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Articles Continued

"Where did they come from?" continued.....

Another woman has reported that in the late 1960's a van carrying exotic birds destined for sale was involved in a traffic accident. While visiting relatives, she heard a loud bang and when she arrived at the scene, cages had fallen from the van and birds were flying everywhere. The driver scrambled to catch as many as he could with bystanders trying to help. She couldn't recall how many there were or if any were ever recovered, but she did say, "It was quite a sight."

A local gentleman recounted that in 1977 or 1978, while the circus was in town, he went to visit one of his friends who was employed by the circus. He and his friend heard some of the workers yelling and screaming at each other in the next tent. One of the managers was furious, because after the morning feedings, someone had left the cage doors to the Red-crowned and Yellow-headed Parrots wide open. Seven Red-crowned Parrots and six Yellow-headed Parrots had escaped. For the three days following, this man and his friends combed the area in search of the escaped birds. They spotted a couple in a nearby park, but were never able to recover them.

Most interesting is that a flock of wild parrots can still regularly be seen in close proximity to where each of these three incidents reportedly occurred.

From city to city, stories, rumors and speculation abound.  The only thing that is certain is that several different events have contributed to the status and distribution of wild parrots in California today.

  Rose-ringed Parakeet
Rose-ringed Parakeet

In truth, the vast majority of Southern California's wild parrots are descendants of wild-caught parrots who were imported into the United States before importation was banned and for one reason or another, escaped or were intentionally released. The survival success of some of these species may also be related to the number of imported and smuggled birds to this region.

Already well versed in their survival skills, these parrots were able to establish themselves in exotic plant-life-rich areas.


Magic Tree
From left to right - Rose-ringed Parakeet, Yellow-headed Parrot, Red-crowned Parrot, Lilac-crowned Parrot (investigating hole), and a Blue-fronted Parrot





In California, the most commonly seen wild parrots are:

Red-crowned Parrots (Amazona viridigenalis)
Lilac-crowned Parrots (Amazona finschi)
Red-lored Parrots (Amazona autumnalis)
Yellow-chevroned Parakeets (Brotogeris chiriri)
Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri)
Mitred Parakeets (Aratinga mitrata)
Red-masked Parakeets (Aratinga erythrogenys)
Blue-crowned Parakeets (Aratinga acuticaudata)
Black-hooded Parakeets (Nandayus nenday)

Less commonly seen are:

White-fronted Parrots (Amazona albifrons)
Blue-fronted Parrots (Amazona aestiva)
Yellow-headed Parrots (Amazona oratrix)

For the most part, flocks in California are species specific such as the Black-hooded Parakeets of Malibu; the Yellow-chevroned Parakeets of Los Angeles; the Rose-ringed




Parakeets of Bakersfield; the Red-masked Parakeets of San Francisco - but the largest in number are the Amazona flocks, they are also the exception in that Amazona flocks have a variety of species among them.  Flocks of Amazon parrots can be found in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties -- the most numerous of which, call the greater Los Angeles area their home.

Some of these parrots would never catch a glimpse of each other in their native ranges, but here these species have become dedicated companions, bonded friends and flock-mates.



Endangered Species

Endangered Species

In their native ranges, three of these Amazon species are in serious trouble.  Designated a threatened species in 1988, the Red-crowned Parrot was added to the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and was upgraded to an [Endangered Species] in 1994. Still declining in its native range due to exploitation and long-term habitat loss, only small populations of Red-crowned parrots remain. It is now believed that more Red-crowned Parrots exist in California, than in their native range.

On July 31, 2001, the California Bird Records Committee added the Red-crowned Parrot to the Official List of California Birds as an introduced species.

In 2004, the Lilac-crowned Parrot was placed in CITES Appendix I by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species as [Vulnerable].  Renton and Elias (2003) estimated the global population at 7,000-10,000 individuals, which steadily continues to decline due to exploitation and habitat loss.

Though relatively few Yellow-headed Parrots are found in California, they are breeding.  Listed as an Endangered Species in 1994 with a then native range population estimated at only 7,000 birds, rapidly decreasing numbers continue.


Certainly, if these trends continue and unless there are drastic changes in their native ranges, these birds' greatest chance for survival may be right here in the United States, in Southern California. 

It is a twist of irony that while man was so depleting some of these birds in their native ranges, he was also unknowingly creating an ideal environment for them to survive elsewhere. Though only certain species have "made it" here -- there surely must be some poetic justice underneath it all.

One thing is certain, the wild parrots are here to stay.


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