Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013
Why National Bird Day?
The beauty, songs, and flight of birds have long been sources of human inspiration.
Today, nearly 12 percent of the world’s 9,800 bird species may face extinction within the next century, including nearly one-third of the world’s 330 parrot species.
Birds are sentinel species whose plight serves as barometer of ecosystem health and alert system for detecting global environmental ills.
Many of the world’s parrots and songbirds are threatened with extinction due to pressures from the illegal pet trade, disease, and habitat loss.
Public awareness and education about the physical and behavioral needs of birds can go far in improving the welfare of the millions of birds kept in captivity.
The survival and well-being of the world’s birds depends upon public education and support for conservation.
This is the reason for National Bird Day. Join us!
The small picture at the top of this posting shows the Quaker Parakeet.
Monica Engebretson, who kindly gave permission for us to use the group’s material, writes:
One of the most abundant free-living parrot species in the United States is the gray-breasted parrot, Myiopsitta monachus, more commonly known as the monk or Quaker parakeet. Native to South America, they can be found in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia. They are the sole occupants of the genus Myiopsitta.
Thousands of Quaker parakeets were imported into the United States from Brazil and Argentina during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, and thousands more are produced each year at breeding facilities to satisfy consumer demand for inexpensive small parrots. Ornery and resourceful, these birds now nest in at least 11 states, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida and Illinois.
Quaker parakeets are unique, being the only parrots in the world who build complex nest structures from sticks and other materials, and live in them all year. Other parrots build nests, but only in a pre-existing cavity in a tree or some other location, and only use them during breeding season.
This unique housing system means that they don’t typically come into conflict or competition with other birds for nesting sites. However, this has led to another problem: In many areas of the country, Quaker parrots favor utility poles and power transformers for nest building, which leads to concerns from power companies that these large communal nests increase the risk of fire and power outages.
While Quaker nests may indeed cause some power outages, it can be difficult to estimate the frequency of such problems attributed to the nests and which are rather the results of power disruptions and transformer failures caused by simple equipment failure, accidents and severe weather. Unfortunately, concerns about power outages or hazards related to the nesting sites have led to misguided and inhumane lethal control efforts. In general, non-native species, including naturalized parrots, are not afforded protection by state or federal wildlife laws. Free-living non-native species also lack the protection afforded to the same species held in private ownership, thereby considered personal “property” under the law. This lack of protection opens the door to gruesome lethal control efforts often involving toxic poisons or shooting.
Such lethal control efforts have proved to be public relations nightmares for power companies, as these feisty, animated little birds have won many fans and defenders in the neighborhoods in which they live.
As it turns out, lethal control is not only publically unattractive, it’s also ineffective in the long term, leading many power companies to look to humane non-lethal solutions.
If you’ve visited Barcelona, you may have seen – and definitely heard – Quaker parakeets at the port. They make their large nests, which can reach a dangerous weight of 100 kg., in the palm trees there.
The Quaker parrot is described by some residents as an aggressive bird – surely not! – and certainly eats voraciously. I saw them eating dates from the trees, but they apparently eat flowers, grass and tree branches as well.
The Quakers were brought here in the 1970s, but as is commonly the case, were released, or escaped, and are breeding in some numbers. Predictably, they are now said to be threatening the survival of local bird species.