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Are Wild Parrots Roosting in Your Backyard?

Join the annual World Parrot Count to help conserve the birds.

South Pas Patch Editor's Note: Eagle Rock Patch Editor Ajay Singh wrote this story from an Eagle Rock perspective, but I've been at SPUSD meetings this winter when the board members had to speak louder to drown out the parrot squawks. South Pas is a traditional roosting area for parrots. In the comments below, tell us your experiences with the parrots!

The parrots are back.

After months of not hearing the pesky birds, Eagle Rock writer Andrew Hindes was recently surprised to see them around his house.

“They have returned en masse in the past few weeks, although the frequency has tapered off in the last few days,” he said. “So far, I’ve noticed them circling and swarming—and making quite a racket—rather than roosting in trees on our property.”

Not far from where Hindes lives on Highland View Avenue, Eagle Rock resident Tim O’Brien reports a similar experience.

“For about the past three weeks, there has been a flock of about 20 parrots that makes two or three ‘passes’ over our house in the mornings between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and then again at dusk,” O’Brien said.

The birds, he added, engage in “a great deal of squawking and fly in formation, swooping this way and that, alight in a tree for a few minutes and then continue their noisy journey on to points unknown.”

As was the case almost exactly a year ago, parrots are roosting—or flocking together—in relatively large numbers once again in Eagle Rock.

“I saw them this morning for the first time,” wrote Julia Salazar, director of the , in a Wednesday email to Eagle Rock Patch. “Strange sight. They seem to have flown away.”

Winter Roosters

During the fall and winter months, parrots tend to roost more than at any other time of the year, said Kimball Garrett, a birder who founded the California Parrot Project in 1994 and runs the ornithology collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

“During the warmer breeding season, the birds are a little more scattered, so you’d expect large roosts at this time,” explained Garrett. Although large numbers of parrots can gather into roosts year around, “the numbers involved tend to be a little higher in late fall and winter, and a little bit lower in spring and summer when they scatter around a bit more for nesting season.”

The traditional roosting areas for wild parrots are Temple City, South Pasadena and Altadena. “I don’t know of any big roosts closer to Eagle Rock,”  Garrett said.

But why do parrots appear to be so extravagantly visible, not to mention voluble, for a few minutes, days or weeks and then suddenly all but vanish?

“That’s what parrots do,” said Garrett. “They’re really good and finding and exploiting food resources that are kind of ephemeral—they might have fruit or some kind of seeds for just a few weeks and they find ’em and eat ’em all and then move on to somewhere else.”

Added Garrett: “It’s hard to predict exactly where that will take them—and when—but they certainly are good at moving around a lot.”

World Parrot Count

The constant movement can be challenge for ornithologists interested in knowing how many wild parrots there are in a particular urban area. And that’s why the winter months are usually a good time to count parrots—as a Europe-based group called City Parrots is doing right now for conservation purposes, with help from volunteers.

Click here to read instructions fro City Parrots on how to count wild parrots in your neighborhood and submit the results to the organization online.

Affiliated with the International Ornithologists Union, City Parrots is mainly devoted to monitoring parrots that have been introduced to urban areas and are not native to them, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.

None of the three major species of parrots found in and around Eagle Rock, including Mount Washington, are native to Southern California, according to Garrett. (They include Red-crowned Parrots native to Eastern Mexico; Yellow-chevroned Parakeets native to South America; and Mitred Parakeets, also native to South America.)

There are currently no large-scale local attempts to conduct parrot counts in Southern California, Garrett said, adding: “Some years we try to do that, but nothing’s been really organized for this year.”

Christmas Bird Count

The closest thing to a local parrot count is the Christmas Bird Count conducted annually for the past 65 years by the Pasadena Audubon Society.

The exercise occurs within a 15-mile diameter centered at the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Duarte Road in Pasadena, which lies roughly five miles east of the Eagle Rock border. The latest Christmas Bird Count was on Dec. 15 last year.

“I haven't totaled the results yet, but we typically record hundreds of Red-crowned Parrots, fair numbers of Mitred and Red-masked Parakeets and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets as well as smaller numbers of at least a half dozen other species of parrots and parakeets,” said Jon Fisher, head of the Pasadena Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

In 2011, the Christmas Bird Count recorded 10 different species of wild parrots, totalling 1,360 birds. The largest majority? Red-crowned Parrots—no less than 1,129 of them. Next in ranking were Yellow-chevroned Parakeets (140), followed by Mitred Parakeets (32).

Although the Christmas Bird Count circle extends southwest to Scholl Canyon and Occidental College, those areas were not covered in 2012, Fisher said.

Jones Foyer January 11, 2013 at 04:12 PM
After the big windstorm in 2011, it seems as if the numbers of birds near us dropped pretty noticably. Considering all of the branches, berries, food that ended up on the ground, it's possible that a good chunk of the population moved elsewhere for more plentiful food and tree cover. Anytime there's parrots in close range, I run and grab my camera, usually they are the red crowned parrots, but there's a shot of a yellow crowned amazon, if I'm not mistaken...
S. Ray January 11, 2013 at 04:35 PM
While the parrots are beautiful, they are also non-native and quite pesky. They are loud and tend to travel in large groups early in the morning. I have been awakened way too early on a Saturday by parrots invading my or my neighbors' trees and creating a huge ruckus. I suspect that at some point, they will become a problem to our local native plant species, particularly when their numbers get too large. They apparently have no nature enemies locally and live up to 65 years, so the increase in their numbers for quite some time can potentially only be limited by the availability of food sources for them.
Jinjer Hundley January 11, 2013 at 05:24 PM
I love when they fly over, squawking loudly!! I keep hoping they'll choose a tree in my neighborhood to roost but I don't think we have any large enough.
Rhee Ali Tee January 11, 2013 at 07:00 PM
The parrots don't bother me at all--I like their squawking. However, my wife would like to know if there's an organization that focuses on their demise.
spidra January 11, 2013 at 07:43 PM
I'm with S. Ray. They're descendants of escaped pets and don't belong here. They should be rounded up, checked for disease, and sent to their native habitats. Many are actually a bit endangered in their native habitats so it would be a good way to reinvigorate numbers in the places they belong.
Shelley Garza January 11, 2013 at 11:40 PM
The conures live up to 30 years. They eat non native plants and don't compete with natives. Why don't we round up all the sparrows that do compete with the natives? I say enjoy these beautiful and intelligent creatures. To educate yourself on them see the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Sure they are loud but they are special.
Onyx Joanne Henneke January 12, 2013 at 03:33 AM
You'll never be able to round them all up at this point. I've lived in S. Pasadena, San Gabriel, Glendale, and Long Beach and everywhere I've lived has had some kind of parrot population.
Toni Schwab January 12, 2013 at 04:18 AM
The parrots were on Wayne Ave. last week as well as Camben Avenue and Oak. They love the fruits and berries from all the trees in the neighborhood. This past summer they enjoyed the figs in my neighbors yard behind my house. I usually see them in the 30's to 50's count.
Elias Baldwin January 14, 2013 at 12:26 AM
So these birds are more special than other birds because they're green? I'm very into nature, plants, gardening... everything outdoors, however I don't get why people fawn over these things. They roost over my house daily in the tall palms and on the power lines that run down our alley. The noise level is insane and sometimes disruptive, my main objection is how much crapping they do on my vehicles and my walk, it's just gross and a nuisance. Also, these things are everywhere, when I lived in Hollywood there were just as many if not more that would roost in the trees on my property.

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