Unlike a hive of bees or a colony of ants, parakeet societies aren't built on blind cooperation, the scientists point out. Instead, there's a hierarchy similar to elephants or dolphins, replete with alliances among friends as well as competition.
"Understanding the social systems of parrots is critical to understanding social processes, such as vocal learning and the spread of behaviors, and can also give us greater insight into how social and cognitive complexity evolved in other species," Hobson says. More than a quarter of the world's parrot species are threatened, and Hobson believes that more information on the way "parrots structure their social interactions could also improve our ability to manage these populations."
No one knows exactly how monk parakeets made it to New York - perhaps they were airport escapees, or set free by pet owners. (The parrots aren't exactly beloved by all, however, with their penchant for building large nests- weighing up to 400 pounds - around power lines and cell phone towers.)