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 (41)
  • maxwellt-2-bar
    4/28/2016 - 08:34 p.m.

    These parrots remained largely unnoticed by the general public because of a lack of legal protection. The reason that the birds have no protection is as follows: "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". Since the birds aren't migratory or native, the lawmakers couldn't care less about them, ensuring no one really pays attention to them. This article grabbed my attention because I've seen these birds everywhere in my city.

  • sethg-2-bar
    4/28/2016 - 09:00 p.m.

    The parrots didn't get attention before because they were not in the U.S. Until recently. There are more of these parrots in Texas and California then their native country, Mexico. The parrots draw even more attention by their ability to adapt to new surroundings. I found this article very interesting because I like parrots.

  • jennaw-1-bar
    4/28/2016 - 10:33 p.m.

    In this article we learn about how one parrots Who gets no attention soon becomes the bird worlds biggest bird craze. This bird Used to just be getting the attention because of it's beautiful nose but now it is being known for how it is almost extinct.

  • katherinec-3-bar
    4/28/2016 - 11:29 p.m.

    These parrots have not gotten much attention until now because they have recently become endangered. One paragraph states,"People complain about the noise, but they're just not educated about the birds," she said. "They don't realize these birds are endangered." I found this article interesting because in the summer these birds would hang around my pool and I had no idea these parrots were endangered.

  • caleighm-4-bar
    4/28/2016 - 11:38 p.m.

    The parrots in the U.S. urban areas are only just getting attention now because scientists are beginning to recognize how intelligent and resourceful the parrots are, as well as their ability to adapt easily. Scientists have also started to take parrots into concern because " [...] 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." (paragraph 4).
    I chose this article because I just really like parrots.

  • gregorys-6-bar
    4/29/2016 - 09:06 a.m.

    The parrots are getting more attention than before because they are starting to become endangered.
    When an animal is considered endangered then the attention starts coming. Everyone wants to know why they are endangered and how to help. Animals like the polar bear got this kind of treatment when it was considered endangered. There is know surprise to hear all this racket about parrots.

  • darieny-ver
    4/29/2016 - 10:02 a.m.

    They didn't get attention before because most people focused on the population decrease in the parrot species native habitat while they escaped and moved to urban areas in the US through bird trade.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    4/29/2016 - 11:03 a.m.

    These parrots didnt get much attention before because their talents were not yet discovered by science. I think parrots are really cool. I love all of their vibrant colors and also their intelligent brains.

  • briannec-ste
    4/30/2016 - 02:45 p.m.

    I love seeing where bird move and why they move there, I love the question of why they moved to where they did. I always want to know if there is a certain reason, and now they are studying them.

  • amyb-wal
    5/01/2016 - 11:00 p.m.

    These parrots did not get attention before because their population was higher in Mexico than the USA. Now they're getting more attention because their population has grown mainly because of the pet trade. Another reason why the parrots weren't getting as much attention is because scientists are just starting to realize how intelligent they are and how easily they adapt to their habitats. These facts are intriguing the scientists causing them to pay more attention to these parrots.

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