Column: What’s all this squawk about? Parrots flock to Los Angeles


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Red-masked parakeets perched on a branch. The wild parrots in Los Angeles survive by eating fruits and seeds.

Picture this: It’s a hot day in Los Angeles, the sun is shining and the roar of the highway is lulling you to sleep around noon. Suddenly, the cry of a bright green parrot wakes you.

“Why,” you may wonder, “is there a parrot in Los Angeles? And why did it have to wake me up on a weekend?”

If you’ve lived in LA the majority of your life, you’ve most likely heard them. A parrot’s loud, shrill call is like no other bird. Even though you may have heard their calls, however, the sound of a parrot seems very out of place in our bustling city. After all, these parrots were never supposed to be here.

Only one species of parrot has ever been native to North America at all: the Carolina parakeet. The Carolina parakeet was driven to extinction through unfortunate habitat destruction, and in 1918 the final Carolina parakeet died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. It wasn’t until 1939, however, that this emerald-colored species was officially declared extinct. Since the death of this last Carolina parakeet, North America has had no native parrots.

However, The California Parrot Project, founded by Kimball L. Garrett in 1994, lists 14 reported species of parrots that have formed flocks throughout California, none of which are originally native. Along with the 14 species, Amazon parrot hybrids have also been spotted.

Red-crowned parrot perched on a wire. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Surprisingly, unlike many invasive species, scientific researchers have found that the parrots do not pose any threat to California’s native birds and instead share resources.

These species are native to the jungles of South America, yet somehow manage to survive in the cities. They have thrived by feasting upon fruits, seeds and nuts and by roosting in trees. Personally, I have spotted the medium-sized Conure parrot devouring juicy apples from my apple tree.

Although the exact origins of these flocks remain unknown, they have most likely formed due to parrots escaping homes throughout California history. Busch Gardens, a theme park in the San Fernando Valley, reportedly released numerous parrots in 1979.

These invasive yet adorable species are as follows:

I view these flocks of beautiful birds quite often, and even though I’ve heard they are noisy neighbors, what neighbors aren’t? I fully support them living harmoniously amongst us Angelenos.