Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 185–196 | Cite as

Exotic monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) in New Jersey: nest site selection, rebuilding following removal, and their urban wildlife appeal

  • J. BurgerEmail author
  • M. Gochfeld


Understanding how birds exist in highly urban cities is important to maintaining biodiversity within these environments, and exotic species pose a unique opportunity to examine adaptation. The non-native monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) nests mainly in cities in the United States, and in some places, is considered a nuisance by utility companies. Monk parakeets nest communally (many nests in one nest structure) and colonially (many nest structures in one area). We studied monk parakeets in urban New Jersey to determine where they nested, if nest sites were similar among parakeets nesting in trees and utility poles, and if they rebuilt following removal. Of the 51 nest structures we studied, 37% were on utility poles, 8% were on a man-made gazebo, and the rest were in trees. Nest structures located on poles were located closer to the ground, had fewer nest holes, and the distance to nearest tree was greater than for tree nest structures. The pole nest structures were closer to the top of the “canopy” or structure, and were always located on or around the pole rather than out on one of the cross beams. The nest structures were similar in size and shape whether they were located on poles, other man-made objects, or in trees. Thus monk parakeets built similar nest structures, and located them about the same distance from the ground and from houses whether they were in utility poles or in trees, leading to the conclusion that poles provide suitable sites for them. The parakeets persisted in nesting on the utility poles and another man-made gazebo despite being removed over several years, and despite the presence of other nearby unused trees. After parakeet nest structures were removed from poles by the utility company, most birds began rebuilding within the day. The persistence, despite persecution, of the monk parakeet on poles, and the fact that poles provide attractive and secure support for nest structures, suggest that they will continue to do so. Managers must either learn to live with the parakeets, redesign the utility pole structure to be less appealing to the birds, provide them with alternative nest sites on the utility poles or nearby, or continue to forcibly remove them. Local support for the parakeets, and their potential to serve as urban icons, have resulted in New Jersey’s utility company working with local enthusiasts and scientists to ensure the birds are not harmed during nest removal.


Monk parakeet Nest site selection Nest re-building Urban icon Telephone poles Antipredator 



The authors wish to thank Allison Evans-Fragale for help in locating monk parakeet nests and in providing a local history of these nesting birds, and Gregory C. Dunlap of PSE&G utility company for their compassion in removing nests before the start of breeding but after the cold winter, and for not killing the birds as has happened in other states. The company is working with local residents, conservationists, and us to discourage the birds from using utility poles or by providing alternative nesting sites.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Life SciencesRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA
  2. 2.Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Environmental and Occuaptional Health Sciences InstituteUMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolPiscatawayUSA

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