As reported over at KRISTV.com, a Texas utility company is taking an innovative approach to dealing with an invasion of monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus)...but it's not working. Frustrated by the birds nesting in its electrical substation, TXU Electric Delivery consulted with wildlife biologists and paid for the construction of a forty-foot high platform designed to mimic the layout of the substation. They disassembled the old nests, covered up the substation, and provided the birds with nesting materials. The parrots responded by taking the nesting materials back to the substation and attempting to rebuild their nests. The article ends with a discussion of what the company will do if the program is successful, but doesn't speculate on how that will even be possible, or why the birds are choosing to ignore their potentially cozy new digs (I'm thinking the substation is a heat source - any bird people want to chime in here?).
As someone with a particular interest in invasive birds, I found this story of particular interest. In my opinion, it is patently absurd to be building nesting structures for Monk Parakeets. What is needed is a national effort to rid the country of these nuisance birds, regardless of public opinion. I'm particularly disheartened by news that the legislatures of Connecticut and New Jersey are considering removing them from their lists of invasive species. Unfortunately, a philosophy of "all creatures bright and small" (as relfected in the popularity of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill book and film) seems to be winning out over the notion of maintaining some semblance of ecological integrity. I think your suggestion that the birds seek the substations as a heat source may have some validity, particularly in more northern climates where small populations still persist.
In defense of the Monk Parakeet's adopted ecosystems, it should be pointed out that North America once had a populous parakeet of its very own. I don't know if the Monk fills the same niche as the Carolina once did, but I've yet to hear about any imbalancing influence they've had on their local environments (complaints from utilities notwithstanding.)
Jenn, how insidious is the Monk Parakeet on the invasive scale?
More insidious than the flamingo but less insidious than starlings :-)
Seriously, there does not seem to have been a lot of research documenting ecological impacts of the monk parakeet - but ecological impacts are difficult to document for many invasives. One online resource that might be useful to people wanting more information is this one (click on the "Research" tab on the left).
If anyone wants to recommend a good resource on niche replacement, please do. My sense is that if we were talking about starlings instead of parrots, there would be far less of an outcry here. ISW reader Diane K. sent in this link to a story about the cormorant culling in the Great Lakes. I've seen signs of disapproval but that's about it - where are the protestors?
John, I really DO understand where you're coming from, but just where in the United States have we overbearing invasive human beings left much actual "ecological integrity"? I think we lost ecological integrity a century ago.
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