Why Quaker Parrots Are Illegal

  • Time to read: 9 min.

When we think of something illegal, the most common things we associate with such a word are underage drinking, drugs, or even yelling “bomb” at an airport. Certainly, nobody thinks of “Quaker parrots” (also known as monk parakeets) as the first thing that comes into their mind. But it is true, they are indeed illegal, but why are Quaker parrots illegal?

The Quaker parrot is illegal because it is an invasive species. Known for their flexibility and intelligence, quaker parrots can rise to the top of the food chain, disrupting native species and agriculture systems. They are also considered a health risk and can cause significant power outages (they like to chew on stuff like electrical cables).

What an interesting bird, landing at the most wanted list and all. We will dive into what makes the Quaker Parrot illegal, what it means to be an invasive species, and why they are so despised.

Wanted For Invasion: Quaker Parrots

The Quaker Parrot is a bright-green parrot, having a greenish-yellow abdomen. Incredibly smart and quick adapters, the Monk Parakeet can have a self-sustaining population, one of the very reasons why the Quaker Parrot is illegal. 

However, although illegal, the Quaker Parrot is very much common. They reside in countries from Argentina to most, if not all, countries in South America, the United States, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and even up to the far east, such as South Korea and Japan. (source)

Pests, Invaders

The Quaker Parrot has the classification of a pest and an invasive species. They are swift to explode in population, and they are also very disastrous for the agriculture sector. Initially noted by Charles Darwin, the rise of the Quaker Parrot can attribute its success to the growth of eucalyptus forestry in rural areas in South America. In South America, it is considered native feral populations (BirdLife International, 2018).

Are They Illegal In My State?

If you are an aspiring Quaker Parrot owner, make sure that they are legal in your state. Quaker Parrots are illegal in some states mainly because they are agricultural pests. Currently, these are the states where it is unlawful to own Quaker Parrots.

The US States Where It Is Illegal To Own Quaker Parrots

  • Georgia
  • California
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Kentucky
  • Hawaii
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wyoming
  • Rhode Island

The US States Where It Is Technically Legal To Own Monk Parakeets But Has Some Caveats

  • Ohio. Monk Parakeets must have their wings clipped to own them legally. This policy is a precaution for irresponsible pet release.
  • Connecticut. It is legal to own Monk Parakeets, but it is illegal to breed and sell them.
  • New York. One must have banding and registration to own them legally.
  • Virginia. Like New York, one must have banding and registration to own them legally.
  • New Jersey. In New Jersey, you can possess a Quaker parrot, but you’ll need permission. After examining for proof that the owner is aware of the threat posed by these birds, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife will grant permits at its discretion.

So, What Are Invasive Species?

So, What Are Invasive Species?
So, What Are Invasive Species?

It was the year 1929, and The Great Depression has affected many countries worldwide, having a foothold in The United States. However, Australia was also grappling with the Great Depression in its hands. It wasn’t a swell time to be alive– especially as a farmer in Australia. (Gill, Frank B., 2007)

The government was not following its words to provide subsidies. The farmers were threatening not to release any wheat for the rest of the country. There was a real threat of Australia growing hungry.

However, that wasn’t all that was about to upheave, not for the farmers anyway. An invasive species threatens to reduce the already dwindling food supply– the Emus. 

Invasive Species Beware

According to the National Ocean Service, invasive species are a type of animal that causes ecological or economic harm to environments where it is not native. (source)

Technically an emu is not an invasive species since it is native to Australia. However, it does display very similar qualities as to what extent invasive species cause harm. Before explaining why Quaker Parrots are illegal, let us continue with the emus for a bit.

The Emus were known to destroy crops in Australia, causing the government to wage war against the Emus. Yep, you heard that right. There was a war fought between humans and animals, and it happened in Australia called “The Emu War.”

