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Eradication of Parakeets Draws Protests

November 27, 2005 | Monk Parakeet
By AVI SALZMAN, published in The New York Times on November 27, 2005 Sunday Late Edition - Final

UNITED ILLUMINATING, tired of pulling monk parakeet nests off utility poles only to see the birds return and rebuild, began capturing the parakeets about two weeks ago and handing them over to scientists from the federal government to kill.

For the first few days, the euthanization went quietly. And then an article in The Connecticut Post alerted local animal rights activists to the procedure.

Since then, it has been far from quiet.

Animal rights activists and bird lovers from Connecticut and other states have been calling the electric utility and the United States Department of Agriculture asking them to stop killing the birds, and legislators are starting to weigh in.

As of early last week, the plan to rid the poles of parakeets was still in place, though rainy weather had stalled the process. Others wanted it stopped for good.

"These birds are a pleasure to view, they harm no one, and if nests need to be moved they can do it without eradicating an entire species," said Priscilla Feral, the president of Friends of Animals, an animal-rights group based in Darien.

Al Carbone, a spokesman for the United Illuminating Company, said it had attempted numerous methods to remove the birds without killing them, but the parakeets just kept coming back. The nests, he said, are a safety hazard. They imperil service for customers and safety for neighborhoods where the birds have built nests in utility poles.

The nests, Mr. Carbone said, range from about 10 pounds up to 200 pounds and can contain as many as 40 to 50 birds. The twigs in the nests sometimes push down on transformers and cause explosions, he said. The company has attributed four fires over the last two years to the nests and also blames the parakeets for 8 to 12 power interruptions every year. "Our chief concern is public health and safety," Mr. Carbone said.

Monk parakeets, which are native to South America, are considered an invasive species and do not enjoy the same protections as other birds in the state. There are many theories on how they got here, from escaped pets to a broken shipment of birds at an airport. State law prohibits anyone from killing, capturing or buying wild birds other than game birds, but the law specifically exempts monk parakeets from those protections if the birds are "concentrated in such numbers to constitute a public health or public safety hazard."

Mr. Carbone said other methods, including using plastic owls and chemical repellents to drive the birds away, haven't worked. After consulting with other utility companies, including Florida Power and Light, and both the United States Department of Agriculture and the State Department of Environmental Protection, the company decided to kill the birds.

Over all, the company plans to remove 103 nests in four municipalities: West Haven, Milford, Stratford and Bridgeport. The process is expected to continue for about another month.Dennis Schain, a D.E.P. spokesman, said the department had not told United Illuminating to kill the birds. "We didn't approve or disapprove," Mr. Schain said.

The U.S.D.A. made sure the company had attempted non-lethal solutions, and then agreed to use euthanasia, said Corey Slavitt, a spokeswoman for the agency. The birds are killed with carbon dioxide.

Killing the birds simply does not make sense, opponents of the procedure said. "This is occasionally a problem and doesn't require a draconian measure," Ms. Feral said. Protestors have begun to mobilize. A few dozen people staged a protest at the foot of utility poles in West Haven where the company was removing birds on Nov. 17 and some said they got into an argument with the workers. But last Monday, only about 10 to 15 protestors gathered in front of United Illuminating's offices in New Haven holding signs and circulating a petition asking the state to hold a referendum on what to do with the birds.

Karen Hujdic of Shelton, who attended Monday's protest, said that she thought the birds were "just beautiful" and that her family likes to walk along the beach in Stratford and watch them. She said she was upset by the killing of the birds. "It just made me sick when I read it in the paper," she said.

The protestors have also attempted to reach Nathaniel D. Woodson, the chairman and chief executive of UIL Holdings Corporation, the parent of United Illuminating, to ask him to call off the euthanization. Mr. Carbone said that Mr. Woodson fully supported the project and would not be available for comment.

Representative Thomas Drew, a Democrat from Fairfield, said Tuesday that he was trying to set up a meeting with the federal Department of Agriculture and the state D.E.P. to impose a moratorium on the euthanization. He called the practice "kind of barbaric," but noted that he did not know all the facts.

