In addition to having a master's degree in sustainable development, Susette works in water conservation and sustainable landscaping.
It's a common occurrence in Southern California (SoCal) that residents import ornamental plants, fish, and birds from other countries to live in the area's mild climate. When a foreign species escapes its bounds and invades the wild, it often drives out native flora or fauna, to the detriment of the entire ecosystem.
Wild parrots are an imported species gone wild. They appear to be thriving, with the way they're reproducing and squawking all over the region, but how is that possible when they came from the moist jungle and SoCal is mostly just dry desert? How have any parrots managed to survive in the wild at all, much less reproduce enough to be considered invasive, in an environment so different from their own?
The term "invasive species" includes both conditions of non-native origin and displacement, meaning that the species comes from a foreign environment and is driving out native birds with its living habits. We'll look first at the origins of SoCal's parrots, then at whether or not they are displacing local birds.
The Origins of California's Wild Parrots
There are 372 species of parrots/parakeets that have been identified worldwide, mostly living in tropical and subtropical regions. In their native habitats, some of these species are becoming endangered, due to a combination of decreasing habitat and the once extensive pet parrot trade. Many of the countries that imported parrots now host thriving flocks in the wild, including the United States.
In Southern California, there are at least 11 species of wild parrots inhabiting at least 35 cities (see below). Ten of those species came from the jungles of Latin America, one came from India/North Africa. None came from Australia or New Zealand, which also have native parrots. All came to SoCal via the imported pet trade.
Naturalized Parrots of Southern California
- Rose-ringed Parakeet (Conures) from tropical Africa and India
- Lilac Crowned Parrot (Amazons) from the Pacific Coast of Mexico (vulnerable)
- Red Crowned Parrot from NE Mexico (endangered)
- Yellow Headed Parrot from southern Mexico down to Honduras (endangered)
- Red Lored Parrot from the Caribbean Coast in southern Mexico down to Nicaragua
- Red Masked Parakeet from Ecuador and Peru
- Mitred Parakeet from Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina
- Blue Crowned Parakeet from eastern Colombia all the way south to Argentina
- Yellow Chevroned Parakeet from countries south of the Amazon River Basin
- Nanday Parakeet from central South America
- Blue (Turquoise) Fronted Parrot from central South America
- Monk Parakeet from the Amazon Forest in east and central South America—also known as the Grey-headed or Quaker parakeet in the United States.
Australia also has multiple species of parrots, including the well-known budgerigar (budgie). Most of their parrots originated in the jungles of Northern Australia. Over time, as the jungles shrank and weather patterns became dryer, many of Australia's parrots and parakeets moved south, adapting to the dryer climate and thriving there. Had these been the parrots released in Southern California, they would have quickly become invasive.
There is a theory that parrots migrated to Southern California from the jungles of Mexico, but that is likely false. Most parrots migrate only short distances to take advantage of weather changes in their native lands.
However, there are at least four plausible theories that do explain how the wild parrot population started in Southern California:
- There are verified reports of small bird traders in the 1940s and '50s who had accidents en route and let their wild-caught, caged parrots free without meaning to.
- In 1959, parrots were released from Simpson's Garden Town Nursery on the east side of Pasadena when it caught fire. Rather than watch 65–70 birds in the pet shop burn up, an injured employee, with the help of firefighters, freed as many as he could.
- In the San Fernando Valley, parrots are said to have been released in 1979 by Busch Gardens—an exotic tourist attraction theme park set up by Anheuser Busch to draw the public to their Van Nuys beer manufacturing facility. When the company moved its headquarters to a different location, they attempted to place their collection of birds in zoos and private homes, setting free those they were unable to place.
- Most of California's pet parrots showed up during a time when importing parrots was still legal—approximately 41,550 in the early '80s, according to Long Beach's Press Telegram News (08/22/13). However, as some parrot species became endangered in their home countries, their importation became illegal, and smugglers are said to have released parrots to avoid being caught.
Parents of young parrots teach them how to forage. Because most of the adults imported to Southern California were captured from the wild before being transported, they already knew how to forage, or they would not have survived. Now they reproduce in the wild locally, eating fruits from tropical trees also imported, and increasing their flocks to more than 600 birds in some city suburbs. How are those sizes possible without displacing native birds in some way?
Displacement of Local Birds
There are five main conditions ecologists check for to see whether a species is invasive or just "introduced"—i.e., not from around here, but also not taking away from native birds:
- Competing for food, water, and nesting sites (resources)
- Preying on local species and decreasing their populations
- Causing or carrying avian diseases
- Preventing native birds from reproducing or destroying their young
- Rapid growth, due to lack of predators
Studying the local population of wild parrots in Southern California in this light shows that they are not nearly as invasive as one would expect. They are noisy, true, but not invasive habitat-wise. The following exploration of these five conditions is taken from four main sources:
- Salvatore Angius started the online parrot monitoring site, Californiaflocks, in Long Beach CA.
- Kimball Garrett: Ornithology Collections Manager for the Los Angeles Natural History Museum (responsible for collecting and labeling birds).
- SoCal Parrot: Nonprofit group that rescues and rehabilitates wounded wild parrots.
- The World Parrot Trust: A parrot encyclopedia, informational links, and interesting blogs about parrots.
1. Resource Competition
Salvatore Angius has photographed and documented the habits of California's parrots and parakeets ever since two of his own escaped in the mid-1990s. He wasn't able to find his, but became fascinated with what he did find and now is planning a full-length, eye-witness documentary. On his website, he has already documented and photographed the eating, drinking, and nesting habits of most of the parrots in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. His findings correlate with those of Kimball Garrett.
Yellow Headed Amazon
In 1997 Kimball Garrett studied the birds to see how they had proliferated, what they were eating, and whether or not they were displacing or threatening native bird populations. At that time he counted around 2,500 wild parrots in the Los Angeles area alone eating nectar, seeds, fruits, nuts, and flowers of 55–60 types of trees and bushes. Nearly all of those were non-native, imported trees—eucalyptus, sycamore, magnolia, fig, date, olive, persimmon, pecans, cherry, kumquat, walnut, cedar and juniper berries, golden rain flower, palm nuts, and sometimes bark from certain trees.
Silk Floss Tree
Kimball found quite a few interesting parrot eating habits:
- Some birds are very picky about what they eat, and some eat almost anything.
- Some species eat exotic foods not found in their native areas, but learned from watching other kinds of parrots.
- Yellow Headed Parrots only have three types of food they like to eat in the wild, especially cashews.
- Rose-ringed Parakeets, primarily based in Bakersfield, also eat mandarin oranges, apples, sunflower seeds, mulberries, and some cereal grains.
- Yellow Chevroned parakeets are the only ones that feed on the flowers and fruit of the silk floss tree.
- Some of the parrots and parakeets will eat from bird feeders, given a variety of the right kinds of foods.
As for water, parrots get it from sources that also don't compete with native birds. They scoop it up from telephone wires and leaves of trees, and they suck out the liquid from tropical fruits, nectar from flowers, sap from the giant bird of paradise, and the milk of almonds.
When parrots roost, the whole flock occupies a tree, using neighboring trees for overflow. They tend to roost on summer nights in deciduous trees and in evergreen trees in winter—e.g., eucalyptus, sycamore, carrotwood, and live oak. In areas like Temple City and Arcadia, flocks of 650–750 have been seen roosting all at once. In late summer 5–10% of those are juveniles—proof that the parrots are mating in the wild.
When parrots nest, they don't build nests like smaller birds do, nor do they occupy the small holes that woodpeckers prefer. Instead, they hatch their young in large holes in tree trunks, cliff sides, and old telephone poles. The undersides of roof tiles also provide good nesting sites for some parrots.
2. Preying on Local Birds
Not only do parrots not eat local insects, but they also do not eat other birds. Because of the prevalence of tropical trees and flowers in the cities of California, there is plenty of food available that is similar to that of their native habitats, but that California native birds don't eat. Except possibly for the Rose-Ringed Parakeet in Bakersfield, parrots leave alone both the food of native birds and the birds themselves . unless they're playing. Parrots and crows have been seen chasing each other for fun.
3. Infecting Local Birds With Diseases
Not much is known about diseases that parrots bring; however, they have been around long enough that if they were carrying deadly diseases, local populations would have been affected already. In the 1980s parrot importation was banned, so most of those swelling local flocks come from young parrots raised here, rather than new ones coming from other lands. Investigation of dropped parrot feathers indicate that they have pretty good health. Only a relative few feathers contained feather lice and mites, but no dangerous avian diseases.
