Of Parrots and Peacocks

Via flickr user Ingrid Taylar

While the emphasis on the Urban Adventure League may be “Urban”, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t care about nature! In fact, nature explorations in the city (and outside of it) are a fun and very integral part of the league! (Don’t you forget it!) Which leads me to this…

Last night, as conclusion to my “birthday week”, Jay and Steev brought me to the Cinemagic to see the documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. It documents the flock of “wild” parrots that live in the North Beach/Telegraph Hill area of San Francisco. I had been interested in the documentary since first hearing about it, since I had worked in that area during my brief Bay Area adventure. The cacophony of parrots was part of my daily routine. In fact, the movie opens with a scene of Walton Square Park, which was right next door to where I worked! Ah, memories…

The doc itself was quite good. It centers around Mark Bittner, an older bohemian jack-of-all-trades type who lives in a cottage on the north slope of Telegraph Hill (on one of those really cool “stairway” streets going down the steep hill that I loved walking down). Mark becomes the caretaker of the flock, feeding them daily. He also studies them in an informal way, getting so close to the birds that he has a name for each one. As with most documentaries, there can be some boring spots in there. They spend a long time talking about each individual bird and its personality before they kick in to talking about Mark’s life, and the mid-section drags in places. But I would recommend you seeing this film if you get a chance.

The most interesting part for me is towards the end, when they list off all the places where flocks of wild parrots have been spotted. While it’s still a mystery how these non-native parrots came to live in the wild (many urban legends are shared in the film), what’s even more baffling is where some of these parrots end up! I can understand a flock surviving in the temperate climes of SF (note to those who claim that San Francisco’s winter should be “too cold” for tropical birds: dude, you don’t know what a cold winter is like), but Chicago? And here in Portland? And in my home state of Connecticut?

After the movie, I consulted the world’s most indispensable repository of knowledge, i.e. Google. And here’s some things I’ve come up with:

  • Brooklyn Parrots is a website documenting not only the birds of the titular borough, but of New Jersey as well. The gent that runs the site occasionally leads tours to the areas the birds are found.
  • Roadside Attractions is typically a site about offbeat roadside attractions, but this page talks about the Connecticut parrots. They are found in the towns along the shore of Long Island Sound. UPDATE 31 MAY 2020: Apparently the nests were destroyed in 2013. 
  • Here is a page from the Moonie-run University of Bridgeport, documenting the birds found along the campus (fyi: Bridgeport is CT’s largest city and is located on the Long Island Sound.) UPDATE 4/19/2012: The aforementioned link is dead. 
  • Monk Parakeet is a good all-around site that documents the parrot colonies in the US. On the site can be found the location of the Portland Parrots, 5 nests located in Oregon White Oaks around the airport. I don’t know how old the page is (no date is given) so I’m not sure if they are there anymore…anyone care to find out? UPDATE 31 MAY 2020: This link is also dead.
Urban peacock spotted in the Errol Heights neighborhood of Portland in 2018. Photo: me.

While I’m on the subject of exotic birds outside of their native environment, has anyone seen the feral Peacocks of Portland? Yes, that’s right! I’ve seen two on two separate occasions: one wandering around the neighborhood streets of Sellwood, and one near the Columbia Slough (around Faloma). I can’t seem to find much info online about the wild peacocks, does anyone out there have anything more?  

Like parrots, peacocks can survive Portland’s not-really-that-cold-people-so-stop-complaining-about-it winter. Also like parrots, they are regarded by many as pests, non-native species encroaching on other animals territory. The peacocks and parrots are breeding, worrying many naturalists that we’ll soon have an uncontrollable problem on our hands. The parrots get the most hatred from utility companies, as they make their nests atop telephone poles. Many of the utility companies will outright euthanise any parrot they come across, making the parrot-lovers quite irate. The most ironic thing about it all is these parrots have been hunted to near-extinction in their native habitats, yet are thriving and claiming new territory in areas thought to be too inhospitable for them to survive. Who knows what we’ll see next?

29 thoughts on “Of Parrots and Peacocks

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  1. I too was looking for info on the Portland peacock populus and this is all I found 🙂 I have seen the female in Sellwood several times, and yesterday I saw a goregous male near my home in Milwaukie. I’m so curious about how they got here, where they live and how many there are.

