The wild parrots Telegraph Hill are famous – but have you seen the parrots of Palo Alto?


At Waverley and Forest: “We were simply amazed to see so many parrots on one true, and more flying in the sky. The tree was full of them and they were eating berries,” says Melonie Chang Brophy, who took the photo.

One of my favorite memories in São Paulo was how the trees in the neighborhood were filled with brilliantly colored chattering parakeets. I didn’t think I’d see them this in North America, even on the warmer side of the continent. But here we are. You’ve heard of San Francisco’s The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill? Welcome to the parrots of Palo Alto!

There were several sightings this month. From NextDoor:

•  “They were on a tree on Middlefield and Channing this past Wednesday. My daughter was in awe in her walk to school! So fun to see!”

•  “They must have a thing about Waverley Street. I’ve seen (but mostly heard) them in Johnson Park, in a tree at the corner of Waverley and Everett. Persimmon tree.”

•  “We saw a flock of them in midtown a couple of weeks ago. They used to hang around the church on Colorado. It was great to see them back!”

San Francisco species (Photo: Dan_H/Flickr)

•  “I just saw a bunch at 4 p.m. today the corner of Lytton and Middlefield. It was pretty awesome to see it in person.”

• “I see (and hear) them on Cowper between Lytton and Everett at least once a week. They showed up around here about 2 years ago. They are so beautiful!”

•  “Thank you for the parrot report! For many years, up until maybe 2016, we had a huge green parrot flock living in the trees next to the Church at Colorado and Cowper. And then they disappeared. So glad to learn they have migrated.”

• “That’s so beautiful. I wish I had my phone with me last year when I saw them at El dorado and Waverley going from tree to tree a whole flock. It was so beautiful!!! I had never seen anything like that before. I had never seen a wild parrot before, I thought maybe I was wrong about it. But I guess I was right about what I saw.”

• “They come to my backyard all the time. I have not paid attention this year though. They are really noisy (but so pretty) and they like the plum tree in my backyard.”

(Photo: Melonie Chang Brophy)

Sunnyvale apparently has some birds just like these, too. … But parrots? Not so fast. According to one comment, “These are mitred parakeets [i.e., Psittacara mitratus – ED] a different species from the ones in San Francisco. Probably spread up the peninsula from Sunnyvale. Very cool!”

But … but… but… the mitred parakeets look just like the mitred conures to me. And both, apparently, are famous for screeching. Could these birds be both? Could we be developing whole North American subspecies?

Here’s what KQED has to say about San Francisco’s birds: “The wild parrots in and around San Francisco are called cherry-headed conures. At one point, a mitred conure joined the flock and bred with the cherry heads. Now the flock is dotted with hybrids.  There are a couple ways to differentiate the breeds. Cherry heads have slightly smaller bodies and a red helmet pattern on their heads, whereas mitred conures have a more blotchy pattern of red and feet that are a slightly darker hue.”

More from KQED:

Where Are They From?
The cherry-headed conures come from a small territory spanning Ecuador and Peru. The mitred conures originated from a large territory ranging from Peru through Bolivia down to northern Argentina.

Wild for Palo Alto persimmons. (Photo: Maureen Bard)

How Did They Get Here?
They were brought here to be sold as pets in the exotic pet trade. The U.S. was the largest importer of birds in the world before the government banned the trade of wild exotic birds in 1992.

How Did They Get Out?
The founders of the wild flock of conures either escaped or were released.


So what about the Palo Alto birds? They are said to be escapees from Monette’s Pet Shop on California Avenue. I remember it well from years ago. According to one post, a few took shelter in trees just on the south side of Oregon Expressway. Could these be these rugged birds?

Beware! Beware! They are not as innocuous as they might seem:

“Years ago there was a flock of about a dozen who were all over the place in our city. Two local churches had to have work done on their roofs to evict the parrot flock from carving out little caves in the eaves.”

And this: “Many years ago we heard the sound of ripping wood in our attic. I thought it was some aggressive rodent, but when I took a look a saw… a conure I guess making a nest !?!?”

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