Green-Wood Cemetery is home to a flock of feral parrots

Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is the final resting place of over 600,000 New Yorkers, but the famed gravesite also has some unexpected residents: a flock of monk parakeets.

Perched high above the ornate main entrance on the tallest spire of the arch, these small- to medium-sized parrots are year-round residents of the cemetery with a giant nest viewable from the ground. They chatter loudly, drawing visitors’ attention immediately. 

These emerald green and gray birds have drawn birdwatchers and curious New Yorkers to the cemetery since the 1980s, but still, it’s not widely known that they live there.

Green-Wood Cemetery parrots
Photograph: Evan Rabeck

We spoke with Sara Evans, Green-Wood’s manager of horticulture operations, who told us that there’s some mythology around the birds and helped us set the mysterious avian record straight.

It’s likely that the feral birds, which are native to southern Brazil and Argentina, escaped from various port stations in the pet trade. The story goes that they were part of a shipment that entered the U.S. at JFK Airport from South America, heading to pet stores, but the crate was broken into and the birds escaped.

The birds found a very safe home on the tallest spire at Green-Wood and have been thriving since.

“When you look at their large nest can see the individual nests of mating pairs—it’s like an apartment building,” she says. They’re able to survive especially well on the spire because they maintain and generate warmth together inside the nest, plus, there are also plenty of seeds and fruits from the nearby trees to sustain them. The spire itself is made out of brownstone, which heats up in the sun, and there’s no danger of human interaction or construction—there’s no current need for any sort of restoration, Evans tells us.

Apparently, in the late 1990s or early 2000s, there was an attempt to relocate the birds but they just found their way back and rebuilt their nest on the spire. To this day, they are constantly building and maintaining the nest with string and twigs, Evans says.

Green-Wood Cemetery parrots
Photograph: Evan Rabeck
Green-Wood Cemetery parrots
Photograph: Evan Rabeck

Green-Wood’s employees do not feed them or interact with them—they’re totally self-sufficient, Evans adds.

“We view them as completely feral—we don’t treat them like pets,” she says. They forage in the grass, picking up goodies from the cemetery’s fruit-bearing trees, like crabapples and cherry blossoms when they’re in bloom.

The parrots are very active during the day, from sun up to sun down, meaning when you visit the cemetery you’ll definitely be able to see them in action.

“You’ll be able to hear them before you see them,” Evans says. “They’re so loud and talk to each other all day. They’re very charismatic adorable birds and such a prominent feature at Green-Wood.”

The Green-Wood Cemetery’s Main Entrance (Fifth Avenue and 25th Street) is open daily from 7am to 7pm to both pedestrians and vehicles.

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