Editor's Note: Eagle Rock Patch Editor Ajay Singh wrote this story from an Eagle Rock perspective, but Highland Park residents are familiar with parrots flying through our neighborhood as well. In the comments below, tell us your experiences with the parrots.
The parrots are back.
After months of not hearing the pesky birds, Eagle Rock writer Andrew Hindes was recently surprised to see them around his house.
“They have returned en masse in the past few weeks, although the frequency has tapered off in the last few days,” he said. “So far, I’ve noticed them circling and swarming—and making quite a racket—rather than roosting in trees on our property.”
Not far from where Hindes lives on Highland View Avenue, Eagle Rock resident Tim O’Brien reports a similar experience.
“For about the past three weeks, there has been a flock of about 20 parrots that makes two or three ‘passes’ over our house in the mornings between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and then again at dusk,” O’Brien said.
The birds, he added, engage in “a great deal of squawking and fly in formation, swooping this way and that, alight in a tree for a few minutes and then continue their noisy journey on to points unknown.”
As was the case almost exactly a year ago, parrots are roosting—or flocking together—in relatively large numbers once again in Eagle Rock.
“I saw them this morning for the first time,” wrote Julia Salazar, director of the , in a Wednesday email to Eagle Rock Patch. “Strange sight. They seem to have flown away.”
During the fall and winter months, parrots tend to roost more than at any other time of the year, said Kimball Garrett, a birder who founded the California Parrot Project in 1994 and runs the ornithology collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.
“During the warmer breeding season, the birds are a little more scattered, so you’d expect large roosts at this time,” explained Garrett. Although large numbers of parrots can gather into roosts year around, “the numbers involved tend to be a little higher in late fall and winter, and a little bit lower in spring and summer when they scatter around a bit more for nesting season.”
The traditional roosting areas for wild parrots are Temple City, South Pasadena and Altadena. “I don’t know of any big roosts closer to Eagle Rock,” Garrett said.
But why do parrots appear to be so extravagantly visible, not to mention voluble, for a few minutes, days or weeks and then suddenly all but vanish?
“That’s what parrots do,” said Garrett. “They’re really good and finding and exploiting food resources that are kind of ephemeral—they might have fruit or some kind of seeds for just a few weeks and they find ’em and eat ’em all and then move on to somewhere else.”
Added Garrett: “It’s hard to predict exactly where that will take them—and when—but they certainly are good at moving around a lot.”
World Parrot Count
The constant movement can be challenge for ornithologists interested in knowing how many wild parrots there are in a particular urban area. And that’s why the winter months are usually a good time to count parrots—as a Europe-based group called City Parrots is doing right now for conservation purposes, with help from volunteers.
Click here to read instructions fro City Parrots on how to count wild parrots in your neighborhood and submit the results to the organization online.
Affiliated with the International Ornithologists Union, City Parrots is mainly devoted to monitoring parrots that have been introduced to urban areas and are not native to them, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.
None of the three major species of parrots found in and around Eagle Rock, including Mount Washington, are native to Southern California, according to Garrett. (They include Red-crowned Parrots native to Eastern Mexico; Yellow-chevroned Parakeets native to South America; and Mitred Parakeets, also native to South America.)
There are currently no large-scale local attempts to conduct parrot counts in Southern California, Garrett said, adding: “Some years we try to do that, but nothing’s been really organized for this year.”
Christmas Bird Count
The closest thing to a local parrot count is the Christmas Bird Count conducted annually for the past 65 years by the Pasadena Audubon Society.
The exercise occurs within a 15-mile diameter centered at the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Duarte Road in Pasadena, which lies roughly five miles east of the Eagle Rock border. The latest Christmas Bird Count was on Dec. 15 last year.
“I haven't totaled the results yet, but we typically record hundreds of Red-crowned Parrots, fair numbers of Mitred and Red-masked Parakeets and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets as well as smaller numbers of at least a half dozen other species of parrots and parakeets,” said Jon Fisher, head of the Pasadena Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.
In 2011, the Christmas Bird Count recorded 10 different species of wild parrots, totalling 1,360 birds. The largest majority? Red-crowned Parrots—no less than 1,129 of them. Next in ranking were Yellow-chevroned Parakeets (140), followed by Mitred Parakeets (32).
Although the Christmas Bird Count circle extends southwest to Scholl Canyon and Occidental College, those areas were not covered in 2012, Fisher said.