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What are Wild Parrots Doing in Brooklyn?
There is much mystery surrounding the appearance of these remarkable birds in Brooklyn, but it can safely be said that they did not fly up here from Argentina on their own.1967: The Great Escape
The theory has the greatest credence is that a shipment of birds destined for sale at New York area pet shops was accidentally released at Kennedy Airport in the late 1960's (1967 or 1968). This incident was referred to as early as 1971 in an article by ornithologist John Bull.
Much confusion remains about what actually happened at the airport. At least one source in Brooklyn has informed me that many shipments coming into the airport were opened by unauthorized people during the 1960's: Martin Scorsese's classic film, Goodfellas, based on the memoir of Nicholas Pileggi, depicts the common practice of "crews" opening crates in order to pilfer their contents. My informant speculates that a large crate bearing an indecipherable Argentinian way bill may have been opened in this fashion. But instead of finding bottles of fine Argentinian wine, the crate opener was surprised when an unruly crowd of fully-flighted Quaker Parrots burst into the air, circled the airport, screaming, and disappeared over the horizon.
Although the escaped parrots did not turn up immediately at Brooklyn College (the earliest reported sighting was in the early 1970's), it is likely that the birds survived in the park lands surrounding the airport, and made their way in due course to the campus, where we find them today. There are other theories: that a pet store on Flatbush Avenue went out of business and released them, that a truck overturned on a highway, that an Argentinean tramp steamer foundered in New York Harbor, or that the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, after many years of hosting a captive flock of monk parakeets, abandoned these birds to the skies after closing its aviary, but the JFK airport escape theory is the one that I believe is most reliable.
To read the rest of the story, go to Steve's Brooklyn Parrots website at www.brooklynparrots.com. Steve also holds free monthly "Wild Parrot Safaris" - you won't believe your eyes!