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Wild Parrots of Southern California: Red-Crowned Parrots

Updated on October 12, 2014

My Photos and Sightings of Parrots in Orange County

Meet my noisy neighbors: wild Mexican red-crowned parrots living in Orange County!

In 2008, I noticed a flock of green parrots squawking in a park next door. They left in June, but a pair returned the next spring. When they returned yet again in 2010, I decided to learn more about them.

It turns out they're red-crowned parrots, aka Mexican green-cheeked parrots, a highly endangered species. Imported through the illegal exotic bird smuggling trade, escapees have formed feral parrot populations in California (as well as Texas and Florida).

The California Parrot Project asks for us to report parrot sightings (see link at bottom of page). I originally created this page to share photos, videos and information on my red-crowned parrots.

Red-Crowned Parrot, May 2009
Red-Crowned Parrot, May 2009

My Friends the Parrots

Illegal Aliens, or Survivors?

Here is my first fuzzy photo of a parrot on May 11, 2009.

It's often called the Amazon red-crowned parrot, but it's actually native to Mexico, not South America.

This introduced species of parrot is highly endangered in its native Mexico, with perhaps less than 2000 remaining in the wild. So I'm glad they've found a safe haven here.

Since they've been listed as "endangered or threatened" by the U.S. Fish & Game service, it's illegal to catch or shoot them. The U.S. also bans importation of most wild-caught birds as pets.

Note: The better photos are farther down this page, after I got a new camera in 2012.

Photos of My Red-Crowned Parrots - Species: Amazona viridigenalis

Click thumbnail to view full-size
In 2010, I've mostly been seeing a pair.Note blue streak behind eye: that's how I IDed them.They roost in the tippy-top of eucalyptus trees, mocking my digital camera.Awwwww. They're loud, but they're cute.Feb 22, 2011. They're back. Nibbling on fred buds or flowers (not sure which) on the sycamore trees next to the park at sunset. Took lots of photos, but they were too high up, and every photo is a bit blurry.
In 2010, I've mostly been seeing a pair.
In 2010, I've mostly been seeing a pair.
Note blue streak behind eye: that's how I IDed them.
Note blue streak behind eye: that's how I IDed them.
They roost in the tippy-top of eucalyptus trees, mocking my digital camera.
They roost in the tippy-top of eucalyptus trees, mocking my digital camera.
Awwwww. They're loud, but they're cute.
Awwwww. They're loud, but they're cute.
Feb 22, 2011. They're back. Nibbling on fred buds or flowers (not sure which) on the sycamore trees next to the park at sunset. Took lots of photos, but they were too high up, and every photo is a bit blurry.
Feb 22, 2011. They're back. Nibbling on fred buds or flowers (not sure which) on the sycamore trees next to the park at sunset. Took lots of photos, but they were too high up, and every photo is a bit blurry.

About Red-Crowned Parrots - aka Mexican green-cheeked parrot

My Parrots Are Back - With a Kid? (May 2012)

(May 2012) Sure enough, starting in February, they've been waking me up in the morning and stopping by at sunset to roost in eucalyptus trees, munch on coral trees or jacaranda trees.

At times last year I started seeing three, and now there's definitely three. I assume the third is junior.

Better Photos of Wild Parrots, 2012

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May 17, 2012: Better camera, 7PM when sunset's later. Coral trees provide munchies.May 17, 2012: Eucalyptus still makes a good roost for a friend. This gives you a bit of a sense of how high up they usually are.May 17, 2012: Uh oh, they see me!May 17, 2012: And their third favorite tree in the park: Jacarandas. They'll favor these trees over the rest once they start blooming.
May 17, 2012: Better camera, 7PM when sunset's later. Coral trees provide munchies.
May 17, 2012: Better camera, 7PM when sunset's later. Coral trees provide munchies.
May 17, 2012: Eucalyptus still makes a good roost for a friend. This gives you a bit of a sense of how high up they usually are.
May 17, 2012: Eucalyptus still makes a good roost for a friend. This gives you a bit of a sense of how high up they usually are.
May 17, 2012: Uh oh, they see me!
May 17, 2012: Uh oh, they see me!
May 17, 2012: And their third favorite tree in the park: Jacarandas. They'll favor these trees over the rest once they start blooming.
May 17, 2012: And their third favorite tree in the park: Jacarandas. They'll favor these trees over the rest once they start blooming.

Kids: "They're not pirates, they're parrots!"

The quality of this video isn't great, but I wanted to document their squawks and feeding behavior. The kids playing in the park add lively commentary!

Junior birdwatchers observing red-crowned parrots

February 2013: New Parrot Sightings - Yep, they're back

1st Feb 2013: My noisy parrots have been gone all winter, but last week I started hearing them again at morning and sunset, as usual. However, this year, there are FOUR. It appears that junior has brought home a mate.

They hopped from sycamores (bare trees) to jacarandas to eucalyptus trees, irritated by me and other people watching them this evening (4:45 PM, around sunset).


