These Birds Shouldn’t Be Alive

it is a little before 5:30 in the morning I am waiting for Sam and we are going to go and try and find some parakeets these are tropical birds that are living in Chicago and they have for the last 30 years or so survived the often brutal Chicago winters so these birds shouldn’t be here but somehow they’re surviving and we’re gonna try to find him the monk parakeet a bird species that’s native to South America has been living in the urban wilds of Chicago and maybe even stranger than its survival here is its mysterious decline in recent years this is stephen pruitt jones faculty member at the university of chicago and the department of ecology and evolution i’m talking to him over Skype because he’s doing research in northern Michigan this summer but he’s been a longtime monk parakeet aficionado historically the largest concentration of monk parakeets has been in Hyde Park a neighborhood of Chicago near the campus of the University of Chicago within that area steven has told us about a few locations where we should be able to see some birds if they’re still around so we’re at a golf course right now the Jackson Park Golf Course and we’ve been told that the birds like to live around the driving range so we’re gonna check out the driving range and see if we see any birds exactly how they got there as a mystery but we can make some educated guesses now those twenty three are now reading in the United States so mote parakeets were shipped here throughout the 1960 in 70s and somehow a large number of them escaped there are a couple ways this could have happened and it might not have been by accident exercise I believe yeah they expected them to be sort of ornamental like they’ll be in the cage I think that’s the main reason like a lot of these these uh monk parakeets will probably let go people couldn’t and if you get enough releases like this eventually you have a large enough number of monk parakeets living in the wild to have a viable population so we found a nest here but not any birds and I knew monk parakeets anyway it’s kind of funny that the nest is over there right by the driving range on a light pole and like this is the open area and then like I don’t know arts to this way is a bird sanctuary it’s like the perfect place for birds it looks like but the monk parakeets don’t seem to be making the nest over here they made it right over by the driving range I think they like to keep like make it harder themselves yeah so this might be the biggest question I have how have they survived as I’ve said they’re tropical birds they’re not accustomed to the winters we experience here in Chicago if they’ve survived for almost 40 years and they’re not migratory birds most birds native to Chicago like Robins they migrate south for the winter monk parakeets stay here year-round how do they do it and they live in these nests year-round Sam and I saw a lot of these nests on our hunt for the birds they’re pretty easy to find even when they’re not out in the open on a light pole because they’re often large ranging from about the size of a beach ball to maybe the size of a hammock and I don’t know of any other birds in the Chicagoland area that make nests that big and intricate all right so I think we found four nests here yeah looks like four nests but we didn’t see any birds stuck around for a bit to see if any anything there was any activity but didn’t see anything I mean it doesn’t look like the nests are abandoned I mean they look pretty well-maintained but I don’t know if maybe they’re just really well built and they last for a while maybe the birds left or died recently and there just hasn’t been enough time for the nest to fall apart but they need more than nest to survive the winter month parakeets have a variable diet so they can basically survive off anything we put in our bird feeders throughout the winter yeah so we’re keeping them all high despite seen many nests we still hadn’t seen any monk parakeets I mean you got to think of it – we’re looking for a couple but one of a couple of hundred birds in like a really large area yeah maybe the chances of seeing them aren’t that good I don’t know a couple hundred Birds in ten square miles squared since the next place we’re going is Washington Square Park next time we should look for flightless birds you know see him yeah I’ve actually seen the birds before I don’t think I’ve mentioned this is that I have seen them so that was like in the winter and I ordered like the fall when the treat the trees didn’t have any leaves but I saw them and they were like bright green nose it was like bright green like parakeets and the tree there yeah it was really crazy looking and reading about it that’s like the best time to see them actually is in the winter time yeah but after decades of living and thriving in Chicago the monk parakeet population is declining at first even as colleagues thought the birds might be dispersing into the suburbs but that doesn’t seem to be the case so another theory is that the population is being killed off by a disease possibly something like the West Nile virus but so far there’s no evidence for this so then what is killing these birds two or three years ago we had like 82 inches of snow I think it was the third snowiest winter in Chicago history Stephen received emails from people in the

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