November 19, 2005
Activists take to streets for put-upon parakeets
By Ken Dixon

Buoyed by a nationwide appeal in the animal-rights community, activists took to the streets of West Haven Friday night in an attempt to halt United Illuminating Co.'s eradication of monk parakeets.

The utility said it plans to continue the operation, which was in its fourth night, targeting more than 100 bird colonies on utility poles between West Haven and Fairfield.

Federal officials in Washington, D.C. said Friday that at least 80 of the parrots had been killed and their bodies kept for research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, whose city is home to hundreds of squawking, bright-green birds and their thatched-stick nests, said Friday he would seek a meeting with the state Department of Environmental Protection in an attempt to cease the slaughter.

The chief spokesman for the DEP, Dennis Schain, said Friday that the department would meet with Roy whenever he wishes. A spokesman for United Illuminating agreed.

And the head of a national group that supports monk parakeets, which are also known as Quaker parakeets, said Friday that she is seeking legal grounds to apply for an injunction against UI's eradication program.

Brenda Piper, president of the Quaker Parakeet Society Society, told the Connecticut Post that a 2003 Connecticut law that allows for the "shooting," -- but not asphyxiating -- of crows, cowbirds, pigeons and monk parakeets may become the focus of a legal attack.

She said her society would help relocate the birds out of state if UI and the USDA give them the seized animals.

"United Illuminating must feel the pressure," said Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based Friends of Animals, Inc., which mobilized a national effort to stop the killing of the birds that have lived in the state since the early 1970's.

By 8:45 p.m. Friday, about 30 bird supporters were picketing and petitioning at Capt. Thomas Boulevard and Campbell Avenue in West Haven, protesting the UI bird removal.

Feral called the event Operation Parakeet.

"The people who can halt it are UI," Feral said, blaming the DEP for not recommending nest-removal alternatives that do not include killing birds.