Pasadena Star News
Monday, August 23, 1999
By Andrew Bridges, Staff Writer

Wild parrots get cozy in valley
Two transplanted Mexican species believed to be interbreeding

Temple City--Birds of a feather flock together, and in the case of two species of parrots common to this San Gabriel Valley city, they may be interbreeding as well.

For decades now, the vibrant but noisy birds have been a common sight across greater Los Angeles.  Flocks of yellow-headed, red-crowned, lilac-crowned and at least eight other parrot and parakeet species gather in the mornings and evenings to feed on figs, walnuts, olives and other fruits of the suburban horn of plenty. Recent observations of the colorful birds now suggest that at least two species, the red-and lilac-crowned parrots, may be interbreeding. Although the birds are both native to Mexico, where their populations remain geographically separate and distinct, divided by the Sierra Madre mountain chain.

Karen Mabb, an ornithologist and parrot expert, first noticed several years ago that the two transplanted species may be mixing when she was unable to distinguish between those newborn birds born late in the season.

At first, she thought the birds, which only an expert eye can distinguish based on slight differences in the red splotches on their heads, were just dirty. Only later did it occur to her that the two species might be interbreeding when the pool of available mates grew thin. "It's kind of like the staying-late-at-the-bar theory; at the end of the season they are just fewer mates to choose from," Mabb said.



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Staff photo by Walt Mancini
FOUR PARROTS, perched among the branches of Gracewood Avenue on Wednesday.

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Staff photo by Walt Mancini
A FLOCK OF PARROTS socialize on the power lines in Temple City.

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