying above going to the park. I have found one of their nesting spots not to far from here and I’ve been putting bird seeds out on the weekends for them. Just love seeing these pretty birds and they are quite noisy!!! This picture was taken just last weekend over by their nesting area.
Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 6:15 am
Parrots Fly To Lois Lane, Cause Tree Removal, Paving Delay
Gazettes.com – Gazette Newspapers Long Beach California
Concern for the flock of parrots that make Belmont Shore their home will delay removal of trees along Lois Lane, and could postpone repaving of the street as well.
Lois Lane is an improved alley near the intersection of Livingston Drive and Ximeno Avenue. After the recent rebuild of Livingston Drive, repaving of Lois Lane was proposed.
However, a row of six mature Red Iron Bark Trees along Lois Lane have outgrown their space, and the root systems have damaged curb, gutter and pavement. In order to complete the work on Lois Lane, the city’s arborist recommended the removal of the trees. They were posted and neighbors notified.
One nearby resident, Kate Karp, noticed that the trees slated for removal included one favored by the flock of wild parrots that has become a Belmont Shore staple. According to Karp, a group of the parrots often spend the night on Lois Lane.
“When we were naming this street, in fact, one suggestion by Melinda Cotton, which was almost as popular as Lois Lane and which I liked a lot, was Parrot Lane,” Karp wrote. “The conures flock over to our end of the street from the tree in front of the Vons on Ocean Boulevard, where they work during the day as greeters, to the Lois Lane tree, where they nibble away at the berries and provide a little night music.”
Karp asked for and received the arborist’s report about the trees, and asked what she could do. She was told to file an appeal with Art Cox, superintendent of street operations in the Public Works Department, which she did.
“We received the appeal on Monday,” Cox said. “The next step is we’ll go back to engineering and see if there are alternatives… If not, the tree advisory committee would review the appeal, and that likely would take place in April or May.
“We’ll open it up and take a look at each tree… We always like to find a way to do both, to keep the tree and get the work done. But if the tree is compromised, it will have to go.”
Cox said the department also consults the Audubon Society when bird nesting places are concerned. It’s uncertain how long the project would be delayed, he said.
Karp said she is willing to compromise, at least to some degree. She also admitted she might be in the minority, at least when it comes to parrots versus pavement.
“I don’t know how sick the trees actually are, but it’s obvious that they’re in the way of the repaving,” she wrote. “I object to uprooting at least this tree because of the subsequent eviction of the parrots. Is there a way that the roots can be worked around, at least on this tree?
“Otherwise, I’ll take potholes with my parrots, although I don’t know how agreeable the other residents would be with the idea.”
Thursday, February 21, 2013 6:15 am.
The parrots are back.
After months of not hearing the pesky birds, Eagle Rock writer Andrew Hindes was recently surprised to see them around his house.
“They have returned en masse in the past few weeks, although the frequency has tapered off in the last few days,” he said. “So far, I’ve noticed them circling and swarming—and making quite a racket—rather than roosting in trees on our property.”
Not far from where Hindes lives on Highland View Avenue, Eagle Rock resident Tim O’Brien reports a similar experience.
“For about the past three weeks, there has been a flock of about 20 parrots that makes two or three ‘passes’ over our house in the mornings between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and then again at dusk,” O’Brien said.
The birds, he added, engage in “a great deal of squawking and fly in formation, swooping this way and that, alight in a tree for a few minutes and then continue their noisy journey on to points unknown.”
As was the case almost exactly a year ago, parrots are roosting—or flocking together—in relatively large numbers once again in Eagle Rock.
“I saw them this morning for the first time,” wrote Julia Salazar, director of the Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, in a Wednesday email to Eagle Rock Patch. “Strange sight. They seem to have flown away.”
During the fall and winter months, parrots tend to roost more than at any other time of the year, said Kimball Garrett, a birder who founded the California Parrot Project in 1994 and runs the ornithology collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.
“During the warmer breeding season, the birds are a little more scattered, so you’d expect large roosts at this time,” explained Garrett. Although large numbers of parrots can gather into roosts year around, “the numbers involved tend to be a little higher in late fall and winter, and a little bit lower in spring and summer when they scatter around a bit more for nesting season.”
The traditional roosting areas for wild parrots are Temple City, South Pasadena and Altadena. “I don’t know of any big roosts closer to Eagle Rock,” Garrett said.
But why do parrots appear to be so extravagantly visible, not to mention voluble, for a few minutes, days or weeks and then suddenly all but vanish?
