Friday, September 7, 2018

Wildlife profile: Red-Masked Parakeet

Are they wild, or just feral? I don't know, but two things are for sure: we never know when we'll see them, but we're always delighted when it happens.

Official description:

  • Common name: Cherry-headed conure, or red-masked parakeet
  • Latin name: Psittacara erythrogenys - "sit-ah-KA-ra eh-RITH-ro-jen-is
  • Family: Psittacidae
  • Length: about 33 cm (13 in) long, of which half is the tail.
  • Description: All green, except for a red cap to the head and a bit of red on the upper wing edges.
  • Geographical Distribution: southwestern Ecuador and northwestern Peru
  • Nest: Nests are usually made in tree cavities.
  • Eggs: three to four eggs - incubation is over within 23 or 24 days
The parrots can often be heard flying over the garden, and recently they have been visiting in small groups to feed on the 30' tall Agave americana flower at the front arch, as it is dripping with nectar. I wish I could get a better photo, but it's cool to see them! Check out the video below.

 

The red-masked parakeet is a medium-sized parrot from Ecuador and Peru. It is popular as a pet, and is the tenth most common Neotropical parrot imported into the US with over 26,000 parakeets checked in from 1981 to 1985.

That's led to it being reclassified by the IUCN from a species of least concern to a species that is near threatened in 1994. Importation to the US was restricted in 1993, but the local pet trade and habitat loss continue to put pressure on this species.

Considered the best talkers of all the conures, which admittedly aren't great talkers but ARE great squawkers, this is a noisy type of birds that is active and quite demanding of social interaction as a pet. It is ideal for house-bound and slightly deaf people, as a result. Or people who want to become that way.

At some point in San Francisco's history someone let loose a couple of conures - or they escaped - and the result is a flock of about 300 that now no longer resides only in Telegraph Hill, but can be seen all over the city, and as far away as Brisbane.

In 2003 a great documentary film called The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was released, all about our parrot population, and a book of the same name was published too. Mark Bittner, who was feeding the parrots at the time, starred, and his now-wife Judy Irving directed. You should watch the documentary if you haven't already, and Mark's page is an interesting read too.

Anyway, we're always happy to see these rascally little birds in our neighborhood, and especially at the gardens!

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