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, and 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.
Did the Parrots Migrate to SoCal?
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.
Plausible Theories for the Wild Parrot Population
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.
Research on the Parrots' Eating Habits in California
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.
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.
Flocks, Roosting, and Nesting
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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
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 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 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.
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.
© 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