Friendly but noisy neighbors

North end of Secaucus adapts to rising parrot population

Parrots have moved into Secaucus.
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Parrots have moved into Secaucus.

Nobody is sure if the parrots that have moved into the north end of Secaucus are descendants of the flocks that lived in North Bergen a decade ago.

But local residents say the parrots began appearing in historic Schmidt’s Woods about four years ago.

And the population is growing.

“Now we have them all over the north end,” said Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “They tend to multiply every year. They make huge nests on poles, and they’ve migrated into the woods.”

A decade ago, flocks of Monk Parakeets, also known as Quaker parrots, started to appear along Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen, apparently migrating from a larger encampment along River Road in Edgewater where they lived for more than four decades.

The original flock reportedly escaped from a broken shipping crate at JFK Airport in the 1970s and have been spreading throughout the area ever since.

“We started seeing them in Secaucus around four years ago,” Gonnelli said. “They are noisy, but they are friendly. They mostly live in Schmidt’s Woods, though I’ve seen them in my backyard.”

“They are very adaptable,” Gonnelli said. “They have weathered five winters in Secaucus.”

According to several websites, these parrots come from Argentina, a section of South America that has a similar climate to ours.

Warm nests

In early May, a parrot was seen poking its head from a large nest built around the wires of a Public Service conduit near Radio Avenue and Gail Place.

Quaker parrots are the only ones that build nests. The one on Radio Avenue is a sprawling affair, precariously balanced around coiled wire and other electronic gear.

The large nest consists of woven twigs or vines that are placed together.

Quakers often choose to build their nests in places that will provide warmth, such as near electrical power transformers and lights.

They survive the cold because they live year-round in these large stick nests.

Parrots tend to huddle together in communal nests, keeping each other warm through shared body heat.

Scores of parrots can occupy very large multi-chambered nests.

While the nest at Gail and Radio is about three feet wide, other nests can be as large as six feet long.

Unlike other local bird nests, these nests are meant for year-round tenancy, not just for mating season.

Because the nests, made of twigs, sometimes entwine with wires and other circuitry, PSE&G considers the nests a potential fire hazard.

Birds of a feather

According to experts, these birds have a long life expectancy and tend to remain with their flock.

They are called Monk parakeets because they have a gray patch on top of their heads. The gray patch resembles a hood. The rest of their body is green. It is one of about 350 species of parrot capable of surviving winters in this part of the United States.

Although the population in Secaucus is growing, these parrots reproduce slowly.

Established colonies grow at a much slower rate than species such as sparrows that are common to this area. Experts say they are not aggressive, even to other species of birds. The parrot on Gail and Radio appears to be sharing its nest with a group of starlings and sparrows.

“They do squawk a lot,” Gonnelli admitted. “But they tend to be good neighbors. They don’t bother anybody, and we leave them alone.”

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com