Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Monk Parakeets of New York City

In New York one would expect to see heaps of pigeons mindlessly wandering. But in the middle of Queens another unexpected bird is very common to see, the Monk parakeet. It is characterized by their bright green body and rosy-orange beak. These birds are native to South America, specifically central Bolivia to south Brazil, Uruguay and southern and central Argentina. The reasons for their presents in the middle of New York City is highly debated. Some claim that there was an incident involving a crate of Monk parakeets at the JFK airport resulting in many of them escaping into the city. Other people claim that they are from people releasing captive pet parakeets into the city after not being able to take care of them properly. 
Regardless of why or where they came from, they have obviously adapted extremely well to their new home in the city. A report by Columbia University explains that these birds have thrived for a number of reasons. Monk parakeets are plant generalists, so they eat almost any kind of plant, including weeds and flowering plants. In the winter they eat seeds from bird feeders and have been known to fly long distances in search of food if they have to.
Introduced species of Monk parakeets are most common in Florida, due to the abundance of flowering plants year round. New York is a lot colder than Florida, so how do these birds survive in the winter? The answer is found in the places where they are natively found. They naturally thrive in the mountains of South America, which reach temperatures very similar to the temperature of New York in the winter. Monk parakeets also thrive in city and urbanized environments as told by this website dedicated to the Monk parakeets of New York City. They are naturally very smart and gregarious, because of this New Yorkers have taken a keen interest in them and their well-being.
Because these parakeets are an introduced species that are not native to New York City it is important to look at the impact of these birds on native wildlife. This report claims that the control level diagnosis of the Monk parakeet in New York is classified as a medium priority. If they continue to reproduce they have a real potential of becoming a pest. They have been known to damage power lines and have also been seen fighting with native birds like Blue Jays over territory. Their populations are relatively small currently, so they are not a serious threat. But if they continue to reproduce and exhibit aggressive behavior their impact will need to be reevaluated.

Liz Clark Week 1


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece about Monk parakeets in New York City because this post could be providing us with a real world example of convergent evolution. Convergent evolution occurs when two distantly related species evolve similar traits over time by experiencing similar environmental pressures. As mentioned in this article, the Monk parakeet’s natural habitat is in the mountains in South America, and they have adapted to living in a cooler climate. Thus, this species is able to thrive and compete with native New York bird species that have experienced similar climate pressures. The ability of both of these species to be able to survive in identical environments makes me wonder if they possess similar traits. If they do, could they have arisen due to convergent evolution?

    Posted by "Nicholas Georgette"

  2. It will be interesting to see how this species continues to adapt to the selective pressures that New York poses. If this species continues to reproduce and survive over a number of generations then we could slowly, but surely, begin to see a form of reproductive isolation take hold in this specific population. If this were to occur then we could see this subsect of parakeets becoming their own species, thus exhibiting how genetic drift and isolation can cause one species to diverge into two. Hopefully this species does not become a high threat to the native species, as it will be interesting to see how this population changes over time.
    Posted by James Levangie

  3. This was a very interesting post. It is interesting that a species natively from the mountains in South America could adapt to thrive so easily in an urban setting such as New York City. It is also interesting that the Parakeets can thrive in Florida as well, and New York City and Florida are very different environments. Florida has lots of vegetation that can be food for parakeets, but New York does not have much vegetation. New York is also much cooler temperature than Florida. Hopefully the population of the Monk Parakeets does not get out of control and become a problem forcing a different course of action.
    Posted by “John Mariano”