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Agapornis roseicollis - Peach-faced lovebird (2) Alipiopsitta xanthops - Yellow-faced Parrot (1) Alisterus amboinensis - Moluccan King Parrot (1) Alisterus scapularis - Australian King Parrot (3) Amazona aestiva - Blue-fronted Amazon (12) Amazona agilis - Black-billed Parrot (4) Amazona albifrons - White-fronted Amazon (6) Amazona amazonica - Orange-winged Amazon (5) Amazona arausiaca - Red-necked Parrot (1) Amazona auropalliata - Yellow-naped amazon (3) Amazona autumnalis - Red-lored Amazon (8) Amazona barbadensis - Yellow-shouldered amazon (5) Amazona brasiliensis - Red-tailed Amazon (1) Amazona collaria - Yellow-billed Parrot (5) Amazona farinosa - Mealy Amazon (1) Amazona festiva - Festive Parrots (1) Amazona finschi - Lilac crowned Amazon (11) Amazona guildingii - St. Vincent Amazon (7) Amazona imperialis - Imperial Amazon (1) Amazona l. bahamensis - Bahama Parrot (5) Amazona l. caymanensis - Grand Cayman Parrot (4) Amazona l. hesterna - Cayman Brac Parrot (4) Amazona lilacina - Ecuador Amazon (4) Amazona ochrocephala - 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Norfolk Parakeet (1) Cyanoramphus malherbi - Orange-fronted parakeet (12) Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae - Red-crowned Kakariki (16) Cyanoramphus ulietanus - Society parakeet (1) Cyanoramphus unicolor - Antipodes Island Parakeet (3) Cyanoramphus zealandicus - Black-fronted parakeets (1) Deroptyus accipitrinus - Hawk-headed parrot (1) Diopsittaca nobilis - Red-shouldered macaw (1) Eclectus roratus - Eclectus Parrot (10) Enicognathus leptorhynchus - Slender-billed parakeet (1) Eolophus roseicapilla - Galah (19) Eos squamata - Violet-necked Lory (2) Eunymphicus uvaeensis - Ouvea parakeet (1) Forpus coelestis - Pacific Parrotlet (1) Forpus conspicillatus - Spectacled Parrotlet (1) Forpus cyanopygius - Mexican Parrotlet (1) Forpus passerinus - Green-rumped Parrotlet (2) Geoffroyus geoffroyi - Red-cheeked Parrot (1) Glossopsitta porphyrocephala - Purple-crowned Lorikeet (1) Graydidascalus brachyurus - Short-tailed Parrot (1) Guaruba guaruba - Golden conure (2) Hapalopsittaca fuertesi - Fuerte's parrot (2) Lathamus discolor - Swift Parrot (20) Leptosittaca branickii - Golden-plumed Parakeet (2) Loriculus vernalis - Vernal Hanging Parrot (1) Lorius chlorocercus - Yellow-bibbed Lory (1) Lorius domicella - Black-capped Lory (1) Lorius domicella - Purple-naped Lory (2) Lorius garrulus - Chattering Lory (5) Lorius lorry - black-capped Lories (1) Melopsittacus undulatus - Budgerigar (25) Micropsitta keiensis - Yellow-capped pygmy parrot (1) Micropsitta pusio - Buff-faced pygmy parrot (1) Myiopsitta monachus - Monk Parakeet (90) Nandayus nenday - Black-hooded Parakeet (4) Neophema chrysogaster - Orange-bellied Parrot (40) Neophema petrophila - Rock Parrot (1) Neophema pulchella - Turquoise parakeet (2) Nestor chathamensis - Chatham Islands parrot (1) Nestor meridionalis - Kaka (23) Nestor notabilis - Kea (49) Nestor productus - Norfolk Island Kaka (1) Northiella haematogaster - Blue bonnet Parrot (1) Nymphicus hollandicus - Cockatiel (7) Ognorhynchus icterotis - Yellow-eared Parrot (5) Orthopsittaca manilata - Red-bellied macaw (1) Pezoporus flaviventris - Western Ground Parrot (14) Pezoporus occidentalis - Night Parrot (10) Pezoporus wallicus - Eastern ground parrot (2) Pezoporus wallicus - Eastern ground parrot (1) Pionites melanocephalus - Black-headed Caique (1) Pionus menstruus - Blue-headed parrot (1) Pionus senilis - White-crowned Parrot (1) Platycercus elegans - Crimson Rosella (6) Platycercus eximius - Eastern Rosella (4) Poicephalus fuscicollis - Brown-necked Parrot (1) Poicephalus robustus - Cape Parrot (5) Poicephalus senegalus - Senegal Parrot (2) Polytelis alexandrae - Princess Parrot (4) Polytelis anthopeplus - Regent Parrot (8) Polytelis swainsonii- Superb Parrot (14) Primolius auricollis - Yellow-collared macaw (1) Probosciger aterrimus - Palm Cockatoo (4) Psephotus chrysopterygius - Golden-shouldered Parrot (3) Psittacella brehmii - Brehm's Tiger-parrot (1) Psittacula alexandri - Red-breasted Parakeet (1) Psittacula columboides - Malabar Parakeet (1) Psittacula cyanocephala - Plum-headed Parakeet (3) Psittacula derbiana - Derbyan Parakeet (5) Psittacula echo - Mauritius parakeet (3) Psittacula eupatria - Alexandrine Parakeet (18) Psittacula eupatria - Alexandrine Parakeet (4) Psittacula finschii - Grey-headed Parakeet (1) Psittacula himalayana - Slaty-headed Parakeet (1) Psittacula krameri - Ring-necked Parakeet (53) Psittacus erithacus - African Grey Parrot (45) Psittacus erithacus - African Grey Parrot (25) Psittrichas fulgidus - Pesquet's Parrot (1) Pyrrhura albipectus - White-breasted Parakeet (1) Pyrrhura caeruleiceps - Perijá Parakeet (2) Pyrrhura griseipectus - Grey-breasted Parakeet (2) Pyrrhura molinae - Green-cheeked Conure (1) Pyrrhura orcesi - El Oro Parakeet (3) Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha - Thick-billed Parrot (9) Strigops habroptilus - Kakapo (84) Tanygnathus lucionensis - Blue-naped Parrot (4) Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus - Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (1) Trichoglossus rubritorquis - Red-collared Lorikeet (2) Trichoglosus haematodus - Rainbow Lorikeets (16) Vini kuhlii - Kuhl's Lorikeet (1)
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Friday
May182007

