California’s Wild Parrots [Mitred Parakeets] in Long Beach

Whenever I’m visiting Southern California, I listen for the raucous parrot party that’s impossible to miss when Mitred Parakeets congregate. On this evening, we caught them about fifteen minutes before the sun dipped behind buildings in Long Beach. Much of the area was already in shadow, but the parrots on higher perches were blazing and golden-green in the tones of last light.

These images were shot at ISO 1250 to 2000 as the light disappeared

From my reading, I believe most of the wild parrots in Long Beach are Mitred Parakeets, a species which — according to Audubon — is native to the eastern foothills of the Andes. Mitred Parakeets are one of the species documented by the California Parrot Project, which monitors and researches the wild parrot populations in our state.

Other species on the list include the Cherry-headed Conures (or Red-masked Parakeets) I’ve photographed often on my home turf of San Francisco. And, pictured below, the Red-lored Parrots I recently saw for the first time in Irvine:

Red-Lored or Red-Crowned Parrot in Tree

I saw one parrot with different coloration among the Long Beach birds. I’m not sure if this bird is a juvenile, a different species, or also a hybrid individual.

Wild Parrot in California Coral Tree

The call of the Mitred Parakeets sounds to me like laughter. The calls are jubilant and shrill, slicing through urban noises in the same way the sounds travel across the jungle canopy. The chatter spills out from palm tree fronds, and bounces against the sides of nearby buildings, creating symphonic swells in urban canyons.

California’s wild parrots are a pure joy to observe as they grapple — clever and agile — with the urban fixtures of their habitat. I’ve photographed them inside traffic signals …

Wild Parrot Playing in Traffic Light in San Francisco

Clinging to drain pipes and stucco …

California Wild Parrots on Drain Pipe

And, in general, adapting their lives to the structures of our city existence.

Wild Parrots of San Francisco

When seen in isolation or against the beiges of a buildings, they stand out, vivid and exotic. Framed against a California sky, they are the perfect color palette of vermillion, green, and royal blue. When tucked in the branches of a coral tree, though, you can see how their green and red plumage is perfectly adapted to camouflage in more tropical habitats.

That evening in Long Beach as I was shooting photos, two teenagers walked by and mumbled, “they are so annoying,” in reference to the parrots. To me, a northern girl who never saw Brown Pelicans or egrets or Turkey Vultures or wild parrots until I made California my home, I still feel excited every time I see my parrot neighbors, listening for and following their calls through the alleys of the city.

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