“That’s what parrots do,” said Garrett. “They’re really good and finding and exploiting food resources that are kind of ephemeral—they might have fruit or some kind of seeds for just a few weeks and they find ’em and eat ’em all and then move on to somewhere else.”
Added Garrett: “It’s hard to predict exactly where that will take them—and when—but they certainly are good at moving around a lot.”
World Parrot Count
The constant movement can be challenge for ornithologists interested in knowing how many wild parrots there are in a particular urban area. And that’s why the winter months are usually a good time to count parrots—as a Europe-based group called City Parrots is doing right now for conservation purposes, with help from volunteers.
Click here to read instructions fro City Parrots on how to count wild parrots in your neighborhood and submit the results to the organization online.
Affiliated with the International Ornithologists Union, City Parrots is especially devoted to monitoring parrots that have been introduced to urban areas and are not native to them, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.
None of the three major species of parrots found in and around Eagle Rock, including Mount Washington, are native to Southern California, according to Garrett. (They include Red-Crowned Parrots native to Eastern Mexico; Yellow-Chevroned Parakeets native to South America; and Mitred Parakeets, also native to South America.)
There are currently no large-scale local attempts to conduct parrot counts in Southern California, according to Garrett. “Some years we try to do that, but nothing’s been really organized for this year,” he says.
Christmas Bird Count
The closest thing to a local parrot count is the Christmas Bird Count conducted annually for the past 65 years by the Pasadena Audubon Society.
The exercise occurs within a 15-mile diameter centered at the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Duarte Road in Pasadena, which lies roughly five miles east of the Eagle Rock border. The latest Christmas Bird Count was on Dec. 15 last year.
“I haven’t totaled the results yet, but we typically record hundreds of Red-crowned Parrots, fair numbers of Mitred and Red-masked Parakeets and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets as well as smaller numbers of at least a half dozen other species of parrots and parakeets,” said Jon Fisher, head of the Pasadena Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.
Although the Christmas Bird Count circle extends southwest to Scholl Canyon and Occidental College, those areas were not covered in 2012, Fisher said.
Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s . . . hey, it is a bird, a parrot no less — in January! The Quaker parrots or monk parakeets, as they’re known, haven’t just lived in New York for decades, they survived Hurricane Sandy and are now ready to outlast a sub-zero winter.
Despite their warm-climate appearance, the nonmigratory wild parrots are as hardy as their nests, and highly adaptable to city life.
“The nests themselves are very well-insulated,” says Steve Baldwin, a 56-year-old writer and editor who’s been leading monthly Brooklyn Wild Parrot Safaris in the borough since 2005.
“Each is built from hundreds of twigs gathered from local trees, and any gaps are stuffed with leafs or sprigs of grass. They do seem to continue to work on their nests through the winter, but it appears to be repair work, not actual construction.”
The sociable birds have made homes for themselves all over the city; colonies can be found in Queens, The Bronx and Westchester, in addition to Brooklyn.
No one is quite sure how they originally wound up here; there is a popular story about a shipment of birds from Argentina that got loose at JFK in the late ’60s. But there is no documentation to confirm this.
“Cold weather doesn’t seem to bother them much. They’re equipped with a kind of feather down that provides very good insulation,” says Baldwin, noting that their origins are, indeed, from parts of Argentina with high elevations that can dip into cold temperatures.
“Strategies for staying warm include huddling together out in the open or on fire escapes to catch some rays.”
Or, much to the annoyance of Con Edison, on the transformers at a substation across from Green-Wood Cemetery, where they’ve established colonies. The nests are built near the fans that blow hot air, providing a handy space heater of sorts.
“It seems like a fire hazard,” says Sharon Stiteler, who writes the bird-watching blog Birdchick. Chris Olert, a spokesman for Con Ed, agrees.
“I have 146 files on these buggers,” he says. “They’re the Donald Trumps of nest-making. They really go to town. There’s a safety issue, because their nests can cause fires. They’ve caused major outages. We monitor them. When there’s a danger of fire, we remove the nest.”
And then these cheeky parrots build another one in short order.
The one place they won’t build? Structures that are specifically built for them. At Green-Wood, historian Jeff Richman says that during a renovation of the main gate, where the parrots convene, nests had to be removed. “We constructed what we were hoping would be temporary housing for them,” he says. “But they were more than happy to nest in a nearby oak tree instead.”
And at Brooklyn College in Midwood, where they’ve also colonized, metal platforms were constructed for them during a renovation of the institution’s fields, where the parrots had previously nested among the floodlights.
These days, the metal cages all stand empty — and you can clearly see parrot nests constructed, once again, up among the floodlights.
Just like any New Yorker, these birds know the real estate they prefer and will move in where — and when — best suits them.
