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The Monk parakeet, also known as the Quaker parrot, is the only parrot introduced into North America to have successfully establish breeding populations throughout the range of the Carolina parakeet. Currently the North American population can be found primarily in urban areas of 13 states and is in excess of 5000. The Monk parakeet is the only living species of parrot to build nests. The nests are constructed of twigs and are usually quite large with multiple compartments for separate monk parakeet breeding pairs and their young. They not only use the nests to lay eggs and raise young but live in them year round. This unique behavior means that they do not compete with native cavity nesting birds for homes. In fact, unoccupied compartments of these nest are sometimes used by other native and non-native birds.

More than thirty years have passed since the first breeding colonies of Monk parakeets were established in North America. In that time they have yet to become invasive and have remained in small, localized, mainly urban environments. In colder climates they rely almost exclusively on backyard bird feeders to sustain them through the winter, making them inextricably bound to urban and suburban areas. Over time, the danger of these non-native birds becoming invasive is less likely, but still possible. In their native Argentina they are considered an agricultural pest.

Although the Carolina parakeet can never be replaced, some think the Monk parakeet might, to a small degree, fill the void left by the extinction of this once prevalent bird. Although they are not as vividly colored, they are almost exactly the same size as the Carolina parakeet. There are documented observations of Carolina parakeets constructing twig nests when cavity nests, which they preferred, were scarce.

The loss fo the Carolina parakeet is tragic and the problem of non-native species is real. We at the SRNE do not advocate introducing non-natives into any habitat, but we also cannot endorse the wonton killin of a non-native species that appears, based on current research, to be benign. At the very least, by focusing on these highly charismatic non-native animals, we may increase attention toward the non-human natural world and help people become more connected to their local environment.

The New Parrots of North America was created by BD Collier, Founder and President of the Society for a Re-Natural Environment for Systems of Sustainability: Art Innovation Action
an event organized by the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts
and The Blaffer Gallery in March 2009.

All photographs, artwork and web design by BD Collier (aside from those otherwise credited).

This project was made possible through the generous support of The University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and Blaffer Gallery, The Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City ArtsKC fund, and the Kansas City Art Institute.