Aside from the pervasive pigeon, New York City, is home to a diverse array of birds! According to the New York City Audobon, more than 200 different species frequent the New York City metropolitan area every year, and over 400 species have been recorded here. New York City’s location along the Atlantic Flyway bird migration route and the various habitats the city offers make it a hospitable stop for all kinds of birds, from waterbirds and raptors to songbirds, and more. In anticipation of our next Wild City virtual talk with author Thomas Hynes, we’ve rounded up 5 of the most famous and rare birds spotted in New York City in recent years. You can discover even more celebrity birds of NYC and learn why New York City is such a great place for bird watching in our virtual talk with Hynes on Tuesday, April 27th!

Wild City: Celebrity Birds of NYC

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1. The Monk Parrots of Brooklyn

In certain parts of Brooklyn, you may catch a flash of green against a tangled nest of twigs and branches. The brightly colored birds who make these massive communal homes are Monk Parrots. The grey hoods that color their foreheads inspired their name. Native to Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, they have been famously spotted in the spires of Green-Wood Cemetery and at Brooklyn College. New Yorkers have also seen the parrots in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Red Hook, Bay Ridge, Manhattan Beach, and Canarsie and in some parts of Queens and the Bronx.

According to Stephen Baldwin, an enthusiast who runs the site BrooklynParrots.com, tens of thousands of Monk Parrots were sent to the United States from Argentina in the 1960s. Argentina had an overabundance of these birds and they were ruining crops. It’s unclear however how exactly the parrots came to be “in the wild.” The most popular story is that they arrived in an unmarked crate at New York’s JFK Airport in 1967 and were accidentally released by a curious airport employee. Another theory states that the birds are released pets, set free by buyers who regretted their talkative purchases. A final version of the origin story is that they all flew away from a shuttered pet shop on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. As of 2020, Baldwin estimates there are about 40 birds at Brooklyn College, 60 at Green-Wood Cemetery, and perhaps another 50 in all of South Brooklyn (including Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Canarsie).