Updated date:

Wild Parrots of Southern California: Red-Crowned Parrots

wild-parrots-california

My Photos and Sightings of Parrots in Orange County

Meet my noisy neighbors: wild Mexican red-crowned parrots living in Orange County!

In 2008, I noticed a flock of green parrots squawking in a park next door. They left in June, but a pair returned the next spring. When they returned yet again in 2010, I decided to learn more about them.

It turns out they're red-crowned parrots, aka Mexican green-cheeked parrots, a highly endangered species. Imported through the illegal exotic bird smuggling trade, escapees have formed feral parrot populations in California (as well as Texas and Florida).

The California Parrot Project asks for us to report parrot sightings (see link at bottom of page). I originally created this page to share photos, videos and information on my red-crowned parrots.

Red-Crowned Parrot, May 2009

Red-Crowned Parrot, May 2009

My Friends the Parrots

Illegal Aliens, or Survivors?

Here is my first fuzzy photo of a parrot on May 11, 2009.

It's often called the Amazon red-crowned parrot, but it's actually native to Mexico, not South America.

This introduced species of parrot is highly endangered in its native Mexico, with perhaps less than 2000 remaining in the wild. So I'm glad they've found a safe haven here.

Since they've been listed as "endangered or threatened" by the U.S. Fish & Game service, it's illegal to catch or shoot them. The U.S. also bans importation of most wild-caught birds as pets.

Note: The better photos are farther down this page, after I got a new camera in 2012.

About Red-Crowned Parrots - aka Mexican green-cheeked parrot

My Parrots Are Back - With a Kid? (May 2012)

(May 2012) Sure enough, starting in February, they've been waking me up in the morning and stopping by at sunset to roost in eucalyptus trees, munch on coral trees or jacaranda trees.

At times last year I started seeing three, and now there's definitely three. I assume the third is junior.

Kids: "They're not pirates, they're parrots!"

The quality of this video isn't great, but I wanted to document their squawks and feeding behavior. The kids playing in the park add lively commentary!

Junior birdwatchers observing red-crowned parrots

February 2013: New Parrot Sightings - Yep, they're back

1st Feb 2013: My noisy parrots have been gone all winter, but last week I started hearing them again at morning and sunset, as usual. However, this year, there are FOUR. It appears that junior has brought home a mate.

They hopped from sycamores (bare trees) to jacarandas to eucalyptus trees, irritated by me and other people watching them this evening (4:45 PM, around sunset).


Feb 2nd, 7AM: What brings my parrots back each year? Mystery solved! There's a few coral trees in the vicinity, and they've just started blooming. When the squawk chorus woke me up this morning at dawn, I came out to find Mr. and Mr. Parrot eating coral tree petals.

Junior (?) and spouse were about half a block away. I spotted them flying, also perching atop some very tall cyprus trees in a neighbor's yard. The two pairs were keeping in contact with squawks.

I also recorded a quick video (Feb 1st) to record their calls. I'm still trying to capture that odd rising beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep noise that they make occasionally:

Squawk squawk squawk. They make great alarm clocks.

Best Wild Parrot Photos So Far

FINALLY got some photos of the parrots in better lighting. Some of these are from Feb 2013, some from May 2014.

They become restless and fly off if I watch them for very long, so I generally content myself with listening to them from afar instead of stepping outside to take pictures.

Green-Cheeked Parrot Photos/Videos By Others

Well, that's quite enough of my own mediocre photos, eh? Below are some other people's better videos of these lovable parrots. The first video gives you a lovely view of this magnificent bird, while the second treats you to the dawn chorus.

Video: Red-Crowned Parrot Feeding - From parrots.org

parrots.org provides a better video than I can of this species of parrot:

Video: Red-Crowned Parrot Munching Jacarandas

There's a lot of jacarandas in the park, and I've seen them munching flowers in past years.

Links: Wild Parrots in California and the U.S.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: Book or Film

Have you seen any feral parrots in California? Leave a note in my guestbook. Don't forget to report your sightings to the California Parrot Project!

NOTE: The Parrot Project warned me that we shouldn't post detailed sightings reports online. Unfortunately, poachers may use them to capture the parrots and/or raid their nests for babies! Ugh.

Guestbook For the Birds (And Fans)

Sara on May 30, 2016:

I have been hearing and seeing two parrots in the park behind my house in Placentia, CA for the last couple of months - morning and evenings. I hope that decide to stay around. It is very exciting as there have never been any parrots here.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on July 12, 2015:

Great hub about those beautiful parrots in South California. I hope they don't get poached. Lovely photos! Voted up for interesting!

anonymous on November 06, 2013:

I had one very similar to those mine came from the Andes Range of Mountains between Bolivia and Peru their heads are red on top but colour red is much higher up and they make different calling noises to the ones I have heard here and she was also very scandalous in the noise she made too and she had bright blue eyes.

anonymous on August 08, 2013:

There are hundreds of the parrots near the OC Jail. They sleep there and then fly out in the morning, returning at sunset.

