The Wild Parrots in Whittier, California

Flocks of wild parrots fly around many cities in Southern California. Even though I have lived in this area most of my life, I never knew it. Never saw them; never heard them. Not until I moved to this particular part of the city about a year and a half ago.

Actually, the beautful parrots have been flying wild around these parts since about the 1960s. Besides being beautiful, the wild parrots are the noisiest creatures. They swoop in and park themselves in nearby trees and squawk to each other. It is so loud, it's enough to wake the dead. It is certainly difficult to carry on a normal conversation.

I suppose their noise alone can determine whether one would love them or hate them. After all, it's not so great when they hover overhead and start squawking at dawn, when my alarm clock doesn't go off for another hour.

Be that as it may, I can't help but love these birds. So as far as I'm concerned, they can make as much noise as they want.

They are amazing and mesmerizing creatures, and I welcome them when they come to my neighborhood. I feel the need to drop everything and run outside to greet them and watch while they sit in my tree and speak their squawk-talk.

There are always a few stragglers, flying in pairs, trying to keep up with the rest of the group. My neighbor told me the pairs are mates, and that they mate for life. Yet another trait that serves to endear them to me.

According to the California Parrot Project, there are thirteen species of parrots in California, and their population occurred naturally. Contrary to a popular local story that the birds were set free by firefighters during a fire at a pet store.

The parrots are social birds, and their calls help them to keep track of each other while they sit and are hidden among leafy trees. They announce their comings and goings as they travel from tree to tree, neighborhood to neighborhood.

The parrots' presence tends to remind me that my home is a sanctuary even though it is located in the middle of concrete, buildings and highways. Despite our attempts to civilize and modernize our environment, we continue to be surrounded by nature and the animals who live with us. Thank goodness.

When I was young, I had a parrot in a cage. They are so much more beautiful when they are free.

Talkin' Squawk

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Comments 30 comments

Sustainable Sue profile image

Sustainable Sue 2 years ago from Altadena CA, USA

I concur with Thomas Keeney. We have parrots here in Pasadena, and when I researched to write a hub about them, found an old newspaper article about the pet store fire. In that article it states that one employee was injured freeing the birds and firefighters helped. So that story is verified. There are others as well. And personally, I think knowing those origins enhances the party, rather than pooping it. ;)


Sal 4 years ago

There are various species thriving well in many of california's cities. I post many of my videos of the these various species videos with locations on my YT channel: Californiaflocks


Nadine (Norwalk/La Mirada Area) 5 years ago

well I had the opportunity to just see them on Saturday 10/01/2011. It was crazy they all flew in our trees in our yard and the neighbors. It was beautiful and scary @ the same time


Jon 5 years ago

I grew up in Los Angeles and never saw any wild parrots. I first observed a flock of wild Amazon Parrots in 1989. This Flock can still often be seen on Pier Ave in Hermosa Beach.

I've also seen flocks in Santa Ana, San Fernando and just last week saw a flock flying around my home, in Thousand Oaks. Wild parrots can be seen all over So. Cal...


getreal19783 profile image

getreal19783 5 years ago

Seen them in the city of La Verne! Hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of them! Just the other evening on was sitting in my backyard, probably lost, then flew away!


Sitting prettier in Whittier 5 years ago

I had a parrot once.


Hank 5 years ago

Some of them were released when Busch Gardens closed in Van Nuys decades ago.


Peter 5 years ago

I lived in So Pasadena 18 yrs ago and saw this flock in a tree right outside my apartment one time.


RUNINDC 5 years ago

I am so glad to hear this. As a proud sun conure owner, it is refreshing to hear that there are wild parrots in Calif. Thanks for sharing.


lorobolivia 6 years ago

When we see parrots in homes, in petshops or free flying parrots...we see only a very small part of a very big tragedy that hides behind.

The tragedy of a species that for centuries till today is suffering captivity, persecution, legal and ilegal trade...

Thanks to all of you that celebrate freedom by enjoying the freedom of others.


Tom Ogren 6 years ago

I love seeing the wild parrots. The idea that they are not "native," and hence should be "eradicated," well, that just sucks. Bad attitude for sure. How many of us are really native? We're all immigrants here in the US (except the American Indians)...so let's welcome these beautiful wild parrots!

A few days ago, at Beale Park, in Bakersfield (corner of Oleander and Palm) I saw a few dozen Rose-ringed Parakeets...awesome creatures.

Tom, a birder who appreciates ALL wild birds


Annie Parque 6 years ago

Good Morning Michigan Park

We parrots are out and about, it is time to rise and shine. It is Saturday and Christmas is near. We want to start your day as happy as possible. So get up and don't forget to smile and look to the sky for a beautiful day.


