And nowhere is that more evident than in the case of the monk (or Quaker) parakeets that now inhabit a number of towns along the Connecticut coast, including Fairfield, Milford, Stratford, Hamden, New Haven, the ‘Stavens (West and East) and Orange. For bird-lovers and friends of nature, the colorful and noisy creatures are a glorious marvel, a tropical out-of-place species that somehow has managed to flourish in the cold and cruel Northeast. For city officials and the United Illuminating Co. [UI], the parakeets are a scourge and a hazard as their enormous nests—often built atop utility poles—have caused fires and power outages.
The two sides were at odds—and in courts—over the course of a few years as the war over the birds have escalated. In 2005, with legal backing, UI staged an aggressive eradication program where they not only removed hundreds of nests but also (with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) euthanized thousands of birds, ruffling the feathers of animal-protecton groups everywhere. They have organized and struck back—UI now only regularly removes nests and not birds, who come back and re-build the nests in a short amount of time.
The parakeets have seemingly thrived despite all the legal tanglings and attempts at extermination. Despite technically being an invasive species, the hardy birds have not disrupted the local ecology in any discernible way. The local weather is somewhat similar to their native habitat; it’s believed that their giant nests are what enable them to survive the colder winters.
Of course, the question is how did the feathered immigrants—native to South America, and not known to migrate—arrive in Connecticut in the first place? The story goes that the birds were escapees from a Kennedy Airport shipment in the late 1960s and flew across Long Island Sound before settling in Connecticut. Others think that the birds started out as escaped pets (they were first brought to the U.S. in large numbers around the time of the Kennedy Airport story) and have become feral. Large colonies can be found elsewhere in the country, including Brooklyn, N.Y. and Chicago, although they seem to be declining there.
No one is really sure how they monk parakeets got here—and the birds, while squawking plenty, aren’t saying anything.
If You Go: As indicated above, there are a number of towns along the shoreline where you can find monk parakeets, although as with any wild creature, it’s hard to guarantee where they will be at any given moment. (Hence the “wild” designation.) In Milford, they have generally been seen in the downtown area as well as on Pelham and Meadowside streets. In Fairfield, they have been spotted along Round Hill Rd. In West Haven, along Capt. Thomas Blvd.