4. Limiting Reproduction of Native Birds
Local bird reproduction would be threatened by losing their eggs, nests, or hatchlings to parrots, but parrots do not take any of these things. Given their lifestyles, the only way parrots could really affect the reproduction of native birds is by taking over nesting sites. Although they may be doing some of it in cities, the birds they compete with there are opportunistic and adaptable, not the native birds that require specific native habitat. Nanday ("Black Hooded") Parakeets are the only ones observed nesting outside of cities. They inhabit the Santa Monica Mountains and bear watching.
5. Lack of Predators
Parrots actually do have predators in Southern California, it turns out. Peregrine falcons, Cooper's hawks, and red-tailed hawks prey on adults and juveniles. Squirrels, rats, opossums, raccoons, and feral cats go after the eggs and the hatchlings. Human tree trimmers often cut down branches that contain parrot nests, accidentally killing babies. Some parrots are driven out of their nests by colonizing bees.
In addition to being noisy and communicative, parrots are very smart, sometimes banding together against predators. In February of 1996 Karen Mabb, from CSU Long Beach, reported that she saw an accipiter hawk attack a flock of ten Amazons that were flying and foraging. When the hawk tried to grasp a parrot, the whole flock lifted itself higher than the hawk and started crowding and crashing into it, squawking loudly. The hawk flew away and didn't try again.
My curiosity has been satisfied, and satisfied in a way that I like, since I've always had a fondness for parrots. My mother used to have budgies when I was young (native to Australia), and I've often seen people at fairs carrying parrots and even cockatoos on their shoulders. I was happy to discover that most birders in SoCal do not view wild parrots or parakeets as invasive.
According to Kimball Garrett, "Since they are essentially restricted to highly modified urban and suburban habitats, they don’t really qualify as ecologically “invasive,” although they always have the potential to become so. In a couple of cases (mostly with Nanday Parakeets in the Santa Monica Mountains) some populations are occupying relatively natural habitat for nest sites, and that could potentially spell problems for some native species. But the birds mainly eat exotic, rather than native foods, and do not threaten native bird species in any other way, that we know of."
SoCal Parrot was founded by two licensed wildlife rehabilitators, per their website. They work with the wild parrot population to rehabilitate those that run into problems - like electrocution from wires, being hit by cars, or attacked by carnivores. The group's members consider themselves ambassadors to the wild parrots and they also state that the birds, although naturalized, are not invasive.
Other than taking over phone lines from local birds and chasing crows and mockingbirds, the wild parrots do not seem to be disturbing native birds much. Nanday Parakeets threaten nesting sites, but even they eat different foods from native birds and do not threaten them in any other way.
Wild parrots could be replacing children, however. According to one college student who left a comment on SoCal Running online, he heard "swings squeaking, whistles blowing, and laughter" of children in the playground of a church school during Easter break one year, but there were no children. The sounds were coming from a flock of parrots on the phone lines and trees above.
For Further Information About Parrots
- The Illegal Parrot Trade In Mexico | Defenders of Wildlife
This is a 121 page PDF report on Mexico's illegal parrot trade, partially funded by the US Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Questions & Answers
Question: I also live in Whittier. I have seen flocks of parrots for several years but this spring, I have two parrots flying around or perching on telephone poles or trees. Since they act like a pair, could they have a nest near here? Do they nest in palm trees?
Answer: Sounds like they are a pair, yes, and palm trees are a favorite nesting site for parrots. They usually take over holes started by woodpeckers who have made their own nests, where the parrots can enlarge it for themselves. If there are no palms around, or if woodpecker nest sites have been taken, parrots will pick any good hole to nest in, as long as it's large enough and/or can be enlarged further—like live trees with dead branches high above ground that have started to corrode or buildings with curved roof tiles. The parrots nesting in my back yard are in a sycamore and the ones nesting next door are in a tall conifer.
Question: I live in Whittier, CA, and wild parrots are here too, but they seem seasonal. Where do they go for the many months I don't see them?
Answer: Parrots don't migrate. They basically go where the food is, so they're still around somewhere. In my area, near Pasadena, they decrease during the winter months, rather than disappearing completely. Maybe some of our readers can tell us if their parrot populations increase during wintertime.
Question: I am curious about something. I grew up in the South Bay and always heard that in our local park by the ocean other birds like macaws and cockatiels lived amongst the wild parrots. How likely are macaws and cockatiels in the South Bay? I am also wondering because there is a cockatiel in my neighbor's neighbor's backyard on the telephone line and he won’t come down, no matter what I do. I'm wondering if this cockatiel is surviving by mimicking the wild parrots or following them in any way?
Answer: Birds of this sort learn how to survive in the wild from their mothers. When tame birds escape or are let loose, they don't know what to look for, so are either killed by local dogs or cats (or hawks) or they starve to death. However, some caged birds were actually born wild, so they WOULD know how to survive if let loose. That's what I would suspect is true with your neighborhood's cockatiel. (That neighbor might also be feeding him.) The others were most likely let loose by illegal traders who almost got caught or by owners who bought them wild and found them too much trouble to keep.
Question: I live in the San Gabriel Valley near railroad tracks. I often see wild parrots overhead. I also take the train to work and I seem them at the Station. Do they use the tracks as navigation?
Answer: That's a good question. I know migratory birds use the earth's magnetic field, combined with their sense of smell, to navigate long distances. But parrots are not known to migrate. They're from tropical regions where the weather does not change much, season to season.
On the other hand, there is a wider diversity of plant life. along railroad tracks. and it's easier to fly there in large numbers. So it may be that they are able to find nesting and resting sites more easily there. I haven't seen a difference in the Pasadena area, but that may be because our tracks follow the freeway, and birds don't like the steady flow of traffic along freeways.
Question: I live in Tustin, CA. Why do the parrots always fly east in the morning and west at dusk? Where do they go?
Answer: They fly in groups back and forth from eating places to roosting places. Your parrots have probably found great places to eat east of you, whereas their major roosting spots (for the night) are west of you. Where I live in Pasadena they fly the opposite direction—west in the morning, east at night—at least the ones that fly over my house do. It might be interesting for you to look for neighborhoods in your city that have a lot of exotic trees. Their fruits are what the parrots eat.
Question: Are these parrots protected in any way? Since they're "naturalized" they aren't endemic to North America. Therefore, they aren't protected from poachers are they?
Answer: Some areas are protected, yes. The US Dept. of Fish & Wildlife has an Urban Bird Treaty that 31 cities across the US have signed, including San Francisco in CA. It's an agreement to work collaboratively to preserve the habitats of birds of all kinds in cities, and no one is allowed to deliberately harm them. Here's the link, if you'd like to see if your city is on the map: https://www.fws.gov/birds/grants/urban-bird-treaty... Furthermore, a city can declare itself to be a Bird Sanctuary City, which is why it's illegal in Pasadena CA, for example, to kill either a wild parrot or the feral peacocks that run around the streets here. Meanwhile, in India and Costa Rica there are wild bird sanctuaries all over the country. They're well known tourist attractions, which may be the case in other countries too.
Question: I live in Sunnyvale, a town just north of San Jose, and we have a good-sized flock of Green Parrots in our neighborhood. Could these have migrated from SoCal or is it a local outbreak—somebody's pets that got loose?
Answer: Most likely they have migrated, or been released from a pet store or somebody's wild aviary. Parrots are taught by their parents how to forage for food, build nests, and avoid predators. If they didn't grow up in the wild, at least for a few years, they cannot survive without humans—they either starve or get eaten.
Question: I live in southern California in Imperial County. Calexico, the neighboring border town, has a lot of Monk parakeets. You did not mention this species. Have you seen these in any other place in the US?
Answer: Oooh, you're right. This is also known as the Grey-headed parakeet or Quaker parakeet, and I did not mention it. It looks to be widespread enough in the rest of the US that maybe I should have, though, so I'll add it. Thanks for the heads up!
Question: We found a red crown parrot with a possible broken wing. I live in Alhambra. Where can I take the bird to be fixed and be let free?
Answer: You can call the local SPCA at this number: (626) 792-7151. Call first. If they're available to accept the parrot, you can deliver it to 361 S. Raymond Ave, Pasadena CA 91105. They'll tell you what to do for it in the meantime.
Question: I read an article that stated that because Monk parakeets are so destructive that they are trying to eradicate them from California, and that you cannot even own one. Is this true?
Answer: Yes, It's true. It's illegal to own one in California and at least eight other states as well. In California, Monk parakeets (aka Quaker parakeets) were banned in the 1970s, primarily because of destruction they were causing to farms in the Central Valley, where they were congregating to eat cherries, grapes, corn, and pears. The state authorized local law enforcement officers, health officers, and agricultural enforcement officers to confiscate any parakeets seen or reported. Often the job is handled by the local Humane Society.
Since then other states, but especially Florida, have been having serious problems with power outages caused by the birds. The Monk parakeet is the only bird in the parrot/parakeet family that builds nests out of sticks, and their favorite location for them is in power substations and on electrical transformers. Because the nests are communal ones, they're huge! In 2001 alone Monk parakeet nests caused over 1,000 power outages in Florida.
