Industrial Birds

Greetings everyone! We are nearing the end of another month and in the past I would be in a bit of panic to make up any difference in my self-imposed monthly post quota. As you probably noticed, not so much an issue now with the retirement. Don’t want to jinx myself though as there is a new exploration currently in planning that might impact my productivity. As we are still in the early stages of week, wanted to get something to you that was fresh out of the tin.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Our featured feathered friend … wait, just realized I can now go with … our fresh featured feathered friend – and yes, it was noticed it was “flying”, but that just seemed one ‘f’ too many or as they say “right out” ha. As I was saying, our F.F.F, just came out of the digital darkroom solution bath.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Hit the jump to see a few … err… better make that a lot more shots from our birding trip up north. Ron sent me a text a week or so ago with his latest +1, the Monk Parakeet. He was alerted they were hanging out an electrical substation in Chicago. Technically Elmhurst IL, but as we downstaters say, north of 80 and east of 39 IS Chicago. At least until we can convince Michigan to annex it. Now the last thing I need is for Ron to put even more distance on me in the bird count.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Floated the idea to Linda that we could kill two birds with one stone (just a saying, no birds were harmed in the making of this post… at least that you will know about). We needed to get up there to see my brother’s new place and since we were there.. maybe just kinda mosey on over to Elmhurst just to see what might be, I don’t know, hanging out over there. As much as she hates driving to Chicago, she was in. Let Ron know we were heading up and he graciously agreed to take us to the Monks – even went a day early to make sure they were still there!

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Turns out this group of Monk Parakeets had taken up residence at a rather large substation compared to what I was expecting. Looked as big as a city block surrounded by a rather foreboding looking fence. Anything under 30 feet had to be shot through the links. Luckily most of the activity was in the higher structural beams.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

These Monks are quite the builders! As you can see from the shots above, they bring the hammer and saw to the mission. Per Cornell’s site, the Monk is the only Parrot that builds community homes out of sticks. Their homes are multi-chambered complexes that can serve numerous birds (upwards of 20 and known to go over 200 in some sites). Pretty sure I heard Nine Inch Nails blasting out of the nest above.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Everyone chips in to help build and maintain the nests. Stick by stick the condominiums are constructed – in this instance leveraging the steel beams of the substation as the core supports – smart choice as a Monk nest has been known to weigh over a ton. The beautiful but delicate birds living comfortably among the urban steel was a captivating contrast. While working up these images tried to make it a point to showcase the beams and other heavy metal elements as the backdrop – very industrial rock vibe to it “du hast”.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

For the entire time we were there, various birds were busy bringing supplies to the nest. From what I could witness there was usually another Monk at the nest that would take the incoming material and strategically place it in the designated nesting area. Even with all that work, there was plenty of cuddle time.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

These two specimens must have been a couple. Although they are a highly social co-habitated species, these birds do form monogamous pairs. Their courtships are quite interactive with a combinations of mutual preening and “beak-nicking” (yes, I made that up as I wasn’t sure how to describe beak PDA’s and it fit with my music undertone.)

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Ron noticed these two were displaying this affectionate behavior. First one would stretch its neck and rub on the other followed by the other one repeating the action – all while making quite a call racket. If they were balloons they probably could have stuck themselves to the sides of the beams.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Eventually they would go their separate ways, but they would continue working their stuff while looking back to make sure their mate was watching their ass-ets. “Oh they do respect her but[t], they love to watch her strut”

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Turns out that the owner of this substation doesn’t exactly appreciate these birds disregarding their high fences and invading their structures. Ron mentioned they will destroy the nests from time to time. Ironically, the owner looks to be Commonwealth Edison – the same company I ended up reneging on a job offer 31 years ago – I could have been Chief Nest Destroyer (CND)!

