Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males title=
Parrots in San Roque. It's unknown which members of the flock this is, and not necessarily the two remaining males (Photo by William Sylvester)
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By Christopher W.

For many decades, Santa Barbarians have enjoyed seeing the flock of bright green squawkers on their way from their roosts in Montecito over the Riviera toward their foraging grounds in San Roque to Samarkand to Hope Ranch and back home again. Perhaps stopping in your back yard along the way.

Their origins are debated. They may have escaped sometime before the 1950's, or in the 1970's,  or, they may be a naturally displaced population of their misleadingly named species (Lilac-Crowned Amazon Parrots) which are native to the Pacific Slopes of Mexico as far north as the upper Sea of Cortez, not the Amazon. Over the years their numbers have fluctuated from 6 to 14 and more members.

It is reported that the debris flow disrupted their roosting area in Montecito and the flock was quickly beset upon by predators who took out all but 3 of the birds. The three remained until this past spring when the lone female disappeared just before nesting. 

What remains are 2 bonded males. One is a hybrid (Lilac-Crowned and Double Yellow-Headed) and likely sterile. The other is the last remaining viable Lilac-Crowned parrot. Efforts are being considered to potentially restock the flock with rescued wild birds from other locations in California. Or, potentially, an escaped pet could join them, which is a long, long shot. So, if you see these two, consider yourself privileged and wish them the best for their shaky future.

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tagdes Oct 30, 2021 08:27 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

Soapbox definitely has the most plausible explanation and it shows several possibilities. To wit with the Scaly-breasted Munia and other species coming into other habitats. I've seen the last 2 still coming twice a day daily for our street tree Magnolia seed buds which come every year like clockwork from Sept. through to Dec. There has never been a shortage for them for the last 43 years we've enjoyed their antic feeding. I have photos of several including the DHY (the "Patron") back in the late '80s along two YouTube videos in Dec. 2013 showing 9 of them in our Magnolia which always started at our tree because it's never been trimmed. I was worried in 2019 when the flock dwindled to 7 and 2 of them kept going away separately from the flock. I was hospitalized for the 3 months when they would have been here then and only saw them again for the 2020 window that dropped to 3. My guess is the debris flow compounded the increased predators in our area.

Jupe Oct 31, 2021 09:33 AM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

I care for several small aviaries, conures and budgies mostly. Have had numerous run ins with coopers over the years. Amazing even a flock of larger parrots has survived this long. Hope these two remaining birds can be enticed into a retirement situation.

On your scaly breasted muncia note I saw my first 2 last spring, could not figure out what the heck I was looking at! At first I thought the scale pattern was a checkerboard. Since then I have been feeding them The local flock jumped to about 50 as of today. Quite a few juveniles They are very non aggressive, and seem to coexist quite well with native birds who always seem to be squabbling with each other. I've been calling them Spice Mannikins which is a combo of Nutmeg Mannikin and Spice Finch.....funny little survivors in these modern times.

Basicinfo805 Oct 30, 2021 03:16 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

I’m telling you, the best thing for these last couple parrots is for someone to trap and relocate them to their native country. There, they can find some nice female mates…or just hang out and forage. San Roque is a dead end for them, trust me.

SoapBox Oct 31, 2021 09:09 AM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

I trust that nobody will seriously consider this notion. These parrots were born here and are the result of generations of isolated learning, cultural development, understanding of their environment and complex language. Their struggle demonstrates how dependent they are on their tight-knit family relationships and the support of their flock. To displace them to their "native country" would subject them to a worse fate than they currently face.

Babycakes Oct 30, 2021 02:08 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

I believe a number of them were captured over the years and kept as pets. One of my co-workers back in the 90s said she caught two of them and put them in her backyard aviary (that's what she said....I never saw them myself). Some of them birds can be quite expensive, and also some live for many/many 50/60/75 years!

SoapBox Oct 30, 2021 01:34 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

Is is not inconceivable that they were a natural extension of their historical range as there are established flocks that increase in size southward in Pasadena, East LA and San Diego. Over the past century any birds wandering northward from Mexico (or swept up in a weather pattern) would have found a rich artificial oasis replete with orchards, groves and ornamental plantings of all of their favorite fruits, nuts and flowers. It's only 400 miles or so as the crow flies. And I expect parrots fly at about the same pace.

mtndriver Oct 30, 2021 08:45 AM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

Used to see them very often, flying over on their way between Montecito and San Roque, always enjoyed the brief period of squawking. Sorry to hear they have dwindled to two. But I agree it’s time to let nature take its course.

Minibeast Oct 29, 2021 03:43 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

There must be a reason why the parrots aren't thriving here. To "restock the flock" is essentially dooming more parrots to a similar demise. Anyone else remember when Santa Barbara had a tiny flock of Myna birds? Probably not. Those birds didn't make here either. Nor did the Cockatiels and other small/medium-sized parrots we used to see in various parts of town/Goleta/Montecito.

NostraChumash Oct 31, 2021 12:22 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

I have seen "local" species of birds, attack foreign ones
( migratory & escaped pets)
as well as true "predation" upon them.
I feel that, if anyone is very concerned, they should attempt to catch them & care for them.
Heck, we incarcerate them at the zoo..
Go into business as a parrot breeder.

ParvoPup Oct 29, 2021 08:51 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

No one has mentioned predation as a possibility.

Wife #1 had parrots and the red tail and Coopers hawks would dive bomb the heck out of them if we put their cage outside.

Or somebody ate them for a bush dinner.

PitMix Oct 29, 2021 04:07 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

Yeah, the places where they thrive have a lot more food and warmer weather than we do. Because the food is so abundant where they come from, they are messy eaters and thereby spread seeds all over their domain. A friend told me that if you run into a parrot or macaw that is not a messy eater, that bird has been starved sometime during their captivity and has learned to be careful with their food.....

SantaBarbaraObserver Oct 29, 2021 03:01 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

If you've ever had a flock of wild parrots call your neighborhood home, you'd be cheering at this news. While they're beautiful, they are some of the most obnoxious and loud birds around.

a-1635611336 Oct 30, 2021 09:28 AM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

If you want to see and hear beautiful but obnoxious birds you should try peacocks. Until the Tea fire we had some in our neighborhood near Parma Park. They're all gone now.

asitis Oct 29, 2021 02:47 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

During the fast moving Sycamore Canyon fire of 1977, a resident who had a large aviary of parrots had to make the quick decision to open the doors and let them all escape the advancing flames. His name was Harry Linden and he had the "Santa Barbara Bird Farm" (google it). Thereafter for many years several flocks of them could be seen here and there between Montecito, the Mesa and Hope Ranch. Sorry to hear there are only 2 lonely males remaining. But note that they are not native to this area, though it is kinda neat they survived on their own for so long.

SoapBox Oct 29, 2021 03:00 PM
Santa Barbara's Beloved Parrot Flock Down to 2 Males

Mr. Linden has stated that the wild flock was present before he established his aviary and that he did not house this particular species at the time of the the Sycamore fire. Here is his last published update:

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