© 2014 Sustainable Sue
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on May 15, 2020:
I agree, Blaze. I'm sure most of us have been noticing the difference in how the earth around us looks, smells, and sounds with nearly everyone staying inside. It's a wonderful change for the better. Thanks for being such a passionate supporter of a clean environment.
Blaze on May 15, 2020:
Jeesh all these ppl complaining about parrots because of noise or some fruit loss is just beyond amazing.
The amount of damage we as humans have done to this world is a million times worse than what any parrot could do. These birds have been here in southern CA for DECADES! Any problems would have been noticed by now.
I have MULTIPLE fruit trees in my backyard and when birds take fruit i look at it as if I'm giving back a little for nature. I mean were already spoiled enough asis and we live such self serving lives compared to the rest of the world that it's embarrassing! Now to read that some ppl are angry at noise from parrots? Wow. Talk about first world problems...
Meanwhile millions of automobiles are killing this world and wildlife, your neighbors are using gas guzzling lawnmowers to cut GRASS, the night sky is being shut out from light polluting and Elon Musks satellites (which are thout to disrupt the magnetic field slightly aswell) , THERE IS NOISE EVERYWHERE! The last of our worries are birds!
Baigel on January 12, 2020:
So many parrots in Long Beach!
jmuhj on September 06, 2019:
Really enjoy seeing -- and hearing -- the flocks who visit our area (NW Glendale, CA)
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on August 14, 2019:
That depends on where your father got them from. If they were bred here, probably not. If they were caught wild, then yes, there's a good chance they were some of the progenitors.
Jeffery Scism on August 14, 2019:
Up until 1969 we lived at Van Nuys Airport, and my father had 35 Nandays in an Aviary. The neighbor didn't like the noise, and one night he set them free. Could these be the progenitors of the West Valley Flock?
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on January 11, 2019:
I'm with you, Indigochild. I hate the sound of helicopters and, even though I know some of them are searching for lost hikers, I still think of war when I hear them. Then there's the sound of freeway traffic. :( I'd MUCH rather hear parrots squawking overhead.
Indigochild213 on January 10, 2019:
Hello, I'm sudden to hear that people don't want them in the neighborhood. I love it when I see them or any bird chime as loud and long as they wish. Hearing them is form of life and that they haven't yet been instinct and surviving like everyone else. I'm sure all the native animals that once roomed your backyard also are thinking the same about us and even worst by destroying their landscape, forest, and jungles. We need to learn how to coexist. I live in El Sereno/Alhambra are and just love the fact that in January where the most of the country is dealing with harsh weather, I could sit on my balcony and watch a flock of about 50 parrots chime and fly from palm tree to palm tree. I rather hear them and feel like I'm in a tropical paradise than to hear the ongoing traffic on Huntington Drive or helicopters give you the feeling of some being in Vietnam war.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on October 21, 2018:
Normally, the only thing that would keep wild parrots up at night is a full moon. Other than that, parrots are very tuned into the day/night cycle of the sun. The fly to a common (or habitual) perch around sunset, chattering to each other. They may fly up again and circle for a few minutes, but by the time the sun goes down, they're pretty much settled down too. So If it's not a full moon night and they're up at 2:00 a.m. then, yes, that's very unusual. Could be something woke them up and scared them.
Stephanie on October 21, 2018:
It's 2 am here in Pomona CA and parrots are squaking and flying past my house right now. Is this common? Seems odd that they're out at night.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on October 16, 2018:
There are many flocks of them in the San Francisco area. It's wetter up there, and they like the moisture in the air. They also like the height––skyscrapers as high as the most massive trees in the Amazon. Take a look. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2j7dgZNSB8
Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on October 15, 2018:
I have seen the wild parrots in San Diego. When visiting my daughter there I would often be wakened by them in the morning. I enjoy seeing them though.
It seems like I once heard about wild parrots in San Francisco. That seems like it would be a much harsher environment for them.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on October 15, 2018:
That depends on whether you're talking about wild parrots (which we are here) or tame ones. There haven't been many successful studies of parrots in the wild. They're notoriously good at pulling off any identification tags or trackers.
In the wild, the huge macaw parrots can live up to 60 years, whereas in captivity (where they're protected and well fed) they can live up to 85 or more years. A green parrot, being smaller, can live up to 60 years in captivity. In the wild . maybe 30 years? We don't really know.
Jim East on October 14, 2018:
On average how long do Green Parrots live?
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on August 30, 2018:
Common wisdom from sites that focus on the well being of parrots says that wild parrots survive because they learned how to in the wild. If they're escaped pets and they survive, they must have once been wild. How else would they know what to eat, where to nest, how to avoid predators, etc?Parrots born in captivity would not have learned that and would get nabbed pretty quickly . or starve. Squawking for food in the wild doesn't work. (lol) You have to actually search.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on August 30, 2018:
How many parrots do you have flying around there? We have a couple flocks of 25-50 each, and they're not bad. I do want to be woken up at around 6:30 when they come, so there's a definite benefit to me, although I can't imagine a night own would like it so much.
Bee Loves LAs Parrots on August 29, 2018:
Hey there. I grew up in the port of LA and always heard that escaped domestic parrots like cockatiels and macaws were seen living with the wild green parrots. How likely is this? Also am curious bc there is a cockatiel in my neighbors neighbors backyard and I matter what I do he won’t come to me. I am wondering is it possible he living with or learning from the wild parrots? Thanks for your informative post.
I as a Angeleno born and raised love the wild parrots and find them to be part of our beautiful interesting city
Bill S. on August 28, 2018:
To the Author: There is NO benefit to having parrots wake you up when you don't want to be woken up. I live in Temple City, and Outsiders do not understand this horrible parrot situation. there is soon coming a day when the homeowners and citizenry of Temple City will rise up and find a solution to get them out of the area. Our city and county Representatives have not listened to the people. So therefore what will start as a grassroots campaign to move or remove the wild parrots, will succeed, with or without any help from the government.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on August 22, 2018:
They love that palm fruit! :)
JENNY on August 21, 2018:
THE PARROTS COME TO CARLSBAD CALIFORNIA WHENEVER THE PALM FRUIT IS BIG AND TASTY
MJ on July 22, 2018:
I'm scared shitless of them!
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on July 17, 2018:
Cool. You can be my reference for the health of parrots. :) Thanks for your comment, Karen, and your additional information. I'm sure my other readers will appreciate it too.
Karen Mabb on July 17, 2018:
This is a really good article. I enjoyed the beautiful photos, too. BTW- in the section where you talk about lice, there isn't a reference. I carefully examined THOUSANDS! of parrot feathers and I only found ONE louse :) I never wrote that up in any publication and... it's interesting to me that my research corroborates your statements. Thank you for taking the time to make such a well laid-out and informative webpage. Another thought-- Budgies and cockatiels won't become established in SoCal because they are too domesticated and lack the plasticity in their behavior, it's not an issue of ecological similarity. They would need to rely on backyard bird feeders.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on June 14, 2018:
Thanks for your reply, KittenDub. If parrots are "taking over areas," it's because there's a lot of food for them there, which means lots of trees that are not native. If you really want to drive the parrots away, you and your neighbors might consider replacing the tropical trees with native ones natives. It's not easy, I know. You also might want to look up parrot predators and find ways to support them (maybe get a cat, if you don't have one), then get rid of any nesting sites in your neighborhood. Good luck.
KittenDub on June 13, 2018:
I'm not talking about killing them off, I'm talking about getting them to leave areas naturally. SoCal is not a natural habitat for them. I can see there are others here also who don't appreciate their over-bearing presence. Since there is no type of control, they literally breed like crazy and are taking over areas. My area has so many different types of birds it's wonderful! I'd hate to see that ruined because of these intruders. When things become imbalanced, something has to be done.
I love animals, nature, bugs - even spiders! And I like to see them everywhere I go. Except caged birds. I've never understood that and think it's one of the most horrible things a person could do: cage something that flies. How horrible that must be for that natural little being - bars. Anyway, I enjoyed all the great information you have on this page, and figured you would have valuable advice. But that's all right, I'll find some answers. Thank you ;)
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on June 13, 2018:
Try looking at the benefits of having them around. When they come around my place it's always about the same time of morning. I use them to know when to get up. They're a much more friendly alarm clock than the blasts of ear-shattering sound I get from mechanical ones.
Given that, if you are determined to hate them, you'll have to go elsewhere for ways of eradicating them. I'm not about to research that information for anyone––it would feel like a betrayal. Besides that I love wildlife in all its forms (except maybe spiders . and mosquitoes) and would rather see their wild habitats restored than deliberately kill them off.