Diana 7 years ago

These appear to be the same type I owned growing up: Red-Naped Amazon parrots, worth several thousand dollars apiece. I somehow doubt frustrated owners "throw them out the door", as someone else claimed, even though they can be loud and destructive (somewhat like a dog chewing through everything in site). I, too, had an Amazon parrot growing up and it escaped out an open door and sat in a tree near our house for an hour and no attempt to coax it back worked, including setting its cage and favorite roost on the front lawn with its favorite treats. It would have either assimilated, died outright, or have been recaptured when in the beginning stages of distress, after being unable to fend for itself. (The latter I've seen firsthand from adopting many parakeets and even a conure friends, family and neighbors have "found" wild in SoCal.) Similar escapes, combined with breeding, would explain how the flocks continue to grow. So I personally am not convinced there was any single incident but rather many incidences over the years where these birds have escaped and bred in SoCal.

Every morning our Amazon parrot was let out of its cage to spend the day on a driftwood roost, and we had lincoln logs rigged around this vertical spiral of wood that he scaled each morning, screeching all the way up to the top (about 6" tall). That nosy squawk is how they greet the day and also how they end it, so when I heard but couldn't see them initially in the Whittier area, this is what kind of parrot came to mind at the sound of their calls. Then one day I was able to capture a close up photo and that was the clincher as far as ID. By contrast, "The Parrots of Telegraph Hill" in the Bay Area are conures, a considerably smaller parrot. It may well be that Whittier's own Amazons are the largest of the parrot breeds to naturalize the area. However, they are not in all areas of Whittier. I have yet to see or hear of them in the Friendly Hills area off of Colima, for example. It would be interesting to hear any accounts of what may be sustaining them in the neighborhoods near Whittier Blvd., Santa Gertrudes, First St. and the like.

I once saw an small flock of Amazons in Fullerton land in a juniper tree where they hastily devoured the green juniper berries, but mostly I've seen and heard them each morning and night flying over South Whittier. This past Spring their numbers thinned dramatically and there was no longer a consistent flight path overhead, and I missed the morning and nightly squawk fest. I was concerned that the City or State had taken action to cull their numbers because, as someone else said, they are not native here and I don't believe they have any special protections under the law as such. Slowly, their numbers returned, however. First by pairs, then by the dozens and now I see them by the hundreds, as they have for the past 5-7 or so years by my count. Although they rarely land on any of the trees in my neighborhood, they take the same route day after day. Consequently, I wonder if anyone knows their roosting point at night? It can't be far.

I am also curious if anyone has witnessed what they eat? There are a lot of citrus in the area and I know they don't prefer citrus as a general rule. (Ours liked bananas, apples, pears, carrots and dry foods like sunflower and peanuts.) I assume they are making considerably different dietary choices in the wild, however, since this isn't a native habitat and they don't have access to pet store food (unless somebody somewhere is feeding them?). It also amazes me that they understand what is safe to eat and don't kill themselves off eating toxic plants. (Avocados, for instance.)

In closing, I don't think there was any one "incident" that landed them in Whittier. They have a lifespan similar to humans so it may well be that three or four individuals escaped from individual homes after which they heard and saw individual members flying about in the years/decades following. If there were a pet store accident, especially a fire that resulted in the release of many birds, chances are it would be in a local newspaper archive and that would confirm whether this explanation represents local lore vs. true-life recollection.


Rhiannon 7 years ago

I was in Whittier visiting family today and I saw them! It was the coolest thing. I was at Jordan Rd and Whittier Blvd, and they were everywhere. I was born and raised in Whittier, but I don't remember them from the 80's.

Maybe I just wasn't paying attention. :)


WildParrot profile image

WildParrot 7 years ago

as climates get warmer we will see more and more escaped pet parrots starting to breed in the "wild" around towns


Whittier Guy 7 years ago

Regardless of where they came from, Parrots are exciting to watch and hear.Reminds me when i visited my family in Sinaloa Mexico where they also exist in great numbers.


craig walters 7 years ago

pam

my name is Craig Walters and you probably know of me as i am a pssitologists who specialized in California parrots and i have written article for several online sites etc....so you know there is some idelogy that the wild parrots have come from pet stores due to bands on their thigh which is the lower part of their legs with id numbers etc but some do not have the band so there is also some talk of them escaping from owners. this to update people..there are 13 species now flying free in California with 5 genuses and over 10,000 individuals and not like Ally,Karen Mabb and others who concentrate on their regional parrots flocks. i concentrate on the whole state and it seems the parrots continue to breed in the wild and have established themselves in new territory. i can say territory as i have seen some rivarly between flocks and other native birds but not to the degree of being invasive, not quite yet!

