Monk Parakeets in Marine Park, Brooklyn
(Rage Against the Monks)
By Natasha, Christine, Laurie, and Marion
We studiedMonk Parakeets (Myiopsittamonachus) in Brooklyn, New York. On October 12, 1999, the group compared the nesting habitats of this species. We compared the number of active and inactive nests on Brooklyn College Ball Field to Marine Park Golf Course. We investigated where the Monks chose to build their nests. Our results showed that the monks preferred tall lampposts and generators to the tops of trees, unlike other bird species.
Monk Parakeets, natives of South America, are beginning to establish colonies in North America. They are living in various environments. One of the communities in which there was a reported population of this species was Marine Park, Brooklyn. We began our investigation by searching for the presence of these birds on Brooklyn College Football Field. To our surprise, we found that the Monk Parakeets preferred to build their nests on the top of tall lampposts to building their nests in trees. The question we then posed: are the reported populations of Monk Parakeets in Marine Park Recreational Field nesting in tall light posts or trees? We then went to search for nests created by this species near the Marine Park Ball Field. We found that there were no nest sites in this area of Marine Park, but there were established colonies near Marine Park Golf Course. Our observations show that in Brooklyn College Ball Field and Marine Park Golf Course, the Monk Parakeets tended to build their nests on the top of high light posts.
Monk Parakeets, otherwise known as Quaker parrots, are the only known birds to construct stick-nests on average of one to twenty chambers, but have been known to build up to two hundred chambers. Each pair of birds has its own chamber. The large bulky nests are made of woven twigs in a dome shape. Some of the nests are home to more than twenty birds. These nests are used for raising the young and breeding. They are occupied all year round. (3)
Monks are the only psitticines who build community nests; establishing very complex structures made from twigs and branches. In the wild, the nests can weigh as much as 2,723 lbs. The Monk Parakeets have light greenish yellow feathers. The neck and the chest are composed of gray feathers. The wings have blue coloring. The eyes are dark brown, bill is beige and the legs are gray.
The male and female are similar in their physical features. One can determine the sex of the bird through DNA tests. (2)
Is the reported population of Monk Parakeets in Marine Park nesting in tall lampposts or trees?
Monk Parakeets' nests found around Marine Park Recreational Field are predominantly located in light posts rather than in trees.
Map of Marine Park
On October 12, 1999, the group ventured out to Marine Park, Brooklyn NY, to observe and document the location of the nests. Throughout this observation, we searched for inactive and active nests and noted the location in either lampposts or trees. At Brooklyn College Football Field, the Monks predominantly build their nests in lampposts. We compared both of these sites in our experiment in relation to where Monks build their nests.
Monday, October 12, 1999 (10 AM)- Our group including Professor Eleanor Miele, Ph.D. met on the corner of Avenue U and East 36th Street. Our purpose at this point was to observe Marine Park Recreational Field. We walked to the baseball diamond and the immediate surrounding grounds. While there, we checked the outlining deciduous trees on Avenue U and East 32nd Street, and were unable to locate any inactive or active nests. Since our findings did not support our initial hypothesis that Monk Parakeets will be found nesting in lampposts and in trees near a Recreational Field, we had to revamp our experimental grounds. We then decided to observe the perimeter of the Marine Park Golf Course on Flatbush Avenue North. Flatbush Avenue North is a very busy, wide, six lane tree-lined street with tall wooden posts. These posts hold electrical equipment that powers the surrounding area.
(11 am)- At Marine Park Golf Course parking lot, we located an inactive Monk nest in a deciduous tree on an upper branch. As we proceeded down Flatbush Avenue, we came across three active nests located in the top of wooden electrical posts. Two of the nests were located in a generator. The last nest was located in another post approximately fifty feet away.
Reports of Monk Parakeets in the Marine Park area lead us to hypothesize that the birds would nest in and around the athletic field in the neighborhood, as they do on campus. Our research did not support our hypothesis. However, the Marine Park fields differ from the Brooklyn College fields in several ways. There are no light poles illuminating the Marine Park field, which is a natural grass field. The Brooklyn College field is mostly synthetic turf, surrounded by tall light poles supporting lighting capable of illuminating night games. In comparing the nests found on Flatbush Avenue to Brooklyn College football field, more active nests were found on the field. We noticed that Monk Parakeets were found on top of lampposts on the field. The inactive nest found in the tree on Flatbush Avenue is similar to the inactive nest found in a tree on Brooklyn College located on Campus Road. We can make an assumption that the monk parakeets build their nests either on lampposts or generators due to the heating of the power sources. We think one reason for our findings is that trees do not give off enough heat needed for these birds. Furthermore, the trees may not be stable structures for the foundation of these nests. After this research, we still have many unanswered questions. For example, why do these birds tend to buildtheir nests on high lampposts or generators rather than in trees? Do these birds tend to build their nests in lampposts or generators due to the heating or stability of the structure?
One major problem that we encountered was the difficulty in locating these nests. Our original hypothesis was that nests would be located in and around the Marine Park Ball Field in lampposts and in trees. However, when we arrived we heard and saw nothing. Therefore, we changed our experimental field site, as we explained earlier. The group was lucky to find nests on Flatbush Avenue near the Marine Park Golf Course, even though the siting did not support our initial hypothesis.
Suggestions for Future Research:
The following questions need answers about this peculiar species:
For the future, if money is available, it would be interesting to provide high stable structures near the active nests. This would determine whether the monks would build their nests in these structures as well as the lampposts and generators. This would begin to answer the question about the importance of a heat source in selecting nest locations.
Data Supporting our Finding:
An article written inScientific American, which states that "...nests are often built on transformers, causing the equipment to overheat or short out, "supports our data. In addition, another web site entitled, Monk Parakeets in the U.S. Today states,"...monk parakeets are found atop of utility poles."
Comments to Emiele@brooklyn.cuny.edu
Last Updated 2/20/01