Protect Wild Quaker Parrots in NJ-Support Bill #A4260

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To: Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee of NJ State Assembly
Petition in Support of NJ Bill No. A4260

Sponsored by: Assemblywoman JOAN VOSS District 38 (Bergen)
Assemblyman ROBERT GORDON District 38 (Bergen)

Introduced: June 23, 2004 and referred to the Agriculture and Resources
Committee

Synopsis: Removes monk parakeet from list of potentially dangerous species

Statement: This bill would provide that the monk parakeet (Myiopsitta spp.)
shall not be considered or listed by the Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) or any other State agency as a potentially dangerous
species.
The bill also would provide that any feral monk parakeet, including any nest or egg thereof, must be protected by the DEP, any other State agency, and any local governmental entity in the same manner and to the same extent as any nongame species of bird indigenous to the State that is protected by the "The Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act," any other
applicable State law, or any rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto.

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Dear Members of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee-

I am writing in support of Bill No. A4260 (referenced above).

In NJ, wild Quaker Parrots are not protected from the cruel and inhumane actions inflicted upon them by utility companies during destruction of nests located on utility poles because they are listed as one of several potentially dangerous species alongside of Black Bears and Vipers.

Their status as potentially dangerous stems from laws created over 30 years ago, which were based on incorrect notions by NJ Fish and Wildlife that the parrots would destroy crops and drive away bird species indigenous to the US.

30 years later, those fears still have not transformed into reality.
Sadly, no effort had been made to change current legislation until June of this year, when bill #A4260 was introduced to the NJ State Assembly, calling for the birds to be removed from that list and to be given the same rights as birds indigenous to the US. On June 23, 2005, the bill was referred to the Agriculture and Natural resources for review.

I, the undersigned, ask the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to approve Bill No. A4260 with all due attention and consideration and offer the following pertinent information about Monk Parakeets.

Background: Monk Parakeets (aka Quaker Parrots)comprise the largest group of the nine species of parrots known to live in the wild in the United States. But their success in establishing an ecological niche for themselves didn't come easily. In the early 1970's, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, fearful that the Monk Parakeets were agricultural pests, attempted to eradicate them, and was successful in reducing their numbers by about 40 percent nationally. In California, their colonies were completely wiped out.

Yet today, these intelligent, non-aggressive birds, which no self-respecting scientist has ever claimed as the cause of any significant crop damage in the U.S., are regarded with extreme hostility in many states.
In New Jersey and Connecticut, they are classified as a "potentially dangerous species." In Pennsylvania, they are reportedly euthanized on the spot, whenever power companies find them nesting on transmission lines.
In Florida, both the state Department of Transportation and the Florida Power & Light utility company do the same thing. There are even documented, credible reports of secret gas chambers being constructed by Florida Power & Light where captured parrots are reportedly killed en masse. If you inspect FPL's website, you'll be able to read one of the greatest lies told about these wild parrots: that they're multiplying so quickly that they're about to become a plague. But the truth is that the population of wild monk parakeets has stabilized, and they seldom travel very far from their base nesting locations, which are situated in suburban neighborhoods, not among wild crops.

Power companies such as FPL rationalize these cruel actions because their managements believe that they have no choice. They argue that humanity's need for electrical power trumps any interests that a "lesser species" such as a wild bird might have. But they are missing the point -- which is that it is possible to work out a way to better accommodate the interests of both species, but only if some thoughtful research is directed towards a solution.

For example:
In Britain, where many wild parrots now live, new techniques have been developed to insulate utility wires to thwart any short circuits or voltage drops caused by nesting parrots.
In Massachusetts, alternative nest platforms have been designed that have proved successful in luring wild Quaker parrots away from electrical power infrastructure.
In Texas, utility workers will trim back nests without destroying them, which is both humane and more likely to keep the birds from "hedging their evolutionary bets" by building redundant housing and having a second brood of young, which is what these birds do when their nests are disturbed by man.
In New York, Con Edison, whose wild parrot control policy is comparatively moderate, has expressed a willingness to consider new ideas from private citizens and avicultural experts that might provide a better solution for accommodating the competing interests of humans and avians.

It is my hope that such research might continue - and not be blocked (as it is in New Jersey) by the fact that the Monk Parakeet continues to be classified as a "potentially dangerous species," a designation that:

1. makes it impossible to conduct research for solutions and
2. prevents parrot rescuers from being able to receive birds caught during nest teardowns. Instead of being rescued, the birds are taken to the local animal shelter and killed!

The fact that North America has a new parrot on its shores is a blessing, especially because our countrymen wiped out our only native parrot - the Carolina Parakeet - nearly a hundred years ago. Nature has given us the rarest of gifts: a second chance. Let's not miss out on this wonderful opportunity to set legal precedence in the State of New Jersey on an issue that is important to our entire nation as well as to many countries abroad.

For the reasons just detailed and conclusive evidence following research performed by world renown Ornithologists, including:

1. Dr. Donald Brightsmith, who stated in the June 2000 issue of Bird Talk magazine, Given that this species require a variety of fruits and seeds available year round, their current restriction to urban and suburban habitats, and their sedentary nature it seems that their potential for causing great damage to US agriculture is minimal.
2. Dr. Jason M. South, who conducted a field study of the foraging ecology and vigilance behavior of monk parakeets at the University of Chicago in 2000 and concluded, So far the parakeets are not responsible for any agricultural damage, except to perhaps a backyard apple tree, and would not seem to be a threat in an urban neighborhood such as Hyde Park and The incredibly low rate of dispersal is thought to be a major reason why the species has not spread explosively across the US as officials from agriculture departments nationwide once feared.

I support NJ bill #A4260 and ask that the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approve the bill with all due attention and consideration.