Wild Parrots Tame the Concrete Jungle

Red-crowned Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis) in Ocean Beach, San DiegoSAN DIEGO, Southern California has a vast array of transplants lured by the moderate climate and endless days of sunshine, and perhaps none are more exotic than the urban parrots that have come to colonise bedroom communities ringing major cities like San Diego and Los Angeles.

Parrot populations are surging in cities worldwide even as their habitats are fast disappearing in the wild.

Each morning, residents of Ocean Beach, San Diego get an eyeful and earful as small groups of parrots pass through, behaving like rowdy fraternity boys on a pub crawl. They're seldom alone and almost never quiet. The parrots fly from tree to tree foraging for food, their distinctive squawks echoing through the neighbourhood.

These social birds have found a second home among the swaying palms and towering eucalyptus trees of suburbia, thousands of miles from their native habitats in Central and South America.

Red-masked parakeets (Aratinga erythrogenys) in Ocean Beach, San DiegoPart urban legend, part cautionary fable, the parrots appear to be thriving -- and attracting bird lovers and maverick biologists who see a role for urban birds in restoring dwindling parrot populations in Latin America.

Avid parrot enthusiasts Roelant Jonker and Grace Innemee flew here from the Netherlands specifically to photograph and document the exploits of parrots living among urban dwellers. Together they run cityparrots.org, a non-profit organisation focused on the conservation and emancipation of parrots living both in the wild and metropolitan areas.

"It's never a boring moment, there's much to learn integrated with so many disciplines," Jonker told IPS.

Red-fronted amazon (Amazona viridigenalis) hanging around in a Canary date palm, Ocean beach, San DiegoTheir focus, however, is on the urban parrot phenomena. "As cities grow, forests shrink," said Innemee. They believe city landscapes present a unique opportunity to study parrots and conservation since parrots and various parakeets roam freely in San Francisco, London, New York City, Los Angeles and other places where humans and birds interact, making research easier.

They also prefer city parrots for personal reasons. The Netherlands is home to a pair of spectacular scarlet macaws seldom seen outside the confines of a wilderness preserve. Parrots, they argue, are difficult to study in their native habitats amid the light and shadow of dense forest canopies and often in dangerous and unstable regions of the world.

"We're traveling all over the world to see parrots," said Innemee.

Finsch's Amazon (Amazona finschi) and a Red-crowned Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis) bathing in the last sunrays of a day in Ocean Beach, San DiegoThese charming monomaniacs are here to attend a conference on parrot conservation in Los Angeles in the hope of getting a pilot programme funded. Their goal is to build urban aviaries in Latin American countries where parrots are currently endangered.

This project occupies a niche otherwise ignored by members the wildlife conservation community, which Jonker contends focuses almost exclusively on preserving species in their native habitats.

To bird purists, the presence of parrots in cities is somewhat frowned upon because they're perceived to be displacing native species. In Southern California, immigrants from around the world have brought their pets and plants with them, changing the landscape irrevocably.

Red-crowned Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis) flying into the sunset of Ocean Beach, San DiegoIf not for this human tinkering, parrots couldn't survive in San Diego. Parrots tend to favour older, more established neighbourhoods with ample green space, choosing tall, mature non-native trees that provide room for nesting and roosting. At dawn, they take off from large roosting trees to forage for non-native figs, dates and other fruits. The parrots fan out over a several-mile radius to alight on imported trees planted by local residents.

Residents of Ocean Beach believe the parrots arrived 25 years ago after a pet store burned down, and they never left. The seaside community is now home to a flock of 100 naturalised parrots composed of red-headed conures and stubby-winged amazons.

Jonker is quick to point out that these parrots were never really tame to begin with. Unlike dogs, which have lived with humans for millennia, parrots remain wild for generations even if bred in captivity "They'll take wing when given the first opportunity to do so," Jonker said.

In ones, twos, and threes, escaped parrots find each other, relying on the instinctive traits the species has acquired over millennia in the rainforests of Central and South America.

Mitred conure (Aratinga mitrata) and Red-masked conure (Aratinga erythrogenys) on a high voltage wire pole; Temple City, Los Angeles CAThe true origins of San Diego's city parrots are unknown. More likely than not, they escaped from pet stores, pet owners and even during transport in previous decades when importing wild birds to the United States was part of the legal parrot trade.

Their cosmopolitism, however, is not to be over-romanticised. Successful parrot colonies here represent a terrible loss of wildlife in Central and South America. Trafficking in birds -- whether legal or illegal -- came at a tremendous price. Between 1982 and 1988, 1.5 million captured wild birds entered the U.S. market, and millions more likely died in transit before the trade was banned in 1992.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 94 of the 330 parrot species in existence are threatened with extinction, mainly due to habitat loss to and commercial exploitation, making them some of the rarest birds on earth.

Fortunately, the pace of exploitation might be coming to a halt. In October 2006, the EU placed a ban on the wild bird trade amid concerns over the spread of avian flu, preventing perhaps tens upon thousands of wild birds from being captured.

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