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Parrot pandemonium? Nest assured, recent La Jolla sightings, though many, are normal

Red-crowned amazon parrots in La Jolla
These red-crowned amazon parrots in La Jolla are exhibiting mate behavior, says Sarah Mansfield, operations manager at the nonprofit SoCal Parrot.
(Penny Wilkes)

La Jolla is home to several bird species, among them seagulls, pelicans, hawks and … parrots. Though the last in that list aren’t native to the region, they nonetheless come to San Diego annually to nest in the date palms of local coastal communities.

The green parrots are an unsurprising sight to many longtime La Jollans. But in the past couple of weeks, the La Jolla Light received several emails and photos from residents reporting the birds to be unusually active and visible this year.

So we reached out to an expert to clarify.

“It’s baby season right now,” said Sarah Mansfield, operations manager at the nonprofit SoCal Parrot, which rescues wild parrots and provides education about the birds.

She identified the parrots in the photos as red-crowned amazons but added that red-masked conure parrots and other types — all green — also are commonly seen in La Jolla.

The amazon parrots have laid their eggs already, while conures, who mate for life, “are getting frisky in the trees while they’re around, foraging with the rest of their friends,” Mansfield said.

“Then they’ll be seeking out nest sites to have their babies in another month or so,” she added.

Baby season for the amazons is mid-May through mid-July, Mansfield said, while the conures’ baby season is late June through August.

The local parrot species live in and eat non-native fruit and flowering trees, Mansfield said. They often choose to nest in the lush tops of Canary Island date palms.

Local parrots are not native to the area but are “naturalized."
Local parrots are not native to the area but are “naturalized, which means that they have established breeding groups in this region for a really long time,” according to Sarah Mansfield of SoCal Parrot.
(Penny Wilkes)

Parrots are “cavity nesters,” she said, meaning they seek out holes made in trees by other animals instead of building their own. The date palms typically provide such a place to have their babies.

Mansfield speculated that La Jollans might be seeing more parrots than usual after several palm trees were removed recently in the Point Loma-Ocean Beach area, causing some birds to seek new places to nest.

Another factor pushing them to seek new nests, she said, are the recent losses of palm trees to the South American palm weevil, which has been infesting Canary Island date palms in recent years, causing them to wilt and die.

Parrots have “nest site fidelity, especially the older, more established, more experienced parrots,” Mansfield said.

During fall and winter, parrots flock together in east San Diego County (a group of parrots, by the way, is called a pandemonium). They return to the coastal areas when they’re ready to breed.

If their usual trees have been cut down while they’re away, “the urge to want to find a nest site is still there, but the nest location is not, so they have to find other places to go and have their nest,” Mansfield said.

One of the green parrots you might hear around La Jolla's Village.
(Justin Maletic)

The parrots here are not native but are “naturalized, which means that they have established breeding groups in this region for a really long time,” she said.

Since they eat and live on non-native trees, the parrots are not competing with native species for resources, Mansfield said.

“Non-native does not necessarily mean invasive,” she said.

Though there are more than 1,000 red-crowned amazon parrots in San Diego, fewer than 900 of them are left in their native Mexico and Texas, she added. “We’re one of the last places that they’ll be able to be seen flying out freely.”

Mansfield said people who want to encourage parrots to visit their yard should plant loquats. To keep them away, focus on native foliage.

Anyone who finds a parrot that seems injured or confused can contact SoCal Parrot at (858) 522-0852. ◆