HYDE PARK — The first green of spring in Hyde Park is not a crocus, but flocks of wild monk parakeets.
Though the bright green tropical birds have been spotted from the Southeast Side to far north suburbs, one of their favorite nesting areas is Hyde Park, often building their elaborate nests near Washington Park.
With the first wave of the mild weather of the year, the birds that are native to Argentina are starting to show up in twos and threes searching for food.
According to a 2011 survey of the parakeets by University of Illinois at Chicago professor Stephen Pruett-Jones, there are nearly 800 birds now living in Chicago, with the largest populations still in Hyde Park.
How the birds ended up in Hyde Park remains a mystery since they were first sighted in 1968. Theories range from a toppled delivery truck en route to a pet store to the birds being fugitives from some University of Chicago experiment.
The flock thrived for the first time after building its elaborate multichambered nest across the street from former Mayor Harold Washington’s apartment at Hampton House, 5300 S. Shore Drive.
Over the last decade, the flocks have dramatically declined, and sightings of the parakeets in the spring or any other season are increasingly rare.
Pruett-Jones had several theories about why the parakeets are leaving Hyde Park, from competition with starlings and pigeons to the destruction of nests near ComEd electrical equipment.
Despite their decline in the neighborhood, Pruett Jones found the parakeets are branching out to new areas of the city looking for nesting sites, and Hyde Park’s loss may be other neighborhoods' gain.
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