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Mike Bowles & Loretta Erickson | Nov 08, 2006


It has been our experience that escaped companion parrots, in general, just don’t have much of a chance of making it out there.  We’ve seen this first hand by the lack of new birds/species among our local flock and we believe this to be representative of most of the flocks in California.  After all, companion parrots escape all the time and yet those who we believe may be escapees (one-of-a-kind or very few in number) make up less than 1% of the flock.  And most of those have been with the flock since before we began observing them.  For those without distinct identifiable differences, there is no way to tell their success.  One thing is for sure, not once, in the thousands of photos we have taken of our local flock, have we ever seen a leg band.  But, as with most things, there always turns out to be an exception and this past summer gave us two—along with our first real chance to watch their progress from the beginning.

The first came one late June morning during my usual visit to the flock.  I found a good number of Red-crowned, Lilac-crowned and Red-lored Parrots high in a patch of eucalyptus trees loudly greeting the day.  Off in the distance and outside the flock a lone bird caught my eye—it was a Blue-crowned Parakeet.  I wasn’t too surprised, we have one Blue-crowned Parakeet among the flock that is mated with a Red-crowned Parrot.  I suspected his mate must be nearby, so I watched him for a while.  Faced away from the flock, he seemed aloof and unsure of himself.  I wondered if something may have happened to his mate.  The sight of this little fellow sitting on the outskirts just didn’t seem right.  It wasn’t until a few weeks later we would find the answer to his odd behavior.

As we were photographing a small group of adult Red-crowned Parrots with recently fledged young, a Blue-crowned Parakeet joined them on the wires.  He seemed to be a happy little guy, but had some obvious trouble balancing on the wires—just as much trouble as the babies surrounding him.  This couldn’t be our well-established Blue-crowned Parakeet, he’s been documented in the flock with his Red-crowned mate since 2001 and is very comfortable with his surroundings.  Sure enough, a closer look revealed a leg band—the first we had ever seen.  Now it all made sense.  It was he I saw sitting on the outskirts of the flock and not our previously known Blue-crowned Parakeet.  We had a new bird!

This raised some new questions in our minds—how would the presence of another Blue-crowned Parakeet in the flock affect the relationship of the other Blue-crowned Parakeet and his Red-crowned mate?  There was no way to tell if they were the same sex or not, but would the presence of another of their own species draw them together?

As of October 2006, our Blue-crowned Parakeet and his Red-crowned mate are still together.  The new Blue-crowned Parakeet is doing well and though he hasn’t yet bonded with another bird, he looks like he’s going to do okay. 

It’s Magic!

On July 10, 2006, I received an e-mail through our website telling of a Yellow-headed Parrot who was loose in a not-too-distant neighborhood.  The gentleman reporting him gave an excellent description of how this bird would arrive every morning about 5:30 AM and sit high up in some eucalyptus trees.  The bird would chatter, preen and play with the small limbs on the trees.  He also described him as being totally unaffected by the humans, traffic and other birds around him.  When I questioned the man as to whether he had seen any of the wild parrots in this neighborhood, he said he had never seen any parrots in the area at all, but this parrot had been around for a couple weeks and the gentleman subsequently sent photographs.

There wasn’t much doubt this bird was probably a fairly recent escapee and I knew his only chance of making it, however small, was to catch sight of some of the wild flock and hopefully follow them.  But that would be a treacherous route.  From his location, he would have to make it through some heavily raptor-patrolled territory with no protection if he were pursued.  Was he a strong enough flyer to make it across those large open fields to parrot-friendly territory?  Would he be able to make a nine mile flight?  He was an older bird with a full yellow head and not a trimmed down wild-type.  That bright yellow head was just like a neon sign.

One August morning, I received a phone call from Mike.  He was excited to tell me he’d discovered a new Yellow-head among the flock hanging out with 5 or 6 adult Red-crowned Parrots.  It was obvious to him this bird didn’t quite know what he was doing and struggled with keeping his balance on the wires.  A pretty hefty bird to begin with, this new Yellow-head was not yet a skilled flyer—when he took off following his new-found friends, he was always a distance behind the others.

Mike was able to get some good photos of him and when matched to the photos we had received from the man reporting the loose Yellow-head, we found we had the same bird—there was no doubt.  He made it!  Mike’s photos also revealed something else, a leg band on his right leg—a quarantine band.  Our new Yellow-head had a name, “Bandini.” We could now safely assume he was most likely an imported parrot and was at least 13-plus years of age (my guess would be closer to 20 or above). 

With a name like Bandini, you would expect him to be able to work a little bit of magic, wouldn’t you?  After all, he’s lived a charmed life so far.  Well, that’s just what he did! Not only did he brave the odds against him and make it all the way to the flock, but he also found our long-lost Tav for us.

Tav was the first Yellow-head we discovered among our local flock and with only a handful of Yellow-heads to account for, it’s easy to notice when one is missing.  We had followed and photographed her for a couple of years before losing sight of her in May of 2005.  We always thought she would turn up again somewhere and that we probably just hadn’t been in the right place at the right time to catch up with her.  As time went on though, hope faded.  We ran across the birds she had been known to hang out with in the past, but no Tav.  We regularly checked the various spots she had been known to visit, still no Tav.  Hope diminished further and I really believed we had lost her for good—she probably wasn’t with us anymore.  Sixteen months was a long time to have not even caught a glimpse of her.

Late September rolled around and on a clear crisp morning Mike was photographing a break-off flock when he heard a Yellow-head.  He tracked the calls and discovered Bandini with none other than our missing Tav.  What a guy!  He did it!  He found her! Not only that, but they had become a solid item.

We now have our first mated pair of Yellow-heads.  I can see those little bobbing heads already!

Bandini & Tav