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Parakeets' plight protested

November 18, 2005 | Monk Parakeet
by KEN DIXON, as published in the Connecticut Post

Animal rights activists began a life-or-death campaign Thursday to persuade the United Illuminating Co. to call off its monk-parakeet-eradication efforts.

"The great majority of people think these birds are pretty and shouldn't be exterminated," said Priscilla Feral, president of the nonprofit Friends of Animals. "We sent out an alert, and we're channeling that vocal opposition to the chairman of the [UI] board, Nathaniel Woodson." Feral said that thousands of e-mails were sent to members, targeting Woodson, CEO of UI's parent company.

She said the phones at her group's Norwalk headquarters were ringing steadily in reaction to Thursday's article in the Connecticut Post that first detailed the eradication program.

The UI, however, will continue tearing down more than 100 nests on utility poles from West Haven to Fairfield and turning over captured monk parakeets to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for research and euthanasia, spokesmen said. The utility company claims the huge stick nests present a hazard, causing fires and power outages.

USDA workers euthanize the bright-green tropical birds in carbon dioxide chambers, said Corey Slavitt, a USDA spokeswoman in Washington. The method is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, she said, adding the program is aimed at balancing the needs of humans and animals.

Meanwhile, Dwight Smith, chairman of the Biology Department at Southern Connecticut State University, whose graduate students have studied the parakeets, called for a moratorium on the killings.

Smith said he's "irritated and angry."

He said that the state Department of Environmental Protection and UI have consistently avoided questions about monk parakeets, as whole colonies of the birds mysteriously vanished in recent years.

"If they need to remove them from the poles, why kill them?" Smith said. "A study needs to be done. At least, why don't we have a round-table discussion?"

Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation for the Fairfield-based Connecticut Audubon Society, said that even though the state has classified the parakeets as an "invasive species," they apparently do not compete with native birds for habitat or food.

"UI's position is that any bird that builds a nest in their poles deserves to die," Feral said, calling for a regional mobilization of animal-rights activists. Feral called UI's campaign "hysterical."

Al Carbone, spokesman for UI, said the company was fielding "a lot" of news media inquiries Thursday.

He said he spoke with Feral, who "expressed her disappointment with what's going on." But he said UI will continue the nighttime removal and capture plan. As of Wednesday, 47 of the birds had been killed. Slavitt did not have an updated number.

Steve Baldwin, a Manhattan Internet marketer who runs a Web page about monk parakeets in Brooklyn, said Consolidated Edison, the utility there, submitted to public pressure to keep the birds alive, even if the nests on utility poles are demolished.

"I'm absolutely outraged," he said of the UI eradication program. "It looks like Connecticut is wiping them out and I'm very, very angry about this."

Baldwin said Con Ed monitors about 130 nests in Brooklyn, most of them centered around Brooklyn College.

PSE&G, the giant New Jersey utility, also has favored the nonviolent way of removing monk parakeets when possible. Rather than nighttime confrontation with a colony in the autumn, PSE&G uses a springtime, daylight tactic, destroying the nests but letting the animals fly away and establish new nests for the breeding season.

Regular maintenance of poles would help keep the birds away and in the large fir trees and deciduous hardwoods where most of the estimated 1,000 Connecticut monk parakeets live.

Bull, of the Connecticut Audubon Society, said that while Audubon supports this eradication effort, the birds have carved out an ecological niche for themselves since they arrived around 1971.

"They're great birds," he said. He added that winter weather restricts them to the coast, where they feed on rose hips, beach plums and bayberry.

"In South America they're considered an agricultural pest," Bull said. "I have not noticed any situation, beyond a peripheral level, where monk parakeets have been competing with native birds."

