Monk Parakeet Life History

Habitat

Habitat TownsMonk 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. Back to top

Food

Food SeedsMonk 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. Back to top

Nesting

Nest Placement

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

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.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:5-8 eggs
Egg Length:10.6-11.0 in (27-28 cm)
Egg Width:7.9-8.3 in (20-21 cm)
Egg Description:White.
Condition at Hatching:Born with eyes closed, sparsely covered with yellowish down.
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Behavior

Behavior Foliage GleanerMonk 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. Back to top

Conservation

Conservation Low ConcernMonk 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.Back to top

Credits

Burgio, Kevin R., Charles B. van Rees, Kali E. Block, Peter Pyle, Michael A. Patten, Mark F. Spreyer and Enrique H. Bucher. 2016. Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus), version 3.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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