KittenDub on June 13, 2018:
I have a question that is not going to be popular, but is there a way to eradicate, discourage, make an area unappealing to these mini green screaming chickens? I absolutely loathe them. I lived in an area in which they became prolific and it was HORRIBLE! People don't get it - 4 or 6 flying around, not too bad. But try dealing with 30-40! We even have crows, red tailed hawks, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, etc in our area, but what used to be just 2 that would fly over our canyon in the early morning, has turned into about 10. I want them to move on. Are there any cities that have plans or programs to eliminate them?
Perhaps we can wrangle them up and send them off to South Africa where they are becoming extinct.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on May 09, 2018:
That's exciting, Kb35! An unexpected benefit, huh? Congratulations on your new home!
Kb35 on May 09, 2018:
Just moved into my new home, we've had the parrots overhead the last 3 days. I do enjoy watching them. I counted 25.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on April 03, 2018:
Oh, too bad. I didn't know parrots eat apples, but then why not? They are tropical, having originated in Eastern Asia. I have two suggestions. 1–Do you have a cat? Parrots generally eat on the ground, so if you let your cat out during their feeding frenzy, it may be able to chase them away . or at least make them think twice about coming back too often. 2–Parrots don't like garlic, which also has a pretty strong smell. You could try planting a bunch near the apple trees and see what happens. Good luck, SoCal Garden, and thanks for your comment.
SoCal Garden on April 02, 2018:
Yours' was, by far, the best explanation of the diverse species existing in the world of parrots. I thank you for the beautiful video and helpful labels added to the photos. As a home gardener, I am extremely frustrated by these large green birds. For thirty years, I have grown beautiful peach and apple trees on my little plot of land in the suburban San Gabriel Mountain area. We live in a cooler microclimate and have a few more child days to make apple trees viable despite our drought. My three trees produced enough fruit to give small baskets of apples to our neighbors, while still retaining enough to feed our family. Our beautiful smaller species of birds couldn't penetrate the apples with their beaks. so every year my crop was left undisturbed. I planted plenty of colorful flowers for the hummingbirds and the insects and worms in my organic garden provided a daily diet for them. Five years ago, in just one season, my beautiful garden was turned upside down. The green parrots arrived, disrupting the peace our entire neighborhood. Every morning and evening, a rampage in my trees occurs. They decimate my young apples, leaving what looks like the remnants of a fruit salad below the tree on our cement driveway. I clean up large swaths of shredded apples on our cement driveway that reign from above in their daily attack. I don't hate wildlife, but when too many of one species take over a formerly diverse habitat, nothing good comes of it. As you have read, London has feral parrots in many communities that are not necessarily welcomed by the residents either. I believe the less dominant birds may not be in immediate danger, but there is no doubt, they have certainly been chased away and their food source hogged by these large bullies because they are no longer hopping about in my trees in the morning. I am going to buy netting this year, but I guarantee you, the strong, sharp beaks of these wild parrots will cut right through whatever I put up there.
heather winkle on March 22, 2018:
I have seen the parrots/parkaeets not sure what species yet, disturbing the native bird populations here in the Santa Monica Mountains. They are pushing the spatial balance and causing a disruption. Sure, not scientifically calculated but precautionary principal says we must be vigilant in the destruction of ecological balance. I heard the flock try to mimic the calls of a red shouldered hawk right at its nest. I feel that the parrots are not a good addition to the fragile balance of this beautiful ecosystem. Capture them!
jmuhj on December 03, 2017:
The parrots are here in summer and infrequently at other times. I'm hearing small numbers of them now (November-December) flying through but not stopping. It's thrilling to see and hear them. They bother no one and do not eat my fruit from my trees at all. It's great having them here and I hope they continue to thrive.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on November 11, 2017:
I do too. Sometimes I wake up to a couple of them squawking in the trees next door, and I feel like all is well with the world.
Nancy on November 10, 2017:
I love the parrots. It makes meverything feel good to see and hear them. The other birds and squirrels seem to ignore them.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on September 08, 2017:
Their colors blend in really well with the leaves of most trees so, unless you actually saw them fly into the tree, it's really hard to know how many there are. I'll go grab my camera when I hear them in the yard next door or see them close to my home in Altadena, but a second later they've disappeared, even though I can still hear squawks nearby. They're amazing.
Amber K. on September 07, 2017:
A week ago here in Eagle Rock a flock of about 80 parrots flew out of my neighbor's tree. I went to look because it sounded like what I imagine the neighborhood would sound like if it had been taken over by pterodactyls! I couldn't believe so many birds fit into that one tree at once.
Fred Fisher on August 19, 2017:
A whole flock of parrots have taken over an oak tree in my yard, this last month. A bit on the noisy side, especially when I run machinery, other then that they don't bother anyone. They seem to want to chime in when I run my `13 horse power gas compressor.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on August 13, 2017:
Oops, you're right, Diana. Don't know what I was thinking. Thanks for reading and thanks for the tip. I've corrected it.
Diana...Just another Colombian. on August 12, 2017:
Incorrect spelling of the country Colombia.
On #8 you write: Blue Crowned Parakeets from eastern Columbia all the way south to Argentina.
Colombia is not spelled with a U. A common mistake when people aren't familiar with the country.
Eddie Wiest on June 25, 2017:
A comment for acorniv. A note on invasive species. It doesn't take thousands of years for species to integrate and when they do there's natural selelections that will come into play. The cattle egret and green Ibis migrated across an ocean and up into North America. Now how long did that take? Well I couldn't tell you exactly but I can tell you they weren't present when I was in grade school down in the desert southwest. Now they're there in the millions keeping our cricket populations under control. A very good thing.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on August 11, 2016:
@Randy - I didn't know we had any native parrots here, but you're right! It was the only one. How awesome. Apparently Europeans drove 13 animals to extinction when we took over these lands, and that was one of them. Here's an article.
Randy Godwin on August 10, 2016:
The Carolina parakeet was a common sight when the first Europeans arrived on the east coast. Unfortunately they became extinct around 1920, supposedly because the old growth forests--which they preferred for nesting-had mostly disappeared. It was actually a parrot rather than a parakeet.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on August 10, 2016:
Probably not very well. Our fruit trees are not tropical, though, so they don't go after them. We just have grapefruit, oranges, and plums.
Scott on July 04, 2016:
I wonder how many of you who are so enthralled would react if these parrots were literally ravaging YOUR fruit trees?!?
Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on July 03, 2014:
It seemed to be healthy and was perched on a cornstalk at the edge of a whole field of corn. Plenty to eat all around the green bird so I hope it made it to Florida before cold weather set in. I like to imagine it surviving at any rate, SS. :)
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on July 03, 2014:
Hmmm. There's a good chance that bird won't survive, according to parrot rescue services here in California. Too bad it wouldn't let you catch it, Randy.
Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on July 02, 2014:
I've only observed one parrot in the wild here in southeastern Georgia. Fortunately I had a witness at the time. We have a sub-tropical climate down here but I believe it was an escaped pet as it didn't seem too afraid of me at the time. I tried to catch the bird but it would simply fly a short distance away when I got within a few feet of where it was perched.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on July 02, 2014:
South Africa is also losing its one species of parrot, due to habitat loss. Apparently the only tree it thrives on is the yellowwood tree, which forests have been decimated for lumber. Now the parrots are trying to survive on pecans, but there are less than 1,000 of them left. South Africa is starting to replant yellowwoods. Read this National Geographic article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/13...
tmbridgeland from Small Town, Illinois on July 01, 2014:
I know I shouldn't because they are often destructive, but I can't help but cheering for them, when I hear stories like these. From wild boars, to rhesus monkeys and boas, and now parrots.
One thing to remember though, the North American continent is very low on native species, due to the mass die-off at the end of the last ice age, and a second die-off after the European invasion. So there are lots of ecological spaces that used to be filled and are now empty. The current environment is anything but natural, and the current spread of species is not natural either. GO PARROTS!
Sunardi from Indonesia on June 28, 2014:
I like the color of this Yellow Headed Amazon. Very wonderful.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on June 28, 2014:
With changing weather patterns as well, I anticipate our environmental future is going to be very interesting. I can totally see parrots loving Hawaii and taking over there. I also see why one doesn't see parrots in Tennessee. I was just there with my sister, and that's some flat country! Nice and green, but not too many tropical trees.
Thanks for reading and commenting everyone. It's cool to see how widespread these naturalized parrot/parakeet populations are.
Imogen French from Southwest England on June 28, 2014:
We have colonies of wild parakeets living in Britain now, especially in London, and I find it quite exciting to see them. I don't think they cause too much of a problem, but there are other species such as the grey squirrel which was brought in to parks in days gone by and has now out-competed our native red squirrel to near extinction. I don't know what the answer is.
Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on June 28, 2014:
I'm glad to see that wild parrots are not considered invasive. I had parakeets as a child, and often thought it would be neat if they could survive in the wild. But living in Tennessee and Kentucky, I never saw any wild parrots at all.
Viet Doan from Big Island, Hawaii on June 28, 2014:
Very interesting hub. Here in Hawaii we also have parrots problem. Tourists think they're native birds but they're not! Originated from escaped pets or accidental released, they're now multiplying fast and taking over all the islands. Huge flocks of parrots (green with red crown) live in the forest/mountain areas where they thrive on wild mango and guava. They make such a ruckus, screeching noisily in early morning when they fly into town and raid the fruit trees in our gardens and farms.
CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on June 28, 2014:
Very interesting hub. Surprisingly we also have a problem with invasive parakeets in the UK. If we have a hard winter it thins them out a bit, but them seem to have adapted well to the colder weather. They are a real problem for fruit farmers, make a lot of noise and create problems for native bird species
Moon Daisy from London on June 28, 2014:
Hi, I'm glad that I came across this hub. We have wild parrots flying around North London too! It's really hard to believe, but we've been recently seeing strange bright yellow birds flying through the sky and squawking and screeching loudly.
We don't know the history of this like you do, but is thought to be due to caged birds escaping and learning to live wild. They're amazing to see, but we worry about how they'll affect the local wild birds.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on June 28, 2014:
Thanks everyone! From the things I've been reading, pet parrots seldom survive in the wild. They have to know how to forage and they learn that when young from their wild parents. With parrots they grew up in a cage that doesn't happen.
There are wild parrots in Florida too - naturalized, like here in SoCal. Here is a website where someone has been collecting photographs from anyone who wants to donate them. http://floridaswildparrots.blogspot.com/
Dianna Mendez on June 28, 2014:
I found your article interesting and informative. I can see why you it is the HOTD. Excellent work. Congratulations! Here in South Florida we occasionally see a parrot in the wild, most likely an escaped pet. It is a shame people do not consider the consequences of having an exotic pet. When they tire of it, they release it into the wild. The after effect is upon the whole commuity.
Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on June 28, 2014:
Since I grew up with a parrot--Polly in our home--I wanted to read this hub. Your detailed information and video was very informative.
I would love to have wild parrots around me in Florida, but so far I have not seen any.
Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on June 28, 2014:
The Carolina parakeet once thrived in the southeast of North America but became extinct in the early 20th century. Interesting hub!
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 28, 2014:
Interesting article. I imagine there will be plenty of unemployed Californians out hunting those birds since the prices there are so high.
Lucy Jones from Scandinavia on June 28, 2014:
Fantastic hub and well deserving of HOTD. Scandinavia is more than likely a little too cold for this type of gorgeous bird. We have mostly Eagles and lots of Woodpeckers of various types - but equally as gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
acorniv on June 25, 2014:
Stores sell what sells, what grows easily and what they can get cheaply. Translation: "whatever is a potential problem". This problem - with both flora and fauna, is why we need more, not less critical thinking in schools.
It is important to inform stores, but also to help discourage bad choices by resourcing alternatives and educating them.
The library in Waynesville NC is the first in the US (maybe world) to have a seed library, where you can check out native heirloom seeds and replenish them at the end of the season. They have wonderful free lectures on germinating and gathering seeds too. If anyone has an interest in their own library doing that, they can contact the Waynesville library for help in setting it up.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on June 25, 2014:
Eucalyptus is a horrible tree to have in SoCal, yet they're all over. Originally they came from the open, seaside cliffs of Australia, where ocean sprays acted as a fire retardent. But here the spray is not strong enough and we don't limit the tree to the coast, so there's little natural control of it . beyond the lack of surface water, which itself is a problem.
I agree with you completely. I hope people are waking up to the need to chose plants carefully, realizing that local stores are only providing what sells. The store's purchasing staff don't know what works best in an area any better than the local population does, so buyers have to guide them.
acorniv on June 25, 2014:
Some of us are becoming more aware - and some regions are becoming more aware, usually because of some disaster, but as long as non native species are sold as a point of purchase plant in grocery stores, and dominate hardware stores and nurseries, we'll have an ever more serious problem. One thing that is certain - rapid introduction of new species is never good. In the past, the introductions came one at a time (say, one a century or two a millennium) and there is time for the existing flora and fauna to work it out. Now, between world wide trade and ignorance or disregard, we've accelerated it into chaos that few humans notice. You get one aggressive invasive vine like English ivy, kudzu or Virgina creeper, that isn't a food source for anything, and that vine chokes off trees and destroys whole forests. In the process, they create more homes for birds and other fauna, but since they destroy their ood sources, it ends badly in the long run. The same with trees like eucalyptus, which are oil filled and have shallow root systems. They explode in flames and spread fires rapidly. That was what happened with the East Bay Hills Fire and is what regularly happens in Santa Barbara. It's now illegal to have eucalyptus trees in the East Bay Hills ( behind Berkely and Oakland in California) but that doesn't work in more rural areas.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on June 24, 2014:
Thanks for your interesting comments, acorniv. Americans seem to have an addiction for anything exotic - which the yucca is to North Carolina. But do they have the fauna to support it? I imagine eventually with everybody mixing it up the way we are, we might end up with a completely different ecosystem in this country. Whether it works very well???
acorniv on June 22, 2014:
In reference to Arthur Keyword's comment, parrots are birds. Birds nest in a myriad of ways, many of them in crevices. Different types of parrots have different habits. Amazons, for example, are what I call tree chickens - they have a heavy body type and short wings and tail that make it easier to walk from tree to tree than to fly. I've lived places that had flocks of Amazons that were rarely seen, because they tend to stick to the trees, however the mccaws in Santa Barbara ( who roost in my uncle's trees) are often seen winging across the sky.
Much of Southern California is considered subtropical as are parts of Texas and the American South, so some of the plants that support parrots are native. Santa Barbara is particularly tropical - and where I'd head if I were a wayward parrot. That said, every grocery and hardware store sells plants that have no business in the region they're sold to. The Asheville North Carolina area is abloom in yucca plants right now, because some yucca salesman managed to sell them in the Smoky Mountains. That is not only ecologically stupid, it looks stupid.
Sustainable Sue (author) from Altadena CA, USA on June 16, 2014:
You're welcome Arthur. The biggest aha! for me was how the importation of tropical plants and trees in Southern California was what allowed the parrots to survive. You wouldn't believe how many tropical trees there are here! And all in the cities. Parrots are not jungle birds here, they're city birds.
Arthur Keyword from Kenya on June 16, 2014:
this is very interesting, i never knew that parrots hatch their young in large holes of tree trunks. In fact i always thought that their lifestyle resembles that of birds. Big thanks for sharing this amazing history about parrots
Can I catch and sell parrots of Whittier on May 13, 2018:
Can we catch and sell the parrots of whittier
Sustainable Sue from Altadena CA, USA on June 15, 2014:
I concur with Thomas Keeney. We have parrots here in Pasadena, and when I researched to write a hub about them, found an old newspaper article about the pet store fire. In that article it states that one employee was injured freeing the birds and firefighters helped. So that story is verified. There are others as well. And personally, I think knowing those origins enhances the party, rather than pooping it. )
Sal on April 02, 2012:
There are various species thriving well in many of california's cities. I post many of my videos of the these various species videos with locations on my YT channel: Californiaflocks
Nadine (Norwalk/La Mirada Area) on October 03, 2011:
well I had the opportunity to just see them on Saturday 10/01/2011. It was crazy they all flew in our trees in our yard and the neighbors. It was beautiful and scary @ the same time
Jon on August 03, 2011:
I grew up in Los Angeles and never saw any wild parrots. I first observed a flock of wild Amazon Parrots in 1989. This Flock can still often be seen on Pier Ave in Hermosa Beach.
I've also seen flocks in Santa Ana, San Fernando and just last week saw a flock flying around my home, in Thousand Oaks. Wild parrots can be seen all over So. Cal.
getreal19783 on June 21, 2011:
Seen them in the city of La Verne! Hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of them! Just the other evening on was sitting in my backyard, probably lost, then flew away!
Sitting prettier in Whittier on May 17, 2011:
Hank on May 06, 2011:
Some of them were released when Busch Gardens closed in Van Nuys decades ago.
Peter on January 02, 2011:
I lived in So Pasadena 18 yrs ago and saw this flock in a tree right outside my apartment one time.
RUNINDC on January 02, 2011:
I am so glad to hear this. As a proud sun conure owner, it is refreshing to hear that there are wild parrots in Calif. Thanks for sharing.
lorobolivia on September 01, 2010:
When we see parrots in homes, in petshops or free flying parrots. we see only a very small part of a very big tragedy that hides behind.
The tragedy of a species that for centuries till today is suffering captivity, persecution, legal and ilegal trade.
