Monday, July 22, 2019

The Orange County Parrots

photo from 1000Birds.com

In the spring and summer, it is not uncommon for OC’ers to wake up to the call of wild parrots.

Okay. It’s more like a screeching.

In many cities of Orange County, from Garden Grove to Yorba Linda, you are likely to find the non-native birds chasing each other through the non-native eucalyptus trees.  The trees were brought and planted by ranchers hoping to make wind rows from the fast-growing Australian trees. The parrots’ origin is a little less traceable.

Most of the parrots here are red crowned parrots, originally from Mexico. Some speculate that since habitats in Mexico have been lost, the migratory birds headed north. Most people prefer to tell the story of an unnamed Orange County pet shop that caught fire one night in the 1980’s. The story says that the owner, in a panic to save the birds, released them into the streets, and off they flew to live and breed anew.

Others tell more disdainful stories, one blaming the corporate and now defunct Lion Country Safari for releasing the birds when they closed. Still others cite illegal bird smugglers dumping their inventory before being cornered by the law. And we are pretty certain they are not animatronic refugees from Disney’s Tiki room. 

Whatever the source, the birds are here en-masse, at least for the time being. Other species have been spotted, including the red lored parrot, the lilac-crowned, the yellow headed, and a couple of species of parakeets, the mitered and the rose-ringed.  In addition, there are rarer sightings of blue macaws, which are most certainly the descendants of an individual-owned bird that got loose.

We ourselves rescued a small budgie parakeet from starvation in the Orchard Hills Shopping center in Irvine.  We named him Chico, because that’s the store nearest him when we found him.  Winestyles was closer, but it didn’t seem to be a very bird-like a name.

Sometimes loved, sometimes hated, the birds are doing well here, which is good for the species. Many ornithologists consider the parrots to be endangered in other parts of the world.

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