"If the damage is so severe and there is no realistic alternative that's one thing," he said. "But that case hasn't been demonstrated to the public yet."


We say NO, don't kill the birds, and they say YES, we just HAVE to. There HAS to be a middle ground somewhere. OK, what would it take to get United Illuminating to re-route their wires & equipment around the nests, and leave the existing structures intact? Money? I'll bet we could easily raise the necessary funds, using a network of internet resources. I'll be the first to donate. Some time ago, I saw one of these nests, and it was absolutely wonderful. At the time, I was told that many of the local residents were enamored of the flock, and were very protective of the beautiful birds and their strange habitat. What say you all?

Invasive species? How about swans, bumblebees, the grass on our lawns and golf courses, the tulips and weeping cherry trees that we love, many of our domestic animals, and unless you are an American Indian, most of us who live here? It is amazing and magical that the parakeets have survived in this area. In fact, Reader's Digest sponsored a children's book about their story several years ago. There has to be a way to move the nests without killing these special birds or using them for research!

I have written numerous letters to the listed individuals. I got a note back from CT Audubon denying that they are supporters of the project. In our local paper, Carbone claimed that the USDA dictated the means by which the nests and birds were to be destroyed and if anyone had any ideas other than killing, they should contact the USDA. I did that and suggested that areas where the birds are not using utility poles be studied. Where are the nests in these areas? Probably trees. Maybe planting trees near the poles would offer a better place for nests. Apparently there have been other methods used in NJ to control this problem that do not include killing birds. Another fact is that there are tons of these birds along the coast, and killing the ones they have targeted will only make room for more to move in. There will be no long term resolution to the problem with these curel and shameful methods. They will succeed in killing many birds though. These birds are prolific and unless they do a mass murder up and down the coast, they will not rid this area of them. They are beautiful, social and highly intelligent birds. They deserve the respect and dignity that other species recieve. What would UI do if Blue Jays or Cardinals were doing this?

As an owner of a "rescued/injured" monk parakeet, named "Froto", this whole story just enrages me. How about organizing some volunteers, to physically dismantle the nests,trying to salvage any intact parts for relocation. Obviously with the cooperation of UI, ie to temp shut power to the lines on the pole, and possibly provide bucket lifts to get the volunteers up there, ( or even the local Fire Dept, hey they rescue cats in trees, right) I'll throw a hard hat on and go up there!. Of course there will prob be ins. liability issues, but we could sign waivers, the cost would be considerably less ,b/c it would be volunteers. Some type of deterent would need to be placed on the poles, plastic owls DO NOT work, to prevent them returning. They are clever birds, and if any portion of their nest is relocated close by, they will find it and rebuild. I think UI could work something humane out, there are plenty of volunteers willing and offering to help, there is absolutely no need to proceed with this euthanasia.

Hi, I've been up all night crying my eyes out because I saw them taking the birds from their nest tonight. UI goes out at night while all the birds are in their homes sleeping. A woman was arrested because she cried out for UI to stop. I can't believe I live in a place that would do this! Why is killing the answer. Hasn't this planet seen enough death lately? These parakeets bring me joy. They are beautiful and a unique addition to our neighborhoods. I am devastated I'm not going to be able to sleep knowing UI is out there like a thief in the night taking beautiful innocent life. I wonder what they will tell their children they did at work last night.

I am outraged that UI continues to kill the Monk Parakeets along the CT shoreline. They have been provided alternatives but apparently don't care. Wish all animal lovers would submit their own complaints to government agencies and to UI. This is animal cruelty and it should not be allowed! UI being a prominent company should try to regain public respect by publicly dropping their pursuit and killing of these defenseless birds, Heather

