Non-Native Houstonians

Monk Parakeets: Lovely Addition or Invasive Pest?

The latest in our occasional series on non-native Houstonians

By John Lomax October 31, 2013 Published in the November 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

A monk parakeet.

EXPERT CONSULTED: Daniel Brooks, PhD, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Houston Museum of Natural Science

ORIGIN: South America

HOW THEY GOT HERE: According to Dr. Brooks, monk parakeets first came to the US in the ’60s, when they were imported and sold as pets. Not unlike many émigrés who choose to make Houston home, some MPs escaped and some were liberated, at which point they quickly discovered our city to be both a bastion of tolerance and an ideal place to raise a family. 

THE CLAIM: They have a preference for overcrowded, makeshift, multigenerational, multi-family dwellings.

THE EVIDENCE: Monk parakeets are members of the parrot family, and the only members that build stick nests, which might have been a sweet distinction if those nests were not the size of a Mini Cooper. Also, they prefer to build these nests on top of stadium lights or high-tension transmission towers in wide easements. One of the largest local colonies—ten or so nests, each housing 10-20 monks—can be found a stone’s throw from the Little Woodrow’s on Bellaire Blvd., where patrons have been known to flee the patio to escape the squawks and shrieks of MPs, among the noisiest birds on earth. 

THE CLAIM: 1 monk parakeet = 5 of your old fraternity brothers


  1. “They are very noisy and very messy,” says Brooks. 
  2. “You might not want them in your yard.” Again, Brooks.
  3. They are always at Little Woodrow’s.
  4. The best way to attract them is to put peanuts or birdseed on a platform about ten feet in the air.

THE CLAIM: They are great talkers.

THE EVIDENCE: Despite being parrots, most MPs will only ever learn a few words, Brooks says. He hastens to add that hand-raised MPs do make great pets, however. “They are very affectionate,” he says, and can live 25 to 30 years.

FUN FACT: In contradistinction to, say, pigeons, MP poop does not erode stone, thus posing no danger to statuary!

Filed under
Show Comments