News

Once Exotic Pet Parrots are Now Thriving in the Wild in Unsuspecting Places Like Chicago, New York

By Jan Wesner Childs

7 days ago

weather.com

Thousands of monk parakeets were imported to the United States as pets during the 1950s and 60s
(Jennifer Uehling)

At a Glance

  • Parrots were introduced to the U.S. as pets but began showing up in the wild in the 1960s.
  • The small, green monk parakeet is the most common.
  • Some parrot populations are dwindling in their native countries.

Parrots were introduced to the U.S. as exotic pets in the 1960s, but now they are thriving in the wild in even the most unlikely environments.

There are now at least 56 different parrot species living in the wild in 43 states coast to coast, according to recent study published in the Journal of Ornithology.

Twenty-five of the species have become so at home that they are what biologists consider to be "naturalized," which means they are breeding and establishing larger colonies.

“Many of them were escaped pets, or their owners released them because they couldn’t train them or they made too much noise - all the reasons people let pets go,” Stephen Pruett-Jones, an ecologist at the University of Chicago and one of the study's authors, said in a press release. “But many of these species are perfectly happy living here and they’ve established populations. Wild parrots are here to stay.”

(MORE: Deaths of Bald Eagles in Maryland Blamed on Poison)

Pruett-Jones and his fellow researchers combed through parrot sightings from two different sources. The first was the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count, and the second was an online source called eBird, where bird watchers log their sightings.

The data showed the most common species in the U.S. are the small, green monk parakeet, the red-crowned Amazon and the nanday parakeet.

The sounds of parrots chirping, calling and squawking are familiar refrains, especially in Florida, Texas and California. All 25 breeding species are present in each of those three states.

While most parrot populations are concentrated in warmer climates, there are also large colonies of monk parakeets in big cities like New York and Chicago, the study showed. Researchers believe they are able to survive because of their communal living habits, and the generosity of backyard bird feeders.

Non-native species are often considered a nuisance but parrots, for the most part, have been embraced by their human neighbors. Monk parakeets have been to known to build nests that weigh up to 400 pounds, and have been a cause for concern in some areas because they can damage power lines, cell phone towers and other structures, according to the Texas Invasive Species Institute.

Some species are also targets of poachers who want to return the parrots to their status as pets. In a particular, macaws in Miami have been taken from the wild to be sold.

Some types of parrots are actually thriving more in the U.S. than in their original habitats. Pruett-Jones said there are now more red-crowned Amazons living in California, for example, than their native Mexico.

“Because of human activity transporting these birds for our own pleasure, we have inadvertently created populations elsewhere,” he said. “Now for some of these parrots, they may become critical to the survival of the species.”

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.