Of 320 parrot species worldwide, the monks â so named for the way their gray-and-green plumage paints a hood over their heads â are the only ones that forgo tree hollows to build their own nests: huge, multichambered shelters people compare to condominiums. They live there all year long. They have a capacity to mimic, but mostly call to one another in a high-pitched chatter that can rattle people's nerves. They can live for 30 years.
Of the roughly 30 species of parrots now breeding in the United States, only monks colonize in colder climates, and thus are âthe only ones in New York City,â said Stephen Pruett-Jones, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, who has studied them in Hyde Park for 25 years.
The first published citing of the species (Myiopsitta monachus) in the wild in America was in New York in 1967, he said. Newspaper accounts put them in Chicago the following year, and in Florida in 1969.
By 1970, there was the odd parrot sighting in New York: a few at Riis Park, a handful in the Rockaways, some more on Staten Island. A nest, but no birds, was found in Central Park, in a broken floodlight behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Their locations were pinpointed, but it was less clear how they got here. No biologist believes they flew here on their own.
Some take Ms. Lynch's view: They escaped from the airport. Others see less swashbuckling beginnings: Owners sick of their rasping cries set them free. Marc Morrone, who owns Parrots of the World, a pet store in Rockville Centre, on Long Island, says neither explanation is valid. The airport story is an âold wives' tale,â he said, because shipping containers do not tend to break, and the birds make âwonderfulâ pets, so why would anyone set them free?