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Monk parakeets get to fly

December 07, 2005 | Monk Parakeet
By Ken Dixon, published in The Connecticut Post on December 7, 2005

Deal allows UI to destroy nests but not send birds to death

A showdown over the extermination of hundreds of monk parakeets was short-circuited in Superior Court in New Haven Tuesday, after The United Illuminating Co. promised to cease capturing the birds - for the time being.

Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based Friends of Animals, was relieved that dozens or more birds that have escaped capture - and death - will not be asphyxiated.

She said, however, it was a Pyrrhic victory, after about 200 of the gregarious green birds were killed in the UI's three-week campaign to remove nests from 103 utility poles from West Haven to Fairfield.

The Friends of Animals withdrew their court challenge Tuesday after UI agreed to stop netting the birds and turning them over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has been destroying them in carbon dioxide chambers.

A spokesman for UI, which said the nests had to be removed to prevent outages and fires, downplayed the deal reached Tuesday, stressing that the nest-eradication effort remains on schedule, although no more birds would be captured and killed this month.

"The point is, we may never know whether they were done gassing the birds or not," Feral said. "We know a lot escaped and UI had planned on going back and getting every one they could."

She said she wished the lawsuit could have been filed sooner, but it took three weeks to research the case.

But the free birds will have to confront the winter without their nests, as the UI pulls down their thatched-stick shelters, which can weigh 200 pounds or more. Feral said her animal rights group will return to court in January to try to protect the pigeon-sized birds over the long term. "It a terrible time of year to yank their nests down," she said.

Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, co-chairman of the Legislature's Environment Committee, said he is relieved that UI's eradication plan was apparently altered. Roy credited rising public pressure against the utility as the reason the company let the remaining birds go.

"This gives us some breathing room in the Legislature to develop some amendments for the law that has allowed the UI to capture these birds and give them to the USDA," Roy said. Roy said there was no reason for UI to kill the birds that have survived - mostly in fir trees and oaks - along the Connecticut shore for 30 years. Albert Carbone, UI's spokesman, would not say that the Friends of Animals won any concessions during a closed-door meeting Tuesday in the chambers of Superior Court Judge Linda K. Lager.

"It's just part of the work plan," Carbone said. "We didn't alter our work plan in response to the complaint."

Alan Schwartz, a New Haven attorney representing UI, issued a statement after the meeting, saying: "As planned, the remaining work involves the removal of the inventoried nests and any parakeets encountered in this phase of the work will not be captured. UI has no plans to capture more parakeets during the remainder of the year."

Derek V. Oatis, a Manchester lawyer representing Friends of Animals, said he believes that UI did not raid all of the nests and that a substantial number of birds will now avoid euthanasia at the hands of the USDA.

"All that I know is that as of Friday, when I agreed to bring the action, UI were continuing to capture more birds," he said. "My understanding is there were a number of inventoried nests they hadn't gotten to yet. I don't care how anyone spins it, if there aren't birds being killed it's a good thing."

The Friends of Animals lawsuit included testimony from Dwight G. Smith, a monk parakeet expert who is chairman of the biology department at Southern Connecticut State University. He said that the monk parakeets - actually parrots because of their long tails - have established a niche in the state's ecosystem.

Carbone said it may take weeks to remove the nests.

"If there are birds, they'll just fly away," Carbone said.

The premise of the campaign was to clear transformers and poles for public safety and electric reliability, he said. Customers will receive a week's notice of any planned UI outages as the nests are pulled down with grappling hooks.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, a member of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, questioning the extermination campaign, requesting that he explore other options. U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, D-4, a Bridgeport resident who has seen the monk parakeets in his neighborhood, also wrote to the USDA, expressing his concern about the euthanization of the colorful birds.

By Ken Dixon, published in The Connecticut Post on December 7, 2005. Washington bureau writer Peter Urban contributed to this report.


I think what UI & THE USDA is doing to these poor parrots is disgusting!! They should put Carbone out in the cold with no shelter at night.Please keep the pressure on them to leave the parrots alone till this can humanely be resolved. LILGREENBIRDLOVER.