The parrots are here to stay and like many immigrants in humans who come here for the so called milk and honey or the sweets of california, so have the parrots. i have calculated that by 2020 that we will have over 20,000 parrots in California and this is still far behind Florida's current population of 25,000.

so y'all know there are some 90 species of psitticids in the United States so this is not just Florida and Caifornia we are talking about.

source is.. Field Guide to Birds Of North American @ 2008


Annette Regalado 7 years ago

I love them... I get happy to see them, YES I know there noisy and some sunday mornings that's the last thing I want to hear. But overall its God's gift and there amazinging to watch. I would stop whatever I'm doing just to run out in the back yard to see them...I always puts a smile on my face. :)


raymond a apodaca 8 years ago

I have at least 200 300 amazonas sleepin rt now on my front yard oak tree. every day they comeback. it takes 5-10 min to knock,aall 300 birds fall asleep at once.no mess just awesome birds.R.A


Thomas Keeney 8 years ago

Dear Ms Whittier Girl: Unfortunately, we do have direct evidence (aka knowledge) of how the various taxa of parrots came to be in the greater Los Angeles basin. All one has to do is read the literature, scientific or otherwise. As I did state in my previous comment, the only way these parrots came to be in the Los Angeles Basin was that they were transported here. They did not fly here on their own fro central and south America, hence they are migratory in their natural behavior. Kimball Garrett and Karen T. Mabb, Section of Vertebrates, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, state: “The increasing establishment of parrots in southern California, with populations now exceeding 2 500 individualism in the greater Los Angeles area alone suggests at impacts of these on natives species own food resources could becomes substantial. Although largely confined to highly modified urban and suburban habitats dominated by non-native flora, the several naturalized parrot taxa nevertheless may damage ornamental and commercial fruit trees and possibly compete with native bird species for food” (Western Birds 28:196-201, 1997). According to Karen T. Mabb of the California Parrot Project: “Many of the wild 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 these wild parrots can carry many diseases and parasites. I also hear rumors of people cutting into nest cavities and taking chicks. The 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 open cavities affects the health of the tree and destroys the cavity FOREVER, rendering it useless for parrots and, more importantly, for native animal species”. http://www.natureali.org/parrot_project/suburban_j...


Whittier Girl 8 years ago

Mr. Keeney... you are a big party pooper!

No one really has any idea how these parrots came to be here. I would venture to say they could have been part of the old Japanese Deer Village in Buena Park many years ago, or when Knott's Berry Farm was a quaint place to visit. Could have been escapees from a pet store... but to state that they were "either released or escaped from ILLEGAL (ooooh) pet transport" is just another theory.


Thomas W. Keeney 8 years ago

Well folks, you are all in error. The parrots in the Los Angeles area, Pasadena, Alhambra, Whittier, Santa Monica etc were never natural here in coastal southern California. They were in fact brought here from south and central America and either released or escaped from illegal pet transport over international boundaries or pet stores. They are not part of the coastal southern California bird fauna and like other non-native birds, house sparrows European starlings, they need to be dispatched and eradicated. All birds of within the US are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act except for those taxa that are not native which include the parrots as well as other taxa.


Pam Pounds profile image

Pam Pounds 8 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest! Author

Hi Victor - I am actually not too far from you! And - I am the same way! I run out every time the parrots come squawking and flying by. I love to see them fly overhead and then land in the neighborhood trees. They really ARE fascinating! I would love to see them up close.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write a comment!


Victor Ainza 8 years ago

Wow... I also live in Whittier near Beach and Whittier boulevards I have often seen but especially HEARD the parrots. It was last summer, while walking on Russel that I saw a flock of more than 50 parrots sitting on telephone wires squaking away. I am truly amazed to see them and every time I hear them I rush out to catch them in flight. Friends and family think I'm crazy but I do find them to be fascinating. Great to see someone else with the same appreciation for them as well.


Pam Pounds profile image

Pam Pounds 8 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest! Author

Hi Patty - a sky full, a tree full, and an ear full! They are great - I love it when they come!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

I cannot even imagine a sky full of parrots - I want to go there!


Pam Pounds profile image

Pam Pounds 8 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest! Author

Thanks for your comment, Dafia - birds are SO beautiful...and I love to watch them. I keep a bird feeder full in my yard. I just wish we had more varieties where I live. I'd be outside all day just watching them!!


dafla 8 years ago

We have flocks of wild monk parakeets (also called quaker parrots) in Florida, as well as a few stray macaws, parrots, and cockatiels. Unfortunately, the smaller birds usually become food for some larger bird of prey. I have three cockatiels myself, but they are very safely kept under lock and key in an aviary on the back porch.


Pam Pounds profile image

Pam Pounds 8 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest! Author

Thanks, Doghouse! I agree - very cool for them to be free. I love hearing them swing by overhead - even tho' they ARE noisy!


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California

I totally used to live in Arcadia... the birds were always there. They are really fascinating, but noisy to say the least! It is kind of cool that they are wild and free. Great idea to write about them.

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