Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus), also known as Quaker Parrots, are a small bright-green parrot species native to South America, have become increasingly widespread across North America in recent decades, making themselves at home in forests and open woodlands as well as in urban landscapes.
Read on to find out more about where these bold, sociable birds choose to nest and successfully raise their young.
Notable as the only parrot species that does not nest in a cavity, monk parakeets have adapted to survive in a range of environments, building bulky stick constructions in trees or on top of other high artificial structures.
While upper tree branches are the most common site for nest building to occur, it’s not unheard of for monk parakeet pairs to choose a spot at the top of a utility pole or communications tower. Some nest structures may contain a number of separate chambers, forming a sprawling communal nest colony.
If you’re keen to discover how monk parakeets build their nests and when the peak egg-laying season is, then please keep reading, as we’ll be looking at these topics and more in our complete guide to monk parakeet nesting.
A pair of nesting Monk Parakeets outside of their nest
Monk parakeets typically build their nests in the uppermost branches of trees. Nests have also been observed on manmade structures such as ledges and crevices in buildings, and on utility poles. They are found in urban areas, as well as forested regions with more dense concentrations of woodland.
Monk parakeets’ nests remain in use all year round, long after the breeding season ends, providing the birds with a chamber in which they can seek shelter when the weather deteriorates.
Repairs to the nest are completed throughout the spring and summer, and if a nest is destroyed or collapses, then a new site is sought and building starts from scratch.
If the conditions are right, and a suitable nesting site is identified, there is a chance that monk parakeets may build their nest in a backyard tree or other high-altitude spot.
The presence of monk parakeets at backyard feeders has increased in recent years and as the species’ population grows, they are observed to be breeding more regularly in urban settings.
Monk Parakeets are colony nesters, and also are the only parrot species not to nest in cavities
Monk parakeets are unusual among parrot species in that they do not lay their eggs in tree cavities or nest boxes, preferring instead to create their own larger communal stick nests, in which they can live in close proximity to other members of their flock.
Monk parakeets appear to be reasonably unfussy when selecting a tree to build their nest in, with deciduous and evergreen species both regularly selected. Date palms are among the most common choices of tree to establish a nest colony in.
Green ash, poplar and pin oak are popular deciduous species, while evergreen trees frequently used by monk parakeet pairs include Norway spruce and fir.
The highest branches of trees are the most likely spots for a monk parakeet nest site. Nest heights generally range from 6 m to 12 m (19.7 ft to 39.4 ft).
One particularly extreme example of a Florida monk parakeet nest was discovered on top of a communications tower some 60 m (197 ft) above ground.
High up nesting colony of Monk Parakeets
Monk parakeets build messy nests from thorny twigs, stacked up together to form bulky structures in which to lay their eggs. Monk parakeets are sociable birds and are commonly found in large flocks.
It’s also common for several pairs to use the same nest structure, with separate entrances and chambers.
The size of a monk parakeet’s nest varies according to how many pairs are resident in the structure. A typical nest colony contains up to 20 nest chambers, with a diameter of more than 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in).
Larger communal nests are not uncommon, with up to 200 pairs living in close quarters in some extreme cases. These mega nests are reported to weigh up to 1200 kg.
Three juvenile Monk Parakeets inside their stick nest
In North America, nesting usually begins in March, with nest construction taking at least two weeks to complete. For South American populations, nesting begins in October, ahead of laying, which typically occurs from later the same month.
The incubation period for monk parakeet eggs lasts around 24 days. Once hatchlings emerge, they continue to be brooded by the female and fed in the nest by both parents until they are ready to fledge at between 35 and 40 days old.
In North American monk parakeet populations, eggs are laid between April and July. Egg laying for monk parakeets resident in South America takes place between October and December.
Communal nests built by monk parakeets remain in use all year round, offering a safe and insulated shelter in which to survive the coldest winter weather.
Breeding pair of Monk Parakeets inside their nest
Nest construction is a communal effort for monk parakeets, with all birds in the colony working together to gather sticks and twigs from near to the chosen nest site.
Males were observed to contribute more to the material gathering, while females took the lead role in arranging the nest lining.
The construction process is a highly organized affair, starting with a base, then sides, and finally a roof. Entrance to the nest structures is frequently located on the underside, to deter access from predators.
Thorny twigs are chosen as a common building material for nesting monk parakeet pairs, as they bind structures solidly together, allowing them to lodge firmly in the branches where they are positioned. Green vegetation may also be used, including leaves and stems, as well as flowers and fruit.
Pairs work together to build nests, with young birds from the colony also joining in with the construction. Although all birds contribute to the task, males dominate the material gathering phase, while females take a more significant role in the arrangement of nest lining.
A pair of Monk Parakeets building their stick nest together
Monk parakeets’ eggs are white and smooth, and sub-elliptical in shape. On average, eggs measure around 27.2 mm (1.1 in) by 20.2 mm (0.8 in).
A typical clutch laid by a female monk parakeet contains between 5 and 12 eggs.
It’s widely believed that incubation is solely by the female monk parakeet, with no evidence of males observed sitting on eggs.
Males do visit the nests while incubation is underway, but it is believed that this is for the purpose of bringing food to their mate rather than to relieve them of their brooding duties.
Eight unhatched Monk Parakeet eggs inside of the nest
The earliest recorded fledging of juvenile monk parakeets was recorded at 35 days in Argentina. In North America, fledglings typically leave the nest later, from 40 days old onwards. Young birds continue to associate with their parents for at least another three months.
It is most usual for monk parakeets to raise one sole brood per year, although if a brood fails early in the season, a second clutch may be attempted. Some pairs do successfully raise two broods in the same season.
Monk parakeets in captivity may have two or even three clutches in a year.
Monk Parakeet cutting a branch off a tree for nest construction
Disturbance by predators or other interventions can lead to nest abandonment, and in such cases a replacement clutch of eggs may be attempted in a new nest.
Monk parakeets have been observed to adapt their nests to provide maximum defense against other species gaining access, for example blocking entrances with thorny sticks or making the entry tunnels narrower so larger birds cannot enter.
Overly large nests can become unstable structures and can collapse, in which case the colony will start again elsewhere or undertake extensive repairs to shore it up.
As monk parakeets are considered a pest species in some regions, their nests are frequently earmarked for removal by landowners outside of the breeding season.
Upper branches in the canopy level of tall trees, or on the top of utility poles or electricity pylons are among the most commonly chosen spots for monk parakeets to build their nests, with ground-level nesting too much of a risk for the species.
The lowest nest altitudes observed are around 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in) above ground, and in such cases, these nests were initially constructed and later abandoned by another species and repurposed by a monk parakeet colony.
Monk parakeet in flight with the nesting material, Pantanal, Brazil
Monk parakeet nests are not solely used for raising young, but continue to serve as overnight roosting chambers long after the breeding season has ended.
Colonial roosts may consist of 20 or more separate chambers, each with its own entrance, that provide a safe spot for resting in once night has fallen.
Tall trees or other high-altitude structures offer a safe and suitable spot for monk parakeets to build a nest.
Considered a pest species in its native Argentina, monk parakeets can cause widespread crop damage in the areas they settle in, so a spot with plenty of agricultural plants and fruit trees may well prove irresistible. Be careful what you wish for, as flocks of monk parakeets are notoriously noisy!
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