Green With Envy: Wildlife Wednesday, September 2020

On lucky days my garden is graced by some of Austin’s resident, non-native, Monk Parakeets.  Usually it’s a small group of two or three gregarious greens flying over and cawing loudly to let everyone know they’re in the neighborhood.  Occasionally, one or two of these gorgeous birds will pop in, perch in my trees, and purloin some seeds.  The munching Monks have generally favored the black-oiled sunflower feeder, but recently, this one decided that safflower seeds were just the thing it craved.

That said, the green-with-envy bird could only look, smack its formidable beak in anticipation, and wait patiently above the popular bird seed feeder, because the House Finches, Haemorhous mexicanus, are currently the dominate guests at the safflower food tube. 

Safflower seeds are all the rage, it seems.

While the Monk Parakeet waited, two hatch-year females took their time enjoying the seeds, no doubt frustrating the colorful giant.  Most days, each of the four safflower feeding stations are filled with finches and there was a bumper crop of fledglings this year, so there’s currently lots of finch action in my garden, in the trees and on the feeders.  I enjoy observing the House Finches:  they’re attractive, chatty birds with pretty songs and calls and they chirp with charm as they chop their seeds.   The females are striped in brown and cream, as are the males, who also blush red on their breasts, heads, and under wings.

Eventually, the petite finches became safflower-sated and the parakeet got the feeder to itself.  Austin’s Monk Parakeets are descendants of pets released over the past 50 years or so.  The Monks have adapted well here, as they have in other North American cities.  Monk Parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus, are native to South America and live communally, building large nests atop utility poles and tall trees.  As far as I’m aware, the Monks haven’t negatively impacted the environment or displaced any native birds.  It’s not unusual to see Monks hanging out with glossy, gleaming black-to-brown Great-tailed and Common Grackles, especially in open areas.  The birds all congenially march along, pack-like, gleaning seeds or insects from the ground before taking flight to trees, bright green wings in contrast and complement to the black iridescent ones. 

On some rare occasions, fires have erupted in and on the large Monk stick nests built at the top of electric poles, which obviously isn’t good either for the birds or the people and other critters who live below.  In the interest of safety, Austin’s fire department pull down nests built in questionable places which is a bummer for the Monk Parakeets, but better for all concerned.

My visiting Monk Parakeet was almost, but not quite, too big for the feeder.  It maneuvered around the feeder somewhat awkwardly, taking seeds successfully.

And while the green machine ate, look who had to rustle up some self-restraint and wait her turn. 

Who’s green–or brown and white–with envy now?

I hope your garden has some wild goings on and happy wildlife gardening!  Also, pop over to Flutter and Hum for garden vignettes;  there’s always a story there to enjoy.