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Chicago's Monk Parakeets: Thriving for 40 Years

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 19, 2013 3:40PM

Chicago magazine’s Whet Moser noted the 40th anniversary of Hyde Park’s wild monk parakeets and their ability to adapt to Chicago’s sometimes brutal winters.

The first pair of monk parakeets was discovered in Hyde Park in 1973. The trees and green spaces maintained by the University of Chicago provided them with the wide diet they prefer and the ability to build their eye-popping nests where as many as 10 pairs of birds can live at a time, allowing them to make it through the cold months. But the parakeets’ biggest threat all this time has been man.

Although the late Mayor Harold Washington considered the monk parakeets good luck, the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to eradicate them, since the birds are regarded as agricultural pests in their native South America. A 1988 plan to remove the birds was met by resistance from the neighborhood and a lawsuit was threatened before the USDA backed away. In 2005 ComEd removed three nests constructed near power lines and transformers to prevent power outages and fires. The Hyde Park parakeets are watched over by the University and local bird clubs. But the species has also been spotted at Rowan Park on the Far Southeast Side and downtown.

During the spring and summer they find plenty of food. In the video below, a monk parakeet enjoys eating a dandelion.