Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Parrots of South Central

The parrots are back, in large number. Mostly Mitred Conures or Mitred Parakeets (Aratinga mitrada), natives of Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, they congregate in South Central every fall to forage on ripening palm dates.

Endangered in many parts of the world, the wild parrot population is booming in Southern California. According to ornithologists, the birds are sustained by a prevalence of exotic plantings, magnolia flowers, figs, kumquats, and dates.

While it's illegal to set loose non-native birds, a few observers credit the emancipation of pet store birds in San Gabriel, the release of a private aviary in Malibu (during the 1997 fires), and botched smuggling (some imports are banned), with the basis for much of the population.

Southern California has thousands on parrots (estimates run as high as 40,000), divided amongst ten species. The Mitred Conures that invade Jefferson and Arlington Parks measure 15 inches in length, and are green, with red spots on their wings, and small patches of red on their heads.

Impossibly loud, the squawking parrots drown street noise, air conditioner hum, even the low rumble of passing jets. It's hard to mind though, their appearance seems so unlikely, almost magical.