Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wild Parrots find a home in Claremont

Hundreds of brightly colored wild parrots have been spotted in different areas of Claremont over the past weeks, giving residents a unique opportunity to witness these wild birds living in a naturalized environment. Although the parrots are not native to Southern California, they have made it their home and have been here for several decades.

“Around 9 a.m. on Saturday, I walked out my front door, looked up and saw hundreds of these beautiful birds in the trees,” said Claremont resident Yvonne Cervantes Coleman, who lives on the 1100 block of Mountain Avenue. “They were so loud, I felt like I was in the movie ‘The Birds,’” she said, referring to the classic 1963 Alfred Hitchcock horror film.

Dr. Dan Guthrie, a Claremont Graduate University biology professor and president of the Pomona Valley Audubon Society, explained that for at least a dozen years, more than a thousand of the parrots have permanently settled in Temple City. “It appears that a group of around 300 of the Temple City flock have come over to this area, possibly to find new areas for feeding,” Dr. Guthrie said. “The ones we are seeing here are of the species Red Crowned Amazons, which are native to central and northern Mexico.”

Despite their name, the red crowns are mostly a bright yellowish green color, but have distinguishable blue and red markings around the head. They like to eat persimmons, china-berry, walnuts, pine cone seeds and other fruits and grains. The birds spend their days searching for food, sometimes traveling several miles. Around sunset, they return to their established roosting area where they rest until sunrise.

“These parrots have lifelong mating partners, and if you watch them, you will notice that they will even travel in pairs as they go out and forage for food,” explained Dr. Guthrie. “They don’t have any real natural predators like they do in their native habitat so they breed quite well here. The population appears to be steadily increasing as this group indicates. And they seem to be able to tolerate the cold weather, as long as they have can find plants with berries and fruit.”

According to Tim Tipping, who lives near the corner of Towne Avenue and Amador Street, the birds are loud enough to wake you up, even with the windows closed.

“At around 6:30 a.m. you can hear them,” he said. “I’ve seen them here every morning for about the last week and a half.”

Parrots are native to many regions of the world, with most species found in central and South America, but also in Africa, southeast Asia and Australia. In some places, deforestation has led to dramatic decreases in native parrot populations. Several parrot species are officially listed as endangered species.

Since these birds are not native to southern California, there are a variety of urban legends as to how they came to settle throughout the area. Among the rumors are that an exotic bird smuggling ring was about to be busted by authorities. In order to destroy the evidence of their crimes, the group released the birds into the wild. Another theory describes a passionate group of firefighters who set the birds free to save them from a burning pet store.

According to a website dedicated to the parrots, these birds are the descendents of wild-caught parrots which were imported into the United States many years ago and then either escaped captivity or were intentionally released into the wild.

However they got here, Claremonters seem to be happy about the new arrivals, despite the early morning squawking.

“They’re just so beautiful and it’s amazing to watch them fly around, from tree to tree, said Ms. Coleman. “When they first arrived, a lot of the neighbors were out in the street and we all enjoyed seeing them here.”

1 comment:

nigelnix said...

It was really interesting to read this entry. I have been living in Germany for 8 years now and am an avid budgie keeper. But we have something similar here in Berlin where wild parrots have formed groups in the local parks.They survive the harsh winters by going into the garden sheds. The locals take them for granted now but tourists find them a curious novelty. So your story brought a smile to my face. Thank you.

Nigel Nix.