Austin Energy has new protocols in place for the removal of Monk Parakeet nests.
Last year, the utility company ruffled some feathers when the public learned baby birds were being killed during the removal process, but Austin Energy vowed to change their policies and protect the young birds moving forward.
Austin Energy said they only remove nests that pose a safety hazard and they try to do most of the removals outside of nesting season.
When it's necessary to remove a nest between April and July, Austin Energy said the eggs or birds inside are protected from harm. Monk Parakeets aren't native to Austin, meaning they aren't protected there, but the birds sure are thriving in Central Texas.
“They're doing well here, they're doing well further up north even, and they're just kind of slowly spreading across the U.S.,” said Hailey Hudnall, executive director of Austin Wildlife Rescue.
The colorful birds come with a catch. They sometimes build large nests on top of transformers and on power lines. That can be a fire hazard and a threat to electrical services.
Austin Energy crews said the nests must sometimes be removed for that reason.
Last year, people were outraged when they found out that the removal process sometimes meant killing baby birds inside the nests. So Austin Energy hatched up a plan to change their policies and work with Austin Wildlife Rescue.
“I like that they're partnering with us and I really like that they bring them to us. They consult us on what they need to do and when they do it,” Hudnall said.
Now, when Austin Energy crews find eggs or baby birds inside of a problematic nest, they call an Environmental Field Services team. The team then puts the young into a padded crate and transports them to Austin Wildlife Rescue.
“They just called us that the first set of eggs was found, so they brought us some eggs with the nest that had to be knocked down,” said Hudnall.
Once there, the eggs or babies are under the wing of caretakers until they are old enough to be adopted out. “The babies don't have a colony to go back to if they knock the nest down, so that's why we have to adopt them out,” Hudnall said.
Austin Wildlife Rescue said interest in adopting Monk Parakeets has increased over time.
“We actually have a long list from last year of people that actually were interested after the Austin Energy story came out and we got about 25-30 adopted last year,” said Hudnall.
Now, Austin Wildlife Rescue hopes other utility companies will follow Austin Energy's lead. “I think Austin is a very progressive city that's making a lot of great changes that other cities can learn from,” Hudnall said.
Austin Energy also donated money to Austin Wildlife Rescue last year and said they will do so again this year. That money will be used to help care for and treat the Monk Parakeets.