The monk parrot, however, offers those of us living in the northeastern USA a chance to glimpse parrot life in the “wild”, as the species has been established here since the early 1970’s – the result of accidental and intentional releases. One explanation of this raucous bird’s ability to survive our harsh winters is found in its biology – as it ranges into southern Argentina, the monk parrot came to us well-equipped to survive the cold. Also, it is a communal nester, and the only parrot to build a nest outside of tree cavities. The huge, thick-walled stick nest, added to over many years, buffers the wind and allows the birds to huddle together, and thus to retain warmth. So solidly constructed are these nests that other birds, including the stoutly-build 5 foot-tall jabiru stork, often nest atop them.
I cared for 2 groups of monk parrots at the Bronx Zoo, both housed in outdoor exhibits. Free-living monk parrots attached their nests, through the exhibit wire, to the captive’s structures, and communicated with them constantly (among the most vocal of parrots, monks have a least a dozen different calls that elicit different responses among others). In one case the captive birds’ nest was quite low – about 10 feet off the ground – due to the nature of the exhibit. The free-living parrots nested higher up in a tree, directly above it, and spent a good deal of time on the roof of the cage, in animated chatter with their confined relatives (plotting an escape?).
A section of the nest I examined after it was dislodged by a storm was constructed of thick, thorn-covered branches (this, per the literature, is typical) and had 2 chambers – the smaller for a nesting pair, the larger most likely for non-breeders. The entrance holes were oriented downwards, in keeping with what I have read in other’s accounts. A mammalian or avian predator would definitely have had a hard time entering the nest, and in any event the many eyes present would likely serve as a deterrent as well.
In my next note I’ll take a look at some of the “helping” behaviors that enable this most social of parrots to colonize new habitats. Until then, please share your own observations of wild monk parrots. Thanks, Frank.
Information concerning monk parrots as pets is available at: