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New Jersey Monthly

Parrot Paradise

Outside Vitangelo’s Bakery in Edgewater, the scent of pastry is often accompanied by the squawk of parrots. The subtropical neon-lime birds—properly known as wild Quakers or monk parakeets—have built a colony of twiggy condos in a clump of sycamore trees across the street from the bakery and in a trio of ivy-covered stumps up the block, high above serpentine Route 5, just before it merges into River Road at the Edgewater ferry landing on the Hudson River.

The chatty parrots would seem to be welcome neighbors, but because they often make their down-lined, three-chamber nests—which can be 4 feet long—on utility pole transformers, they have occasionally ruffled the feathers of public officials and residents concerned about fire safety.

Native to South America, Quakers have been in the borough since the 1970s, when a crate of them is said to have broken open at John F. Kennedy International Airport. With plenty of grass seed (thanks to Veterans Field), water (from the river) and sturdy trees and poles, Edgewater offered an ideal habitat for the community-oriented birds. But because they’re an alien species, “they’re technically an illegal pest,” even though there’s no evidence that they endanger the state’s agriculture, says Don Torino, education chairperson of the Bergen County Audubon Society.

“Most people are for the birds,” says Alison Evans-Fragale, a nurse practitioner and founder of the Edgewater Parrots Foundation (edgewaterparrots.com).

Hoping to get “green cards for the green ’keets,” Evans-Fragale spearheaded a drive to have the birds delisted as a potentially dangerous species. “Any of the birds living here now were born here,” she says. A bill to delist the parrots, A454, is currently before the Assembly.

Evans-Fragale’s group also works with PSE&G and local residents to help ensure troublesome nests are removed only before breeding or after fledgling season, and to construct alternate nesting platforms. But with that Manhattan view and easy access to cannoli crumbs, who’d want to move?