Feb 2nd, 7AM: What brings my parrots back each year? Mystery solved! There's a few coral trees in the vicinity, and they've just started blooming. When the squawk chorus woke me up this morning at dawn, I came out to find Mr. and Mr. Parrot eating coral tree petals.

Junior (?) and spouse were about half a block away. I spotted them flying, also perching atop some very tall cyprus trees in a neighbor's yard. The two pairs were keeping in contact with squawks.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Three of the four parrots. Feb 1, 2013. Late in the day, as usual.close-up of the middle parrot in the sycamore.They never like being observed...... and fly away or fly off to camouflage themselves in the jacarandas......or the tops of the eucalyptus.Dawn, Feb 2: coral tree munchies.Puffing out feathers and spreading tail, apparently in reaction to me.
Three of the four parrots. Feb 1, 2013. Late in the day, as usual.
Three of the four parrots. Feb 1, 2013. Late in the day, as usual.
close-up of the middle parrot in the sycamore.
close-up of the middle parrot in the sycamore.
They never like being observed...
They never like being observed...
... and fly away or fly off to camouflage themselves in the jacarandas...
... and fly away or fly off to camouflage themselves in the jacarandas...
...or the tops of the eucalyptus.
...or the tops of the eucalyptus.
Dawn, Feb 2: coral tree munchies.
Dawn, Feb 2: coral tree munchies.
Puffing out feathers and spreading tail, apparently in reaction to me.
Puffing out feathers and spreading tail, apparently in reaction to me.

I also recorded a quick video (Feb 1st) to record their calls. I'm still trying to capture that odd rising beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep noise that they make occasionally:

Squawk squawk squawk. They make great alarm clocks.

Best Wild Parrot Photos So Far

FINALLY got some photos of the parrots in better lighting. Some of these are from Feb 2013, some from May 2014.

They become restless and fly off if I watch them for very long, so I generally content myself with listening to them from afar instead of stepping outside to take pictures.

Red-Crowned Parrots Feb 2013-2014

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Red-crowned parrot. THERE. This is why I'm so fascinated by them... aren't they lovely?Same parrot, zoomed out. They are taunting my camera, as usual.If I stay for any length of time, however, they get really quiet and puff out their feathers to look like an unkempt muppet. And/or they fly away. (This is why I don't bother them with too many photo sessions, even though they're here for months.)May 20, 2014: Oh it's YOU again. (Notice the half-lidded eye.) Once again up at the top of a eucalyptus.May 20, 2014: 10AM - for once they showed up during full daylight instead of sunrise or sunset. Still at the top of a tall tree, though.See? Parrot's perched atop the middle tree's main trunk where it's sawed off, a little above the center of the photo. Oops. Flapping and huffing and puffing again, giving me the evil eye. They really are very camera-shy.
Red-crowned parrot. THERE. This is why I'm so fascinated by them... aren't they lovely?
Red-crowned parrot. THERE. This is why I'm so fascinated by them... aren't they lovely?
Same parrot, zoomed out. They are taunting my camera, as usual.
Same parrot, zoomed out. They are taunting my camera, as usual.
If I stay for any length of time, however, they get really quiet and puff out their feathers to look like an unkempt muppet. And/or they fly away. (This is why I don't bother them with too many photo sessions, even though they're here for months.)
If I stay for any length of time, however, they get really quiet and puff out their feathers to look like an unkempt muppet. And/or they fly away. (This is why I don't bother them with too many photo sessions, even though they're here for months.)
May 20, 2014: Oh it's YOU again. (Notice the half-lidded eye.) Once again up at the top of a eucalyptus.
May 20, 2014: Oh it's YOU again. (Notice the half-lidded eye.) Once again up at the top of a eucalyptus.
May 20, 2014: 10AM - for once they showed up during full daylight instead of sunrise or sunset. Still at the top of a tall tree, though.
May 20, 2014: 10AM - for once they showed up during full daylight instead of sunrise or sunset. Still at the top of a tall tree, though.
See? Parrot's perched atop the middle tree's main trunk where it's sawed off, a little above the center of the photo.
See? Parrot's perched atop the middle tree's main trunk where it's sawed off, a little above the center of the photo.
Oops. Flapping and huffing and puffing again, giving me the evil eye. They really are very camera-shy.
Oops. Flapping and huffing and puffing again, giving me the evil eye. They really are very camera-shy.

Green-Cheeked Parrot Photos/Videos By Others

Well, that's quite enough of my own mediocre photos, eh? Below are some other people's better videos of these lovable parrots. The first video gives you a lovely view of this magnificent bird, while the second treats you to the dawn chorus.

Video: Red-Crowned Parrot Feeding - From parrots.org

parrots.org provides a better video than I can of this species of parrot:

Video: Red-Crowned Parrot Munching Jacarandas

There's a lot of jacarandas in the park, and I've seen them munching flowers in past years.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: Book or Film

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Judy Irvine's award-winning documentary, "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," showcases Bohemian Mark Bittner's fascinating interactions with individual, personable parrots in San Francisco. Available on DVD or instant video. The film is based on Bittner's book: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story . . . with Wings.