Thanks to all of you that celebrate freedom by enjoying the freedom of others.
Tom Ogren on May 14, 2010:
I love seeing the wild parrots. The idea that they are not "native," and hence should be "eradicated," well, that just sucks. Bad attitude for sure. How many of us are really native? We're all immigrants here in the US (except the American Indians). so let's welcome these beautiful wild parrots!
A few days ago, at Beale Park, in Bakersfield (corner of Oleander and Palm) I saw a few dozen Rose-ringed Parakeets. awesome creatures.
Tom, a birder who appreciates ALL wild birds
Annie Parque on December 19, 2009:
Good Morning Michigan Park
We parrots are out and about, it is time to rise and shine. It is Saturday and Christmas is near. We want to start your day as happy as possible. So get up and don't forget to smile and look to the sky for a beautiful day.
Diana on December 04, 2009:
These appear to be the same type I owned growing up: Red-Naped Amazon parrots, worth several thousand dollars apiece. I somehow doubt frustrated owners "throw them out the door", as someone else claimed, even though they can be loud and destructive (somewhat like a dog chewing through everything in site). I, too, had an Amazon parrot growing up and it escaped out an open door and sat in a tree near our house for an hour and no attempt to coax it back worked, including setting its cage and favorite roost on the front lawn with its favorite treats. It would have either assimilated, died outright, or have been recaptured when in the beginning stages of distress, after being unable to fend for itself. (The latter I've seen firsthand from adopting many parakeets and even a conure friends, family and neighbors have "found" wild in SoCal.) Similar escapes, combined with breeding, would explain how the flocks continue to grow. So I personally am not convinced there was any single incident but rather many incidences over the years where these birds have escaped and bred in SoCal.
Every morning our Amazon parrot was let out of its cage to spend the day on a driftwood roost, and we had lincoln logs rigged around this vertical spiral of wood that he scaled each morning, screeching all the way up to the top (about 6" tall). That nosy squawk is how they greet the day and also how they end it, so when I heard but couldn't see them initially in the Whittier area, this is what kind of parrot came to mind at the sound of their calls. Then one day I was able to capture a close up photo and that was the clincher as far as ID. By contrast, "The Parrots of Telegraph Hill" in the Bay Area are conures, a considerably smaller parrot. It may well be that Whittier's own Amazons are the largest of the parrot breeds to naturalize the area. However, they are not in all areas of Whittier. I have yet to see or hear of them in the Friendly Hills area off of Colima, for example. It would be interesting to hear any accounts of what may be sustaining them in the neighborhoods near Whittier Blvd., Santa Gertrudes, First St. and the like.
I once saw an small flock of Amazons in Fullerton land in a juniper tree where they hastily devoured the green juniper berries, but mostly I've seen and heard them each morning and night flying over South Whittier. This past Spring their numbers thinned dramatically and there was no longer a consistent flight path overhead, and I missed the morning and nightly squawk fest. I was concerned that the City or State had taken action to cull their numbers because, as someone else said, they are not native here and I don't believe they have any special protections under the law as such. Slowly, their numbers returned, however. First by pairs, then by the dozens and now I see them by the hundreds, as they have for the past 5-7 or so years by my count. Although they rarely land on any of the trees in my neighborhood, they take the same route day after day. Consequently, I wonder if anyone knows their roosting point at night? It can't be far.
I am also curious if anyone has witnessed what they eat? There are a lot of citrus in the area and I know they don't prefer citrus as a general rule. (Ours liked bananas, apples, pears, carrots and dry foods like sunflower and peanuts.) I assume they are making considerably different dietary choices in the wild, however, since this isn't a native habitat and they don't have access to pet store food (unless somebody somewhere is feeding them?). It also amazes me that they understand what is safe to eat and don't kill themselves off eating toxic plants. (Avocados, for instance.)
In closing, I don't think there was any one "incident" that landed them in Whittier. They have a lifespan similar to humans so it may well be that three or four individuals escaped from individual homes after which they heard and saw individual members flying about in the years/decades following. If there were a pet store accident, especially a fire that resulted in the release of many birds, chances are it would be in a local newspaper archive and that would confirm whether this explanation represents local lore vs. true-life recollection.
Rhiannon on August 16, 2009:
I was in Whittier visiting family today and I saw them! It was the coolest thing. I was at Jordan Rd and Whittier Blvd, and they were everywhere. I was born and raised in Whittier, but I don't remember them from the 80's.
Maybe I just wasn't paying attention. :)
WildParrot on June 07, 2009:
as climates get warmer we will see more and more escaped pet parrots starting to breed in the "wild" around towns
Whittier Guy on May 29, 2009:
Regardless of where they came from, Parrots are exciting to watch and hear.Reminds me when i visited my family in Sinaloa Mexico where they also exist in great numbers.
craig walters on April 30, 2009:
my name is Craig Walters and you probably know of me as i am a pssitologists who specialized in California parrots and i have written article for several online sites etc. so you know there is some idelogy that the wild parrots have come from pet stores due to bands on their thigh which is the lower part of their legs with id numbers etc but some do not have the band so there is also some talk of them escaping from owners. this to update people..there are 13 species now flying free in California with 5 genuses and over 10,000 individuals and not like Ally,Karen Mabb and others who concentrate on their regional parrots flocks. i concentrate on the whole state and it seems the parrots continue to breed in the wild and have established themselves in new territory. i can say territory as i have seen some rivarly between flocks and other native birds but not to the degree of being invasive, not quite yet!
The parrots are here to stay and like many immigrants in humans who come here for the so called milk and honey or the sweets of california, so have the parrots. i have calculated that by 2020 that we will have over 20,000 parrots in California and this is still far behind Florida's current population of 25,000.
so y'all know there are some 90 species of psitticids in the United States so this is not just Florida and Caifornia we are talking about.
source is.. Field Guide to Birds Of North American @ 2008
Annette Regalado on January 02, 2009:
I love them. I get happy to see them, YES I know there noisy and some sunday mornings that's the last thing I want to hear. But overall its God's gift and there amazinging to watch. I would stop whatever I'm doing just to run out in the back yard to see them. I always puts a smile on my face. :)
raymond a apodaca on October 06, 2008:
I have at least 200 300 amazonas sleepin rt now on my front yard oak tree. every day they comeback. it takes 5-10 min to knock,aall 300 birds fall asleep at once.no mess just awesome birds.R.A
Thomas Keeney on September 28, 2008:
Dear Ms Whittier Girl: Unfortunately, we do have direct evidence (aka knowledge) of how the various taxa of parrots came to be in the greater Los Angeles basin. All one has to do is read the literature, scientific or otherwise. As I did state in my previous comment, the only way these parrots came to be in the Los Angeles Basin was that they were transported here. They did not fly here on their own fro central and south America, hence they are migratory in their natural behavior. Kimball Garrett and Karen T. Mabb, Section of Vertebrates, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, state: “The increasing establishment of parrots in southern California, with populations now exceeding 2 500 individualism in the greater Los Angeles area alone suggests at impacts of these on natives species own food resources could becomes substantial. Although largely confined to highly modified urban and suburban habitats dominated by non-native flora, the several naturalized parrot taxa nevertheless may damage ornamental and commercial fruit trees and possibly compete with native bird species for food” (Western Birds 28:196-201, 1997). According to Karen T. Mabb of the California Parrot Project: “Many of the wild parrots are out there in the first place because their owners could not stand them and threw them out of the nearest window, despite the hundreds of dollars they spent on them. They are messy, noisy, and these wild parrots can carry many diseases and parasites. I also hear rumors of people cutting into nest cavities and taking chicks. The destruction of nest cavities for the purpose of harvesting chicks is one of the reasons parrot populations are in such peril in areas where they are endemic. Cutting open cavities affects the health of the tree and destroys the cavity FOREVER, rendering it useless for parrots and, more importantly, for native animal species”. http://www.natureali.org/parrot_project/suburban_j.
Whittier Girl on September 16, 2008:
Mr. Keeney. you are a big party pooper!
No one really has any idea how these parrots came to be here. I would venture to say they could have been part of the old Japanese Deer Village in Buena Park many years ago, or when Knott's Berry Farm was a quaint place to visit. Could have been escapees from a pet store. but to state that they were "either released or escaped from ILLEGAL (ooooh) pet transport" is just another theory.
Thomas W. Keeney on September 07, 2008:
Well folks, you are all in error. The parrots in the Los Angeles area, Pasadena, Alhambra, Whittier, Santa Monica etc were never natural here in coastal southern California. They were in fact brought here from south and central America and either released or escaped from illegal pet transport over international boundaries or pet stores. They are not part of the coastal southern California bird fauna and like other non-native birds, house sparrows European starlings, they need to be dispatched and eradicated. All birds of within the US are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act except for those taxa that are not native which include the parrots as well as other taxa.
