Hootie the Owl Can't Stop Quaker Parrots
Con Edison workers are giving Hootie the owl one last chance at keeping the city's Quaker parrot population at bay. (ZT Pet News Photo Illustration)
NEW YORK -- New York City's flock of wild monk parakeets appear to have outsmarted Con Edison technicians, but they are now hoping a battery-powered owl, Hootie, might take matters into his own claws.
The birds, also known as Quaker parrots, roam Queens and Brooklyn, and build their nests atop electric power lines. Their elaborate nests have continued to short-circuit and break transformers, as Zootoo Pet News previously reported.
For months, Con Edison workers repeatedly replaced the broken $20,000 electrical transformers, while also trying to track the birds' movement and remove their nests.
Now, the city is trying out a new approach -- Hootie the owl, purchased at a local gardening store. Installed last week on a Whitestone, Queens power line, Hootie appeared to successfully ward off the birds -- it sat perched, turning its head and hooting, designed to appear like a real predator.
Shortly after its first introduction to the job, though, Hootie stopped hooting after its batteries gave way.
The parakeets quickly returned to their perch, and built a new nest on the device. On Monday, as The New York Times reported, the nest caused a short-circuit, resulting in a 30-minute power failure for roughly 1,500 homes.
The fire also damaged the plastic bird.
Hootie's relative failure reportedly prompted Con Edison to call the whole thing off, "firing," the plastic bird.
"The birds win," a Con Ed worker told The New York Post. "The owl's fired!"
Steven Baldwin, Quaker activist and founder of BrooklynParrots.com, reportedly said that Hootie wouldn't work anyway, since the parakeets are too smart to be fooled by the owl. He suggested playing recorded hawk calls, instead.
But now, Con Edison is said to be giving the bird one more chance, adding a little spice to his brown coloring.
"We put an orange cape on Hootie, and now he's Super Hootie," Sam Maratto, a Con Edison technician, reportedly said.
The color orange has appeared effective in keeping the bright green birds away.
"We put orange flags up on the re-closure and that seems to be working," Maratto said. "We're getting all kinds of suggestions. One guy said to use shiny stuff, reflective strips to scare them off.
"We even had a firm from Argentina that claims to have a foolproof method, but they're not telling us. They want to be flown in to discuss it."
Quaker parrots hail from Argentina, but have been settled in New York City for decades. It's estimated that around 500 birds make up the NYC population.
In more recent years, they have developed a solid support base in the metropolitan area of animal activists who are fighting nest removal efforts.
Queens Councilman Tony Avella has also gotten behind that movement and is drafting a resolution, asking state legislators to recognize the birds as an endangered species.
"They are an established species here," Avella previously told ZT Pet News. "And, yet, they are not protected. Clearly they are very beautiful birds that add to the environmental aspects of New York City."
ZT Pet News reporter Amy Lieberman, The New York Times, The New York Post and United Press International contributed to this report.
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