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Lesson Plans
South of the Border Down Brooklyn Way
Behavior of Feral Monk Parakeets
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

CUE the videotapes to their correct starting points. Bookmark the Web sites you will be using in the lesson. Download and install the Real Audio Player plug-in to computers used by students. When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments and Web sites.
Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

Tell students they will be learning about monk parakeets using video and the Internet and will conclude by designing their own field study. Begin the lesson by finding out how much they know about monk parakeets. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking each team to work together on a monk parakeet quiz. Have each team go to the Monk Parakeet Research Web site at http://www.monkparakeet.com/index1.htm and navigate to "Fun Stuff"/"The Monk Parakeet Quiz"/"Take the Quiz." Give teams five minutes to take the quiz and have the Web site score their results. Have teams report their scores. Discuss with students which questions they think they got right and why (see the answers to the quiz on p.5). Ask students what else they know about these birds. Write down all responses on chart paper. Keep this chart paper so you can return to it at the end of the lesson. Explain to your students that they will now have time to study these birds and re-take the quiz.

Tell students they will see some video clips about monk parakeets living wild in New York and will then conduct some Internet research to learn more about these birds. Next they will design and, if possible, carry out a field study.

Monk Parakeet Quiz Answer Key
http://www.monkparakeet.com/index1.htm
  1. Monk (Quaker) parakeets are legal to own as pets in all 50 states in the USA.
    True / False
  2. Monks are native to:
    Asia / South America / Africa
  3. The scientific name for monk parakeets is:
    Melopsittachus undulatus
    Myiopsitta monachus
    Conuropsis carolinensis
  4. The common name for monks in Argentina is:
    catita / loro / pájaro
  5. Monks are the only parrot species in the world that builds a self-contained nest from sticks.
    True / False

Learning Activities

Step 1:

Tell students they will see video clips about monk parakeets in Brooklyn. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine where monk parakeets are from originally. Insert the video Wild TV #1: Wildlife in the City. START the video when you see a clump of men standing on a corner with a bird nest on a telephone pole and you hear a parrot squawking. PAUSE when you see a close up of the young man and you hear the narrator say, "That's what's so fascinating for me is how they have managed to adapt." Ask students for their responses. (Monk parakeets are originally from Argentina, Bolivia, and various countries in South America.) Ask them what else they know about these countries. (These countries are tropical, contain rain forests, are warm, wet, etc.)

Step 2:

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them where monk parakeets are now found locally. PLAY the tape from the previous pause point. PAUSE when you see a close-up of the narrator and you hear her say, "It's like being a detective." Ask students to share their responses. (Monk parakeets are found in Queens, Long Island, and New Jersey.) Ask if any have seen monk parakeets, either as pets or in their neighborhoods.

Step 3:

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them why monk parakeets are easy to find and where they tend to nest. PLAY the tape from the previous pause point. PAUSE when you see a map of the United States and you hear music. Ask students to share their responses. (Monk parakeets are easy to find because they are loud, conspicuous, and colorful; they tend to nest on utility poles, transformers, trees, and rooftops.) Ask students why monks nest in utility poles. (They provide a stable nesting place.) If no one read the answer, REWIND the tape to the beginning of this section and REPLAY it with the AUDIO OFF.

Step 4:

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them how monk parakeets came to live in Brooklyn. PLAY the tape from the previous pause point. STOP when you see a close-up of a monk parakeet as seen through binoculars and you hear music. Ask students to share their responses. (People let their pets go, birds got loose by accident, Kennedy Airport handler was drunk and he dropped the crate.) Ask students if they can think of any other ways the parakeets might have come to live throughout the New York City area. (Spread here slowly from other areas, such as New Jersey.)

Step 5:

Tell students they will now use the Internet in a jigsaw exploration of monk parakeet behavior. Each group will look at one monk parakeet Web site, take notes on their "Monk Parakeet Fact Sheets" on what they find, and then report back to the class. Students can then add to their fact sheets as they hear new information. Divide the class into four groups, and have each group look at one of these sites:

Group 1:
Stanley's Quakerville
http://www.quakerville.net/backyard/

Group 2
The Birds of North America
http://www.birdsofna.org/excerpts/monk.html

Group 3
Univ. of Texas Department of Education
http://www.utexas.edu/depts/grg/ustudent/gcraft/fall96/huebner/projects/monk.html

Group 4
Institute for Biological Invasions
http://invasions.bio.utk.edu/invaders/monk.html#Taxonomy

and one of these books, if available:

Guide to a Tame Quaker Parrot. Athan, Mattie Sue and Michele Earle-Bridges.
The Guide to Owning a Quaker Parrot. Soucek, Gayle.
A Guide to the Quaker Parrot. Athan, Mattie Sue.
The Quaker Parrot: An Owner's Guide to a Happy, Healthy Pet. Higdon, Pamela Leis.

