Brooklyn wildlife

Posted by Steve on Fri, 03/16/2007 - 1:01am

No, I'm not talking about the street scene around here. I mean actual wildlife living in the shadow of downtown Manhattan. Rural folks are surprised to hear that we have something other than rats and pigeons here. But it's a fact.

I was walking Jack and Auggie last night around 1am when Auggie spotted something in my neighbor's garden.  He charged. I heard a hiss and caught a flash of white fur as something flew up a large bush. A cat? Then I saw the skinny tail and the lethal-looking teeth. It was a possum.

I wasn't that surprised because I know that they exist here. Karen rescued one on Christmas Eve of '04. We took it to the Christmas party with us that night because there was an emergency vet specializing in wildlife rescues on the way out to her sister's place on Long Island. Karen adopted it, gave it a name (Lorilei) and took it for walks with her dogs.

There's a whole colony of possums living on the Dyker Heights golf course about a mile from here.

What else do we have here? Raccoons! Big suckers too. Shortly after moving here I was cutting my back lawn when I stepped in a pile of poop that was too large for a cat. The fence pretty much ruled out a dog. And it was horrible smelling, worse than a dog's, leastwise a healthy one.

A few evenings later, I heard a rustling on my deck, looked outside and saw what at first looked like a very large, very fat cat. However I didn't spend my entire life in the city. I knew it was a raccoon.

Over the next few weeks I saw it a few more times, even scurrying across a busy avenue. I'm told Animal Control caught it and relocated it upstate. Too bad. Maybe it could have taught a couple of my careless neighbors to cover their garbage cans.

But I've seen a few more since then. One was in the dog run last year.

What else? Hawks! I see a huge one almost every morning in the park down the block when I walk the dogs. I always know the hawk is around when I don't see any squirrels and the crows and seagulls are making an angry racket. If you look for the anxious crows you'll spot the hawk.

Big deal. These animals are commonplace in the suburbs. But we have something that most 'burbs don't. Parrots! And I mean lots of them.

This is a shot of actual wild Brooklyn parrots (four of them named Vinnie). The predominant breed is urban monk parrot but I've seen cockatoos, cockatiels and African greys, the latter probably dumped by owners who didn't know what a lease-breaking racket they can make.

Scattered all over southeast Brooklyn are parrot colonies with as many as 60 birds. They drive Con Ed nuts because they build their communal nests around the warmth of electrical transformers on telephone poles, and they fiercely defend them.

There's even a website about our parrot denizens:

The story is that a crate of parrots was dropped at JFK Airport in the 1960s and they established a colony nearby. Since then, they've moved east and west and have even taken root in nearby New Jersey.

But as far as I know, there really aren't any alligators living in our sewers. That's urban legend, grasshopper.



Posted by Rick (not verified) on

I was chuckling most of the way through that post. Living in suburban Columbus, Ohio, we have everything but the parrots. That one really surprised me. From my front porch, I can look to the northwest on a clear night and see the lights of Columbus 15 miles away...then look in the back yard and see white tail deer...chewing on the garden. Take the golden retrievers for a walk around the block, and they get freaked by the coyotes...and skunks. Tell you what, I'll trade the deer and skunks for the parrots, ok?

Posted by Steve on

We have deer here too. Well, not here in Brooklyn but just over the Verrazano Bridge on Staten Island.

I forgot two other common Brooklyn wildlife denizens: wild turkeys and ring neck pheasants. Our gun laws being what they are, you can't hunt them so their only natural enemy is the motor vehicle. In the spring there are usually scores of pheasants grazing on the Belt Parkway median two blocks from here.

The turkeys are virtually tame, I saw three of them rummaging around the emergency room entrance of a local hospital, unphased by the traffic and sirens. The hospital staff feed them so they're not shy about walking up and grabbing whatever food you've got.

My next door neighbor had a ring neck pheasant in her house my first summer here. Her daughter had left her window open and they came home to wreckage. The bird was trying to get out and their dog was trying to catch the pheasant. Another neighbor's daughter, a NYC park ranger, was summoned. She captured it unharmed and released it outside.

I spoke with our boro president, Marty Markowitz, about our parrots. Marty loves Brooklyn cliches. For instance, he had a sign planted on the Bay Ridge entrance to the Verrazano Bridge:

You Are Now Leaving Brooklyn... Fuggedaboudit!

I told him I thought some of these parrots should be captured and taught to say some of his pet phrases: "Brooklyn, Fuggedaboudit!", "How Sweet It Is!", "You Name It, We Got It!", etc. Then those parrots will teach other parrots, which will eventually migrate throughout New England taking the Brooklyn tourist bureau messages with them. Talk about viral marketing!

Posted by sunshine05 (not verified) on

I live in Florida and I see wild parrots at my local park, hundreds of them build nest in the trees and make lots of noise but there a beautiful sight to see!

Posted by rob (not verified) on

Plenty of possums in Marine Park near the golf course, and near the marsh. I was just walking to a bagel store and saw one running down Avenue U, near Coleman. I've seen them before near the park and the golf course.

Posted by Camhi (not verified) on

I live in Astoria and I had a possum running around my backyard a few weeks ago. I had no idea possums were that common in NYC. I wrote a blog post on another site asking if other NYers had seen possums in their neighborhood and if these animals are any threat to NYers. Feel free to check it out and leave your opinion:

Posted by John C (not verified) on

Yeah wall lizards moved into Brooklyn also. I think they came from Long Island, well that's what I saw on U Tube. (Wall Lizards in Brooklyn, NY)