The One with the Parrots of Pasadena

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nearly every morning I am awoken to the sound of "screech screech screech screech screech screech screech screech screech!" (This video isn't the best quality, but you get the idea. There are many more (longer) videos on YouTube if you're interested, just search "parrots of Pasadena")

I don't mind the noises so much, I'm an avid animal lover and have gotten used to the calls and cries of the wild. Let me start off by saying I pride myself in knowing a lot about animals. For instance, 90% of the time when I see a dog I can name what breed it is. How/why? About 15 years ago when we first moved to Washington, we had an encyclopedia program on the computer and I printed off every single kind of dog breed there was and made myself a little booklet. I've also acquired several books about birds, rabbits, guinea-pigs, cats, and the like, therefore, I know a lot about of different kinds of birds (though nowhere near as close to the knowledge of my aunt Natalie.) And up until the day I flunked chemistry in college, I wanted to be a veterinarian.
That all being said, when I first witnessed these flocks of birds flying across the sky and making a racket, I thought they looked like parrots because of their beaks, but disregarded my hypothesis since we live in the desert, not the Amazon. Mine eyes must be deceiving me. So the other day I googled "noisy birds in Pasadena" because I was dying to know what these birds are. Thereupon, I came across some folklore: First of all, my hypothesis was right. Those ARE parrots flying around waking me up. Strange! Apparently they are red-crowned amazons. Quoting Wikipedia, "There is a cycle of regular public outcry about the noise and the sheer oddity of the birds' presence, but most Pasadenans seem to have come to accept the birds as part of the city's life. They can be seen year-round, but are especially noticeable in the winter. The birds are definitely gregarious, and the amount of disturbance their chatter creates is related to the time of day they may choose to chatter.
Theories and myths abound on how these parrots came to claim Pasadena and surrounding towns as their home. A widely accepted story by longtime residents of the area is that they were part of the stock from the large pet emporium at Simpson's Garden Town on East Colorado Blvd, now the location of OSH Hardware. The nursery burned down in 1959, and the parrots were thereby released to forage in the lush Pasadena area. It is also possible that some parrots moved northward from their normal range in central and northern Mexico as human habitation in the Pasadena area created artificial habitat in which the parrots could survive. Among their favorite foods are the berry kernels of the cedar trees that grow in great abundance around Pasadena."

Well there you have it. Wild parrots in Pasadena. Chalk another one up to "interesting things about California."


  1. I've always wondered what those birds are! Thanks for finding out for me :)

  2. wow random. i never knew about those parrots :)

  3. Ha, we have them here in San Diego as well, they visit my telephone pole every January! Only thing that makes them leave is a hawk. Watch out, they like to mimic car alarms!

  4. Dear parrot researchers and parrot friends,

    You are cordially invited to join "World Parrot Count 2012". We, Roelant Jonker and Michael Braun of the "extra-tropical department" of the Parrot Researchers Group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU), invite you to take part in this global parrot census this January and February in order to get much needed scientific data about parrots living in cities around the globe. This count is the 2nd edition. For further information please visit the following website:

    If you have any questions please contact us via the following E-mail-address:

    Please feel free to forward this message to everybody who could be interested. We would like to create a global parrot community of professional researchers, field ornithologists as well as amateur naturalists that will enable us to measure the development of native and non-native parrots living in cities.

    See you at the roost!

    All best,

    Roelant Jonker (Leiden University, The Netherlands)
    Michael Braun (Heidelberg University, Germany)

  5. Just googled "screeching birds Pasadena" myself and found this. Recently moved here from Atlanta, and these birds wake me up every morning also. Today is the first day it has rained here in Pasadena since I have lived here, and their schedule must have been disrupted, because they have been outside my apartment at it all day. Usually, they are flying overhead about 7am, and are flying back around 4:30pm or so. Today, they stuck around. Oh my! I'm going to choose to be enchanted, and consider it part of my new culture as a member of my new community! <3 Hello Neighbors!


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