February 05, 2023

Follow That Flock

I haven't rescued a parrot since the pandemic put a kibosh on the whole volunteer operation—but that doesn't mean parrots haven't been in my life.

It's hard to avoid them when you live in LA. The "Hollywood flock," as I call them—which consists of about a dozen parrots, though I'm not sure which species—comes to visit the palm trees on my street now and then. And boy, do they make a ruckus and a racket.

As a whole, Angelenos have a love/hate relationship with exotic invaders—but I'm much more on the "love" side of the equation. They may not be "from" here, but they've certainly made the Southland their home. And they're as much of the LA experience as the Hollywood Sign

So, when I heard that the Moore Laboratory of Zoology at Occidental College was organizing a visit to a parrot roost in Temple City, California (not far from Pasadena, where the parrots appear to be most populous), I was eager to join.

It might seem curious that our field trip took us to a strip mall/shopping center—but parrots have become so established in this urban environment, they don't need anything but a few bare branches to settle in for the night.

We arrived at 4:30 and waited a long time before we saw anything more than a stray bird here or there.

We'd get excited when it seemed like a flock was on the move—but then it would fly over our heads, choosing somewhere else to land.

It seemed as though the parrots were pairing up—or maybe they'd already been coupled, and were relishing the last few moments of dusky romance before they needed to join the rest of their flock.
As the night got darker, it became impossible to see their green feathers in silhouette against the twilight sky. But we knew they were parrots from the clatter of their calls and the flappity flap of their wings. 
Night set in about an hour after our arrival...

...and we wondered if we'd see more than a few isolated birds, if they'd get closer than the rooftops of the strip of stores where we'd parked.

Previously, a flock of as many as 500 parrots had been spotted in this area—and we wouldn't have believed it, had we not been able to hear their chatter.
And then finally, after some members of our group had given up and left, the birds arrived.

Many were still in twos, canoodling and grooming—or maybe huddling for warmth, as the night's chill grew.

In the same flock, there were both red-crowned and lilac-crowned parrots—which, as the Moore Lab says, would never intermingle in their native Mexico. 

But the lab researchers have observed them not only sharing a flock, but also partnering up—which makes them wonder if a new, born-in-LA hybrid species may emerge?

It's interesting, because in their native Mexico, both the red-crowned and lilac-crowned parrots are endangered. But they're doing great in LA—and there's a lot more of them here than where they're "supposed" to be.

Even though it's hard to survive in LA.

Even though it's hard to thrive in LA.

But it can happen. 

And it does happen.

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