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Parakeets popping up in Chicago area

SXU professor, project seeking help from public

Chicago (Sept. 22, 2009) A Saint Xavier University professor and two other researchers are asking for help tracking Chicago’s monk parakeet population with a Web site that allows the general public to chart known nest locations.

Saint Xavier Associate Professor of Biology Christopher Appelt said monk parakeets are colorful, raucous birds that first appeared in Chicago during the 1960s, thousands of miles away from their natural South American habitat. The birds likely made their way into the wild after escaping or being released by their owners, and have since spread to more than 500 nesting locations across the greater Chicago area.

Appelt became interested in monk parakeets after moving to the area in 2004 and began studying whether they were affecting native species. Appelt and University of Chicago professor Stephen Pruett-Jones began mapping parakeet nest locations for the Chicago Parakeet Project in 2007, and later teamed up with University of Illinois at Chicago professor Emily Minor to produce the first population map.

The site contains the current map, descriptions of nests and how to identify them, and a nest location survey.  Eventually, it will include an interactive map of local neighborhoods where people can look up nest locations in their area.

Appelt said public input has been useful in compiling the data, which show a thriving parakeet population of at least 500 nests. But since the nests can be up to six feet wide and house several pairs of pairs of parakeets, Appelt said the population is likely at least 2,000 birds.

“We wouldn’t have known about some of these nests if it weren’t for the help of the general public,” he said.

Appelt said the birds are viewed as an agricultural pest in South America, but so far do not appear to be adversely affecting crops or native wildlife in the Chicago area.

“In the future, we’re to make a map with roads or power lines or other structures to get a feel for what kind of pattern they’re following, as well as predicting where we might see them ending up,” Appelt said.

Interested people can watch a video of Appelt discussing monk parakeets. Reporters interested in interviewing Appelt should contact Executive Director of Media Relations Jay Foot at (773) 298-3937.

-SXU-

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Jay Foot					
Executive Director of Media Relations	
(773) 298-3937 or foot@sxu.edu