Urban Parrot Phenomena

image Is it true that large flocks of wild parrots can be found in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and San Diego? When I first heard this I doubted it, since I live in San Diego and I've never seen wild parrots flying around (though I've seen plenty of other strange birds in my backyard.) But apparently parrots are adapting very well to urban environments, and many can now be found living wild in cities throughout the world. It's called Urban Parrot Phenomena. (Actually, I don't know if it's widely referred to as that, but I like the term.)

An article from the IPS News Agency discusses San Diego's urban parrots and their possible origins:
Residents of Ocean Beach believe the parrots arrived 25 years ago after a pet store burned down, and they never left. The seaside community is now home to a flock of 100 naturalised parrots composed of red-headed conures and stubby-winged amazons...
The true origins of San Diego's city parrots are unknown. More likely than not, they escaped from pet stores, pet owners and even during transport in previous decades when importing wild birds to the United States was part of the legal parrot trade.
Roelant Jonker and Grace Innemee are Dutch biologists who have been studying the phenomena of urban parrots for a while and have a lot of info about the subject on their website, cityparrots.org. You can also view a short clip that Channel 10 news here in San Diego did about the city's parrots. My wife told me that the parrots here in San Diego speak with a Mexican accent, but I think she was pulling my leg.


Posted on Mon May 21, 2007


I seem to remember hearing that after hurricane Andrew hit Florida back in. . .ummm. . .whenever it was (the 1990's), a lot of birds and such critters escaped from the zoos. There was something on television about the people working to try to round up all the animals again, and lots of speculation about populations of exotic animals sprouting up around Florida as a result of the storm.

Not that the people in Florida seem to need the excuse of a major natural disaster to go releasing all sorts of odd beasties into the wilderness there.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  12:15 AM
Funny, I lived in Ocean Beach for about a year back in the early 90's when I worked at XTRA radio. I don't recall seeing any parrots there, but I wasn't really looking.

Recently, I read about the Urban Parrot Phenomenon in the Bronx, where I grew up. Apparently, there are a lot of them in Pelham Bay Park.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  02:23 AM
They're thriving in London, you see loads of them in certain areas
Posted by M  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  02:39 AM
Regarding the London parrots, a friend of mine told me they were being used in a film production at Pinewood and after the filming they were just released in to the wild. I don't recall what film it was, but it was in the seventies, a Bond movie or something similar.
Posted by derek  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  04:24 AM
We have the same phenomenon here in western Holland. They managed to adopt very well to the environment here.
Posted by LaMa  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  04:48 AM
I lived in Houston back in 1988. Back then the city was complaining about a small breed of parrot that had adapted quite well to the region. It had started to nest in the transformers and other electrical equipment causing quite a bit of damage. I never saw the little fellows in person, but they were quite cute in the pictures...
Posted by Christopher  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  06:18 AM
We had them in Chicago in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Those are actually monk parakeets and have been around since the early 1970's. It was fun to tell visitors about them -- no one believed me, of course -- and then to take them down the alley by the Catholic church and show them the messy nests and the parrots perched on power lines. It would have been more fun if they were more colorful, not just green, and if they did not make such an annoying sound.

The thing that amazed me was that they survived Chicago winters.
Posted by Michael  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  08:01 AM
10 year old website that hasn't been updated for years but good info on the Hyde Park (Chicago) Monk Parakeets.

Posted by motu  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  08:35 AM
There used to be a flock of parrots in Grand Prairie, just west of Dallas. I don't know if they're still there since I don't think we've seen any at our feeders in quite some time. I'd have to ask my parents though, they're far more observant than I.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  09:16 AM
An excellent documentary on parrots in San Francisco is: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I think PBS is airing it on Independent Lens on 5/29.
Posted by John Tyo  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  09:56 AM
The parrots in Brooklyn came from the airport in the late 1960's. Speculation is that a crate might have been opened intentionally. Similar events happened at O'Hare (Chicago) and at other ports and places where quarantine stations used to exist.

I've been following these birds for two years now and they're fascinating creatures who are very tough: you have to be tough to live on the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx!
steve baldwin
Posted by Steve Baldwin  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  10:21 AM
We have wild parrots here in Barcelona. They're called Argentinian "cotorros," which is Spanish for parrot-like bird, and I suppose they're imports from South America. They're green, about pigeon-sized, live in groups, and make their nests around the tops of palm trees, right below the leaves. And they make a lot of noise. We have only urban birds here, pigeons and ring-necked doves and sparrows, so the cotorros aren't taking away any native birds' natural space.
Posted by John  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  10:35 AM
Should have checked my Spanish; they're "cotorras." Yep, the Barcelona birds are monk parakeets, like those in Brooklyn and Chicago. I've seen them here for 20 years. They also live in other Spanish cities such as Madrid. Here's the Wikipedia link:
Posted by John  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  10:48 AM
Yeah, we have flocks of Green Amazon parrots flying around. Noisy things. I've also seen a couple of Macaws, one red and one blue, flying around, which actually is a pretty amazing sight. In Miami, I guess I should point out.
Posted by Lina  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  01:59 PM
I've seen a flock of wild parrots in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. They have been there for years.

