Chicago is being invaded by birds and scientists are trying to figure out what’s going on. Residents of that city have become familiar with their raucous squawking of monk parakeets (those little green birds you see in pet stores), since whole colonies of them, descended from a few pets that escaped or were freed by their owners are not only nesting in Hyde Park, they have spread to over 500 other locations.
Despite the fact that their native habitat is South America, they seem to be thriving in that cold and windy city. Because information about Chicago’s monk parakeets comes from residents’ descriptions, a trio of researchers decided to enlist the public’s help in their “Chicago Parakeet Project.”
Biologist Emily Minor says, “We’re trying to find the location of every nest in the city and surrounding areas so we can learn more about habitat preferences, why they chose to nest in certain places, and also to understand the pattern of where they spread and predict where they may be going. We plan to visit each nest and collect data that may be hard for the public to collect.”
The birds have been tracked as far as 20 miles from the original Hyde Park sites where they were first noticed in the 1960s. Their nests are high up in trees and in structures such as power-line towers and poles, where large nests have been known to catch fire. Nests can be communal, like an apartment complex for birds. “A nest can be many feet tall and wide,” says Minor. “They’re often high up.”
But it’s the birds’ sound that may catch your attention first. “Like a normal parrot, they’re pretty loud.”
Art credit: Dreamstime.com
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