Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Wild Parrots of Brooklyn

Some years ago my brother and his family were living in a house in Pasadena. My little niece was very taken with the wild parrots that lived in the neighborhood. You couldn’t always see them, but you could certainly hear them. Later I read about the wild parrots of San Francisco, so I assumed parrots were a California thing.

A few summers ago, long before I had a clue I’d be transplanted to Gowanus, my boyfriend and I were walking to our favorite diner near his house in Bay Ridge. As we’re walking along a sidewalk that borders Leif Erikson Park, I looked down at the grass. And there, six feet from me, was a youthful-sized green parrot.

The parrots have been in Brooklyn since the early 1970s. The species (monk parrots, also called Quaker parrots) is originally from Argentina. No one seems to really know how they got here, though some say they escaped from a cargo at JFK. Their original home was at the Brooklyn College athletic field. They made their nests up in the light towers. Near Leif Erikson is a baseball field called the Dust Bowl, and we’ve watched the parrots building their nests in the light towers there.

The parrots’ third Brooklyn home is closer Gowanus, and that’s in the Gates of Eternity leading into Green-Wood Cemetery. They just love those Gothic spires, and they are quite squawky in their greetings to visitors.

There are many photographs of the parrots in Brooklyn and New Jersey at My personal favorites are the ones of them eating pizza; they also seem to enjoy bagels. There’s also a Brooklyn parrot video: And a slide show of photos to watch while you listen to “The Ballad of the Brooklyn Parrots.”

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