A Pandemonium of Parrots

Tina Lernø, Librarian, Digital Content Team,
2 wild parrots
Two wild parrots reconnect on a utility cable near their evening roost in California: photo credit Ingrid Taylar

If you live anywhere near Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, you have heard them. If you live in Eagle Rock or the Silverlake/Echo Park regions, you will recognize the sound. Twice a day, dawn and dusk, no days off for weekends or holidays. Parrots! The squawk of a parrot is unmistakable, but hundreds of them in flight creates a cacophonous noise so loud, you might think the sky is falling (or screaming).

It's a fact they number in the thousands; around three thousand from all reports, but how they came to live here is up for debate. Stories range from a pet store(s) that burned down, and all the birds were released, to daring pet parrot escapes, and legal & illegal bird trade. One version of the "all the birds were released" had the birds coming from the closing of Busch Gardens. The pet store theory dates back to 1959 and seems to be everyone's favorite tale to tell, though the truth of their origins are most likely a combination of all these stories.

We know there are around eleven species of parrots that now call L.A. their home. The predominant breeds are the Red-Crowned Parrot from Mexico (endangered), the Yellow-Headed Parrot from Southern Mexico down to Honduras (endangered), and the Red-Lored Parrot from the Caribbean Coast in Southern Mexico down to Nicaragua. It's interesting to note they are all considered native now, because they have been here in So Cal for such a long time. Sort of like the humans that flock here for the good weather and plentiful roosting opportunities.

Digging through our photo collection and newspaper archives, I found images of parrots and parakeets (which are small parrots), and articles from the past and thought I'd share. Enjoy these birds in blissful silence.

Double Yellowhead Amazon parrot
Photograph caption reads: "Over the years, a large number of domesticated parrots such as Amigo, a Double Yellow Head Amazon parrot, have escaped or been released into the southland. Fueled by the friendly climate and ample food supply, the population of wild parrots continues to grow, and parrot flocks become a common sight to many L.A. neighborhoods", [1989]. Photo credit: Javier Mendoza, Herald Examiner Collection
newspaper article from 1962
Los Angeles Times, April 17, 1962
Birds on a wire
Photograph caption reads: "No, these are not ornaments strung out for the holidays, but some "strung out" Valley birds as snapped out by an observant photographer", [ca. 1980]. Photo credit: Anne Knudsen, Herald Examiner Collection
Parakeets on a wire
A woman poses nose to nose with a line of perching parakeets, [ca. 1920]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
vintage newspaper articleLos Angeles Times, June 27, 1964
2 women with a parrot
Two women sit holding a parrot in front of banana plants, [ca. 1930]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
women with parrot
 A crowd surrounds a woman posing with her parrot who calmly perches on her hand at a parrot show in Long Beach, [1931]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
vintage newspaperLos Angeles Times, July 3, 1977
Man with parrot
A man kisses an African grey parrot, [n.d.]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
Leisure moment
Photograph caption dated June 12, 1958 reads, "Pretty Donna Brooks, 18, who will carry her Miss San Fernando Valley crown into Miss California pageant Saturday, enjoys leisurely moment in patio with her pet parrot Lover Boy." Valley Times Collection