Tuesday, January 13, 2009
A fun twist to California birding is the presence of free-flying parrots. The die-hard lister would probably brush them off, since only one species, the Red-crowned Parrot, "counts" towards official lists. However, it is very addicting to try to sort these colorful birds out - if you can conquer the bewildering blizzard of names (come on - Yellow-headed Parrot, Yellow-naped Parrot, Yellow-crowned Parrot...)
While cruising around Irvine Regional Park on my bike last week, a cacophony of raucous parrot squawks grabbed my attention. I pedaled in that direction, and quickly spotted a Red-crowned Parrot perched low over the road in a sycamore tree. The early morning light was hitting the bird perfectly, so I foolishly stopped in the middle of the road to photograph it. As a general rule, it's not a good idea to block half the road while attempting to photograph a bird, but the opportunity was too good to pass up, and there isn't much traffic in Irvine Regional Park anyway...
Later that same morning, I again heard the familiar racket of parrots flying overhead. A pair landed in a small tree beside the path. At first glance, they both appear to Red-crowned Parrots. Neither have as extensive red on the crown as the one I saw previously, but this mark varies considerably.
The bird on the right has a noticeably more "lilac" head stripe than the other, whose head stripe appears more blue. Additionally, check out the tails on these birds; the bird on the right has a longer, rounded tail while the bird on the left has a shorter, square tail. These are good indications that the bird on the right is a Lilac-crowned Parrot and the other is a Red-crowned Parrot, albeit on the dull side of the scale for this species. These two species are very similar, but in direct comparison the differences are more easily discerned.
Other parrot species I have seen in California so far include Yellow-headed Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Blue-fronted Parrot, Mitred Parakeet, and Yellow-chevroned Parakeet. The variety of parrots is impressive, as are the numbers; I've seen flocks fifty-strong multiple times at Irvine Regional Park. Some people may find them loud and obnoxious (which is actually true, if they are sitting outside your window while you're trying to concentrate on schoolwork), but they are beautiful and fascinating creatures.