Pam Pounds (author) from So Cal Girl in the Midwest! on September 03, 2008:
Hi Victor - I am actually not too far from you! And - I am the same way! I run out every time the parrots come squawking and flying by. I love to see them fly overhead and then land in the neighborhood trees. They really ARE fascinating! I would love to see them up close.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write a comment!
Victor Ainza on September 03, 2008:
Wow. I also live in Whittier near Beach and Whittier boulevards I have often seen but especially HEARD the parrots. It was last summer, while walking on Russel that I saw a flock of more than 50 parrots sitting on telephone wires squaking away. I am truly amazed to see them and every time I hear them I rush out to catch them in flight. Friends and family think I'm crazy but I do find them to be fascinating. Great to see someone else with the same appreciation for them as well.
Pam Pounds (author) from So Cal Girl in the Midwest! on August 16, 2008:
Hi Patty - a sky full, a tree full, and an ear full! They are great - I love it when they come!
Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 11, 2008:
I cannot even imagine a sky full of parrots - I want to go there!
Pam Pounds (author) from So Cal Girl in the Midwest! on August 06, 2008:
Thanks for your comment, Dafia - birds are SO beautiful. and I love to watch them. I keep a bird feeder full in my yard. I just wish we had more varieties where I live. I'd be outside all day just watching them!!
dafla on August 06, 2008:
We have flocks of wild monk parakeets (also called quaker parrots) in Florida, as well as a few stray macaws, parrots, and cockatiels. Unfortunately, the smaller birds usually become food for some larger bird of prey. I have three cockatiels myself, but they are very safely kept under lock and key in an aviary on the back porch.
Pam Pounds (author) from So Cal Girl in the Midwest! on August 06, 2008:
Thanks, Doghouse! I agree - very cool for them to be free. I love hearing them swing by overhead - even tho' they ARE noisy!
In The Doghouse from California on August 06, 2008:
I totally used to live in Arcadia. the birds were always there. They are really fascinating, but noisy to say the least! It is kind of cool that they are wild and free. Great idea to write about them.
Wild parrots fill the soundscape in Los Angeles
By Ursula K. Heise | KCET/UCLA
Friday, June 8, 2018
Her name was Lola. No, not L-O-L-A, Lola, from the Kinks’ song, but a Mexican Redhead.
Well, actually, not that either, it turned out.
“We don’t really say that anymore,” the avian veterinarian said as he helped Lola out of her carrier. “She’s an Amazon. A green-cheeked Amazon, Amazona viridigenalis. That’s what the scientific name means. Though most people just call them red-crowned parrots.”
That was my introduction to a bird species, one of whom I adopted ten years ago from a friend of a friend, as these things go among people who live with pet birds. But it was only after I moved to Los Angeles that I found out about her feral cousins, the large wild flocks of red-crowned parrots that live in the San Gabriel Valley, just northeast of Los Angeles.
Wild parrots roosting on a tree in Pasadena(Photo by Ursula K. Heise, UCLA)
Parrots are not uncommon around Los Angeles. More than a dozen different species have established wild populations in the area, descendants of pet birds that escaped at some point and managed to make a home for themselves in some part of the sprawling metropolis. But, for the red-crowned parrots, Los Angeles is more than an additional habitat. The city is a sanctuary for this endangered species.
In the 1970s and ’80s, tens of thousands of chicks and adults were poached from the red-crowned parrots’ original habitat in northeastern Mexico, in the states of Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí, and brought to the United States to be sold in the pet trade. Because of the poaching and habitat loss from deforestation, their population dwindled in Mexico, and red-crowned parrots are now listed as an endangered species in Mexico and by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
In the meantime, however, their pet cousins in the United States escaped or were let go by owners who realized too late that wild-caught parrots make terrible pets, and that even tamed ones are demanding and noisy. Red-crowned parrots established sizable wild populations in Florida and California. In the Los Angeles area, there are about 2,000 to 3,000 individuals, a number that could at this point rival or exceed that of the remaining wild population in Mexico. Feeding largely on non-native nut and fruit trees, red-crowned parrots started to breed and became a permanent feature of the greater Los Angeles landscape over the course of the 1980s and ’90s.
In 2001, the California Bird Records Committee added them to the list of California state birds, where they joined species such as house sparrows, rock pigeons (the ones that perch on every urban power line), and starlings: species that are not native to the state, but have become integrated into California ecosystems over the last century.
An electric box in South Pasadena painted with red-crowned parrots by Tatiana Viquez (Photo by Ursula Heise, UCLA)
I feel a small sense of wonder every time it strikes me that two of the birds who live with me are members of an endangered species whose members have become “naturalized citizens” of California. And I’ve been overcome with awe every time I’ve gone to see hundreds of red-crowned parrots come in to land in one of their night roosts in Pasadena.
But the implications of these parrots’ presence in the city goes beyond emotion and aesthetics. It makes me wonder, could Los Angeles become a sanctuary for other endangered species – even those who are not native to Southern California?
Some ecologists think so. Brad Shaffer, a biology professor at UCLA, notes that cities not only destroy habitat, but also create new living spaces for animals and plants. Some of these spaces work well for native species, while others don’t. Some of these modified landscapes could offer refuge to species that are struggling to survive in their original habitats elsewhere.
In the past, some of the new ecological niches that have been created in cities have been occupied by non-native species through sheer serendipity, by plants or animals like the red-crowned parrots that happened to land in town and know how to take advantage of the niches they found.
But what if we deliberately offered sanctuary to endangered species in our cities – those that are native but also those that are not?
Shaffer suggests that spotted turtles, for instance, which are endangered on the East Coast of the United States, might thrive in Los Angeles. Endangered geckos might find an ecological niche on and around parts of our buildings that are currently unoccupied by any native lizards.
Of course, any experiment along these lines would have to be carefully planned and closely monitored – both to protect the introduced plants or animals from being exposed to new risks, and to prevent them from becoming invasive and causing harm to native species we want to conserve. So a great deal of scientific, legal, and educational work would need to be done to make cities function as something like “urban arks” in our current era of a possible sixth mass extinction caused by humans.
This idea might seem counter intuitive. After all, aren’t introduced species, moved around by humans, one of the root causes of ecological crises? From eucalyptus trees to ring-necked pheasants and zebra mussels, introduced species often compete with native flora and fauna for habitat and food. In some cases, they overwhelm native species and become “invasive” – a label we give to species that spread and cause harm to native ecosystems. Examples leap readily to mind: Feral cats have eaten their way through much of Australia’s native fauna, the brown tree snake has driven at least half a dozen bird species to extinction on the island of Guam, and kudzu – an East Asian arrowroot originally introduced for erosion control – turned into “the plant that ate the South” in the United States.
Invasive kudzu fills a forest. (Photo by Robert Michalove, Flickr Creative Commons)
These striking examples of environmental harm tend to make one forget that the majority of introduced species either disappear quickly or integrate into existing ecosystems without triggering ecological disaster. And imagining an “urban ark” would not be the same as introducing new species into wild areas that retain intact native ecosystems, but instead into environments that are already fundamentally transformed from their earlier states. Cities are in effect largely novel ecosystems that offer quite different ecological opportunities – as well as risks – than the ecosystems they replaced. An “urban ark” would seek to take advantage of these opportunities rather than letting them occur by accident – as they usually do.
The fact that urban landscapes, like many agricultural landscapes, are such new ecosystems — complex patchworks of native and introduced species, some desirable, some not, some invasive, some not – has led to something of a split among ecologists today.
Restoration ecology, the effort to reconstruct ecosystems that existed in a place at a particular time in the past, and to get rid of species that did not form part of the landscape in the past, remains an important project, especially in areas that are not primarily designed to sustain human populations.
But other ecologists have suggested that where a species comes from matters less than how it functions in its contemporary environment, especially in human-designed habitats such as cities.
From this perspective, the most important question for thinking about urban biodiversity in a city such as Los Angeles is not “What species used to be here?” Instead we should ask, “What animals and plants should form part of our environment in the future?”
That question can’t be answered without taking into account the city’s social and cultural diversity along with its biological one. Along with solid scientific research, we need forums for discussing what I like to call “multispecies justice”: the relationship between what it’s right to do by other people and what it’s right to do by other species.
Multispecies justice aims to create better urban habitats for both humans and nonhumans – sanctuaries that encourage both biological and cultural diversity.
Some discussions are already underway on how we might translate such a vision into reality: reintroducing native oaks and sages, for example, while providing space for community gardens that are full of plants brought to Los Angeles from around the world reconciling respect for the lives of feral cats with the protection of urban birds and balancing the need for more affordable housing with the desire for more green spaces in urban areas that don’t have enough of either.
Turning the city into a multi-species sanctuary should be part of these discussions – not only because the city is already functioning in this way for species like the red-crowned parrots, but also because other humans and non-humans might need our “urban ark” in the future.
