Flashes of color in the sky

LA Times photoThe tale of L.A.'s wild parrots gets an update from Emily Green in the Times, focusing on the large flock of the red-crowned variety that roosts in Arcadia and Temple City. Although not all of the thirty-odd species spotted by the California Parrot Project are flourishing, ten types do remarkably well in our skies—and many only look like parrots. The L.A. Times photo is by Allen J. Schaben.

The successful breeding populations, he says, were never tame, but arose from lost shipments of wild birds that escaped when it was still legal to import them between the 1950s and late '80s. These include the black-hooded parakeets of Brentwood, the yellow-chevroned parakeets of Lafayette Park, the rose-ringed parakeets of Malibu, the mitred parakeets of Palos Verdes and blue-crowned parakeets of Northridge, 10 species in all.

The naturalized populations vary, from 60 to 600, but none of them approach the 1,000-plus status of the red-crowned Parrots of Temple City. In addition to those, there are at least 500 or 600 other red-crowned parrots in Orange, more in Fullerton and other colonies around the state, says Walter Piper, an ornithologist at Chapman University in Orange. The upshot: We may have as many red-crowned parrots here as in their native range in northeastern Mexico.

When I lived near South Carthay I was awakened one morning by the wet, excited chewing of a large parrot perched on the head of my giant sunflower, gobbling down seeds. He returned every day for awhile and became my gardening inspiration. I hadn't seen or heard any in Mar Vista until last week, when about forty keeled in the wind above the hill, screaming furiously. From the parrot project's description, I gather they were parakeets. Whatever—I'll definitely be planting sunflowers this spring (assuming we ever get through this brutal winter...)


More by Kevin Roderick:
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Ralph Lawler of the Clippers and the age of Aquarius
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