Steve Baldwin resumes his free parrot tours on Jan. 5. You can find information at brooklynparrots.com.
It’s more than 2 1/2 hours before kickoff at Santa Ana Stadium for Mater Dei-Alemany in a Pac-5 Division quarterfinal playoff game, and wild parrots are flying around the stadium acting a little crazy. Maybe they sense something is going to be crazy about the game.
To me, it comes down to whether Mater Dei is going to be able to control the clock and the game with its running game and prevent Alemany’s offense from making a large number of big plays.
It should be a great night for high school football across Southern California.
– Eric Sondheimer
Excerpt from BIRD TALK Magazine, June 2004 issue, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. To purchase digital back issues of BIRD TALK Magazine, click here.
Obviously nobody wants to turn his or her bird into a sleep-deprived or cabin-fever suffering basket case. Fortunately, there are steps you can take modify the dark and light cycles for your pet birds to keep them healthy and happy. Avian veterinarians and bird behaviorists generally make the following recommendations:
1) Let your bird have 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night.
Most pet birds do best with between 10 and 12 hours of darkness a night. This is generality; some species do better with a little more than 12 hours of sleep, others like less than eight, but most need somewhere around the 10 to 12 hour mark.
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Inc.
Provide a sleep cage for your bird, so it can get a good night’s sleep.
The majority of parrots are tropical or subtropical, meaning they live near the equator where there are 12 hours of darkness every night,” noted Ken Welle, DVM, an avian veterinarian who practices in Illinois. In the wild, parrots are awake from sunrise to sunset, which amounts to about 12 hours on average, and sleep from sunset to sunrise the other 12 hours in the day.
Many pet parrots do well on a sunset-to-sunrise sleeping schedule; they get the amount of sleep they need, and they’re awake when nature designed them to be awake and asleep when nature designed them to be sleeping. Reality is a lot of bird owners are away at work all day and don’t get home until 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening, which during much of the year may be after it’s already gotten dark outside or just a short time before sunset. Obviously if these people “put their birds to bed” at sunset that doesn’t leave a lot of time for interacting.
You can let your birds stay up past sunset, “but then you’re going to need to allow them to sleep later in the morning,” said Julie Burge DVM, a veterinarian and bird breeder in Missouri. That means if you leave for work when it’s still dark in the morning, you shouldn’t turn on the lights in the room where you keep your parrots, nor should you disturb them in any way. Let them sleep as long as they can. Unless their cages are covered, birds usually awaken when the sun comes up. Keep in mind that your bird should have at least 10 hours of darkness, so if the sun rises at 6:30am, you should not keep your bird up past 8:30pm the night before.
But, you may ask, what if you work 2nd shift or you’re taking night classes and you don’t get home until late at night? Your parrot may have been sleeping for several hours before you get home. Is it okay to wake him up so that you can interact with him a while? “Yes,” said Larry Nemetz, DVM, an exotics-only veterinarian in southern California. “Your parrots do not have to have 10 straight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. It’s okay to break up their sleep, especially if that’s the only way you can have time to play with them.”
But that doesn’t mean you should suddenly wake them up from a deep sleep and immediately put your hands in their cage. If you do, you’re bound to be bitten. “Just turn on the lights, let them wake up slowly so they don’t freak out, and give them a half hour or so to gear up for some play,” Nemetz suggested. “Don’t just go in the bird room and startle them awake and expect them to immediately be ready to start playing with you.”
Once the late-night play session is over with, most parrots have no problem going right back to sleep. Again, you should try to ensure your bird has 10 hours of darkness for sleeping, so if it has already been sleeping for five hours before you got home, make sure you don’t keep it up so late that it is not going to have five hours of darkness left for sleeping.
2) Use sleep cages, cage covers or room-darkening blinds to help your bird sleep.
You may also need to take some steps to create an environment for your parrot that is more conducive for sleeping. Kim Bear, a parrot behavior consultant in Florida, recommends bird owners provide their parrot with a “sleep cage.” This would be a smaller cage that’s just used for sleeping.
The sleep cage should be put in a room that’s completely dark and quiet, where the bird is not going to be disturbed — such as a spare bedroom, laundry room or even a large walk-in closet. During the daytime the bird would be housed in its regular, larger bird cage or bird stand in the family room, den or other highly trafficked part of the house. But when it’s time for the bird to go to sleep, it would be transferred to its sleep cage.
Bear said, “A lot of people keep their parrot next to their television in the family room, but oftentimes the parrot can’t get to sleep even if the lights are dimmed because there might be a lot of noise coming from the TV, the family might be talking or laughing, maybe people are coming and going, and so it makes a lot of sense to move the parrot to another part of the house at night where he’s not going to hear all that racket.”
