Blog · New York · History of the Brooklyn Parrots

History of the Brooklyn Parrots

June 29, 2016
Brooklyn Parrots - Monk Parakeets

Say you’re strolling through Brooklyn one morning enjoying your iced latte and artisan doughnut when you notice your shoelace is loose. You place your frosted treat down for a moment to tie your shoe when a bird swoops down and steals your breakfast. But this fellow is no ordinary New York City pigeon. This little pastry thief is a resplendent green.

Brooklyn Parrots - Monk Parakeets
Photo: Cláudio Dias Timm

You’re not imagining things. You’ve been robbed by one of Brooklyn’s most beloved and unusual residents, the Monk Parakeets, or Quaker Parrots.

Brooklyn Parrots in Flight
Photo: ClatieK

Where did the Brooklyn Parrots come from?

Like most New Yorkers, the parrots originate somewhere else. Some of the more entertaining theories involve a shipwreck off the coast or a near magical journey in the eye of hurricane. But the truth is only a little less spectacular.

Consensus amongst birders and ornithologists alike is that the today’s parrots are the descendants of a flock that escaped JFK airport in the 1960s. Imported from the tropics and destined for pet stores, a few birds broke loose and despite all odds found NYC to be a suitable new home.

Brooklyn Parrots - Monk Parakeets
Photo: Ferran Pestaña

How do the Brooklyn Parrots survive?

Despite being tropical birds, Monk Parakeets are resilient to cold and can handle the NYC winters. They have a wide-ranging diet and have adjusted to the constant supply of discarded food.  They also possess incredibly dextrous feet, allowing them to construct elaborate apartment-like nests hosting multiple breeding pairs.

But their most advantageous trait is one shared by most New Yorkers: The parakeets love to talk! Every flock enjoys a complex communication network, allowing the parrots to work together to find food and safety. In fact, if you ever come across a lone parrot enjoying a bird-feeder, stay and watch. In about 20 minutes or so, you can expect to see the rest of his group sitting down to lunch.

Brooklyn Parrots - Greenwood Cemetery
Photo: David Berkowitz

Where can you see the Brooklyn Parrots?

The parrots like to make their nests in the same place each year. The best place to spot them is at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. They’ve colonized the main gate, building their nests amongst the gate’s terra-cotta features.

There’s also a famous flock located at Brooklyn College. Embraced as the school’s unofficial mascot, the Brooklyn College parakeets make their homes in the tall light posts around the athletic fields.

There are more flocks throughout Brooklyn and a few birds have even ventured into the other boroughs. Join us on our Brooklyn Tour and try to spot a few in the trees of Prospect Park or brownstone features of Park Slope.