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A Bronx Tale: The Great Baby Quaker Parrot Rescue of 2006
Wild Quaker Parrots have lived in the Bronx for many years and have built a substantial colony in Pelham Bay Park. But a lesser-known, albeit thriving colony of wild parrots lives in another part of the borough called Throgs Neck. These parrots are much beloved by the residents of this leafy neighborhood, and have built large nests in and around the stadium lights of the Throgs Neck Little League Baseball field. The 30-plus year-old lights were replaced in the summer of 2007 by the City of New York, which oversees the maintenance of the field. The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) was called in to dismantle the old lights and replace them with new ones.
Unfortunately the parrots' large communal nests, built in the light towers, were in the way. After much study and consideration, it was decided that the nests had to be removed to ensure the safety of the workers. In a very big stroke of luck for the parrots, the DDC has on its staff Barry A. Schwartz, who with wife Gayle runs the Maspeth Bird Haven in Maspeth, Queens. Mr. Schwartz involved many folks who care about wild Quakers, including Marc Johnson, Paul Brennan, and Karen Windsor of FosterParrots.com, Donna Dwyer, of CTQuakers.com, Alison Evans-Fragale, of EdgewaterParrots.com, and myself. Mike Pastore of New York Animal Care & Control was also called in for his expertise, including famous animal rescue missions like that of "Molly the Cat" who was trapped (and freed) from the wall of an old West Village deli last year.
Very early in the morning of June 7th, a group of 22 concerned humans gathered at the field and were briefed on the day's parrot rescue operation, and then Barry and Jim of the DDC ascended the rented lift, with Kevin O'Conner's steady hands at the controls. A special viewing probe was inserted into each nest to identify any babies within. The nests were removed very carefully, by hand, to ensure that any babies the probe found wouldn't be hurt by a blunt instrument.
Recovered baby Quakers were placed gingerly in either a carrier or a Tupperware container, depending on their age. Once the lift came down, these youngsters were placed in cushioned aquarium-style tanks. All of the young had full crops, so no immediate feeding was necessary. All in all, 43 babies, plus 3 eggs, were recovered from four large nests, and all birds and eggs were sped safely away to FosterParrots.com's facility where they are being raised and treated well until it is decided when or whether to reintroduce them to Throgs Neck.
It was agonizing watching the babies' parents watch as their young were removed from the family hearth. But I was heartened to see the adult birds had begun rebuilding their nests almost immediately after the workers left. The birds will have a warm place to sleep this winter.
I am very glad to have been associated with this operation and believe it to be a model of the way that municipalities should deal with Quaker Parrot nest removals. By bringing in volunteers, working very carefully, and being prepared, this operation was a complete success. Not an egg was damaged and not a feather was ruffled. These wild parrots have a highly favorable living situation, where their landlords (the Little League) not only tolerate their presence, but celebrate it. They have chosen wisely by choosing a city, and a borough, with a big heart.
Maspeth Bird Haven and Foster Parrots can always use help and welcome donations from bird lovers who want to help with the care of the baby Quakers and the ongoing local rescue work of Maspeth Bird Haven. Please send donations for the care of the rescued Quaker parrots to FosterParrots Ltd., P.O. Box 650, Rockland, Mass. 02370 and visiting their website at www.fosterparrots.com. You may also want to consider donating to Maspeth Bird Haven, P.O. Box 780344, Maspeth, NY 11378-0034 and visiting them at http://mysite.verizon.net/vzermrgu/. Maspeth Bird Haven does a great deal of year-long rescue and adoption right in New York City.