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San Diego's Wild About Parrots!

Updated on October 7, 2014

San Diego's Little Known Bird Secret

Many people don't think of parrots when they visit San Diego. Most people probably think of pelicans, gulls, maybe a shorebird or two. But, there are at least a dozen species flying around California. Where I live in San Diego, I mostly see either red-crowned parrots and rose-ringed parakeets. There's a few other species flying around that I don't recognize. Each night, and sometimes in the morning, I see them flying past my apartment building.

I generally have reservations against non-native species. Most of them are detrimental to native wildlife. Sparrows kill other bird's babies and take over nesting cavities, for example. Parrots also use nesting cavities, but it's unknown if they are directly competing against native species by using them. The parrots I've observed tend to nest and socialize in areas where most native birds don't like or have a preference for. They also don't seem to compete with other birds for noise.

Some people have sympathy for these birds because they are so decimated in their home range. Habitat destruction as well as the pet trade has had a great impact on them. While they're declining in their home range, they seem to be thriving in California, Texas, and Florida.

Even though they're not native, I actually feel privileged being able to live in an area with wild parrots flying by without having to leave the country.

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (A Love Story)

All Over California

You may have heard of the movie "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill". There was even a movie of the same name. The movie centered on a flock of wild red-masked parakeets in San Francisco and the man who looked after them. It's not only a story about wild parrots, it's a love story, too. You'll just have to watch the movie to find out why I say that.

I believe we also have red-masked parakeets here in San Diego, but I'm not sure. There are many different parrot populations all over California, with some species preferring a certain part of town or city over others.

They also seem to prefer different types of nesting cavities. Most of the birds I've seen like the California fan palms, but I once saw a small flock using decorative holes in a man's home for nesting. The guy who owned the home, I was told, liked the parrots. There once a large population breeding in the trees near the Adam's Humanities building at SDSU before they cut the trees down. The parrots flew around the neighborhood for months looking for a new home. I think they're now nesting in a palm grove down the road from the university

Parrot in Redondo Area

This parrot actually lives up north, but is one of the kinds that we see here in San Diego, too.
This parrot actually lives up north, but is one of the kinds that we see here in San Diego, too. | Source

Where You Can See Them

In San Diego, the beach areas are the best place to consistently see parrots. I remember doing volunteer work for San Diego Audubon at Mission Bay and seeing a flock of red-crowned parrots flying back and forth. I've also seen them along Friar's Road near the San Diego River, Ocean Beach, Imperial Beach, El Cajon, and the College Area.

Facts About San Diego's Wild Parrots

Here are a few facts about San Diego's (and much of California's) wild parrots:

  • Many species are endangered or threatened in their home range due to habitat destruction or the pet trade
  • They are truly wild. Though their ancestors may have come from domestic stock (or from wild-caught birds destined for the pet trade), the flocks in San Diego were hatched and raised in the wild and are not escaped pets
  • Most of the parrots species originated in Mexico and areas south of there, but a few come from Asia and other areas in the Eastern Hemisphere.
  • Red-crowned parrots are considered "countable" by the American Birding Association who keeps an official list of species.

Are These Parrots Harmful to Native Birds?

Do you think they are competing or are harmful to native birds?

See results

So-Cal Parrot's Exhibit at the Bird Fair

This was So-Cal Parrot's educational exhibit at the San Diego Bird Fair in 2014.  The birds in the cage are conures that were un-releasable.
This was So-Cal Parrot's educational exhibit at the San Diego Bird Fair in 2014. The birds in the cage are conures that were un-releasable. | Source

So-Cal Parrot

I once went to a bird fair and got to know this group called So Cal Parrot. They advocate for the wild parrots in southern California by educating people about them. If you ever find an injured wild parrot, you can bring them to So-Cal Parrot and they will help it.

One of the thing they heavily advocate is not keeping parrots as pets, especially wild-captured parrots. According to them, they don't make good pets for many reasons. I agree with them. Parrots are a LOT of work and need constant care and stimulation and are very intelligent. They often have temper-tantrums and can actually injure a person with their strong bills and sharp claws on their feet. They also tend to live an extremely long time. Having a parrot is a life-long commitment because parrots don't do well when they are constantly passed around to new homes.

More Links About Wild Parrots in California

Here are some more links about wild parrots living in the California area and their advocates. **More to be added at a later date***

The California Parrot Project

Parrots--California Parrots Flying Free

Uncovering the Mystery of Wild Parrots in Southern California

Parrots Enjoying the San Diego Sunflowers

I Hope You Enjoyed My Little Hub on Parrots

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    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 3 years ago from Texas USA

      Being from San Diego, I'm always pleased to learn something new about my favorite city. I'm displaced for the time being. I didn't know about wild parrots in California at all. Great hub.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      I might have seen a black-capped chickadee or a black-throated gray warbler -- I'm just not sure what bird it is that I see darting around out back.

    • Desertdarlene profile image

      Desertdarlene 3 years ago

      There are other sparrows that are native that aren't that aggressive.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      For some reason, I've thought a chickadee might be related to the sparrows. And, I'm trying to think about what the little bird is that I see in the trees near my drainage ditch out back. They are similar to those two, and have a white mark, with a black mark and maybe a little yellow on the belly.

    • Desertdarlene profile image

      Desertdarlene 3 years ago

      I haven't heard anything bad about chickadees. In fact, they are often victims of house sparrows who will even kill adult chickadees. Chickadees are also native birds, unlike the sparrows.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      Holy smokes my dear!!! The way I see sparrows darting about here and there, I never knew they were lazy. Probably like to play too much so don't have time to make their own nests. That's something - as I really never knew that about them -- how about chickadees?

    • Desertdarlene profile image

      Desertdarlene 3 years ago

      House sparrows like to nest in cavities, but are lazy about making them. So, they wait until another bird makes them, then kills their eggs and young and takes over. They are also very aggressive overall.

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      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      My mom always wanted to have a parrot as a pet, but never did. I truly don't know much about parrots, but always enjoyed watching them. I learned something new, but not about a parrot -- that sparrows aren't the nicest birds! That is a surprise that they will kill other birds' babies - I wonder why??