Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Can a parakeet survive a New Hampshire winter?


By STACEY COLE | December 02. 2016 7:35PM

 







Editor’s note: The following column was originally printed in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Saturday, Dec. 17, 1983.

THE OTHER EVENING I received a call stating that a parakeet had been visiting a feeder in Allenstown on a regular basis for some time, and the question was, “Could the parakeet last throughout the cold winter months?” This gentleman had borrowed a cage in hopes the bird would go into it, but the bird had other ideas. Even though this was the only location where food was placed, the temptation was not enough.

Before I get to the question, let me back up a bit on the subject of parakeets. There are several kinds of parakeets which could well have escaped from captivity, but there are two which have been released from time to time in New York City and other places.

The Budgerigar is probably the most widely domesticated of the parrots and has been bred quite extensively for the cage bird market. These birds come in many colors due to this selective breeding work.

The second, and probably the bird that has received the most attention though, is the Monk parakeet. This is a South American parrot which either escaped from captivity or was deliberately released in the wild in both the southeastern and northeastern United States. In the Northeast, this bird became fairly well established in and around New York City. This bird was first reported on western Long Island, northern New Jersey and in the city parks of New York City from 1967-70. It was seen with increasing frequency, perhaps due to import shipments at Kennedy International Airport. It was rumored that a crate of these Monk parakeets was dropped there one day during the unloading process and an untold number flew to freedom. Several were seen in New Brunswick, N.J. According to the information I have, these birds are nonmigratory and thus, although they travel within the area, I would not expect this Allenstown bird to go very far.

The Monk parakeet prefers sunflower seeds and visits bird feeders on a regular basis for this treat. However, they will also eat cracked corn, mixed birdseed and pine seeds, which it extracts from cones. They like suet, acorns, seeds of grasses, apples, cherries, grapes, raisins, carrots and other fruit. The Monk parakeet is rather an aggressive bird and although my reader in Allenstown didn’t say so, they oftentimes drive other birds from the feeders until their appetites are filled.

On Long Island, these birds have built their nests in rain gutters of houses. In Valley Stream, N.Y., a pair built in a spruce tree at a height of 25 to 46 feet. One built on top of a transformer box on a utility pole.

Now for the question, “Could the parakeet last throughout the cold winter months?” Of course, I don’t know, but I can speculate. If this is a relatively mild winter, and I have seen some weather reports which say it may well be, and if this particular parakeet takes advantage of nearby shelter, such as a hole in a tree or perhaps a birdhouse with a large enough entrance, and if it eats enough sunflower seeds and suet to keep its temperature fairly normal, it just might make it. Each of these “ifs” will have to take place, I think, for this bird to have any real chance.

I do not know which species of parakeet this is which currently resides in Allenstown, but in any case, most all parakeets are tropical birds. There was only one species of parrot native to the United States, and this is the now extinct Carolina parakeet.

Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at jlord@unionleader.com.
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