Several times a year I get photographs of a really odd bird at a feeder. Typically they are very ornately plumaged; such that they catch the eye of even the most casual of feeder watchers.
Almost always the unknown diner turns out to be an exotic, non-native species that has certainly escaped from captivity. I have encountered some of these exotics in the field just a few times, and it always causes me to do a double-take upon first glance.
Since birds from other lands are widely bred, sold, and kept as part of the pet trade, the escape of some individuals is inevitable. Often they are tropical species that do not do well in temperate regions for very long.
But in areas like Florida and southern California some species are hardy enough to establish themselves for at least a short period of time and actually reproduce and form small colonies. The birds range from waterfowl to parrots to finches to gamebirds. I have stumbled upon escaped ring-necked pheasants, parrots, and a variety of finches in Mecklenburg County over a few decades of birding.
Some species are hardy enough to even attempt to nest in less temperate regions than Florida or California. Currently there is a pair of monk parakeets nesting in Newland, N.C. well to our west.
Monk parakeets are one of the most frequently encountered exotics anywhere in the United States. Years ago I saw a nest in a power transformer near the site of the current Ray’s Splash Planet in Charlotte. There is also a pair that has nested just west of Wilmington for the last few years.
Such occurrences are interesting for their novelty but the chances are almost nil that monk parakeets will become established as part of the fauna in the North Carolina landscape. Serious birders who keep county, state, and life lists won’t be able to add monk parakeet to the lists they keep.
Only species that are part of a sustaining population that has been in existence for a certain amount of time are “countable” by the American Birding Association listing rules. In the meantime, many North Carolina birders are enjoying the parakeets just the same.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com