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Undaunted, these Monks simply start the building process over. A hardy bunch with a can-do attitude. Put the needle down on some tasty NIN vinyl, crank up the amps and get to work – stick by stick by stick. “Will you stay down on your knees?” – hell no, these birds are hard “[They’d] rather die than give you control”. Wow, this is hard – for the record, there isn’t a lot of NIN lyrics I can quote without causing some serious cringing.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Now, here is where my years of higher education would have come in handy for the CND position. The current position decided that simply knocking the material down to the ground was a sufficient deterrent. Basically they just left all the required building material right there on the ground and these Monks were more than happy to put it to use. One by one, the Parakeets would drop to the ground, take out a measuring tape, select a perfectly sized piece of lumber and fly up to the beams for placement. This repetitive behavior came in handy while trying to get the flight shots. Since we could see the nests, simply waited for one to drop to the ground, select a 2×4 and fly back. I’d start snapping away as soon as they got above the fence line.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Laughed when I saw the shot below. “Holy crap, did you see how much current this place puts out!!! Let’s get those amps turned up to ELEVEN”

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Note, the tagging on the beam below says “Trent Reznor Rulz” in Parakeet graffiti script.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Did notice very interesting behaviors while watching the construction process play out. These Monk Parakeets are a) very deliberate in their stick selection b) transport their materials by the end of the stick and c) when traveling beyond simply flying straight up, they often have a wingman. This shot gives a good view to their handling method.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Finally got a shot with the escort close enough in the frame. Seemed like a waste of energy on multiple fronts. A single Parakeet could possibly handle more than one stick if they clamped them in the middle and certainly the escort could chip in and bring along one as well.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Ron hypothesized that their blunted bills may not be built to carry horizontally. Quite possible as I was unable to find anything in the reference books that would refute that theory. The answer for the unloaded wingman came during one of the captured runs.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

A Starling was hanging out near their selected nesting site. As the Monk pair was approaching, the wingman noticed the intruder, put on the afterburners and took care of the situation allowing the payload to arrive safely.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Once the danger was dealt with effectively, the wingman took up post and allowed the builder to position the lumber sans harassment from those pesky Shakespeare birds. The next shot made me laugh “whoooaaaa bird meet strong headwind”

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Even the lookout had a laugh at that one.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

“The coast is clear, bring it on in”

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Another shot of the tandem transport process. The protector was simply showing off in this run daring any bastard Starling to interfere. “Mustang, this is Maverick requesting flyby – that’s a negative ghostrider, the pattern is full.”

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Monk: “Hey Dove, hear the one about the Mallard that walked into the bar?” Dove: “Coo nope coo” Monk: “Bartender said next time duck” Dove: “Ni-coo-e coo-one greenie

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Dove: “Did you hear the one about a priest, rabbi and monk that walk into a bar…. Monk: “Yes, and that’s enough out of you … stupid Doves” Dove: “Turning a bit green there Mr. Thin Feathered”

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

“Hey, what joker put up the plexiglass wall!” Well, at the end of a rather long post – had a great time birding with Ron and enjoying a rather unique bird. Those not aware these previous pets have now established themselves in various pockets in the US would be hard pressed to believe these gorgeous birds are available. Cornell did mention that Monks kept in captivity can mimic speech – can’t imagine the nasty things they pick up from blasting out those NIN songs all day hehehe. Take it easy everyone and hope you enjoyed Mr. 275 on the birding list – big thanks to Ron for making it happen and for Linda for agreeing to drive up to C H I C A G O.

22 thoughts on “Industrial Birds”

  1. They don’t mess around. Excellent photos. When we lived in Madrid, Spain there were large flocks of Monk Parakeets in a large open space called Casa de Campo on the northern edge of Madrid.

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    1. Appears to be pockets of them in various countries – not sure if the Madrid ones would be native to that area or whether they are established populations of released pets like they are here. Guessing with their nest building abilities and large flocks over there they could make some pretty impressive nest condos! Thanks for dropping in Timothy.

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    1. Thank you! Sounds like we have populations in Madrid (per Timothy above) and Germany. Wasn’t sure how native they were in Madrid, but you confirmed they are established populations of former pets over there. Persistent nest builders so I can definitely see how they could be unwelcome – they are cute to look at though ha! Thanks for coming by Simone!

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    1. Thank you Rudi appreciate the kind assessment. Definitely agree, the delicate bodies of the birds among the steel was quite the contrast. Appreciate you dropping by and joining the conversation.