This story was produced as part of an environmental storytelling partnership with the Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) at UCLA, with extensive contributions from faculty and MFA students in UCLA’s documentary film program in the School of Theater, Film and Television. It was originally published by KCET, in Los Angeles.
On this Parrot Chop Chef, we'll show you how to make healthy food for you and your parrot with the Spaghetti Squash Kale Bowl! This was such a fun one to put together, and Tracy's ability to flavor pair is … Ещё incredible! Even if you're not vegan or vegetarian, this Spaghetti Squash Kale Bowl could easily make a delicious side dish for you!! Let me know if you give this a try and what you think in the comments!!
1 Spaghetti Squash
1 Bag Riced Broccoli
2 Cups Baby Spinach
1 1/2 Cups Kale
1 Large Zucchini
6 Small Rainbow Carrots (or 3 Medium Carrots)
1/4 Cup Plain Raw Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 Cup Fresh Tarragon/Dill Mix (2 tbsp dried)
6 Basil Leaves
Edible Flowers Optional
Parrot Chop Change-Up:
This bowl can be enjoyed raw by your parrots, but can also be roasted or pan-fried, with your favorite cheese on top for you to enjoy as well!
Escaped Pet Parrots Are Now Established In 23 U.S. States
Bird watchers and citizen scientists have spotted 56 different parrot species in 43 US states, with 25 of those species breeding in urban areas in 23 different states, a new study finds
A monk parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus (also known as a quaker parrot). This is the most common . [+] established parrot species in the United States. (Credit: Cláudio Dias Timm / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Cláudio Dias Timm via a Creative Commons license
Although two species of parrots originally lived in the United States, one species, the iconic Carolina parakeet, Conuropsis carolinensis, was quickly shot into extinct by white settlers (more here). Soon afterwards, the thick-billed parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha, was persecuted out of the desert southwest and back into Mexico by a combination of uncontrolled shooting, unregulated logging, and runaway development.
Thanks to the pet trade, parrots became increasingly available in the United States starting in the 1960s, mostly as companion pets. But wild parrots are difficult to tame, so some either managed to escape or were intentionally released by frustrated owners. Some of these liberated parrots survived and even thrived, particularly in urban areas where food was plentiful and wild predators were relatively few. As a result, parrots were living freely in the USA once again.
But how many of those immigrant parrot species managed to establish breeding populations in the continental United States?
That was one of the many questions that occurred to behavioral ecologist Stephen Pruett-Jones, now an associate professor at the University of Chicago, after he first saw the famous monk parakeets in Chicago’s Hyde Park in 1988. These parrots were first spotted in Hyde Park in 1968 and they built their first nest in 1970 (ref).
It didn’t take long for Professor Pruett-Jones to envision some of the research opportunities these birds presented to him and his students.
“I have never actually held a wild parrot in the United States,” Professor Pruett-Jones said in a press release. “But indirectly, I’ve become the spokesperson for parrot research here because when I saw the monk parakeets in Chicago, I realized nobody else was working on them.”
How many introduced parrot species are breeding in the USA?
To answer this basic question, Jennifer Uehling, an undergraduate at the time (she now is a graduate student at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology), collaborated with Professor Pruett-Jones and bioinformatics expert, Jason Tallant, who works at the University of Michigan Biological Station, to compile and analyze two databases of bird sightings reported by bird watchers and citizen scientists from 2002 through 2016. These data included 118,744 observations from 19,812 unique locations.
One data source was the Christmas Bird Count, a citizen science census organized by the National Audubon Society. This annual census is conducted during a one month period during the Christmas holidays and it provides a snapshot of which bird species are present in the dead of winter, and their numbers (more here). The second data source was eBird, a real-time online checklist where birders report all bird species seen at any time during the year, along with their numbers and locations.
Monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus (also known as quaker parrots), peek out of their . [+] condomimium-type nest. This is the most common established parrot species in the United States, and their nest -- unique amongst parrots -- may be part of the secret to their success. (Credit: David Berkowitz / CC BY 2.0)
David Berkowitz via a Creative Commons license
After analyzing these data, Ms. Uehling and her collaborators found that the most common parrot species in the United States today are monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus, which accounted for more than one-third of all reports. This species is most notable for its large and untidy multi-occupancy nest, which it often builds on utility pole transformers.
The second most common established parrot species was the red-crowned Amazon parrot, Amazona viridigenalis, which accounted for 13.3% of all sightings. The nanday parakeet, Aratinga nenday, was the third most common established parrot species, accounting for 11.9% of reported sightings.
A pair of established nanday parakeets, Aratinga (Nandayus) nenday, also known as nanday conures, or . [+] black-hooded parakeets, attack a sunflower in Sarasota County, Florida. (Credit: Apix / CC BY-SA 3.0)
Apix via a Creative Commons license
Altogether, this study revealed that 56 species of parrots have been observed so far in 43 states, and 25 of those species are breeding in 23 states.
“Of course, not every species is breeding in every state in which they are observed, but three states combined (Florida, California, and Texas) support breeding populations of all 25 known breeding species,” Ms. Uehling and her collaborators noted in their paper.
“But many of these species are perfectly happy living here and they’ve established populations,” Professor Pruett-Jones added. “Wild parrots are here to stay.”
Although Ms. Uehling and her collaborators found that many of these parrots dwell in the warmer regions of the United States, they did find sizeable populations in colder urban areas, such as New York City and Chicago (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Distribution of unique observations of parrots in the contiguous United States during the . [+] 15-year period 2002–2016 from records in eBird and Christmas Bird Counts. The figure shows the locations of 118,744 unique observations at 19,812 unique localities. (doi:10.1007/s10336-019-01658-7)
Where did these parrots come from?
“Many of them were escaped pets, or their owners released them because they couldn’t train them or they made too much noise -- all the reasons people let pets go,” Professor Pruett-Jones explained in a press release.
Ultimately, the pet trade made parrots into one of the more species-rich orders of established birds that are breeding in the USA. But the number and diversity of parrot species present are unlikely to increase further because legal importations of parrots have mostly ceased due to international regulations and agreements.
Although the data used for this study “are certainly not perfect records of all non-native parrot species sighted in the USA,” as Ms. Uehling and her collaborators point out in their report, this study still raises interesting questions: Why are established parrots found in some places but not others? Is there a correlation between concentrations of particular species of captive parrots and their established populations? How do they manage to thrive in foreign habitats?
Ms. Uehling and her collaborators are already examining which ecological factors have the greatest influence on the distribution of established parrots in the US. They’ve found that the most important limiting factor is the minimum January temperature. This is not surprising since most parrots originate in tropical areas and generally cannot survive in regions that are strongly seasonal with cold winters. But monk parakeets are the one exception: it appears their ability to survive cold climates is at least partially dependent upon their magnificent nests, which they build on human-made as well as natural structures, and their ability to change their diets so they can survive extreme cold.
The density of people is another important factor that impacts parrot survival in foreign landscapes. Some people intentionally feed birds, at least in the winter, their buildings can serve as shelters against the worst weather, and cities themselves are generally warmer than the surrounding rural areas. This explains why established populations of parrots are almost always found in or near urban areas, particularly in southern Texas, southern Florida and southern California, where large human populations are concentrated.
Considering that at least a few introduced species end up causing tremendous harm to native wildlife, it’s important to establish whether any established parrots harming native species, particularly native frugivores, which are most vulnerable. Fortunately for the parrots and for the people who love them, there is currently no evidence they are harming any native species.
Portrait of an endangered red-crowned Amazon parrot, Amazona viridigenalis, also known as . [+] green-cheeked Amazon, or Mexican red-headed parrot. There are more naturalized red-crowned parrots living freely in the United States than there are in Mexico, where they originated. (Credit: Leonhard F / CC BY-SA 3.0.)
Leonhard F via a Creative Commons license
Studying the natural history of established parrots in the USA could provide important insights into fundamental aspects of their ecology and conservation. Further, some of these naturalized species, such as the red-crowned Amazon parrot, are endangered in their native ranges. But this parrot’s population is increasing in the United States -- so much so that there now are more red-crowned Amazon parrots living freely in US cities than in its native range in northeastern Mexico (more here). This raises the possibility that established populations of endangered parrots may be used as source populations to bolster future conservation efforts (more here).
“Because of human activity transporting these birds for our own pleasure, we have inadvertently created populations elsewhere,” Professor Pruett-Jones said. “Now for some of these parrots, they may become critical to the survival of the species.”
Jennifer J. Uehling, Jason Tallant, and Stephen Pruett‐Jones (2019). Status of naturalized parrots in the United States, Journal of Ornithology, published online on 15 May 2019 ahead of print | doi:10.1007/s10336-019-01658-7