In Silver Springs, Florida there is a colony of wild monkeys. They are the offspring of a group of monkeys that escaped when a Tarzan movie was being filmed.
Posted by Greg Cason  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  04:16 PM
Link for monkeys mentioned above:

Posted by Greg Cason  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  04:22 PM
I've heard of the wild parrots (they're really feral parrots, not technically "wild") in several of these cities before. Usually the original stock escaped somehow from birds imported for the pet trade. We have feral exotic geckoes in Texas for the same reasons.

The flock I find the most surprising is the one in New York City-- I wouldn't have thought tropical birds could survive the cold winters there.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  05:39 PM
In Sao Paulo it is quite commen to watch bunches of Jandiras, Maritacas (both smaller than Parrots) and Periquites flying around!
Posted by Bjr  on  Tue May 22, 2007  at  06:14 PM
Feral indicates that they were domesticated at some point, and that might not necessarily be the case. Many parrots are captured in the wild, then sold illegally. If they later escape they can't be considered feral, I don't think. Domestication involves more than just being held in captivity, it involves the animal adapting and, to a certain extent, evolving to fit into close association with humans. A single animal can't be domesticated, only a successive line of such animals, and I'm not sure if captive bred parrots qualify. Not every animal does - elephants, for example, are not considered domesticated. At best you would have a mixing of feral and wild parrots.

Not that this makes any difference whatsoever to the extent of non-captive populations. 😉
Posted by Charybdis  on  Wed May 23, 2007  at  09:21 AM
I lived in New Orleans from the mid-90s to the mid-2000s, and we also had wild parrots - little green ones who seemed to travel in groups, and easily identified by their chattering. Sounds like the same ones everyone else is describing. I also heard there were escaped monkeys on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, which had been "liberated" from the Delta Primate Center. Don't know the veracity of that one.
Posted by Shannon  on  Wed May 23, 2007  at  01:27 PM
I see these green ones all around where I live in Southern California. I live in a rather rural city, too. We've only recently started to get rid of the orange growths and move upwards into neighborhoods, and yet I see these parrots a lot. I think they're all over California.
Posted by Mera  on  Thu May 24, 2007  at  02:06 AM
I grew up in Pasadena, CA, and would often be woken up in the early morning by a loud obnoxious flock of green parrots that would circle around the area. I seem to remember hearing (unverified) that they were released from a movie set years back. I saw them as far back as I remember, and I lived there from birth to college (1980 - 1998).
Posted by James  on  Fri Jun 01, 2007  at  01:37 PM
My husband and I just recently went to Grand Prairie Texas to see if the monk parakeets were still in residence there, we looked for the tower where their nests once were but noticed it had been removed, however it didn't take long to notice that they had moved their large nests into the trees. They were quite noisy during the day but fun to watch. I also noticed a large nest in a neighboring city in Duncanville a city just to the east of Grand Prairie. As avid bird watchers we have enjoyed trying to locate them around here, they seem to be thriving.
Posted by Robyn  on  Fri Jun 29, 2007  at  10:41 PM
We have a flock of the in Edgewater, New Jersey.

I recently met a man who told me that he worked at JFK Airport in 1971 and witnessed a crate of the Monk Parakeets break open, causing their inadvertent release into the wild.

They are delightful and intelligent creatures!

See: http://www.edgewaterparrots.com for more info on these wild parrots and our bill, S1768, in the Senate to save them!

Sign our on-line petition!

Posted by Alison Evans-Fragale  on  Mon Oct 29, 2007  at  07:01 PM
Yes indeed they do live in the lighting structures at Pelham Bay park in the Bronx, NY. HUNDREDS OF THEM
Posted by Brian  on  Wed Mar 25, 2009  at  06:36 AM
We get daily sightings of the parrots here in San Diego in the Bay Park Neighborhood. Every morning the birds fly southwest over our house towards mission beach. Loud suckers, not sure if they head towards Mission Beach or USD as I know there is a flock that goes there also.
Posted by Chris  on  Thu Sep 03, 2009  at  01:58 PM
I use to live in OB and would hear and see them all the time. Never heard the pet store fire story before...
Posted by Kathryn  on  Fri Jan 08, 2010  at  01:33 PM
We have resided in Ocean Beach for almost 30 years and have enjoyed the parrots the entire time. There is a loquat tree two doors down that they hang out in during season. Sometimes up to 30+ at a time eating the loquats and just squawking.
Posted by NWS  on  Sun Apr 11, 2010  at  05:08 PM
I grew up in San Diego and even frequented Ocean Beach as a teenager. I never knew of the "wild parrots" until I recently moved back to this neighborhood. Between the months of March through to October, they reside in the palms. You can set you clock to their chatter (7am, 7pm). Many of my neighbors loathe them... But they make me smile.
Posted by Dallas  on  Mon Jun 21, 2010  at  09:08 PM
There's a flock of six or seven that came today to my neighborhood in Glendora. They've been chattering all day
Posted by Stacey  on  Thu Sep 09, 2010  at  05:47 PM
I am not sure if the Green Parakeet or Monk Parakeet is still active in the Chicago area. I witnessed first hand seeing a green parakeet sitting on a passenger walkway to a airplane at Ohare in the middle of the winter. There was snow on the ground and I look out and see the green parakeet perched there. I found out about the ones in Hyde park and realized I was not see things. The observation was in the 1980s.
Posted by E]  on  Sat Jun 01, 2013  at  04:30 PM
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