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to navigate to their assigned Web site and/or read their book and fill in as much information as they can on their "Monk Parakeet Fact Sheets." When the groups are ready, have students share verbally what they saw while you write their responses on the board. Allow students time to add to their fact sheets. Ask students if there are any differences and/or contradictions between the Web sites. Take out the chart paper from earlier and ask students whether anything needs to be revised or corrected. Make any necessary changes.

Sample student responses are shown below:

MONK PARAKEET FACT SHEET
Sample Student Responses
Scientific Name Myiopsitta monachus Boddaert 1783
Size Small (about 30 cm in total length), stocky
Color Mostly green parrot with a gray or off-white face, cheeks, and throat, a usually gray breast with white bars, bright yellow lower abdominal and vent areas, blue-black flight feathers, long green tail feathers, a pale orange or yellow bill, and gray legs, while immature birds are bright green with greenish foreheads.
Diet Monks are essentially granivorous, eating seeds. They also consume leaf buds, blossoms, fruits, nut, berries, and insects.
Native Range Monks are native to subtropical and temperate South America. They are found exclusively in lowlands east of the Andes from Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and southern Brazil south to the Patagonia region of Argentina.
Introduced Range Between the late 1960s and early 1970s, over 64,000 monk parakeets were imported into North America, and their establishment was the result of intentional or unintentional releases of captive individuals. Feral monk parakeets were widely established in many major urban areas by the early 1970s, including at least 21 sites in seven states. They are now found in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Rhode Island, and Virginia, and possibly in Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, and South Carolina.
Behaviors: Communication Monks are quite vocal and have a wide vocabulary, with many different screeches and squawks and nearly continuous chatter at communal nests.
Nesting Monk parakeets are the only parrots that do not nest in existing cavities. Rather, they use their bills to construct a nest of woven sticks and spiny branches. Nests are usually constructed 10 or more meters above the ground, either against the trunk or out on branches of a variety of trees, but are often found in tall eucalyptus trees. They also construct nests on power poles and towers. The nest may be small, housing a single pair, or a very large, complex structure up to a meter in diameter, weighing up to 200 kg and housing multiple pairs. These large, robust structures last a long time, are used throughout the year, and are one of the many reasons for the monk's success as aliens in northern temperate latitudes with harsh winters.
Social Monks usually fly in loose flocks of 15 to 20 birds, but flocks of 100 birds are not uncommon.
Reproduction and Development In their native habitat, average clutch size of about 7 eggs. Upon hatching, wild monk nestlings are covered with yellow down, must be fed by their parents, and open their eyes in 8-10 days. Nestlings reach about 106g in weight during the approx. 40-day period they remain at the nest. The main sources of nest mortality are predation by black rats and opossum, but sibling aggression also plays a role.
Other They are not a migratory species in their native or introduced lands.


Step 6:

Tell students they will now use the Internet to re-take the Monk Parakeet Quiz! Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking each team to go to the Monk Parakeet Research Web site at www.monkparakeet.com/index1.htm and navigate to "Fun Stuff"/"The Monk Parakeet Quiz"/"Take the Quiz." Give teams five minutes to re-take the quiz and have the Web site score their results. Have teams report their new scores. Discuss with students whether they scored differently and why.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1:

Tell students they will now design their own monk parakeet field study. First, they will view a video clip describing how monk parakeets are observed. PLAY the tape from the point at which you stopped. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to list what information bird watchers gather. PAUSE when you see a close-up of the narrator talking and you hear her say, "Document what's happening to each nest." Ask students to share their responses. (Date and time of the observation, how many birds were seen, the size of the nest, how many openings the nest had, any interesting behaviors observed – such as what they were eating, where they were going, and their vocalizations – drawings of nests or behaviors, photographs.) Ask students if they can think of any other observations they would record. (Recordings of their sounds, how high the nest was, which way the opening faced, etc.)

Step 2:

Tell students that a major focus of studies on feral monk parakeets is how they are able to survive in a climate so different from where they evolved. PLAY the tape from the previous pause point. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to list possible reasons why monk parakeets have been able to survive in Brooklyn. (They stick together, they are communal, they help each other, they eat from bird feeders.) STOP when you see a fade out of two birds and you hear the narrator say, "...proud that they're here." Ask students to share their responses. Insert the video Nature #1511: Wild Side of New York. START when you see the Brooklyn College sign after you hear the narrator say, “…may devour their own history.” Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to list additional reasons why monk parakeets have been able to survive in Brooklyn. STOP when you see a close-up of a monk and after you hear the narrator say, “…completely at home.” Ask students to share their responses. (Sticking together may keep them warm, floodlights may keep them warm, nesting high up keeps them safe from predators.) Ask students if they can think of any other reasons for their success. (Recent warm winters, lack of predators, etc.)