These major holders of the parakeet harmers at United Illuminating are a matter of public record. Please ask that they divest from United Illuminating. Barclay's, Vanguard, and others are invested in a number of slaughterhouse stocks. Holder Shares Reported WOODSON, NATHANIEL D. N/A 12-May-05 LAHEY, JOHN L. 6,090 3-Oct-05 HENLEY-COHN, BETSY 5,414 3-Oct-05 PAGLIA, LOUIS J. 3,000 31-May-05 MCFADDEN, F PATRICK JR 2,827 10-Nov-04 TOP INSTITUTIONAL HOLDERS Holder Shares % Out Value* Reported BARCLAYS BANK PLC 739,978 5.03 $38,708,249 30-Sep-05 Mellon Financial Corporation 611,511 4.16 $31,988,140 30-Sep-05 LSV ASSET MANAGEMENT 560,100 3.81 $29,298,831 30-Sep-05 NEW YORK STATE TEACHERS RETIREMENT SYSTEM 548,400 3.73 $28,686,804 30-Sep-05 AXA 520,913 3.54 $27,248,959 30-Sep-05 DIMENSIONAL FUND ADVISORS INC 443,625 3.02 $23,206,023 30-Sep-05 VANGUARD GROUP, INC. (THE) 318,394 2.16 $16,655,190 30-Sep-05 SILVERCREST ASSET MANAGEMENT GROUP LLC 206,700 1.41 $10,812,477 30-Sep-05 STATE STREET CORPORATION 205,574 1.40 $10,753,575 30-Sep-05 NORTHERN TRUST CORPORATION 202,349 1.38 $10,584,876 30-Sep-05 TOP MUTUAL FUND HOLDERS Holder Shares % Out Value* Reported DREYFUS VARIABLE INVESTMENT-DEVELOPING LEADERS PORTFOLIO 192,200 1.31 $10,471,056 31-Jul-05 LAUDUS TR-LAUDUS/ROSENBERG U.S. SMALL CAPITALIZATION FD 137,800 .94 $7,415,018 30-Jun-05 COLLEGE RETIREMENT EQUITIES FUND-STOCK ACCOUNT 117,356 .80 $6,314,926 30-Jun-05 ISHARES S&P SMALLCAP 600 INDEX FD 93,021 .63 $5,005,460 30-Jun-05 ISHARES RUSSELL 2000 INDEX FD 91,499 .62 $4,923,561 30-Jun-05 VANGUARD SMALL-CAP INDEX FUND 82,863 .56 $4,458,858 30-Jun-05 ISHARES S&P SMALLCAP 600/BARRA VALUE INDEX FD 81,204 .55 $4,369,587 30-Jun-05 ISHARES RUSSELL 2000 VALUE INDEX FD 71,984 .49 $3,873,459 30-Jun-05 VANGUARD SMALL CAP VALUE INDEX FUND 60,923 .41 $3,278,266 30-Jun-05 VANGUARD TOTAL STOCK MARKET INDEX FUND 60,773 .41 $3,270,195 30-Jun-05

I think that this is the most unhumane and disgusting attitude toward another living being. No, it is not of "human species" but living being created by God all the same. ...Birds have feelings too......and they hurt just like humans do. Who made you God and gave you power over life and death to decide what will live and what will not? There are other ways to get rid of the birds. The nests could be moved. Of course, you could always accept them and allow them to live among you. They are, afterall, very beautiful and intelligent birds. They are great talkers too. Birds are the only species that take the time and trouble to learn our language and speak it back to us. How would YOU like to be gassed to death? I am so thankful that I am not a resident of Connecticut. I wouldn't even go there for a vacation and spend even one dollar in your state and will go online to to all of my animal rights protection groups to get the word out to the entire country so that NO ONE will EVER go to CONNECTICUT for a vacation no matter what goodies you have to offer. ...

HURRAY!!!! A temporary victory is better than nothing. I plan on blasting the US Dept of Agriculture since they are the real ones responsible for the senselss killing of the monk parakeets. Let's keep up the fight.If other species can get sanctuary then why not the monks.

Oh, joy! Yet another example of how humans think that they can exterminate and abuse anyone that poses an inconvenience to them, but not the same for others! [Blog editors' note: Avian also asks whether we would exterminate humans who purportedly pose a threat. Of course, humans have rights, which means that the law strives to protect our basic interests as a matter of constitutional right. What is it that makes us believe that only one species of animal on Earth - the Homo sapiens - ought to have its interests protected by rights? A slanted field, surely. Thank you, Avian.]

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