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Monk Parakeet

Myiopsitta monachus ORDER: PSITTACIFORMES FAMILY: PSITTACIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

It may come as a surprise to see noisy, green-and-gray parrots racing through cities in the U.S. But Monk Parakeets, native to South America but long popular in the pet trade, established wild populations here in the 1960s. They are the only parrots to nest communally; dozens live together year-round in large, multifamily stick nests built in trees and on power poles. These large group nests may be one aid to surviving the cold winters in adopted cities as far north as Chicago and New York.

At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
17.7–20.9 in
45–53 cm
Wingspan
20.9 in
53 cm
Weight
3.2–4.2 oz
90–120 g
Relative Size
Larger than a European Starling; smaller than a Rock Pigeon.
Other Names
  • Quaker Parakeet
  • Cotorra monje o argentino (Spanish)
  • Conure veuve (French)

Cool Facts

  • Monk parakeets are the only member of the parrot family to build stick nests and to nest colonially. Their bulky nests provide a year-round home for the colony. The insulation these nests provide may be one reason why Monk Parakeets are able to survive cold winters. A single nest structure typically contains up to 20 nest chambers, and in extreme cases can house more than 200 nests.
  • In their native Argentina, Monk Parakeets sometimes adopt old nests of other species. Some ornithologists have suggested that this behavior may have been the first step, evolutionarily speaking, to transitioning from nesting in tree cavities to constructing stick nests.
  • Monk Parakeets kept in captivity can learn to mimic human speech.
  • Monk Parakeets can live 6 years or more in the wild, and in captivity often live as long as 15 years.

Habitat


Town

Monk Parakeets in North America live in urban and suburban environments, especially around city parks. They are one of the few parrot species able to survive temperate-zone winters. In their native range in South America, Monk Parakeets live in dry savannas with scattered woods up to about 6,000 feet elevation.

Food


Seeds

Monk Parakeets eat seeds, buds, fruits, berries, nuts, and blossoms. They sometimes feed on crops including sunflower, corn, wheat, sorghum, and rice, leading to their reputation as an agricultural pest (a reputation that remains largely unconfirmed). During U.S. winters, when these foods are scarce, they also visit backyard bird feeders.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
5–8 eggs
Egg Length
10.6–11 in
27–28 cm
Egg Width
7.9–8.3 in
20–21 cm
Incubation Period
24 days
Nestling Period
40 days
Egg Description
White.
Condition at Hatching
Born with eyes closed, sparsely covered with yellowish down.
Nest Description

Monk Parakeets are the only member of the parrot family to build stick nests and to nest colonially. The bulky nests provide a year-round home for the colony and may be one reason why Monk Parakeets are able to survive cold winters. A single nest structure typically contains up to 20 nest chambers, and in extreme cases can house more than 200 nests. All individuals of a colony, including young birds and nonbreeders, help to build and maintain the nests. The birds often choose thorny twigs for the nest; these may hold together better or help protect the nest from predators. Within these large structures, pairs build new chambers by fashioning the floor, then building sides and a roof to enclose a round nest space. This leads to the outside via an entrance tunnel, often with a wide area just at the nest opening where parrots can pass each other or turn around. Nests can be very large (more than 5 feet across) and weigh a ton or more. The nests are occupied and gradually added to for years.

Nest Placement

Tree

Monk parakeets place their nests in deciduous and evergreen trees, palm trees, and structures such as silos, fire escapes, and utility poles.

Behavior


Foliage Gleaner

Monk Parakeets are very social, spending their whole lives living in bustling colonies of dozens of individuals. Every morning they leave their nests to forage, spending the day climbing through trees (sometimes using their beaks as a climbing aid) or dropping to the ground in search of food. At dusk they all gather back at the nests to roost, both during the breeding season and after it is over. Monk Parakeets spend a lot of time preening each other. These long-lived birds form socially monogamous pairs, and courtship involves a pair preening each other and grasping each other by the beak while shaking their heads.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Monk Parakeets were introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s via the release or escape of pet birds. Since then their numbers have grown and they now occur in several cities including San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Providence, Miami, and St. Petersburg. They are also numerous in their native South America. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 20 million, with 3% of these in the U.S. and none in Canada or Mexico. The species rates a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Monk Parakeet is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Historically, most management efforts toward Monk Parakeets, both in the U.S. and in South America, have been directed at curbing their populations because of their reputation as an agricultural pest. As it turns out, their populations have persisted but have not spread, and in the U.S. there are no longer active programs to control their numbers.

Credits

Range Map Help

Monk Parakeet Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Migration

Resident (nonmigratory).

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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