When I started visiting Sarasota, I was surprised to discover that the area has a small, but vocal population of wild Quaker parrots (aka Monk parakeets). These attractive birds like to build communal nests on man-made structures, such as bridges and telephone poles (often in and among the power lines and transformers). Their bright green and blue coloration make them easy to spot against the drab gray or brown of most metal or wooden structures. On the other hand, their plumage blends in well with the native palm trees of the Sarasota area.
That said, you may very well hear these parrots long before you see them. Their incessant squawking and chattering are quite easy to recognize once you’ve heard them a few times. My wife and I regularly hear small groups of these birds while walking up and down Midnight Pass Road near Turtle Beach.
There are a couple of prominent nests in neighboring telephone poles on South Siesta Key in front of the Southbridge Mall. Although the lighting wasn’t ideal (annoying shadows), I got a number of decent photographs today. All were taken with my Nikon D40 camera and a Nikkor 55-300 mm telephoto lens.
I like the shot below, because of the “togetherness” pose of the two parrots, with their tails crisscrossed. You can make out the blue outline of their primary flight feathers. (This is one of their key identifying features.)
As I mentioned earlier, these parakeets build communal nests, meaning that a given nest can accommodate 5-10 birds. The photo below shows three parakeets, with their nest barely visible near the bottom of the picture.
Below is a shot of one of the parakeets working to fortify the nest. There must be a fair amount of nest attrition (due to wind, storms, etc.), as the birds seem to spend a fair amount of time in this activity.
One of the parakeets was playing peek-a-boo with me. I managed to catch him poking his head out of the nest:
By the way, my favorite resource for all things avian is the web site for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In addition to containing detailed descriptions and photos, you will also find audio files to help you identify birds through their calls and songs. The Cornell Lab also has an excellent bird app called “Merlin”, which helped me confirm the identification of these parakeets.