Congratulations. Is there any kind of seeds or food we can put out to help these birds in the winter? You should be proud of all your hard work. Thank you

Thank you for all of your hard work and efforts. Where is the Humane Society in Connecticut? Where is the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals? Are these agencies in there fighting?? If UI can "capture" the parakeets, can they not be turned over to the Humane Society??? Can't one of these groups obtain an injunction to stop this outrageous practice??? UI president and employees should be told that it takes a really big man to gas a defenseless bird for nest building. Blog editors' note: “I only wish I could so live and so serve the world that after me there should never again be birds in cages.” - Isak Dinesen (pen name of Karen Blixen), author (1885-1962)

Thank you, thank you, thank you. There will be the continued need for more compassionate work here, but it is a start in a life affirming direction. I have great respect for you and your work. One of my favorite quotes is by A. Stevenson, who said,"There is no greater horror than ignorance in action". UI's unwillingness to see the harm done to living creatures is just such a horror. It was a privilege to stand with you.

I have been sending variants of this communication to the media, this one to TV channel 30 on 12/06/2005: Re: Monk Parakeets and United Illuminating. I have been active in this matter, (I had a letter to the editor of the Hartford Courant appear in the 12/02/2005 edition and participated in the vigil on 12/02/2005 in West Haven which you covered so well). The accounts of dead birds simply don't add up, and the discrepancy is astronomical. In your newscast tonight (12/06/2005) a spokesman for United Illuminating says all the birds have been caught. The estimates I was given were there were 102 nests, each nest typically holds 30 to 40 birds. 30 birds X 102 nests = 3060 birds. Jo-Ann Nesti clearly said tonight 200 birds were killed. What happened to the remaining 2860 birds? How can there be such a great variance in these numbers? Can UI be covering up the true number of murdered birds to mitigate public opinion? They have been taking a pr beating thanks to the news media (you guys have been outstanding). Is it possible UI is putting a spin on this saying only 200 birds have been killed when the number seems like it could be 15 times greater? These numbers just are too far out of agreement. Could you please look into this further and find out the truth? Sincerely, Ken Bernacky President, Stereo Surgeons, Inc.

I am appalled at the UI company and the heartless way they are trying to solve their problem. Why now? With the dead of winter coming. These poor beautiful birds will die a slow death with their shelters gone. Can't they wait until spring? I am way out here in Minnesota and I am horrified and feel helpless.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?????? SHOULD I BE SHOWING UP AT A RALLY OR MEETING? THERE MUST BE SOMEONE WHO CAN HOUSE THESE BIRDS TILL SPRING IF THEIR NESTS DO GET DESTROYED. Blog editors' note: Thanks, Heather. We've added you to the list of folks wanting to help provide safety. Taking them inside would not be a good idea as it could inhibit their ability to cope as the free-living birds they are. The company should not kill them; nor should it be allowed to ruin their freedom.

Please explain to me why these birds can not become pets. Apparently, the animal hospital in the article was able to domesticate one. I know I would be willing to take one or two in and I am sure there are other animal lovers that would be willing to also. At least a few could be saved. Blog editors' note: Connecticut residents surely must accept that animals -- deer, birds, and others -- are living on the animals' own terms. We should be able to live with that. If we cannot, there will soon be no animals living freely in nature, which would be sad indeed.

Thank you so much for the work Friends of Animals has done to come to the aid of the Monk Parakeets. I realize their nests can be a fire hazard and may cause problems for the UI but killing these creatures is not the answer. The killing was nothing more than a "quick fix" by the UI. This utility company makes enough money off the public to afford to do some research to solve their problems in a kinder way that will preserve these lovely birds. Thank goodness for Friends of Animals and all the animal lovers who spoke up about this terrible outrage. A special thanks to those who stood out in the cold to protest!

On December 7, 2005, maggi wrote: "Congratulations. Is there any kind of seeds or food we can put out to help these birds in the winter? You should be proud of all your hard work. Thank you." A workshop is being held on Monday, December 12 at 5:30 p.m. regarding the construction of platforms for the parakeets. People who reside near utility poles where nests will be torn down to can volunteer to have platforms built on their property. Bird seed along with pieces of bread will be used to attract the parakeets to the platforms. Monk parakeets especially enjoy sunflower seeds, corn, and a variety of fruits, nuts, and berries. This is in the interest of temporary safety to address the emergency created by the company, until the birds can survive on their own in the environment to which they've become adjusted over the last four decades. Laurel Lundstrom, Friends of Animals


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