More information about the monk parakeets is available at; and

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My letter on behalf of Ct's wild Monk Parakeets: To Employees of United Illuminating Co, and the EPA, Audubon Society, and Governor of Connecticut: Though I do not reside in your state, I ask you to recognize that the plight of wild populations of Monk Parakeets (aka Quaker Parrots) is a concern in many states at this time, and that there are viable solutions which would allow your state to set a positive example of how we, as a nation, cooperate with wildlife in our country. Killing should never be an option, much less a first choice, in the effort to manage wildlife populations. In several states, individuals and wildlife groups have worked cooperatively with power companies to assist in controlling populations of Monk Parakeets. For example, in my home state of New Jersey, my organization, Edgewater Parrots, worked with PSE&G to find humane solutions to nest teardowns and killing of baby birds and discarding eggs. Because we worked together, we found humane and amicable solutions, including the appropriate timing of nest teardowns and options to nest teardowns, such as the use of ceramic sleeves, orange colored envelopes, balloons, mirrors, and ultrasonic sound. We recently received a permit from NJ F&W that allows us to assist PSE&G with nest teardowns and egg and juvenile removal. On Monday, Edgewater's Mayor and Council voted to allow Edgewater Parrots to begin construction of our alternative nesting platforms in parks throughout the Borough. As you can see, there are many alternatives to killing. Public discussion with your community and with other power companies who face the same situation, will result in other viable and cost effective solutions to this problem, while allowing protection to Monk Parakeets, as well as allowing your community to continue to enjoy and respect wildlife. Working with the community is excellent PR for your utility company---murdering innocent birds while they sleep and submitting them for research is not. At a minimum, you should realize that you are creating a public relations problem that exceeds any benefit you think you might gain by slaughtering the birds. I can't help but wonder why United Illuminating has chosen to kill parrots instead of re-engineering its assets to dissuade the parrots from building their nests in utility poles. You have alot of humane choices available to you and alot of individuals who want to help. The decision to utilize those options is yours. Continuing to kill leaves neither you, nor the birds, any options. Sincerely, Alison Evans-Fragale, Director 201-735-0076

The following letter was sent to the Audubon Society from Mark Bittner, author of the book "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" and subject of the film of the same name. Dear Milan Bull, My name is Mark Bittner. I am the author of the book "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," and subject of the documentary film of the same title. The eradication program with which your organization has been cooperating has just been brought to my attention, and I have to say that I am shocked and appalled. I recently allowed my membership in the national Audubon to lapse. This was due solely to the fact that I am constantly on the road speaking and I don't have the time to keep up with day-to-day details at home. I intended to rejoin once my current travel schedule slowed down. Now I will be writing the national organization to learn whether they support what your chapter is doing. If so, my lapsed membership will remain permanent. I will also consider myself in an adversarial relationship with Audubon and will begin speaking out against the organization. I am well aware of the nativist arguments, although I consider them wrong-headed and, frankly, ignorant--that is, they demonstrate ignorance of what real birds in the real world are like. Birds are no different than us in their day-to-day concerns. They are not "chemical robots" as, it seems, many biologists are inclined to regard them. They fear death and injury and they love those close to them. I have seen this with my own eyes. That you are willing to go along with this program indicates to me that Audubon has lost its way. What is it about these Republican times that the solution to every perceived problem is to kill? Mark Bittner Roberta Fabiano adds this note: I wrote a song about Mark Bittner's parrots ("The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill") entitled "Dogen, Connor & Tupelo" which will be in the up and coming DVD of the movie. I am also the lead vocalist and guitarist for the Peter Duchin Orchestra. Roberta Fabiano also adds: I am in agreement with Mark Bittner and his statement "They are not 'chemical robots' as, it seems, many biologists are inclined to regard them. They fear death and injury and they love those close to them. I have seen this with my own eyes." Yes...I too have seen this with my own eyes. They are very much like us. Who are we to kill them? How dare we do this? I implore you to please stop this tragedy immediately!! Instead of killing them, why haven't we implemented any other solutions? We've put up poles for Osprey nests in and around the country..why can't we start putting up poles specifically for monk parakeets?

Today, Sunday,was a beautiful day outside. While working in my yard, there was a noticeble difference. The flocks of wild parrots that I usually see and hear flying overhead daily were eerily absent. I did see one lone parrot who was squawking as he flew overhead and I couldn't help feeling sick and wonderingif he was confused and searcing frantically for his family. Yesterday, I had been pretty upset and posted a note and since then I keep getting more and more angry. Who does UI think it is to take it upon themselves to kill this species because they feel it is best(easiest solution for them)? The Audobon Society says that research show other methods to be ineffective. Well, isn't it worth a try rather than making an assumption? I still say check out burying the power lines. Blog editor's note: Audubon Sociey lies. The problem cited by UI is exaggerated. A few so-called problematic nests could be moved, and the poles maintained; that's what happens when raptors are involved. For the record, we're terribly upset, too. Keep the pressure on UI. Nationwide, USDA agents kill millions of birds and animals each year for ranchers , other corporate interests, and the taxpayers are stuck financing this corporate welfare.

