Foam Lake Birding No. 73

No. 73
The weather here has been a little uncooperative as far as birding is concerned. The cool (not cold) wet weather along with some minor renovations to our newly purchased trailer has held our birding trips to a minimum. However, things are not as bad as all that. At this time of the year the birding scene is quiet anyway, plus I do have many pictures and experiences from previous years to work with.
This week I want to deal with a family of birds that, with only a few exceptions, is essentially tropical – the parrots. In North America (excluding Mexico) there used to be two species of native parrots – the Carolina Parakeet of the south eastern US, and the Thick Billed Parrot of the Animas Mountains in south western New Mexico and the Chiricahua Mountains of south eastern Arizona. The Carolina Parakeet was literally shot into extinction because it liked to raid fruit orchards, peaches especially, and cause considerable damage. The last one died in captivity in 1914 which is the same year that the last Passenger Pigeon died, also in captivity. On the other hand, the Thick Billed Parrot was never numerous and, for reasons unknown, simply disappeared from its range at the end of the 1930s. Attempts to reintroduce it have failed.
That being said, there are a number of species that have escaped captivity or were deliberately released and now have established breeding populations in the wild. An extreme example is the Monk Parakeet, a native of South America, that now lives and breeds from Florida north to Chicago and New York. There are quite a few others, but they are more localized in southern Florida, California, Arizona and Texas.
Parrots come in a wide variety of different species. Some have crests, others do not; some have long tails, others have short tails, some are large, others are small, and so on. These different parrots also have different names to match none of which have any meaning in the scientific world (much like the names dove and pigeon). Some general examples are: large parrots with long tails – macaws, smaller parrots with long tails – parakeets, small parrots with long tails – budgerigars, large parrots with crests – cockatoos, small parrots with crests – cockatiels, larger parrots with short tails – parrots, smaller parrots with short tails – parroquets or love birds, and so on.
In this area there are four species of parrots, two of which are common and two uncommon. The latter includes the Yellow Headed Parrot and the Violet Crowned Parrot; the former includes the Green Parakeet and this week’s featured bird, the Red Crowned Parrot. It is a chicken sized green bird that sports a bright red forehead patch. Even though this week’s picture shows a solitary bird eating palm berries, it was part of a flock which is the nature of parrots in general. Red Crowned Parrots are feral (domesticated or captive livestock gone wild), but recently some ornithologists have decided that at least some of the Red Crowns are natives that have flown in from Mexico to join the feral ones.
Because our trailer park consists almost entirely of “Winter Texans” (Canadians and northern Americans), there is a lot of excitement when a flock of parrots lands in the park. In flight, the very noisy birds sound like a flock of raspy squawking chickens; when perched and feeding, they are completely silent. Quite a contrast. In any case, people come out in droves to see them. I know that I certainly enjoy seeing them.