Parrots In Hicksville

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Green parrots seen in the wild in parts of Long Island and Brooklyn are actually monk parakeets descended from a flock that escaped from a late 1960s Kennedy Airport shipment.
(Photo by Bernard Dupont/CC BY-SA 2.0)

I’ve often remarked about the beautiful wildlife that we’ve seen in Hicksville. Most folks know about the beautiful hawk that inhabits the trees at Woodland Elementary. Early in the mornings, you can hear him “talk” with the crows and ravens, who cackle loudly in the majestic oaks on the school grounds. We have an abundance of squirrels, different birds of the air and bunnies. There have even been sightings of opossum and raccoon throughout our neighborhoods, along with the occasional garter snake. I’m always amazed when someone mentions unusual sightings of wildlife on the streets of our town.

While perusing several of the groups I belong to on Facebook, I noticed a common theme. Several members had noticed green parrots in the area that had made nests and had generally made a nuisance of themselves. One member mentioned that there were several different areas of one of the five boroughs that boasted wild parrots. Another member spoke about three green parrots who had nested high in their tree on Pine Street. I thought back to a summer, many years ago, when my father made a similar discovery.

In the summer of 1972, Mom and her sisters discussed the possibility of a family reunion. Because most of the family hailed from Suffolk County, the decision had been made to hold the reunion at Belmont Lake State Park, which was midway for most of us. Reunions were always exciting, because it meant that we were going to see family who had traveled great distances to get together. Mom’s sister and her family, who lived close to Albany at the time, would also be traveling to the park to see everyone. For weeks, everyone was filled with anticipation and a palpable excitement that was hard to hide.

In the wee morning hours of the reunion, Mom bustled about as she organized Tupperware containers that boasted fresh potato salad, crispy coleslaw and sweet watermelon slices. She helped my sister and I to get ready while Dad loaded up the station wagon with the red metal cooler, mitts for softball and other assorted items that we would need for a day of fun, sun and family. As my uncle and his family pulled up in front of our house, I heard them both cry out so loudly that Mom, my sister and I ran outside to see what had caused the commotion.

High up in the tree was a very large green parrot that was making enough racket to wake the neighborhood. It certainly was early enough to rouse everyone from sleep as the sun had just begun to brighten the summer sky. Dad grabbed his lopping shears to chase the bird, while my uncle attempted to scale the huge sycamore. Their attempts caused the parrot to fly higher into the tree, high out of their reach. After several more attempts to shoo the bird away, Dad realized that it was time to leave for the reunion. He hoped the bird would “find its way home.” I hoped it remained when we got home that night, because I hoped Dad would somehow rescue it and give it to us as a pet. I was certain the bird had to belong to someone, because Long Island’s tropical temperatures were not at all like the rain forests of South America. Besides, he was pretty massive.

When we arrived home that night, that beautiful green parrot had flown away. I was disappointed, but after Dad explained the upkeep of a bird that size, I realized that sometimes things work out for the best.

There are several parrot colonies here on Long Island. Massapequa, Freeport and parts of Brooklyn have large flocks that have called Long Island their permanent home. While several theories exist regarding how they got here, I’d have to say that my favorite is the story about how a large shipment of birds expected at local pet shops escaped Kennedy Airport in 1967 or 1968. The birds somehow survived in the parks near the airport and were first spotted in the general area in the early 1970s, just around the time of our family reunion. Over the years, these birds settled various “satellite” colonies throughout Long Island and the five boroughs, as well as parts of New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

I’m not quite sure what happened to the parrots that tried to establish themselves on Pine Street, but I would love to see them. While they’re much smaller than the parrot Dad and Uncle Matt found in our sycamore that summer day in 1972, I’m sure that a wild parrot must be a beautiful sight to behold. Welcome to the neighborhood, beautiful green parrots. So long as you steer clear of the flora of area residents, I think you’ll be a bright and beautiful addition to our ever-changing town.

Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.

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