 

Have you seen any feral parrots in California? Leave a note in my guestbook. Don't forget to report your sightings to the California Parrot Project!

NOTE: The Parrot Project warned me that we shouldn't post detailed sightings reports online. Unfortunately, poachers may use them to capture the parrots and/or raid their nests for babies! Ugh.

Guestbook For the Birds (And Fans)

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    • tea lady 2 profile image

      Pat 7 years ago from Midwest, USA

      Nice lens. I love The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill Film!

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 7 years ago from California

      @tea lady 2: Ooo! I'd heard of the parrots on Telegraph Hill, but didn't know about that film! Going to look now, thanks!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

      I've never actually been to California but I do enjoy watching and photographing birds. It looks like you have a good telephoto lens for your camera. Nice photos.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      What a great idea for a lens. Living in the Midwest we have no wild parrot flocks so I envy you that. I used to paint parrots quite a bit and would love to have been able to photograph them in the wild. :)

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 7 years ago from California

      @WildFacesGallery: Since I grew up in Pennsylvania, I think I notice a lot of weird things in California that the natives don't see. ("What? They've got birds of paradise growing in the median strip!") I've been here 14 years and I still feel like I'm living on another planet!

    • BrickHouseFabrics profile image

      BrickHouseFabrics 6 years ago

      I have never seen a parrot in the wild, it must be awesome!

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 6 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Thank you very much! I know there are many many more around; I think I'm just getting a few oddballs who choose not to hang out with the large flocks in Tustin and Santa Ana. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What a wonderful thing to have a rare treasure in your own yard, lucky you!

    • Bercton1 profile image

      Bercton1 5 years ago

      Great info on parrots nice lens!!

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 5 years ago

      Excellent lens! Do you see parrots every year?

    • kimpaul profile image

      kimpaul 5 years ago

      Just watched the movie recommended above Wild parrots of telegraph hill. I had no idea there were wild parrots there! What fun! I have a caique and he's quite a character. I made a lens about him. : ) Love your lens!!!

    • alexandradouglas profile image

      Alexandra Douglas 5 years ago from Florida

      The movie recommendation was phenomenal.

    • profile image

      KeepsakeIdeas 5 years ago

      I've never been to California but it would be exciting to see a parrot there, or anywhere, in the wild! They add a wonderful splash of color to the surroundings, not to mention that they are real personalities too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I live in Orange Ca. and see a flock of Parrots every Morning and actually hear them before I see them. They return again in late afternoon and sometimes perch on a telephone wire that comes into my backyard. They are very noicey but I really enjoy watching them.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I don't buy the theory that OC parrots are feral. The gestation cycle of parrots is so long it would take hundreds of years for a handful of parrots to breed into flocks of parrots. Instead, OC parrots and their obviously growing numbers are much more likely natural migration. Further, their growing numbers in OC undermine the idea that they are endangered since they seem to be flourishing in Orange, Tustin & Irvine.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The Red Crowned parrots are in Devore as well. They seem to like the berries in my trees. They are also in La Verne and have been for years.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: It has taken more than 70 years for the Orange County flock to be the size it is. Orange County's wild parrots have been here since the 1940s. Parrots do not migrate, so that theory doesn't apply. And yes, three of the species found here are on the Endangered Species List. They have been so depleted in their native ranges that more of them now exist in California than in their native range. If you would like to read more, our website gives a lot of information. You will find it at http://amazornia.us.

    • YogaAngel profile image

      YogaAngel 4 years ago

      I remember those parrots growing up! I love that movie the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill!!!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      For two days now we have had roughly 40-50 of these beautiful birds fill our 40 year old maple tree. It is nice to have something this rare at our home.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hello, I don't live in the OC world, but in Los Angeles county, anyway, the parrots are in West Covina, San dimas, Pomona, la Verne and surrounding areas. I am talking hundreds it is an incredible sight! They come in spring and in the fall right here right now 10/11/2012 they are here. FYI

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 4 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Wonderful! They're loud, but aren't they fun?

      I wish I had more than 2-3. I feel left out. Then again, it's a very quiet neighborhood.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      There are hundreds of the parrots near the OC Jail. They sleep there and then fly out in the morning, returning at sunset.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      I had one very similar to those mine came from the Andes Range of Mountains between Bolivia and Peru their heads are red on top but colour red is much higher up and they make different calling noises to the ones I have heard here and she was also very scandalous in the noise she made too and she had bright blue eyes.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 21 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub about those beautiful parrots in South California. I hope they don't get poached. Lovely photos! Voted up for interesting!

    • profile image

      Sara 11 months ago

      I have been hearing and seeing two parrots in the park behind my house in Placentia, CA for the last couple of months - morning and evenings. I hope that decide to stay around. It is very exciting as there have never been any parrots here.

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