It is not uncommon for a small population of exotic parrot species to flourish in a new niche in the United States. My old home in Sarasota, Florida had a large population of lories and Amazons which lived wild, making their homes in holes in palm trees in my neighborhood. Legend was that an tourist attraction aviary burned down in the 1960s, and the owner released all the parrots rather than see them killed. They stayed in the area, mated, and their numbers grew. A similar phenomenon happened in San Francisco in the area of Telegraph Hill, a neighborhood close to North Beach. A large population of Red-Masked Parakeets, descended from escaped pets, now resides on the hill, and was the subject of a movie called The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. The parrots were looked after to some degree by a man who had taken a great interest in their survival, Mark Bittner.
The parrots’ favorite roost are two old cypress trees on the Hill. However a homeowner wanted to remove the trees, citing their might fall over on his house. What resulted was a very civil display:
Creative minds at City Hall — thank you, Supervisor Bevan Dufty and City Attorney Dennis Herrera — listened to all sides. The collection plate was passed, and enough money was raised to pay for a tree surgeon and the planting of new trees to provide roosts in the years ahead. City leaders worked out a deal to handle liability and insurance worries. Thanks to Mark Bittner, who championed the parrots in print and film, the city woke up to a wonder.
All of this, of course, was lost on the parrots. Stand in any park or spot of greenery in the neighborhood and you can’t miss them. Color, sound and motion blend when the birds shoot past like a feathered freight train. It seems as if they’ll be around for awhile.
Feral parrot populations can be avoided by not releasing pets, and by ensuring that your pet cannot escape and become lost. However, in situations where these populations are already ensconced and not causing ecological damage, they can be beautiful and colorful neighbors worthy of conservation. Thanks Mark Bittner!