You’ve heard of puppy-love, and the month of February is the perfect time to express those warm, fluttery feelings to your partner.
But parrot-love might be the new big thing for the Peninsula — and parrots are considerably more “fluttery” than puppies.
Ocean Beach will embrace parrot-love this year as its Mainstreet Association has decided to incorporate the tropical bird into its marketing campaign for 2019.
“Everybody loves the parrots,” said Denny Knox, OBMA executive director. “Even if the parrots drive them crazy! They’re so noisy — but everybody does love them.”
According to SoCal Parrot, a parrot rescue group founded by wildlife rehab specialist Brooke Durham that partners with other rescues throughout Southern California, there are 13 wild parrot species throughout SoCal, with Red-crowned Amazons, Lilac-crowned Amazons, Mitred Conures, Red-masked Conures and Blue-crowned Conures spotted the most often in San Diego County.
They’re bright, colorful and noisy as all-get-out.
These beautiful, winged foreigners wake up (and wake everyone in the neighborhood, too) between 5 and 5:30 a.m. They spend their days foraging for food, and end them with more squawking before sunset, falling silent once it’s dark.
SoCal Parrot’s operations manager Sarah Mansfield said she timed the squawking one morning in Ocean Beach. The parrots made a ruckus for 12 minutes before flying off, she reported, most likely to look for food for the day.
Parrots spend about 70 percent of their lives foraging for food, which doesn’t leave a ton of time for extra activities (to be fair, humans spend a good portion of their lives focusing on food, too).
Since they’re not native, the parrots don’t compete with native wildlife for food; instead, they eat the flowers and fruit of ornamental, non-native trees — their favorite food is loquat, but they also enjoy figs, pine nuts and eucalyptus flowers.
“I think someone has a pecan tree that they really love, too,” Mansfield added.
Parrots are omnivores, eating both meat and vegetation, and according to livescience.com, they’ll also eat seeds and insects.
Mansfield maintains the parrots must have been brought to the Peninsula, and were either accidentally or intentionally released. Either way, they came to SoCal wild and have remained wild. The Lilac-crowned Amazons are native to the west coast of the Mexican peninsula, while the Red-crowned Amazons live in a small area on the Mexican gulf, south of Texas. Considering the proximity of the Mexican border, it’s not unlikely that the parrots were originally intended to be sold on the black market, she said.
If you live in the Point Loma area, you’ve probably noticed that the smaller flocks of Conure parrots stay around all year, but the larger Amazon parrots head to East County, mid- to late-summer. Around late-winter, Mansfield said they return to San Diego beach communities to have their babies.
That being said, these species of parrot don’t migrate; they travel, but not typically out of a 20 to 40 mile radius, further supporting the theory that the parrots did not arrive here without human help.
As to their resting place, you won’t see these birds kicking back in a typical nest of twigs and leaves — they’re cavity-nesters, meaning they look for a nice hole in a tree that a previous home-owner has carved out, and move in to have their chicks.
By SoCal Parrots’ count, there are approximately 800 birds in the local Amazon parrot flock. However, some Peninsula residents are speculating that there are more parrots in town this year. Mansfield insists there hasn’t been a significant increase.
Technically, it’s not illegal to capture a parrot and keep it for a pet, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. As Mansfield points out, there is a multitude of birds in rescue shelters or on waiting lists to be adopted. Those birds are tame and would make good pets, she said, as opposed to wild parrots accustomed to their daily flights around San Diego’s beautiful coastal areas.
7 Fun Parrot Facts
1. Amazon parrots are known to be among the most proficient talking birds and have the intelligence of a 2- to 4-year-old human. (socalparrot.com)
2. Amazon parrots can live from 50 to 70 years. Conures can live up to 30 years. (socalparrot.com)
3. The pirate with a pet parrot tale originates from the early 1700s. On long, miserable voyages, pirates would want an animal companion, and with all the travel to exotic lands, pets like monkeys and parrots were not uncommon. Additionally, colorful talking birds were very expensive, so pirates would steal them. (atlasobscura.com)
4. What’s the difference between parrots and cockatoos? A cockatoo is a type of parrot; there are only 17 species of cockatoos while parrots include more than 370 species collectively. Additionally, parrots are found in the tropics and subtropics of the world, while cockatoos are found only in Australia and surrounding islands. (differencebetween.com)
5. The biggest distinguishing feature of parrots is its feet; parrots are the only birds with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backwards on each foot. All other birds have four toes, with three pointing forward and one pointing backward. (theanswerbank.co.uk).
6. Parrots have approximately 300 taste buds located on the roofs of their mouths, not on the mouth bottom, like a human. (smithsonianmag.com)
7. Psittacofulvins, a bacteria-resistant pigment that only parrots are known to produce, gives their feathers their red, yellow and green coloration and protects the plumage from degradation. (smithsonianmag.com)