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How Did Parrots End Up in These Unusual Locations?

When you think of wild parrots, your mind probably wanders to the macaws in the jungles of South America or Cockatiels soaring through the skies in large flocks in the grasslands of Australia. However, due to humans transporting these birds from their native habitats, parrots have found themselves getting cozy in some pretty unexpected locations around the world. Their intelligence and propensity to adapt despite challenges they face has helped them adjust to some very interesting locations. Let's take a look at a couple of those places with a very different set of challenges, but the same impressive ability of the parrot’s determination to adapt and thrive.


The Lovebirds of Arizona

Lovebirds are native to the African continent, but a group of them, estimated to be over 2,000 individuals, have taken up residence in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States. They tend to nest in local palm trees and cacti that have had holes made in them by local birds such as woodpeckers. Surveys have shown that most of the birds live within the city and neighborhoods and there’s not much evidence that they have established themselves in the surrounding deserts or habitats. This is likely because humans have played a huge role in helping them to survive the harsh climate in Arizona. 

Bird feeders are one of the most common ways the Lovebirds find food, but they have also been noted to feed on the fruit and seeds of native plants like cactus and palm fruit as well as seed pods. In a Facebook group dedicated to sharing images and stories about the Phoenix Lovebirds, you can find photos and videos of them eating from bird feeders and local fruit trees and enjoying a bath in sprinklers and the bird baths in people’s backyards. Many locals seem to be delighted by the bird’s presence. These birds are likely pet trade escapees. That means that they were bought as pets and many escaped and formed a group locally.

Arizona is known for its sweltering summer heat and dry climate. Lovebirds adapted to their native habitat where it rarely gets over 100 degrees fahrenheit. However, the summers in Arizona can average temperatures well above that. The birds deal with that heat in some interesting ways. Many of them have found refuge in their human neighbor’s air conditioning vents and other cooled areas. One of those locations is Arizona State University’s science building where they can commonly be seen. They also take advantage of sprinkler systems and bird baths. Staying cool and hydrated in this heat can be a challenge since birds stay cool by panting. This process can be dangerous in high heat because it uses up a lot of the bird's energy and can dehydrate them further.

Lovebirds in the area are producing 2-3 broods per year. That coupled with their ability to adapt in their new home means their numbers are likely to remain stable or increase. Long-term it is hard to predict the fate of the birds in the area, but those that have surveyed and studied them are optimistic about their future because of how capable and intelligent they have been shown to be.


The Amazon Parrots of Stuttgart

Stuttgart, Germany is now home to a small group of Yellow-headed Amazon parrots. As with the Lovebirds of Arizona, these birds are likely pet trade escapees. This group of birds is pretty small with numbers estimated to be around 50 as of 2023. But it’s not how many live there that is important - it's the fact that they have been able to survive there at all. The climate in the area is in sharp contrast to the climate of their native habitat.

In the Spring, these birds nest in trees in Schlossgarten Park. This park runs through the heart of Stuttgart. Amazon parrots have relatively low success rates when breeding in their native habitat due to predators and other factors, but the trees located in the area and fewer predators in Schlossgarten park as opposed to their native habitat provide a safer place to nest and raise their young. The location seems to be suited to give them a better chance for successful breeding.

Springtime in Stuttgart can be a peaceful place to live for the Amazons. In the winter, however, life becomes a little more difficult due to the climate there and the challenge to stay warm. Amazon Parrots are native to Mexico and northern Central America which have a subtropical climate perfectly suited for them. However, Stuttgart is an entirely different story. In the winter, it can get very cold and snowy with temperatures dipping below zero. In the winter, the birds leave the trees in the park and can be found decorating the trees in the streets of the central part of the city. Those trees have buds that the birds can eat, but they also offer some protection from the cold. This is because they are located close to buildings that are heated. 

Yellow-headed Amazon parrot numbers are in rapid decline with only between 10,000 and 50,000 left in the wild. Unfortunately, these birds are listed as an endangered species - mostly due to human activities like poaching and habitat destruction. Climate change is also playing a part in their declining numbers, affecting rainfall and food availability. Watching parrot's numbers decline is disheartening. However, seeing how the birds in Germany have managed to not only survive, but have meaningful lives in such a location may give us some insight into how we might apply that information to conservation efforts. Even though the number of parrots there is relatively small, it's amazing that they were able to figure out how to stay warm and survive so quickly, and really gives us a glimpse into the potential of these birds to adapt.


Learning From These Bird’s Survival

The parrots of Phoenix and Stuttgart can give us hope for the perseverance and determination from the birds to thrive despite the challenges they face. Perhaps we can use some of the information gathered when observing them for conservation efforts. They found ways to adapt and flourish in ways we never imagined. Their perseverance coupled with human compassion and determination to improve the world for these animals can give us hope for their future - so long as we are willing to give them a chance by doing our part.


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