Pasadena’s Parrot Population


Juliette Fang, Staff Writer

When walking around Pasadena, it’s common to hear the unmistakable screech of the city’s iconic parrots. For the most part, residents of Pasadena, Temple City, Alhambra, and Arcadia simply coexist with the birds, but some consider their unmistakable screeches to be an unwelcome annoyance. 

“I remember in elementary school, there was this giant tree and there would be parrots there all the time,” recounted Freshman Olivia Fortuna. “We all thought they were annoying…because we [didn’t] want to hear the screaming parrots.”

 Although there are differing opinions on the parrots, they have still become a characteristic part of local wildlife. However, the green-cheeked Amazon parrot (more commonly known as the red-crowned parrot) is not actually from around these parts, instead hailing from northeastern Mexico. So how did these Latin American birds make their way into our front yards?

Over the years, several urban legends have been created telling their own version of the parrots’ origins. One of the most well-known tales claims they are descended from a few lucky birds who escaped a burning pet store 50 years ago. Another states that they were released from Pasadena’s Busch Gardens when it closed in 1937. 

In reality, the parrots are descended from those who were poached from their homes in the 1970s and ’80s to be sold in the pet trade. Unsurprisingly, the wild-caught parrots proved to be troublesome pets, and many were released into the skies above the San Gabriel Valley. 

Since their arrival, the red-crowned parrots’ population has boomed to more than 2,000, even making it onto the list of California state birds. Unfortunately, while the parrots here have been thriving, their native counterparts have become endangered. Due to poaching for the pet trade, only around 2,000 red-crowned parrots remain in Mexico. 

Alongside the red-crowned parrots, several other non-native species of parrots live and interbreed in Southern California. Some prominent examples include the yellow-headed parrot and the red-lored parrot. Similar to the red-crowned parrots, most of these other varieties come from Mexico and are endangered. 

Fortunately, the key to helping to save these endangered avians may lie right here in Arcadia, Monrovia, and Pasadena. Although their population is dwindling in their native habitat, the parrots here are thriving due to an abundance of fruit and flower trees, and shelter in abandoned buildings. Should the birds go extinct in their native habitat, their species can continue to live as Southern Californians. 

“They may save their species from extinction,” said Freshman Hazel Wong. “That’s amazing; I love [the parrots] now.”

By watching how the parrots have integrated into our regional ecosystem, scientists can observe how endangered species can find sanctuary in new, urban environments. Local scientific organizations such as the California Parrot Project have also dedicated themselves to documenting parrot numbers and observing their behavior.

As stated on the California Parrot Project’s website, the parrots “are here, for better or worse, and continue to pose interesting biological questions.”

We can observe these parrots as well, right here in Arcadia. According to PetHelpful, up to 750 birds can be seen roosting at once around Arcadia and Temple City. They’re best seen (and heard) around dawn or dusk and particularly enjoy roosting in eucalyptus, sycamore, and live oak trees. With its abundance of these trees, Arcadia’s Arboretum is one of the best places to spot these feathered friends. 

“If I see [a parrot] out in the wild, I’ll be like, ‘Woah, it’s a pretty parrot!’,” said Freshman Arwen Aguba. “But if it’s squawking…then I’ll be annoyed.” 

Despite the occasional rude squawking, there’s something amazing about our parrots’ role in local culture and ecosystems. Hopefully, more people can look past them as a nuisance and realize their role in the survival of their species.


Photo by Ryk Porras