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Mystery Surrounds Disappearance of WaHi Quaker Parrots

By Carla Zanoni | August 24, 2010 6:08am | Updated on August 24, 2010 8:13am

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A nest of Quaker parrots in upper Manhattan was wrecked last week, leaving the two-story-high roost torn in half and empty, and fans of the local celebrity flyers wondering what happened.

Speculation about the exotic birds' disappearance ranged from natural causes to city intervention, but one explanation for the loss kept surfacing: vandalism.

According to nearby fishermen, a group of men approached the tree in which the nest was perched near the 155th Street exit of the Henry Hudson Parkway and wound a long rope around the tree branches and yanked the nest down.

The birds were able to escape, but their home was ruined.

Avner Amarilio, a 55-year-old bird enthusiast and longtime Riverdale resident familiar with the parrot nest, said that while he first thought the destruction of the nest could have been an accident, he now believed vandals may have done it.

“Why would someone do something like that?” he said after finding the nest torn down and shattered eggs on the ground. “I really loved these birds and it was really upsetting that someone would do that.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said they were not involved with the removal and knew nothing of the nest, but added that their agencies are not typically involved with the removal or protection of Quaker parrots as they are not listed as an endangered or invasive species.

The Parks Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The birds — also known as Monk parakeets — are natives of Argentina and first made a home for themselves across the Hudson River in Edgewater, N.J., approximately 20 years ago.

Although many residents there enjoy the company of the bright green birds, not everyone is a fan.

Local energy company PSEG complains that the large, heavy nests are problematic when built on power lines and some farmers blame the birds for ruining their crops.

The parrots, which have been spotted in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, attracted the attention of birder Steve Baldwin, who wrote about the Upper Manhattan nest two weeks ago on the website Brooklyn Parrots.

"it appears that the parrots have been banished from Manhattan for the time being by locals who object to their presence there," Baldwin wrote in an email.

"Quaker parrots do very well when people in the neighborhood look after them,"  he added.

Filmmaker and journalist Stacey Szewczyk created a video about the Quaker parrots for her blog Hudson River Stories, which takes a look at how nature is gradually becoming a bigger piece of people’s lives in New York City.

Szewczyk said she had heard some parrots were spotted near the nest on Thursday, but had flown away.

Although she said she was saddened to hear of the nest’s demise, Szewczyk remained optimistic after a conversation with a birding friend.

“They may be having a tough time here, but they are strong and adaptable,” she said, noting that the species is known to be hardy and determined.

“The fact that their nest was knocked down doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t come back again.”