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National Bird Day

Naturalized Parrots in the U.S.

Photo by Marc Johnson

Monk Parrots (Myiopsitta monachus), also called Quaker or Monk Parakeets, and other exotic parrots have established naturalized colonies in the U.S. However, routine monitoring of avian populations nationwide indicates that these parrot flocks pose no danger to indigenous species.


We acknowledge that the control of naturalized populations may be legitimate or necessary when such populations demonstrate a clear threat to public health and safety or the survival of indigenous species


However, in such cases we strongly oppose lethal control or eradication methods; they are not effective, long-term solutions to inter-species conflicts.  Species such as Monk parrots are highly adaptive, necessitating repeated killing campaigns in order to achieve the desired result.  Moreover, the eradication of naturalized parrot flocks has shown to be of no significant benefit to the preservation of native bird populations.  


Instead, the AWC strongly encourages the use of non-lethal strategies and permanent, exclusion-based solutions to deter or remove birds from problematic nesting sites.  One such strategy is to provide the parrots with alternative nesting sites while deterring them from the undesirable sites and offering protection from the elements when their nests are destroyed.   This strategy has been successful at diminishing conflict while not increasing the parrot population.


Trapping naturalized bird species and placing them into captive settings or in the pet trade also fails to provide a long-term solution.  It poses ethical and animal-welfare concerns as well as increasing the burden on shelters and avian rescue organizations. We strongly discourage this practice. 


It has sometimes been alleged that, as a non-native species, Monk Parrots may compete with native birds for resources, therefore contributing to a decline in native populations.  However, such concerns are unfounded. 


Human activities, Including habitat destruction, environmental pollution and toxins, and accidents with building structures – impact native populations far more adversely than the presence of naturalized parrots, whose colonies are normally located in urban and suburban area where native plans and animals have already suffered habitat loss caused by land development industrialization.


AWC does not condone the introduction, intentional or not, of exotic species into the U.S.  We support legislation that targets the individuals and industries contributing to this problem.  Yet regardless of their non-native species, Monk Parrots and other naturalized birds deserve protection from inhumane treatment, including misguided attempts to control their populations. 


Naturalized Parrots in the U.S.

Naturalized Quaker Parrots rest in the sun near a power transformer in Connecticut.
Photo by Marc Johnson

The American Ornithologist’s Union currently recognizes seven established feral parrot species, including a few commonly referred to as parakeets.  These self-sustaining populations include budgerigars, rose-ringed parakeets, white-winged parakeets, yellow-chevroned parakeets, green-cheeked Amazon parrots, and monk parrots.(1) Red-masked and nanday conures, peach-faced lovebirds, lilac-crowned amazons, and several other species have also been reported.  However, the majority of these birds live in relatively limited ranges, most likely because of restrictions imposed by climate, food supply, and proximity to suitable nesting sites. 

Due to their hardy nature, resourcefulness, and ability to survive colder winters, Monk Parrots have established the largest population of naturalized parrots in the U.S.  It is their very adaptability within our urban environment, couples with their adeptness at building large communal nests on utility poles and power transformers, that raises concerns among government agencies, conservationists, and utility companies.  Though their colonies can be found in at least 11 states, there is no document evidence that they have caused damage to agriculture, nor have they been proven a threat to native birds species.  Monk Parrots have simply dared to interfere with commercial activity, and this along has garnered them a great share of national media attention than other naturalized parrots. 


Regardless of their non-native status, we need to ensure the humane treatment of all naturalized birds by granting them legal protection in the U.S.  


(1) Feral Parrots in the Continental United States and United Kingdom: Past, Present, and Future by Christopher J Butler, Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, vol. 19, no. 2, June 2005


What you should know to help Monk Parrots in your community! 

Fossil records indicate that many species continued to thrive only because they possessed the ability to migrate to distant lands
Photo by Marc Johnson

How did Monk Parrots come to be in introduced species?  What is an introduced species and how does it differ from an invasive species?  Why Monk Parrots chose to nest on power lines? AWC participants answer these and other important questions in a Round Table forum 

Articles & References


Building Artificial Nests to save Monk Parakeets
By Dwight G. Smith & Marc Johnson


About Quaker Parrots


Detailed Discussion of the Laws Concerning Invasive Species
By Cassandra Burdyshaw

Animal Legal & Historical Center 2011, Michigan State University College of Law


Need Help?

To request assistance regarding Monk or other naturalized parrots in your community, please contact the Avian Welfare Coalition or the following AWC participating organizations:


Born Free USA

Foster Parrots, Ltd.