Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions we receive from members of the public. Don't see your question answered here? Let us know!
Q: Where did the parrots come from?
A: There are many theories and the truth is that many of them may be partially true. Most likely the flocks we see today are a result of wild caught birds that were either accidentally or intentionally released in our area. Our proximity to the Mexico border makes it likely that many of our birds were intended for the black market (poached) pet trade. Parrots have been documented in San Diego since the late 50’s/early 60’s. There are flocks throughout Orange and Los Angeles Counties as well.
Q: Are they really endangered?
A: Yes our Red-crowned Amazons (less than 3,000 left in their native habitat) and Lilac-crowned Amazons (less than 6,000) are two of the most common wild parrots in San Diego County and both are considered endangered by IUCN. Many of the other species that we see locally are also considered threatened or near-threatened. Globally, the parrot family is the most rapidly declining family of birds on the planet.
Q: How many parrots are in southern CA?
A: No one knows. There are 13 species of wild parrots naturalized in SoCal; in San Diego County the most common species that we see are Red-crowned Amazons, Lilac-crowned Amazons, Mitred Conures, Red-masked Conures and Blue-crowned Conures.
Q: Aren’t they non-native? That means they steal food and damage habitat for native species, right?
A: Wild parrots are not considered to be historically native, even though they’ve been documented since the 50’s/60’s. USFW and CAFW biologists have reviewed local wild parrots and determined that they are NOT invasive and they do not pose any significant competition to native birds. The reason for this is simple; our parrots depend on the ornamental non-native plantings that we are so fond of here in SoCal. This limits the parrots to feeding and nesting in urban areas only.
Q: So they’re feral?
A: No. “Feral” is a term used for a domesticated animal that has reverted back to a somewhat wild existence. Because our wild parrots are believed to have originated from released wild-caught birds they are actually considered to be NATURALIZED rather than feral.
Q: What do they eat?
A: Wild parrots in SoCal live off of our non-native, ornamental fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs for their food source as well as nesting and roosting locations. Some of our naturalized parrots favorite food sources are; loquat, fig, pine (nuts), guava, coral tree nectar (blossoms), etc.
Q: Can I catch them/keep them as a pet?
A: We strongly recommend that you do not attempt to catch/keep these birds as “pets”. You can try, but since these birds are completely wild animals, it would probably be a difficult feat just to get them caged. Parrots do not make good pets for 99% of the population. They’re loud, messy, destructive, and certainly can/do bite. They require special diets and veterinary care, which can be time-consuming and costly. They have the intelligence of a 2-4 year old child and can live very long lives; up to 50 years is not unusual.
Q: They’re so LOUD! Do they squawk all day?
A: Usually, the flock is quite noisy in the early morning for about 10-15 minutes, then again in the early evening for a few minutes longer. During the day, they break off into smaller groups to forage for food. While it may seem loud or annoying to us, you have to understand that these birds’ voices are meant to be calling to their flock across the forest canopy, from long distances away. We give out free foam ear plugs at events to help people appreciate the parrots!
Q: Where do they nest?
A: Most Amazon parrots utilize cavities (“holes”) that are found in palm trees, whether naturally occurring or previously made by another animal. They don’t build “nests” like many songbirds, so the babies need to be secured within the cavity’s enclosed shape.
Q: How long do they live?
A: Amazons can live anywhere from 50 to 70 years old. Conures can live to be over 30 years old.
Q: Why don’t you just relocate them? Or release them back to their NATIVE habitat in Mexico?
A: To catch, house, and transport such a large number of birds would be ridiculously time and cost-consuming. Furthermore, it would be extremely difficult to find a suitable location for them to thrive in. Add in the bureaucracy of international borders, and the fact that their “native” habitat is nearly gone due to human impact and deforestation—you can see why Mexico is not a viable option for a release location.
Q: How many eggs do they lay? How many times a year do they lay them?
A: Typically, a female adult Amazon will lay 1 or 2 eggs, and only once a year. They typically raise their babies in early Spring/Summer.
Q: Do they mate for life?
A: Yes! Parrots are very socially intelligent and they form tight family bonds within their flock.
Q: Do they talk?
A: Some of our ambassador birds say some words and phrases, and often use them in context. Like many 2-4 year old children – they never want to do it when you want them to. They are, however, most happy to recite every word and phrase they know in their loudest voice when you are attempting to make a phone call or carry on a conversation with another human.