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on October 11, 2012:

@anonymous: Wonderful! They're loud, but aren't they fun?

I wish I had more than 2-3. I feel left out. Then again, it's a very quiet neighborhood.

anonymous on October 11, 2012:

Hello, I don't live in the OC world, but in Los Angeles county, anyway, the parrots are in West Covina, San dimas, Pomona, la Verne and surrounding areas. I am talking hundreds it is an incredible sight! They come in spring and in the fall right here right now 10/11/2012 they are here. FYI

anonymous on August 29, 2012:

For two days now we have had roughly 40-50 of these beautiful birds fill our 40 year old maple tree. It is nice to have something this rare at our home.

YogaAngel on July 24, 2012:

I remember those parrots growing up! I love that movie the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill!!!!!

anonymous on May 05, 2012:

@anonymous: It has taken more than 70 years for the Orange County flock to be the size it is. Orange County's wild parrots have been here since the 1940s. Parrots do not migrate, so that theory doesn't apply. And yes, three of the species found here are on the Endangered Species List. They have been so depleted in their native ranges that more of them now exist in California than in their native range. If you would like to read more, our website gives a lot of information. You will find it at http://amazornia.us.

anonymous on April 15, 2012:

The Red Crowned parrots are in Devore as well. They seem to like the berries in my trees. They are also in La Verne and have been for years.

anonymous on April 09, 2012:

I don't buy the theory that OC parrots are feral. The gestation cycle of parrots is so long it would take hundreds of years for a handful of parrots to breed into flocks of parrots. Instead, OC parrots and their obviously growing numbers are much more likely natural migration. Further, their growing numbers in OC undermine the idea that they are endangered since they seem to be flourishing in Orange, Tustin & Irvine.

anonymous on March 05, 2012:

I live in Orange Ca. and see a flock of Parrots every Morning and actually hear them before I see them. They return again in late afternoon and sometimes perch on a telephone wire that comes into my backyard. They are very noicey but I really enjoy watching them.

KeepsakeIdeas on February 14, 2012:

I've never been to California but it would be exciting to see a parrot there, or anywhere, in the wild! They add a wonderful splash of color to the surroundings, not to mention that they are real personalities too.

KeepsakeIdeas on February 14, 2012:

I've never been to California but it would be exciting to see a parrot there, or anywhere, in the wild! They add a wonderful splash of color to the surroundings, not to mention that they are real personalities too.

Alexandra Douglas from Florida on November 27, 2011:

The movie recommendation was phenomenal.

kimpaul on July 05, 2011:

Just watched the movie recommended above Wild parrots of telegraph hill. I had no idea there were wild parrots there! What fun! I have a caique and he's quite a character. I made a lens about him. : ) Love your lens!!!

efriedman on May 18, 2011:

Excellent lens! Do you see parrots every year?

Bercton1 on May 05, 2011:

Great info on parrots nice lens!!

anonymous on March 04, 2011:

What a wonderful thing to have a rare treasure in your own yard, lucky you!

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on January 16, 2011:

@anonymous: Thank you very much! I know there are many many more around; I think I'm just getting a few oddballs who choose not to hang out with the large flocks in Tustin and Santa Ana. :)

BrickHouseFabrics on December 17, 2010:

I have never seen a parrot in the wild, it must be awesome!

anonymous on August 15, 2010:

I have lived in Santa Ana my whole life, at 27 years old I must say parrots have been flying over my neighborhood since I was a child. Not just the 2 or 5 you see, but flocks. They love jacarandas (the official city tree of Santa Ana) and magnolias (there are many magnolia lined houses near me, as well as a lot of them in cemeterys and parks nearby. They live well here because we import their exotic foods here. Anyway, I just thought I'd share this information with you that there are much much more than the 5 you've seen, they're more centralized around Santa Ana/Tustin/Orange...which is where my life is also centralized, coincidentally.

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on April 06, 2010:

@WildFacesGallery: Since I grew up in Pennsylvania, I think I notice a lot of weird things in California that the natives don't see. ("What? They've got birds of paradise growing in the median strip!") I've been here 14 years and I still feel like I'm living on another planet!

Mona from Iowa on April 06, 2010:

What a great idea for a lens. Living in the Midwest we have no wild parrot flocks so I envy you that. I used to paint parrots quite a bit and would love to have been able to photograph them in the wild. :)

Jeanette from Australia on April 06, 2010:

I've never actually been to California but I do enjoy watching and photographing birds. It looks like you have a good telephoto lens for your camera. Nice photos.

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on April 05, 2010:

@tea lady 2: Ooo! I'd heard of the parrots on Telegraph Hill, but didn't know about that film! Going to look now, thanks!

Pat from Midwest, USA on April 05, 2010:

Nice lens. I love The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill Film!