An additional step you might want to take is to place a cage cover over your bird’s cage when it’s time for it to go to sleep. This is especially a good idea if you have to keep your bird in a room where the lights are kept on late at night, but even birds that sleep in a nighttime cage in an isolated room can still benefit from a cage cover.
“The cage cover prevents pet birds from seeing a lot of things that might startle them, such as passing car headlights shining through a window and stray dogs or cats or wild animals that might be wandering outside,” said Ann Vann, longtime bird owner and co-owner of Vann’s of Louisiana. You can use a dark towel or blanket to cover the cage or a specially made cage cover. (Note: For some birds, such as cockatiels, complete darkness may cause problems with night frights, and it may be necessary to leave part of their cages uncovered and plug in a night light to allow them to see.)
For people who keep their birds up late and there’s no way the birds would get 10 hours of natural darkness before sunrise, Burge recommended installing room darkening drapes or blinds where the bird sleeps. That way if your birds were up until 11pm or midnight, you could keep the blinds shut and the room dark until 10 o’clock the next morning to allow your birds to still get 10 hours of darkness. If you leave for work earlier than that, you can put the room lights on a timer so that they will come on at the right time in the morning to awaken your birds.
3) Adjust light/dark cycles depending on species, season and behavioral challenges.
Some adjustment in your bird’s sleep schedule may be necessary now and then. If your bird is a species that comes from one of the more temperate regions of the world (for instance, you might have a Meyer’s parrot, which is native to southeastern Africa, or a Deryban parakeet that originates from Tibet), it may need a little more variation in its light/dark cycles during the year than the straight 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness that is ideal for a species native to equatorial regions (such as an orange-winged Amazon parrot whose home range is the Amazon rain forest).
“The further away their home range is from the equator, the more seasonal changes are going to be significant,” said Don Harris, DVM, an avian veterinarian in Florida. So, if you’ve got a bird from one of the more temperate regions, it may need 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness in the winter months, and 14 hours of light and 10 hours of dark in the summer months. Some people go so far as to try to mimic the light/dark cycles of their birds’ home range, so they will gradually start shortening the days for their birds when moving from mid-summer to winter and lengthening the days when moving from mid-winter to summer. This is something you might want to try if you’ve got a species from one of the temperate regions. But if your bird is from the tropics, where the hours of light and darkness are even and consistent year-round, it probably won’t need the seasonal variation.
You may also want to modify the light/dark cycles, depending on whether you want to encourage or discourage “breeding mode” in your birds. If you’ve got a pair of birds and you wish to stimulate reproductive activity, Welle suggested you gradually increase day length from 10 hours daily to about 16 hours daily.
On the other hand, if your bird is exhibiting behavior problems related to reproductive hormones (this could be anything from aggressive biting in a sexually mature cockatoo or Amazon, to chronic egg laying in a cockatiel), Welle recommended limiting the bird to eight to 10 hours of light daily to try shut down those reproductive hormones. You will probably need to use room darkening blinds and/or cage covers to artificially bring-on nighttime earlier for these birds. This is something you would do on a temporary basis. Once the hormonally-related behavior has stopped (it may take several weeks or more to curtail the behavior), then you can gradually start lengthening the days back to what is normal for the bird.
It’s worth noting that decreasing the photoperiod (light cycles) is not the solution for every hormonally-charged bird. “For birds from temperate to polar regions, photoperiod is the most important influence on reproduction. But the closer to the equator the bird is from, the less influence it may have,” Welle said.
4) Provide natural sunlight or UV lighting.
One final important consideration relating to photoperiod is the type of light your bird is exposed to. Ideally, pet birds should have some exposure to natural light every day. That requires them to actually go outdoors. “Indoor birds do not receive the benefits of the UV light emitted by the sun,” noted Gregory Burkett, DVM, an avian veterinarian in Durham, North Carolina. Most window glass is treated to prevent ultraviolet (UV) rays from passing through and [rays]do not reach the bird.
Exactly how much exposure to natural light do birds need? Harris recommended that pet birds get between four and six hours of unobstructed skylight a day, but if that’s not reasonable even a couple of hours a day outside will help. “The sun doesn’t have to directly hit the bird, but they have to have unobstructed sky,” Harris said. “Being outside under a tree is okay as long as the sky is visible. Being under a patio is OK too, as long as there is no screen between the bird and the sky.”
People who live with parrots know that they can mimic their human care-givers as well as many of the common sounds in their environment. Although such mimicry is delightful, it does raise the question of what purpose does vocal mimicry serve for wild parrots?