The emus were quick eaters and would run around the emptiness of Australia, ravaging one crop to another. That’s why there was an all-out resistance from the government, spending resources such as machine guns and making the military get involved. This piece of history is a true testament to why it is incredibly critical to get invasive populations in control.

Invasive species can cause a reduction in agricultural output. Moreover, they can affect the safety of animals and humans coexisting with them. Some can even disrupt ecological balance and cause some species to go extinct due to being outcompeted in limited resources. 

Quaker Parrots: Where Did They Come From, And How Are They Living?

Quaker Parrots: Where Did They Come From, And How Are They Living?

Quaker Parrots are illegal due to irresponsible breeding, pet-owning, and their reckless introduction to other parts of the world. However, before they were common, their populations used to be highly isolated. Why are Quaker Parrots seen virtually everywhere if that is the case?

Well, every invasive species has its own origin story. Let us look at how the Quaker Parrot came to be and how they are living in these countries now. 

The Quaker Parrot’s American Dream: No Passport Immigration

Monk Parakeets started their origin story as pets in the United States. Although pets do not usually cause a significant ecological and financial disruption, irresponsible pet-owners can. While aspiring bird owners imported Quaker Parrots as pets during the 1960s and the 1980s in the United States, some of them started to release them in the wild irresponsibly; this did not end well.

Today, there are at most 500,000 Quaker Parrots living in Florida today. However, unlike scientists in the US initially thought, their current population is quite unstable compared to other parts of the world. Contrary to their initial beliefs, the Monk Parakeets did not cause much damage in the United States.

An interesting piece of trivia about Quaker Parrots is that they initially started their “wild” residence in the United States at an airport. They had escaped a broken shipping crate in New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. And while their relatively stable population made them good company for most people, linemen do not like them very much. There have been several reports around the United States considering the nests of Quaker Parrots as the primary reasons for power outages. Currently, the Monk Parakeet is illegal in certain states of the United States. 

Monk Parakeets In Europe

Monk Parakeets live in various major cities in Europe, from Barcelona, to Athens, and even in areas not part of mainland Europe like the Canary Islands. They are so common that their numbers can rival pigeons in various parks around Spain, especially Barcelona. Funny enough, pigeons are invasive species in North America.

Although it is pretty challenging to point out the origins of Quaker Parrots, the Monk Parakeets have been living in Europe under the consideration of “wild species” since the 1970s. This data implies that their introduction to Europe was before this point in time.

Madrid’s War Against Quaker Parakeets

According to a local Spanish newspaper company, “Diaryo El Pais,” since 2013, the possession, sale, breeding, and trafficking of monk parakeets have been prohibited in Spain. Considering that Madrid, a city in Spain, has the most significant population in Europe, the authorities have considered quite the rigorous methods to curve the population boom of Quaker Parrots (Planelles, M., 2015).

Why Quaker Parrots are illegal in Spain is no question. In a 2019 article by The Guardian, Madrid started doing “humane slaughter” to Quaker Parrots. One of the reasons is that these parrots are considered a health risk concern. (Jones, S., 2019)

These Are The Reasons Why Quaker Parrots Are Illegal And Humanely Slaughtered In Madrid:

  • Can cause psittacosis or parrot fever
  • Is a possible carrier of the avian flu
  • Can be the cause of the proliferation of salmonella
  • Huge 200 kg nests that could fall anytime

United Kingdom’s Shoot And Exterminate Strategy

In a 2011 news article by the London-based news network BBC, the United Kingdom’s Defra, or The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has targeted the Quaker Parrot to be removed in the wild. There are a plethora of proposed solutions for the removal of Quaker Parrots. These are the following examples: (source)

Measures By The Defra To Curve The Damage Caused By Quaker Parrots

  • rehousing the Quaker Parrot population
  • removing the Parakeet nests
  • shooting them (as a last resort)

The parakeets were considered highly disastrous to the extent that the Defra has deemed them a “threat to national infrastructure.” These were the following troubles caused by the Quaker Parrot population, one of the reasons why Quaker Parrots are illegal. 

