About Parrots

by Karen Mabb

August 3, 1999

The area where parrots are found at any given time during the year is dependent on what happens to be fruiting. Parrots generally forage on (as a staple, but they eat just about anything they can get their beaks on) and roost in Sweet Gum and Sycamore when they are available, but those are deciduous trees, which means they're bare in the winter. Around Thanksgiving, they would be foraging on and roosting in Eucalyptus (several different species), Carrotwood (Cupanopsis anacardiodes, or something like that--I'm terrible at remembering scientific names), fig (Ficus microcarpus--Moreton Bay Fig I think), and other broadleaf evergreens. Parrots also commonly eat juniper and cedar fruit. Around Thanksgiving, parrots roost in flocks of HUNDREDS of individuals (more like numbers approaching or exceeding a thousand, but I claim to not be able to count that high) in, maybe, five to ten trees, which generates a lot of heat, or at least enough to keep comfy, so they really wouldn't need the sun to thermoregulate. I have yet to prove or disprove that parrots fly from Arcadia/Temple City to Pasadena/Altadena and back every day. Kimball Garrett and I are discussing (have been discussing for a long while) organizing an effort to collect some data with this in mind, and I am sure you'll hear more in the near future about it.

In the spring, you don't see many parrots unless you are among those (unfortunates?) who happen to live near areas where parrots nest. Contrary to one of the many the myths I always hear, parrots do not nest in the mountains (there has only been one documented report of that). Instead they nest in trees lining suburban streets. You may even have them nesting in your own front yard, and sometimes they can be secretive, so you'd never even know they were there.

I am very interested in hearing recent information about parrot sightings. I have been working on this Parrot Project with Kimball Garrett for years now, and all of our data is becoming stale. Melanie Stalder, who is a graduate student at Cal Poly Pomona, has just begun working on her masters thesis on the subject of parrots and we have expanded our efforts to encompass more area than when I was alone. Any one who wishes to send any recent information on parrots to me directly can email me at kmabb@hotmail.com.

The parrots that are commonly seen are:

  • Red-crowned Parrots (Amazona viridigenalis)

  • Lilac-crowned Parrots (Amazona finschi)

  • Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) (NOT "Rose-winged Parakeet")

  • Mitred Parakeets (Aratinga mitrata) =conure

  • Red-masked Parakeets (Aratinga erythrogenys) =conure

  • Blue-crowned Parakeets (Aratinga acuticaudata) =conure

  • Canary-winged Parakeets (Brotogeris ... sorry I can't recall the rest of it)

  • Yellow-chevroned Parakeets (the other Brotogeris...)

  • Red-lored Parrots (Amazona autumnalis)

  • Blue-fronted Parrots (Amazona aestiva)

  • White-fronted Parrots (Amazona albifrons)

I have personally documented nesting and/or dependent juveniles present among Red-crowned Parrots, Lilac-crowned Parrots, Rose-ringed Parakeets, Blue-crowned Parakeets, Red-lored Parrots (only once), Blue-fronted Parrots (only once) and have seen Mitred and/or Red-masked parakeets that seemed to be nesting in several areas, but I wasn't 100% certain and I couldn't see them well enough to tell which it was on those occasions.

This year was an interesting nesting year in that parrots started their nesting behavior around February (usually they start in April/May) and are just now (July/August) finishing their breeding (usually they are completely done, everybody's fledged, by the middle of June). The chicks in the flocks can be identified by their clean, bright appearance, pale yellow edging on the wing coverts, and by their begging behavior and uk-uk-uk-uk call before, during, and after feeding and will be readily identifiable until around November, when they reach independence.

Wild parrots do not make good pets. Many parrots are out there in the first place because their owners could not stand them and threw them out of the nearest window, despite the hundreds of dollars they spent on them. They are messy, noisy, and can carry many diseases and parasites. I hear all of the time how people would love to catch one-- it takes a certain kind of person (in my opinion: one who is hard of hearing, eternally patient, and has no fear of losing beak-sized chunks of flesh off of your hands) to put up with a parrot. I also hear rumors of people with tree trimming equipment cutting into nest cavities and taking chicks. Destruction of nest cavities for the purpose of harvesting chicks is one of the reasons parrot populations are in such peril in areas where they are endemic. Cutting cavities affects the health of the tree and destroys the cavity FOREVER, rendering it useless for parrots and, more importantly, for NATIVE animal species.


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The new Parrot Project went on-line November 2, 2000.