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April 19, 2016 /

GratiTuesday: Wild parrots thriving in Southern California

Image from

Image from

First we hear a frenzied screeching in the distance. As the noise gets closer, it is more distinguishable as the riotous squawking of birds. Then, we see them. Sometimes they fly in a small group of 6 or 8, but most of the time, they are in flocks of 30 or more. They often fly together in an unorganized mass, then split apart in a raucous burst of energy because… whatever. Whether they arrive in a small group or a large one, it’s hard to ignore when a flock of urbanized parrots invades our neighborhood.

There are several theories as to why these birds, whose natural habitat are the jungles of Mexico, and Central and South America, now call coastal Southern California their home. Some say that they—or their ancestors—were probably caged birds released into the wild either accidentally or on purpose. Some say that the changing climate and decimated tropical forests are the reason. Ironically parrot species that are threatened or endangered in their native environment are flourishing here because our ubiquitous palms and backyard fruit trees provide the food and nesting habitat they need.

These naturalized parrots include blue-crowned conures, lilac-crowned Amazons, cherry-headed conures, mitred conures, red-crowned Amazons, and yellow-headed Amazons. I’m not sure which of the dozen or so naturalized parrot species frequents our neighborhood, but they are wonderfully colorful, incredibly loud, and a delight to behold.

Not everyone is as charmed as I am with the urbanized parrots – they have been known to decimate the flowers or fruits growing on ornamental trees—but I am so grateful for their presence. They are exotic, unpredictable, exuberant, and, when I hear them coming, it’s almost impossible not smile at their unbridled joy.



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  1. cindy knoke / Apr 19 2016 8:03 pm

    Oh I so wish we had them at The Holler. I love all parrots and would love to have them wild around me.

    • / Apr 20 2016 8:12 am

      You have some pretty incredible birds at the Holler, but you are right, these parrots are really special. I’m so happy that they have moved in and are thriving.

  2. Polly Huffman / Apr 19 2016 8:23 pm

    I would love to see and hear them. A few days ago on our walk a man was standing in his garage with a huge parrot on his shoulder. Of course we stopped to talk to him and admire his beautiful bird. Being able to see such a magnificent bird up close was pretty incredible and made our day!

  3. Kristine Puzel / Apr 19 2016 8:45 pm

    They really are a treat to see; their beautiful coloring, crazy loud squawking, and the fact that they always seem to be in pairs. I’m just glad they don’t seem inclined to mix it up with the crows; not sure I could stand the noise!

  4. Denise Hammond / Apr 20 2016 4:47 am

    I am sure folks react to wild parrots differently just as we northerners have different opinions about Canadian geese. I personally hate them. They poop all over our roads and playgrounds and will chase you on your own property. And lake front owners have the same dislike of attacking swans.

    • / Apr 20 2016 8:20 am

      Fortunately the parrots are pretty small so they don’t have the same aggressive posture as geese or swans… or poop size. I think most people here love the parrots and enjoy their lively chatter.

  5. joannesisco / Apr 20 2016 6:01 am

    I had no idea! I think I would be grinning from ear to ear seeing a flock of wild parrots 🙂
    … and your photo is fantastic!

    • / Apr 20 2016 8:21 am

      They really are a joy to behold. I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture so I had to grab it from Google. Maybe next time I’ll have my camera ready!

  6. patwdoyle11 / Apr 20 2016 6:08 am

    We have a handful of parrots in our Florida cottage neighborhood. I too love to see and hear them!

    Also, at this time of year, here in Ohio, we leave the windows open at night and the morning bird chatter is my alarm clock! A sure sign of spring.

    • / Apr 20 2016 8:24 am

      I love the background sound of birds tweeting and chirping. Are the parrots in Florida native, or do they have the same background story as ours do?

      • patwdoyle11 / Apr 21 2016 12:03 pm

        I realized with your post that I’m not sure! I assumed they were pets-gone-wild, but now wondering if they could be moving into the area based on climate. I will ask at the local bird sanctuary on my next visit! Enquiring minds need to know.

  7. rporter610 / Apr 20 2016 7:38 am

    It must be a treat to hear and then see them coming for a visit. I too enjoy the arrival of birds and the fun of watching them do what they do. Thanks for the word picture that you created here.


    • / Apr 20 2016 8:26 am

      They don’t visit our neighborhood as often as some others so, when I hear them coming, I try to get outside to welcome them. They make me smile.