Damages Caused By Parakeets (Also Called Quaker Parrots)

  • causes damage to crops
  • when the Quaker Parrots build their nests on the electricity pylons, they could cause power cuts
  • builds huge communal nests
  • disrupts local feral population

Summary

Invasive species are animals that cause environmental or economic harm in areas where they are not native. Due to uncontrolled breeding, pet ownership, and their reckless introduction to other regions of the world, Quaker Parrots became outlawed

 in many states.

Georgia, California, Kansas, Maine, Kentucky, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Rhode Island have made it unlawful to own and produce Quaker Parrots. In New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, and Ohio, owning a Monk parakeet is theoretically lawful, although there are several restrictions.

Since 2013, Spanish officials have outlawed possessing, selling, reproducing, and trafficking in Spain. Madrid began slaughtering Quaker Parrots in a “humane” manner within the last few years. 

One of the reasons is that these parrots are a potential health hazard. Avian flu, parrot fever, and salmonella are all carried by Quaker Parrots.

Furthermore, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of the United Kingdom has targeted the Quaker Parrot for extinction in the wild. Because of their nest size, their nests are also dangerous.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How Did Monk Parakeets Get Their Initial Population Boom?

So why exactly did Monk Parakeets proliferate so much in Latin America? While the population boom of Quaker Parrots in Latin America certainly isn’t unique, it is interesting to look at their population boom in Latin America as a case study. It is fascinating to compare as the breed has multiplied exponentially in different parts of the world. 

Population growth of Quaker Parrots started during the paper industry boom in South America. When farmers cultivated paper-producing trees such as Eucalyptus, the Quaker Parrots found an opportunity to reside in these “artificial” forests. These plantations have a sparse ecosystem, making competition more or less a rare occurrence.

  1. Are Monk Parakeets Illegal In Mexico?

Quaker Parrots could only reach Mexico in 1999. Interestingly, the relatively “north” United States cultivated Monk Parakeets earlier than the “southern” Mexico (Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad, 2011).

However, unlike other countries that have deemed the Monk Parakeet a “pest” or an “invasive species,” Mexico has been pretty mild and welcoming to these birds. There currently are no studies suggesting their impact on local feral populations. However, this does not signify that these birds have caused no ecological disturbance. The said report may have resulted from a lack of research and data rather than an implication from a full-pledged study. 

Currently, the Mexican authorities have banned the sale and distribution of feral and native parrot populations. As a result, Quaker Parrots are not illegal in Mexico. They are, in actuality, a loophole to legally own, sell, and trade parrots.  (Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad, 2011).

To summarize, one can trace back the origins of Quaker Parrots in Mexico to the pet trade. They are not feral and are, in fact, an introduced species. 

  1. Are Monk Parakeets Considered As Pests In Their Native Habitat?

One can trace the origins of Monk Parakeets back to Latin America, specifically Argentina and Brazil. Unfortunately, even in their original habitat, they are considered major agricultural pests, even more so in The United States. 

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  1. Gill, Frank B. Ornithology (3rd ed.). Macmillan., 2018. p. xxvi. ISBN 978-0-7167-4983-7.
  2. What is an invasive species?”. Ocean Service, Last Accessed February 18, 2022.
  3. “Monk Parakeets in Singapore,” Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Last Accessed February 19, 2022.
  4. BirdLife International  “Myiopsitta monachus .”IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T45427277A132189848. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T45427277A132189848.en. November 19, 2021.
  5. Defra to remove problem monk parakeets from wild,” BBC, April 24, 2011.
  6. Planelles, M., “Monk parakeets now seen as a plague in major Spanish cities .”Diario El País. November 12, 2015. 
  7. Jones S., “Madrid to begin ‘humane slaughter’ of parakeets” The Guardian, October 8, 2019.
  8. “Pretty, but dangerous! Records of non-native Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) in Mexico” Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad. 82: 1053–1056. 2011.