Dear Governor Rell, This letter is a plea for assistance in the matter of the monk parakeets found here in Connecticut. It has come to my attention that the United Illuminating Company, along with the USDA, have begun a mass euthanasia tour against the monk parakeets that are nesting in the transformers and utility poles. I have become disturbed to learn that Connecticut is not the only state with a population of these wonderful parakeets, but we are the only state that has decided to kill these creatures. Our neighboring states have decided to help relocate the birds that begin nesting in the utility poles, rather than simply kill them. These birds are not native to the land, they're normally found in more tropical habitats. However, they have become accustomed to the environment and nest on the utility poles during the winter months for the heat. The United Illuminating Company has decided to kill these species because of fear for power outage, and possible fire hazards. Rather than simply removing the nests, and forcing the species to relocate, the United Illuminating Company and the USDA approach the nests during the night and smother the creatures with carbon monoxide. This is my plea for assistance. I understand that you're a very busy woman, and I would greatly appreciate any, and all, attention that you can afford this subject matter. Thank you for your time. Benjamin Sawyer 44 Carriage Lane Milford, CT 06460

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Thanks to Ben and others who are making vigorous appeals on behalf of many hundreds or thousands of Monk Parakeets in Connecticut who have commited no crime, but face a hideous death of gassing at the behest of United Illuminating. These killings are not euthanasia; they're not done out of concern for suffering birds. The healthy free-living parakeets are attacked by USDA agents who make nightly raids on their nests, gass the birds, and then make moronic jokes about their demise. It's a sad time in our history when the state of Connecticut doesn't have enough heart and decency to not destroy flocks of wild parakeets -- birds who the majority of the state's residents appreciate. Priscilla Feral President Friends of Animals

We have reached a sad day in our history when corporate powers can, in closed-door, backroom deals, without any input from the public, decide to eradicate a harmless species, using taxpayers' money, without their knowledge or consent. This is government at its worst. To the killers: United Illuminating, USDA, and CT DEP, the monk parrots you are killing have all of the great qualities we associate with the American character: they're industrious, intelligent, loyal to each other, they're amazing little engineers, they coexist well with other native birds, and even the head of CT Audobon admitted that their environmental impact is minimal. You may think you've won, because you've successfully killed several hundred harmless, intelligent birds and probably won't go to prison for this crime. But you have lost, because the entire world now knows of your moral emptiness, and will find alternatives to your dark vision that do will replace you with a new generation of leaders which can balance - with reason, kindkess, and conscience - the interests of mankind and nature in ways that never include murder. Steve Baldwin

Benjamin Sawyer writes: "These birds are not native to the land, they're normally found in more tropical habitats. However, they have become accustomed to the environment and nest on the utility poles during the winter months for the heat." In a recent conversation regarding the parakeets in Connecticut, an ornithologist noted that climate change is here and native southern birds are expanding their populations northward. The Northern Mockingbird and the Northern Cardinal are examples. In other words, some birds are moving as they are pressured by the climate, and actually will become "native" in latitudes that change over time, as the climate turns milder. So invoking a strict dichotomy between native and non-native does not settle the matter. Thus it seems that the absolute, rigid idea that any bird deemed non-native is owed no protection is as questionable from a biological position as the denial of moral consideration would be from a philosophical standpoint. Reliance on the dichotomy is particularly dubious here. In this case, the state Audubon Society itself -- although mysteriously accepting the killing -- says these birds are not having a deleterious impact on the environment. In all cases that members of the conscious, living community are impacted by human decisions, it's time to think and act with more wisdom. The time is right for environmentalists, lawmakers, administrative agencies and companies to take the interests of other members of the biocommunity seriously. And it's time to acknowledge the idea that even scientists and lawmakers - the experts - have something to gain from listening to those people who attempt to model kindness and tolerance. United Illuminating and the state Audubon Society have shown themselves to be the Grinches who stole Thanksgiving. The issue will not go away so easily; obviously this crude, mean-spirited reaction is not the answer. Sooner or later, Grinches, you'll have to do the right thing. It's preposterous that you are taking so much time to relent. Is your professional standing somehow enhanced by causing so much hurt in your community? Lee Hall
Friends of Animals

These are all heartless non-caring people....! We have to stop this immediately. What is America coming to. To get rid of something,is the only option "just to kill" them? Deer,swans, bears, parakeets. What's next? ... There is NO PROOF these birds have harmed anyone .It's animal/wildlife abuse that is going on here .How come that is allowed? []

