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Nests removed but birds here to stay

KEN DIXON
Connecticut Post
http://www.connpost.com/localnews/ci_5637853

04/10/2007

The United Illuminating Co. has completed its spring-cleaning program, ripping down monk parakeet nests from nearly 70 utility poles in southwestern Connecticut.

But these tenacious green birds, South American invasives that have lived in colonies along Long Island Sound's coast since the early 1970s, are already rebuilding their stick homes as they head into their egg-laying season.

Animal-rights activists said this week that the spring nest removals are the result of a deal reached after a controversial catch-and-kill program that sparked public criticism in the fall of 2005, when UI and the federal Department of Agriculture destroyed 179 birds.

A state Superior Court case is pending over the issue, in which the Darien-based Friends of Animals wants to prevent UI from killing parrots in the future as it clears the nests from the poles, to which many bird colonies are attracted.

Albert Carbone, spokesman for UI, said the recent project took three days, removing 45 nests in West Haven, one in New Haven, three in Orange, one in Milford and 17 in Stratford, mostly in the Lordship section. Carbone said some nests also contained squirrels.

"The nest removals are part of our regular maintenance work," Carbone said. "We're working around the breeding season of the birds."

The crews destroyed the nests on three days during the last week of March.

Priscilla Feral, president of the nonprofit Friends of Animals, said last week that the late-March tear-down is better than the 2005 fall eradication plan, because homeless birds will not have to face winter conditions, and the birds will not yet be sitting on eggs.

"Their last Draconian nest-abolition effort favored winter conditions, which may have doomed some birds lucky enough to escape," Feral said. "Obviously, if nests are removed in daylight, and birds are not netted, gassed and killed, that's a sensible step in the direction of our lawsuit."

Some birds have shown interest in man-made nesting platforms near their former utility-pole homes, but many seem to have imprinted on individual poles, where they have begun rebuilding.

The utility claims several transformer fires have been started by some of the larger parakeet nests. Friends of Animals charged that UI allowed the nests to get huge over many years, before the November 2005 eradication effort.

Last October, UI crews tore down 76 nests in utility poles in West Haven, Milford and Stratford. During the 2006 legislative session, an effort to protect the birds died on the House calendar, but this year there was no legislation introduced to address the issue.

Ken Dixon, who covers the Capitol, can be reached at (860) 549-4670.

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