The Wild Parrots of California

Parrots are one of the most beloved and sought-after bird species around the world and are native to South America, Africa, and Australia. They are admired for their colorful feathers, cunning intelligence, and witty personalities; and it is for these reasons why they are popular in the international pet trade. But just like any captive animal, they are prone to escaping if they are not properly kept. Since most parrots in the international pet trade are originally caught in the wild, they would likely survive if they were to escape or be released into the wild of another region. This has been the case in many places around the world including several countries in Europe and in the United States. One area where non-native parrots thrive is California. I am a resident of Southern California and believe me when I say they are everywhere, and are very loud!

green parrot perched on branch
Photo by Lucas Pezeta on

It is not known exactly how the parrots came to be in California, but it is likely that the birds escaped or were released from captivity and have now made the state its home. Records show that at least eleven species of parrots reside in California and have been there since the 1960’s, but there is strong evidence that suggests that they have been present in California since the 1940’s. While these parrots are not native to California, they are not classified as invasive. Species that are classified as invasive must pose a threat to native wildlife through means that threaten the survival of a native species. This can be through preying on native species, destroying native habitats, or competing for the same resources such as food and breeding grounds. In the case of California’s native wildlife, virtually none of the local wildlife is at risk with the presence of the non-native parrots.

According to journalist Susette Horspool, the eleven species of parrots residing in California are the rose-ring, lilac crowned, red crowned yellow headed, red-lored, red masked, milted parrot, blue crowned, yellow chevroned, nonday parrot, and blue fronted parrot. These California parrots mainly eat food from non-native trees, which puts native vegetation out of harms way. Adult parrots teach their young to forage and eat a healthy diet consisting of nectar, seeds, fruit, nuts, and flowers from 55-60 different types of trees that are not native to California.

close up of fruits hanging on tree
Photo by Pixabay on

With the abundance of natural food in California and the parrot’s ability to adapt to most environments, it is no wonder why these birds thrive and continue to grow in numbers. These parrots do not have any natural predators but are threatened by loggers and tree colonizing bees. The parrot population grows at the end of each spring and can fly in flocks of 600 plus parrots. They not only cast a shadow over the area in which they fly, but they loudly make their presence known by squawking every chance they get (heard daily inside my home!).

The United States once had two native parrots live in its territory. They were the Carolina Parakeet and the Thick Billed Parrot. The Carolina Parakeet went extinct in the year 1918. The Thick Billed Parrot, who resided in Arizona and New Mexico, was driven out of the United States due to habitat loss but are now being reintroduced into the American Wild. While the species of Parrot that reside in California are not native to the area, nor the country, their success in adapting and thriving in most environments of the state has shown that they are here to stay, making the skies of California just a little more colorful.

two green parrots
Photo by Aashutosh Sharma on

Thanks for reading this article!

– matt



“Wild Parrots Photos – Photos of Wild Birds – Wild Bird Pictures.” Wild Parrots Photos – Photos of Wild Birds – Wild Bird Pictures,

Sue, Sustainable. “Wild Parrots Multiplying in Southern California.” PetHelpful, 15 Aug. 2019,

“The Parrots of the United States.” Natural History, 20 Mar. 2009,


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