Please see e-mail sent and responses received by the Connecticut Chapter of the Audobon Society: Dear Jennifer, If you are not the correct person to be in touch with please forward this e-mail to whom it may concern. Am I to understand correctly that the Connecticul Audubon Society has sanctioned the killing of quaker parrots? This is an absolute outrage, whether it is a humane killing or not. Quaker parrots, although not native to our country, have been here and survived here for many, many years. Those birds do not know the difference between South America and Connecticut. They know survival and have done a great job at it, until, of all organizations, the Audubon got involved. Should you kill the pigeons and the sparrows too? Or are they ok because they are native? I'm sure that the noise the parrots make are not to the liking of Connecticut residents but this is mother nature at work and people need to get used to it. By allowing the gassing of these beautiful birds you are destroying what mother nature, in her own strange way, intended. I am deeply and horrifically dissappointed over the decision of your organization. You are the exact organization that is supposed to protect wildlife not kill it. When I read the article my heart went out to those birds and I looked at mine and thanked goodness they were safe. I am not sorry to inform you that I will not be making my yearly donation to the Audubon Society this year and will ask others not to as well. It's about protecting wildlife, not killing it! Patricia THEN THE TWO VERY DIFFERENT RESPONSES: Folks: Please be advised that we are in no way supporting or condoning the widespread killing of monk parakeets! Just a few years ago we spent over $4,000 rescuing 92 hatchling monks that had been blown from their nest tree and needed immediate hand feeding, incubation and rearing. No one appreciates birds more than we do, whether native or not. We have worked for several years consulting with the UI company regarding the best and safest methods (for the welfare of the birds) to remove those few nest structures from hazardous utility poles in order to prevent fires and loss of power. In most cases this was successful, however, a few adults persist in rebuilding nests in hazardous locations, and I mean hazardous for the birds themselves as well as for people and homes. In these few and isolated cases, the UI company is working with the Department of Agriculture to remove the nests and the adults. We simply must support these isolated cases, both for the welfare of the people as well as the population of monk parakeets as a whole. Research has not yet come up with a system to prevent monk parakeets from nesting on utility poles near transformers. Believe me, a lot of people are working hard on this. I sincerely hope you understand our position. Thanks for you interest and concern. Milan G. Bull
Senior Director of Science and Conservation Connecticut Audubon Society AND THEN: Dear Patricia: Thank you very much for contacting Audubon Connecticut regarding United Illuminating's plan to remove Monk Parakeets from their electrical distribution equipment. I have attached Audubon Connecticut's position statement on this topic. This action is consistent with our policy on non-native species in that: * Audubon Connecticut's focus is the conservation of native populations of birds and other wildlife. * Monk Parakeets are a non-native, introduced species. * Populations of some non-native wildlife species are growing to the point where they have adverse impacts on native species and their habitats, pose a threat to human health and safety, or have simply become a nuisance to people. * When there is clear scientific evidence of a real or potential deleterious impact of non-native species on native populations of wildlife, their habitats, or human health and safety, Audubon may support the management of such non-native species either on our properties or elsewhere. * In those cases, it is the policy of Audubon Connecticut to advance a conservation ethic in which management of wildlife populations is based on sound science and employs non-lethal means before resorting to lethal methods. * Monk Parakeets are creating a hazardous situation by nesting on power lines and electrical transformers. * Their large nests, constructed of dried sticks can create a fire hazard and increase the risk of power loss, which could result in a significant threat to human safety. * In this case, United Illuminating has thoroughly explored non-lethal control methods and has studied case histories from Florida and other states, and has found no effective alternative. * UI has thoroughly documented the threat posed to human health and safety by parakeet nests and has conducted a comprehensive search for alternatives to lethal control methods and has worked with the DEP and USDA on the plan to alleviate the threats caused by these non-native species. * UI is only removing nests that are constructed on electrical distribution equipment. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or need any additional information. Sincerely, Patrick Patrick M. Comins
Director of Bird Conservation Audubon Connecticut We need to stop allowing these beautiful birds to be gassed.. Here in NYC we deal with them, watch their funny antics, take pride in their intelligence and their ability to survive here. They nest on local campuses, they can be found in all boroughs, on certain city blocks and probably on utility poles as well but we don't kill them! Please e-mail the above mentioned folks and if there's anything i could do to help you guys at Friends of Animals just let me know...


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