One proposed hypothesis for parrots’ remarkable ability to mimic sounds in their environment is to develop and maintain social cohesion. For example, several species of wild parrots studied to date demonstrate the ability to readily imitate their flock mates’ calls. This ability is important for psittacines: when an individual parrot moves from one locale to another, it learns the calls of the local parrot flock as part of forming a social bond with those birds.
But research in spectacled parrotlets, Forpus conspicillatus, went further: this research showed that each parrot has its own signature call – a unique sound that is used only for recognising that particular individual (doi:10.1007/s002650050481). Basically, each parrot has its own name. Interestingly, similar to human culture, members of each parrot family have names that sound more like each other than like those for other parrot families. But how do young parrots acquire their special signature calls (their names)? Do they learn their names from their parents, or are they born knowing their names?
To answer to this question, Karl Berg, a graduate student in Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, assembled a team of researchers and studied a wild population of green-rumped parrotlets, Forpus passerinus, in Guarico, Venezuela. Because this particular population has been carefully documented for decades, it provided an excellent opportunity to study the social dynamics of wild parrots.
Slightly smaller than a domestic canary, green-rumped parrotlets are the smallest parrot species in the Americas. They are resident in open forest and scrubland throughout much of tropical South America, and they have small ranges. These tiny, mostly green, parrots are slightly sexually dimorphic cavity nesters, laying between five and seven eggs in a termite nest, in a tree cavity — or in a hollow pipe.
To distinguish between the two hypotheses (social name learning versus biological name inheritance), Mr Berg and his team of researchers set up inconspicuous video cameras and audio recorders inside and outside 17 nest cavities in PVC pipes in 2007 and 2008. When the resident female parrotlet had completed her clutch, nine of those nests were swapped between unrelated birds that lived far enough apart that they did not come into any auditory contact with each other. (The other eight nests were controls that remained with their biological parents.)
The researchers then recorded and analyzed the sounds in each nest cavity (figure 1 a b):
The team found that each adult had its own unique contact call and that contact call was more similar to each bird’s mate’s call than to calls produced by adults at other nests.
They also recorded and analyzed the nestlings’ contact calls (figure 1 c d):
As expected, the parrot nestlings’ calls were more variable than those of the adults, but sibling parrots tended to show strong similarities in their contact call structure. Like their parents, nestling parrotlet calls were more similar to their siblings than to nestling calls at other nests (however, this finding was significant only in 2007).
But were the foster parents learning their adopted nestlings innate contact calls or were the nestlings learning calls that their parents assigned to them? The researchers had anticipated this question by recording the foster parents’ calls prior to them hearing their adopted nestlings’ calls. Spectrographic analysis showed that it was the parents who assigned signature calls — names — to the young parrots instead of the other way around. Further, all parrot nestlings adopted contact calls that were notably similar to those that their parents — whether biological or foster — vocalized to them in the first weeks of their lives. Taken together, these data indicate that nestling parrots learn their names from their parents and parrot names are the result of social learning rather than biological inheritance.
It’s likely that parrots evolved the ability to mimic sounds for social reasons, although those precise reasons are still unknown. But since this ability allows families to recognise each other by voice, it is likely that such vocal recognition is important for restricting parental care to one’s own fledglings after parrot families begin moving to communal foraging and roosting sites.
These findings have a number of interesting implications as well. For example, can parrots recall and distinguish particular individuals and identify family members, even after being separated for years? This also raises the possibility that parrots may have a concept of individuality and even of self awareness.
This video is a slide presentation of these findings:
Karl S. Berg, Soraya Delgado, Kathryn A. Cortopassi, Steven R. Beissinger, Jack W. Bradbury (2012). Vertical transmission of learned signatures in a wild parrot. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279 (1728): 585-591. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.0932
Ralf Wanker, Jasmin Apcin, Bert Jennerjahn, Birte Waibel (1998). Discrimination of different social companions in spectacled parrotlets (Forpus conspicillatus): evidence for individual vocal recognition. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 43 (3), 197-202. doi:10.1007/s002650050481
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
- about parrots
- african grey parrot
- bird parrot
- birds parrots
- for parrots
- grey parrots for sale
- of parrot
- of parrots
- on parrots
- parrot bird
- parrot breeding
- parrot cage
- parrot cages
- parrot decorations
- parrot facts
- parrot food
- parrot for sale
- parrot information
- parrot rescue
- parrot species
- parrot supplies
- parrot toys
- parrot training
- parrots for sale
- parrots online
- parrots wallpapers
- rainforest parrots
- the parrot