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Monk Parakeet Colony in South Fort Worth
While the local Metroplex thermometers are registering 95+ readings, one major colony of Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) are actually enjoying the heat. The primary colony, based on discussions with bird enthusiast Betty Simmons, is located at Boyce and 6th Avenue in south Fort Worth near Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The original female was a family pet for 10 years and named Charlie. The Simmons family discovered that Charlie's throaty call was attracting a second liberated Monk Parakeet to their yard, and the ready food inside the cage sealed the deal. For two years Pete and Charlie lived happily together, and she laid 5 eggs each fall and spring. None were fertile.
This Monk Parakeet colony began when Simmons's ailing husband thoughtfully chose Betty's healing presence, at her insistence, instead of the 2 noisy birds. The pair were let loose by the family in 1985 and within 36 hours were building a nest on the side of the family home they knew best. Fertility set in. Now hundreds of large, bright green, pointed-tailed parakeets live in giant stick nests, resembling bird condos, in trees at her location and scattered for blocks nearby. Separate nest entrances are made to accommodate numerous pairs.
Simmons buys 75# each of black-oiled sunflower and wild bird mix per week from a feed store. Plastic feeding tubs are attached to the cyclone fence, alternating feed and water receptacles. Apples are a special treat they love. Feeding times are approximately 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily. Observers have come via foot, cars, limos and European 3-wheeled cycles to enjoy the bird activity and nests.
Last spring I took a birder friend to view this local treasure only to find the 6th Avenue and Boyce corner surprisingly quiet for a sunny, crisp mid-morning. Only a few green birds sat silently in trees across the street. Further observation led to the reason for the quiet. An immature red-tailed hawk, perched atop the elm tree condo nearest the feeders, eyed the goings and comings. During the 30 minutes or so that we were there, the hawk kept his lookout, while small groups of parakeets wisely hung out elsewhere. When Simmons came out to visit, as she likes to do, she quickly shooed the hawk away. Same story with cats, she says.
Other Monk Parakeet colonies reported in the Tarrant county area are probably offshoots of this one. Colonies have been reported in Everman, Benbrook, and near Sansom Park/Azle (NW Fort Worth). Nesting colonies have been reported in CT, NY, FL, IL, OR and TX.
Monk Parakeets are a native of temperate South America. The average adult size is 11.5" (bill to tail, tip to tip) and both sexes have bright green backs, dark blue under wings and extensive gray on the face and breast.
Some of my favorite reference materials:
The Sibley Guide to Birds, 1st Edition, by David Allen Sibley. Knopf. 2000.
Has 810 species for North America, entries include illustrations, well organized species information, and range maps altogether on one page. In-flight and profile illustrations, the latter include immature, males and females for comparison. [Note: Too big for field use; see below for pocket- sized field guides for Eastern and Western North America by Sibley.]
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, 1st Edition, by David Allen Sibley. Knopf, 2003.
Covers the area from east coast to the Rocky Mountains. Highly rated by reviewers, pocketsize guide, excellent illustrations (although fewer and somewhat smaller than reference size Sibley's) and information for beginners to experts. Includes additional detail re. habitat, behavior and status beyond what is covered in the reference version (see above).
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, 1st Edition, by David Allen Sibley. Knopf, 2003.
Covers the area from the Rockies to the west coast of North America. See my comments above.
The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Fourth Edition, National Geographic Society. 2002.
Features 800+ N. American birds with color illustrated plates on most of the right hand pages, plus detailed descriptions with 630 adjacent range maps. I like to use this one for a refresher review before and after trips.
A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander F. Skutch, Illustrated by Dana Gardner. Cornell University Press. 1989.
Has 52 color illustrated plates and numbered keys that are center bound, cross-referenced to well organized species information, provides an excellent resource for birding in Central America and Mexico. Useful for the variety of US migrants that come to the southern (Gulf Coast) and southwestern (Arizona, New Mexico) United States.
www.petersononline.com This is a big birding site with connections to other sites.
www.texbirds.org Postings and archives of noteworthy TX sightings, chat room, more websites & resources.
www.fwas.org FW Chapter of the National Audubon Society.
www.thayerbirding.com/favorites.htm This is the home site for the birding software that I use: Birder's Diary and Birds of North America [BNA]. Not saying these are better than others, just that I have grown up with them. I use the former to maintain my bird lists and the latter for home reference. BNA has a nifty identification wizard which selects birds by state, size, habitat, and color.