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  2. Super piccies B and might I say a rather humorous post.
    In the UK our version is the Ring-necked Parakeet who’s origins are escapees or deliberate releases ( it was said they were set free by none other than Jimi Hendrix! Scientists have de-bunked that rumour). London has a big population of them but they are a bit of a problem as they nest in tree holes that native birds would have used. I’ve seen them on a couple of occasions up here.
    Not sure on NiN not my favourite metal band but if the Monks like them good on ’em.

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    1. Thanks B.! Enjoyed penning this one up after thinking about it during a pretty hard trail training run. Too bad the Hendrix story didn’t pan out, would have brought new meaning to “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky” hehehe. Looked up the Ring-necked, look pretty cool – especially like the brightly colored bill – also looked like someone outlined their head with a marker. Admittedly, not a huge fan of NIN – these days more of a Rzeznik than a Reznor, but but it does hit the spot around mile 20 when I need a good kick in the ass to keep going – not exactly sure what the Monk’s excuse is. Maybe they have a head like a hole. Good to hear from you B. and hoping all is still well with the family (and the Lemming of course).

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  3. Nice 1980’s references, you are dating yourself. (Bob Seger and Top Gun) Not sure a power station would be considered their natural habitat, perhaps an abbey or monastery. I really enjoyed the behavior shots, I could almost hear them talking (er, chanting), if they could.

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    1. Yeah, definitely had my time in the ’80s and appears I am not the only one that soaked up what passed for entertainment in those days. I made a leap based on this being the third time I have been told of a sighting at a substation – there has to be some magnetic instability that results from those places as the one down in Havana IL keeps attracting a nice set of rarities each year. I laughed when I saw your chanting comment, I was initially thinking about going that route as the underlying theme for the obvious reasons, but ended up deciding to go the industrial rock approach during my long trail run in Jubilee yesterday – not to mention I do not get a lot of chances to use NIN lyrics so I have to take them when I get a chance hehehe. Way to pick up on my references and as always, appreciate you dropping in and adding to the conversation.

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  4. Hey, very nice pics you took, congrats! It was cool that you actually drove in the general direction of Chicago (but not IN Chicago by a long shot). Yes, there’s something about electrical substations where we’ve repeatedly seen Western Kingbirds, Eurasian Tree Sparrows, nearby Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers, and now these Monk Parakeets.

    Let’s see, per the Audubon site these tropical birds survive the sometimes horrific Chicago winters by huddling in their nests:

    “Monks build communal stick nestsβ€”multi-chambered, insulated structures that can span five feet in diameter and keep dozens of birds warm through even the nastiest Northeastern winters. (They can also cause full-blown power outages when the birds build the nests on electric lines, which they have a habit of doing.)”

    I also looked up how they got their moniker:

    “The parakeet’s flamboyant plumage seems at odds with its name, which comes from the markings on its neck, which someone, somewhere, apparently thought looked like a monk’s hood.”

    If monks wore bright green hoods…

    Again, very nice shots and a nice narrative! But NIN is way too recent a band for me to know anything about.

    Ron

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    1. Holy crap, …wait.. let me check the date.. ah, April Fool’s day. For a minute there I thought I say a comment from Ron. Yet there it is in black and white before my very eyes. I did just confirm with Linda we were at LEAST an hour into Chicago if not more. Feel free to refute that with her.. I’ll step off to the side and watch that play out. They can definitely build nests and guessing the ones we did see there (as you described nestled in the powerlines) were still in the development stage. Suspect those will continue to grow especially with all the old material so readily available. Thanks for the info on the naming background. Admittedly at a loss on the “hood” as I didn’t get that impression at all. Looked a bit closer at the shots and reminds me more of a cap than a robe… although it might be more convincing if it was BROWN ha! New age monks maybe. On the NIN nails, maybe you can have Derek bring you up on the newer music.. although not sure he was even born during that timeframe. Thanks for dropping in and for hosting us that day.

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    1. Thank you Lisa – I was a bit shocked reading that in their Cornell writeup as well, but after seeing their building skills in person, I’m a believer especially if they can tip the upper end at 200+ birds in the nest community. Appreciate you dropping in and for your latest spring booster shot (minus the Acorn WP shot of course hehehe)

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