Parrots in America are getting attention In this Wednesday, March 30, 2016 photo, Brooke Durham, who runs a parrot-rescue center, called SoCal Parrot, holds a parrot at her home turned parrot sanctuary, in Jamul, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Parrots in America are getting attention
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U.S. researchers are launching studies on Mexico's red-crowned parrot. The species has been adapting well to living in cities in California and Texas after escaping from the pet trade. The total U.S. population may now rival that in its native country.
 
The research comes amid debate over whether some of the birds flew across the border into Texas and should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
 
Parrots in U.S. urban areas are just starting to draw attention from scientists. That is because of their intelligence, resourcefulness and ability to adapt. There is a growing realization that the city dwellers may offer a population that could help save certain species from extinction.
 
Parrots are thriving today in cities from Los Angeles to Brownsville, Texas. Meanwhile, in the tropics and subtropics, a third of all parrot species are at risk of going extinct. This is because of habitat loss and the pet trade.
 
Most are believed to have escaped from importers or smugglers over the past half-century. Tens of thousands of parrots were brought into the United States from Latin America.
 
Scientists only now are starting to study them.
 
After doing most of his research in places like Peru, Donald Brightsmith is concentrating on the squawking birds nesting in Washingtonian palms. The birds line avenues and roost in the oak trees in front lawns in South Texas.
 
"Parrots in urban settings are of great interest to me," the Texas A&M University biologist said. "I see these as kind of future insurance policies."
 
Brightsmith has received a two-year grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Researchers want to get an official count on the state's red-crowned parrot population. And they want to determine whether threats against them are increasing.
 
The research could help drive ways to maintain the population that prefers the cities and suburbs.
 
"It's more of an urban planning, landscape, ecology issue. And not so much how do we protect an area of pristine nature," he said. Brightsmith would like to team up with scientists in California.
 
Researchers want to someday study the gene pool. They want to determine whether there are still genetically pure red-crowned parrots that could replenish the flocks in their native habitat.
 
"We could have a free backup stock in the U.S.," Brightsmith said.
 
In Mexico, biologists are working on getting an updated count. The last study was in 1994.  It estimated the population at 3,000 to 6,500 birds. The total was a decline from more than 100,000 in the 1950s. This is because of deforestation and raids on the nesting young to feed the pet trade.
 
"We suspect the population in South Texas could rival the number found in the wild in Mexico," said Karl Berg. He is a biologist at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He received a grant to study the red-crowned parrot in Brownsville.
 
Biologists estimate the population at close to 1,000 birds in Texas. More than 2,500 live in California, where they are the most common of more than a dozen parrot species.
 
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2011 listed it as an indigenous species. It is thought the parrots flew north across the border as lowland areas in Mexico were cleared in the 1980s for ranching and agriculture, though ornithologists debate that.
 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that same year announced that the red-crowned parrot warranted federal protection because of habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade. It remains a candidate. The agency reviews it annually.
 
Some in the pet trade fear that a listing under the Endangered Species Act could prevent them from breeding the birds and moving them across state lines.
 
Conservationists question whether any of the birds are native to Texas and should be listed when there are so many species in need of protection in the United States.
 
"It seems odd to me," said Kimball Garrett, a parrot expert at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. "I don't know that there is enough evidence to show the birds flew for hundreds of miles from their native range and went across the border."
 
Brooke Durham said the birds need more protection. Durham runs a parrot rescue center. It is called SoCal Parrot and is in the town of Jamul, east of San Diego. The center treats up to 100 birds a year.
 
Recently at her sprawling home-turned-sanctuary, dozens of birds were being nursed for broken bones and pellet gun wounds. Most were red-crowned parrots.
 
Animal cruelty laws offer about the only protection for the birds in California. That is because they are not native to the state or migratory.
 
"People complain about the noise, but they're just not educated about the birds," she said. "They don't realize these birds are endangered."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why didn't these parrots get attention before?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (40)
  • jacobh-kut
    4/26/2016 - 08:37 p.m.

    It's amazing to think that there are more of these parrots in the U.S.A. then their native country.

    Why didn't these parrots get attention before?
    Because theses parrots just started to gain popularity because of how many of them adapted to urban suburbs or city's. They are thriving in cities. More live in the cities in the U.S. then their native country!

  • jocelync-612-
    4/27/2016 - 08:45 a.m.

    These parrots did not get attention before because scientist are just starting to notice their resourcefulness, intelligence, and their ability to adapt. This was stated in paragraph 3.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    4/27/2016 - 11:43 a.m.

    These birds haven't got much attention because they are only recently endangered because there isn't any real laws protecting them in the U.S.

  • kaideno-kut
    4/27/2016 - 12:14 p.m.

    I think it's good that these parrots are getting special attention.The last thing we'd want is the extinction of another species.I also think we should give all types of animals more attention because there are already a lot of species on the verge of extinction.And if all of our animals die then our world would fall apart.

  • zyc-612-
    4/27/2016 - 02:01 p.m.

    These parrots didn't get attention before because many people thought that the birds were noisy and loud, so many people didn't like them. Also they didn't get attention because many scientist were focused on finding evidence, to find out if these birds really flew over the border from Mexico into Texas.

  • jahir-orv
    4/27/2016 - 03:01 p.m.

    parrots a one of the most beautiful birds in the world they should get attention anyway.

  • melissaj-Ste
    4/27/2016 - 08:14 p.m.

    Honestly, birds are not a big ticket item to use as the face of wildlife conservation. Therefore people wouldn't know that parrots might actually be going extinct in their native countries. Lots of animals are becoming extinct in their native countries for the same reason: loss of habitat. Parrots are gaining the attention of the American public, specifically the American West, is from the growing population in that area.

  • ben0424-yyca-byo
    4/27/2016 - 10:45 p.m.

    It is interesting that people are caring for them now. Birds have been getting attention before, but the parrots are getting attention now. I feel that we should care more about helping the animals, than caring about us. We should go and help the environment, than help us get farther in technology and focusing on that. Everyone is all only on technology now, and they don't focus on the things that are happening right in front of them. I feel that we should all stop focusing on technology, and focus on the world around us.
    Critical Thinking Question Answer: The parrots weren't in the urban cities before recently. People are not caring for the world that is happening right in front of them. Even though they get a whole lot of reminders to recycle, don't litter, and to stop polluting, people ignore this, and continue with their lives.

  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    4/28/2016 - 10:41 a.m.

    I honestly didn't know there were so many kinds of parrots here. They are getting so much attention because of their intelligence, resourcefulness and ability to adapt. There is a growing realization that the city dwellers may offer a population that could help save certain species from extinction.

  • kaleal-2-bar
    4/28/2016 - 04:07 p.m.

    These parrots did not get attention before because, as the article says, " ...of their intelligence, resourcefulness and ability to adapt." I was drawn to this article because I recognized that these red crowned parrots are a daily thing for me to see. I had no idea that they were endangered!

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