GratiTuesday: Wild parrots thriving in Southern California

Image from sdnews.com
Image from sdnews.com

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.