Step 3:

Divide the class into up to seven groups (depending on the number of computers you have), and have each group look at one of these pages from the Monk Parakeet Project Web Site, Brooklyn College

1. How many Monk Parakeets are there on the Brooklyn College Campus?
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/groupproject.htm

2. How many Monk Parakeets are there in each nest?
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/census.htm

3. What are typical Monk Parakeet behaviors?
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/behavior.htm

4. Are there Monk Parakeets in or around Greenwood Cemetery?
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/greenwood.htm

5. Are there Monk Parakeets in the athletic fields in or around Marine Park?
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/marinepark.htm

6. What do the Monk Parakeets on campus eat?
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/monkfood.htm

7. Do Monk Parakeets build their nests with a preferred species of local tree?
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/treespecies.html

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking each team take notes on their assigned field study using the "Monk Parakeet Field Study Summary Chart." Have teams share what they found (see a sample chart below) and discuss the merits of each study. Was it well planned? Were results presented in a clear way (on a graph, table, etc.)?

MONK PARAKEET FIELD STUDY
SUMMARY CHART
Researchers




Jennifer Birnbaum, Karla Ferraro, Shirley Hui, Janene Pearson, Erika Tyll
Field Study Title How many monk parakeets are there in each nest?
URL
(Web Address)
http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/education/miele/census.htm
Hypothesis or Question Asked Does the number of nest openings correlate to the number of birds living in the nest?
Skills Used Mapping, observation, counting, estimation, sketching, averaging, graphing

Procedure
(numbered, step-by-step)
  1. Each student in our group located nest sites and documented our study area on a map.
  2. Each student observed one or two nests in our area for approximately one hour for at least three sessions. We used binoculars and video cameras as visual aids.
  3. Count the number of entrance holes in the nest.
  4. Estimate the height and size of the nest.
  5. Only birds that were inside or touching the nest were included in the count. Parrots that sat or flew nearby were not counted. Parrots that arrived or departed were accounted for. The highest number of birds seen on or inside at one time was the final census for that session.
  6. We sketched the nest to more closely observe the details of the nest structure and relationship to the utility wires.
  7. We averaged the total number of birds for each nest and recorded the results on a graph to compare.
Materials

Binoculars, video camera, watch, paper and pencil, field guides, map of Brooklyn College campus and neighborhood
Results
(what was found)
Some of the nests averaged more than two birds per opening, while others had less and still others were observed to have the predicted number of birds. There is no obvious correlation between the number of inhabitants and the number of entrances.
Conclusions
(what these results tell us)
We realized that there were many reasons that our numbers did not seem to make sense. Behavioral research on wild animals requires an enormous amount of data and consistency on behalf of the researchers due to the unpredictable nature of animals and the seasonal changes that affect them.

However, after returning to our library search we found that the fledged juveniles of some species stay to assist their parents with the care of the new eggs and chicks (Kress, 54). If this is the case, the additional care would help to insure the success of each new clutch, while the helpers gain valuable experience in building their large stick nests and care of the young.

Now, ask teams to design a monk parakeet field study, using the "Monk Parakeet Field Study Planning Chart." First, have them design a hypothesis, or the question they will be trying to answer with their study. Before they continue, have teams share their hypotheses. This is the time for you and your students to give feedback to each other on the merits of the hypotheses presented. Are they worded clearly? Is it an important question? Is it a testable question? Have students incorporate comments from their classmates and from you. Once you approve all hypotheses, they can proceed. Make sure they know to fill in information for every item.

When you have checked their charts and students have made any changes, they can create a final version of their proposed field study as a poster you can display in the classroom or hall.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

LIFE SCIENCE
Plan a field trip where students can carry out their proposed field study. Have them collect data, write a report, and post to your school's Web site. Contact Eleanor Miele, Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College via e-mail at emiele@brooklyn.cuny.edu to see if the link to your class' Web page can be added to her page. If a field trip is not possible, bring students to a local pet store that sells monk parakeets so they can observe some behaviors firsthand.
Have students research and report on other exotic species (plants, animals, or pathogens) that have invaded New York and been successful. (Gypsy moth, Ailanthus, West Nile Virus, etc.)

EARTH SCIENCE
Have students study the climate and geography of countries where monks are indigenous and compare this to ours in Brooklyn.

LANGUAGE ARTS
Have students write their own tales of how monk parakeets came to Brooklyn.

MATH
Have children count or measure and then graph data they have collected, such as nest size, nest height, number of birds, etc. Have them compare these to tables and graphs they find on the monk parakeet Web pages.

ART
Have students create a monk parakeet habitat in their room by drawing, painting, or sculpting with parakeets, nests, utility poles, etc.

SOCIAL STUDIES
Have students study the culture of countries where monks are indigenous.


Community Connections
  • Have children research where monk parakeets can be found in their own neighborhood.

  • Ask an animal behaviorist (student or professor) to come in to work with the children.