SoCal Parrot (SCP) is in their own words, “A Unique Urban Wild Parrot Rescue.” SoCal Parrot is the brainchild of Brooke Durham, who with her husband, Josh Bridwell founded SCP in 2011 after recognizing the need of the services SCP now provides due to the wild parrot population in the area. And the work they do is extraordinary.
Brooke Durham of SoCal Parrot
Believe it or not, there are a lot of parrots that live in the wild in Southern California. There are many theories on how they ended up in an area of the world where they are not indigenous. Some feel that the wild caught bird trade on the Mexico border caused this rise in the parrot population in Southern California.
Surprisingly, two of the largest populations found in the wild in the area are both endangered: The Red-crowned Amazon and the Lilac-crowned Amazon. Both are down to a mere handful of thousands in the wild.
Nobody really knows how many wild parrots there are in the area, but they do know that there are 13 species of wild parrots naturalized in the SoCal region.
The knee-jerk reaction in many cases regarding non-native species is that they are immediately considered “invasive” meaning that they could pose a threat to the environment. Biologists have determined that they are not a threat to the environment, not are they considered to be competitive to other species of indigenous birds that they share the region with.
SCP is very careful in explaining what most of these parrots actually are. A “Feral” parrot is one that was at one time or another a pet, it escaped captivity and returned to the wild. For the most part, these parrots have always been wild and are now considered “Naturalized” into the environment.
Photo courtesy of SCP
The wild parrots have done a pretty good job of figuring out how to survive in the area. According to SCP, the wild parrots “live off of our non-native, ornamental fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs for their food source as well as nesting and roosting locations. Some of our naturalized parrots favorite food sources are; loquat, fig, pine (nuts), guava, coral tree nectar (blossoms), etc.”
Apparently they have instinctively adjusted their diet to what is locally available and have found ways of finding the proper foods to keep them healthy.
SCP does not recommend that individuals try to catch them. It would probably be pretty difficult in the first place as these are indeed wild birds. And they warn that the average person would find having a parrot a huge challenge which is true enough even with a bird that has been socialized with human beings. They outline the mess, the cost of caring for them, the veterinary bills and make it very clear how difficult it would be to bring one of these wild parrots into the home.
The organization has been asked about catching the birds and relocating them back to their native areas. This simply isn’t possible as the cost and the difficulty of doing this makes this challenge a “No-Go.”
This is where SCP steps in. Birds get injured in the wild and sometimes they need help. Because they are most likely going to be around for many years, SCP has set up a volunteer program to help inured parrots. They have an emergency number set up where people who spot an injured bird can call and report the location. Their volunteers who make a six month commitment then answer the call and go to the parrot assessing what the problem is, catching the bird and bringing it back to the facility where it can be treated. Some of them are babies who hit their head when they fall out of a nest. Others get their bones broken. One unfortunate Red Crowned Amazon got zapped by a power line. They treated this parrot who had some pretty serious burns and although it took two years, “Sparky’s” feathers all grew back.
The thing in common about these various injuries is that they need medical treatment. Once the injured bird is captured, it is brought to the nearby Avian Exotic Hospital where the birds are patched up and treated. When the bird is on its feet and healing, it is brought back to SCP where they recuperate fully before being released.
And when the injured bird is healthy, strong and ready to return to the rigors of living free, they are then released back into the wild.
Photo courtesy of SCP
SCP has a cast of “Bird Ambassadors” that were all rescued, but due to the injuries they suffered which necessitated rescue, they are unable to be returned to the wild. Blindness in one case and in many cases, the birds imprinted on people and there was simply no way to release them when this happens.
The work Brooke, Josh and the volunteers of SoCal Parrot is sorely needed in the area and they are gaining ground. But they do need more volunteers as well as donations so they can keep the work of assisting these wild parrots moving forward.
SCP is in need of volunteers to serve in three areas: Education/Outreach, Rescue/Transport and Animal Care. You can gain valuable experience from each of these types of volunteer work by donating your time a few hours when needed. The hours vary with each type of volunteer work.
You can donate to help SCP save parrots by visiting them at So Cal Parrot, or you can visit them on their Facebook Page.
September 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm
Thanks for letting us know about this important work. I wish I could volunteer, but I live too far away. I can still donate, though. It’s good to know that this niche is filled.
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September 24, 2016 at 2:24 pm
It is an interesting niche. They are not indigenous, not feral and yet they are wild.
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September 24, 2016 at 2:27 pm
All we have where I live is raptors, and I’ve been wondering how to fit raptor rescue/rehab into my schedule. There are several great organizations here… they are full-on wild and pretty intimidating.
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September 24, 2016 at 3:18 pm
I have had the honor of assisting in the transport of a wild caught Amazon from the San Jose area to the SoCal Parrot facility in Jamul, just outside of San Diego. I have stayed on site a few times and I have come to know Brooke, Jason, and other dedicated staff very well. Brooke offers a wealth of information and she consistently strives to educate the public. She also has a heart of gold. I so enjoyed traveling with them and locating these wonderful flocks of wild Amazons as they moved throughout the San Diego communities. After rehabbing the Amazon for one year I was invited back and was given the honor of personally releasing him during their planned release of the flock he had become assimilated into. It was such a thrilling, emotional event. I will never forget the anticipation while we waited for a large flock of wild Amazons to return to a common roosting site as the sun was setting. Three sentinel birds flew around the area in unison to scout for safety concerns while the flock moved in around the perimeter. When these three sentinels were apparently satisfied this huge flock of Amazons started moving in to roost. It sounded so incredibly loud and wonderful as if we were in the middle of the rain forrest. I felt utterly transported. I was simultaneously thrilled and nervous, wanting so badly for the release to go well. One by one we released the birds in a wonderfully orchestrated event. Brooke had done her homework, that’s for sure. Each of the released birds took a few laps in the sky before joining the wild flock. As darkness settled in the deafening sound suddenly stopped as if a conductor waved his hand to cue them. We only heard one juvenile bird sound off after that in a few feeble attempts to convince someone to feed him. Then utter, absolute silence and you could no longer see a single bird in the darkness. It was as if they had essentially disappeared. We got up before the crack of dawn the next morning and watched as they woke up, began calling out to one another, and as they started taking off in small separate groups to go out and forage for the day. We traveled and tracked down separate groups and marveled at how efficient, accepting of one another, and how playful they were. I am a believer in SoCal Parrots! They are amazing and if anyone is interested in helping this unique agency through donations, volunteering… please do. They also have a yearly public, educational event coming up next month. I would highly recommend going if at all possible.
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March 20, 2017 at 1:35 pm