  2. I thought I was seeing things when I saw a female in my back yard 2 days ago … I live just out side of Portland, Maine! I don’t think the winters are all that cold or harsh but I didn’t think Peacocks could survive here.

  3. Yes! I have seen the female strutting around near my house on 17th street in Westmoreland. I stopped in my tracks, blinking and rubbing my eyes! Can’t believe there’s not more info…would love to know how they got here, where they roost, etc.

  4. Peacocks, Amazon parrots, at least 3 species of conure and budgies are all established and breeding in Portland, with other escaped pets surviving a short time (cockatiels, lovebirds, canaries, and various finches). The Breeding ferals have been around more than 15 years, I don’t know how long, but that is how long I have been in the local bird scene. Since moving to the Mt Scott area I have heard a group of parrots daily but they stay in the tall evergreens where you can’t see them so I don’t know what species they are. Many neighborhoods’ residents know about “their” flocks but do not want it publicized for fear of them being trapped as pets or exterminated. A friend of mine has been feeding two species of conure in her yard for 12+ years near I205 and Foster, and caught a baby gouldian finch that flew into her window once. Considering we don’t have a problem with bringing in non native trees, shrubs, flowers, grass and people I can’t really see why we should have a problem with non native birds in the city but that attitude is why we have sparrows, starlings and pigeons everywhere. All non native and a really PITA.Happy birding!Kate B

  5. I heard the call this morning near Providence Milwaukie Hospital and was pretty sure it was a peacock/ peahen but felt it was intriguing or close to impossible. Although I did not see them it arouse my curiosity to search online. That’s how I found this blog and thanks for the entry!I have seen the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill “in bird” and am not surprised if we have our own mix in our backyard. Would love to explore more of the different populations in Portland though.

  6. re:Knicci said… I too was looking for info on the Portland peacock populus and this is all I found 🙂 I have seen the female in Sellwood several times –I dont know where they came from but they been there a long long time, my mom and me spotted a peahen in a tree in sellwood (had no idea what it was) and when it got on the car we called the portland zoo and got checked out by them. This was over 20 years ago.

  7. I am a graduate student from Portland State University looking for information on the loose peacocks in Portland. I would love to talk to anyone who has had peacock sightings about times, locations, frequency, and behavior. I can be contacted at lhudgins AT pdx DOT edu

  8. Fair enough. Hope you can get some info!For what it's worth, I have not seen any peacocks since I wrote this post back in the Dark Ages of 2005.

  9. Lauren, I saw a peacock and a peahen in Milwaukie, close to Sellwood today! I even saw the peacock fly across a yard and into a tree. I was so shocked, I came home and googled them, which is how I found this website. 🙂 I'll send you an email too. Good luck.

  10. My neighbors and I just saw a gorgeous male last night!!! We are not sure where he came from or where he may go. We live on Barbur Blvd. between Capitol Hwy and Tigard. He did appear to be missing some of the "eyes" on his feathers. Apparently 7 years is not too long to be looking back on this site…(was 2005 really that long ago, I guess so time truly passes by very quickly).

  11. I have heard of large flocks of peacocks and been offered to come get some if I wanted them , we did not (live and let live) we in portland oregon have many flocks of ferral quaker (monk) parrots just found a new flock of them with some conures in my area ,just let them be ,if they were to become a real problem I could understand catching them and movimg them most once established will not travel a mile from their home , if you moved to a place where you were not native which would you prefere to be relocated or killed if something isnt hurting you wht go after it.

  12. Saw a beautiful male peacock in the Palentine Rd area. Sightings reported on Craig's list and Animal AId in same area. Does anyone know of a preserve in the Portland area? An agency that could rescue him?

  13. Growing up in northern NY I've see peahens running with flocks of wild turkeys. We also had wild peacocks visit our peacocks on different occasions and two hens took up residence up with ours.Peacocks that are free roam will stay near home unless something (usually dogs) scares them away then they will take off. So wild peacocks aren't unusual

  14. Yesterday saw 4 large peacocks walking single file on west side of Meriwether Lewis School to SE Evergreen St. and on down Evergreen toward Berkeley Park

  15. The story that makes the most sense to me about the origin of our feral parrots, here in Los Angeles, is that they were illegal imports that were released in raids so that the evidence would “fly away”.

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