Monk Parakeet - Myiopsitta monachus

August 06, 2013

About a month ago I was walking by our rather tall public library when I noticed a few bright green feathers on the sidewalk. I examined the feathers, and then looked up to see a screeching Peregrine Falcon fly overhead and swoop up to its roost on top of the library. The green feathers were from some poor bird it had just made a meal out of, no doubt, and there is only one bird around here that exhibits such tropical coloring: the Monk Parakeet. 

Myiopsitta monachus can be found in feral populations throughout North America, as well as some countries in Europe, but they are native to Argentina and it's surrounding countries in South America. As it has become a popular pet, feral populations have been established via pet trade escapees. Indeed, we have quite a thriving population here in Chicago. I've seen them in Austin, TX too, and know of populations in Brooklyn, Connecticut, Houston, Florida, and even Wisconsin. 

People are always amazed to find that we have such a tropical species of bird that is able to survive our harsh winters, but in addition to being extremely intelligent, gregarious and resourceful critters, they are one of the few species of parrots adapted to temperate zones. During the winter months here, they mainly rely on feeder food. I had worked on a couple of specimens at the Field Museum and in both cases they had crops full of bird seed from feeders. They nest communally, and often times construct their large nests around power lines and transformers. 

This preference for building around power lines and transformers in cities has garnered their reputation as being a bit of an urban nuisance. More critically, though, they are considered a major crop pest in their native South American countries, and that has carried over to the U.S. Some states here have outlawed the sale and ownership of Monk Parakeets as pets due to their status as a agricultural threat. 

As far as crop pests, from my personal experience, I have a much bigger axe to grind with another invasive species, the Japanese Beetle. In the meantime, I'll continue to find charm in that flash of bright green in a chilly Chicago winter sky.


  1. Beautiful... Like the green colour and the elegant shape of that kind of bird.

  2. I'm not sure if these are the same birds, but here in LA there are some flocks of green parrots or parakeets. I've only seen them once up in the Hollywood Hills but it was pretty cool watching their neon green flying through a canyon. Felt like I was in the jungle momentarily.

    1. Yes, those are most likely the same birds. I have heard of colonies in LA as well. The climate is probably more agreeable to them being there than here in Chicago!


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