How did a flock of Argentinian parrots land in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery?

May 2, 2018

Photo via Wiki Commons

It’s usually the tours and events at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery that get people talking, but the national landmark has its own chatty group that’s attracting a lot of attention. The group happens to be a flock of lime green parrots from Argentina, appropriately named “Monk Parrots” since they are hanging out in the cemetery despite Green-Wood’s nonsectarian nature. But how did these loud and exotic birds get all the way from South America to Greenwood Heights?

Green-Wood’s main gate, where the parrots make their home, via Wiki Commons

Green-Wood Cemetery is located at the highest point in Brooklyn, making it an ideal stopover for migrating birds. There are almost 500 acres of trees and ponds and, it goes unsaid, not a lot of disruptive activity. In addition to the parrots, the other typical birds that gather at Green-Wood are herons, egrets, hawks, killdeer and many more.

Monk parrots are just under a foot long and stocky with dark blue wings, pink-tipped tails, and grey monk-like hoods. Their songs are described as “raucous and harsh” – not so calming for those eternally resting. They are native to Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina but this particular clan comes from the mountains of Argentina, according to Steve Baldwin, of Brooklyn Parrots, where the climate is quite similar to ours.

Baldwin is not an ornithologist but he is an enthusiast and leads free monk parrot “safaris” in Green-Wood. According to Baldwin, in the 1950s there were so many monk parrots in Argentina that they were devastating the agricultural harvest and the government unsuccessfully paid bounty hunters to get rid of them. When that strategy failed, they decided to sell these exotic birds. In 1968 alone, nearly 12,000 monk parrots were brought to the United States. Legend has it that these birds escaped in the 1960s when a crate of caged monk parakeet broke open at JFK airport but, most likely, they were just pets let free.

According to the New York City Audubon site, “Start your bird walk as you enter through Green-Wood Cemetery’s Main Gate. (You can’t miss the parrots).” So, however, the monk parrots came to Green-Wood and even though they’re raucous, we should go and enjoy their striking colors!

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