  8. Joe / Apr 20 2016 7:46 am

    What a cool sighting. Have you seen the film about the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill (San Francisco)? We were lucky to see a flock of cherry-heads the last time we climbed the Filbert steps. They seemed so out of place.

    • / Apr 20 2016 8:29 am

      Yes, I’ve seen that film. It’s hard to believe that parrots would flourish in the cold of San Francisco, but they seem to be as happy as ours in SoCal. Cherry-heads and the Filbert Steps… what a great combo!

  9. Peta Kaplan / Apr 20 2016 10:56 am

    Oh how wonderful! I love them too ~ so joyous and fun to observe. We first saw them in a bird park in Northern India, the noise above us from their chattering grew to quite a pitch. Then again in a regular public park in Rome, Italy. How lucky you are!

    • / Apr 20 2016 12:53 pm

      Parrots in Rome? Wow! You are right: I do feel lucky to have them flying wild in my neighborhood. Thanks for your comment!

  10. Carol Ferenc / Apr 20 2016 11:54 am

    What fun it must be to see these birds! I only wish all other species will adapt and thrive in spite of climate change and loss of habitat.

    • / Apr 20 2016 12:04 pm

      Oh, wouldn’t that be nice! We are also seeing some sea life in this area that we don’t normally see (and losing others). Unfortunately, it doesn’t portend well for our planet.

      • Carol Ferenc / Apr 20 2016 12:32 pm

        I know. It makes me feel so helpless.

  11. dconnollyislandgmailcom / Apr 20 2016 2:03 pm

    You have a lovely neighborhood, Janis — seven bridges plus wild parrots. I am totally jealous!!

  12. Terri Webster Schrandt / Apr 20 2016 11:05 pm

    I think I’ve heard some over in Lemon Grove last time I was there. We’ve heard parrots here in sacramento, most likely an escapee!

    • / Apr 21 2016 11:57 am

      They are hard to ignore when they get squawking and flying about. They really aren’t meant to be caged (is any bird, really?) so I imagine once they escape, they are hard to recapture. Go parrots!

  13. snakesinthegrass2014 / Apr 21 2016 11:14 am

    I think you are really lucky to see them. So far here in Florida we see Sandhill Cranes (my favorite), Egrets, Ospreys, Vultures, Eagles, Spoonbills, Herons, and Ibis. But I keep looking for Parrots because I’ve never seen one wild before. On our first morning here after we moved a neighbor said, “keep your eyes peeled for the wild parrots.” And I still do. 🙂

    • / Apr 21 2016 11:59 am

      I hope you get to see them soon! Not only keep your eyes peeled, but your ears too… you usually hear them before you see them.

  14. lisadorenfest / Apr 23 2016 11:28 pm

    Love parrots! I saw my first in the wild right here in Sydney, but I don’t think they are the same kind you’ve got living there. My bet is on climate change being the cause of their relocation to you. Sounds like there are too many (and too many varieties) to have come from a few birds accidentally released into the wild. But I guess that is a possible. Maybe they just know how awesome SoCal is and decided to check it out 🙂

    • / Apr 24 2016 9:23 am

      I wouldn’t be surprised if climate change had at least something to do with our wild parrot population. What is good fortune for us (having a climate in which they can thrive) is not so great for other parts of the world. It’s so sad to think that their native habitats are being effected so profoundly.

      • lisadorenfest / Apr 24 2016 6:00 pm

        I agree. It’s just horrible all this imbalance disrupting Mother Nature

  15. Elle Knowles / Apr 26 2016 7:25 pm

    How wonderful to have parrots in your trees! I would love it! We are happy to have our wrens, sparrows, cardinals, bluejays, and mockingbirds. This week we have had rose-breasted grosbeaks which are new to our yard. You’re right about everyone not liking them around though…~Elle

    • / Apr 27 2016 9:56 am

      The parrots are amazing and so fun to watch. I can understand why some people don’t have the same enthusiasm for them as I do, but I don’t mind giving up a little fruit for their enjoyment. I’ll have to look up rose-breasted grosbeaks… they don’t frequent my area. Thanks for the comment and follow!

      • Elle Knowles / Apr 27 2016 11:50 am

        This is the first time we’ve seen them here. My Audubon bird app says migration is common here though. Hope they stay around awhile.

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