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Sunset with the Wild Parrots in South Pasadena

Photos by Janet Hoyman

We love the wild parrot population that frequents the Bissell House Bed and Breakfast on their daily rounds throughout South Pasadena. Since the first month of our ownership to present, I don't think there has been a day gone by that they don't signal to us the start and close of each day. When I hear them in the morning, I know, it's time to get "up and adam". I much prefer it to an alarm clock. And what's more, they are dependable. in the evening, when I hear them return, I realize that my day is drawing to a close, and I welcome that feeling after a hard day's work.

We also had the good fortune of overnight hosting Mark Bittner, author of the "Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" at the Bissell House Bed and Breakfast in March, 2011 as he was a featured guest speaker at the showing of the documentary he was the central figure in, by the same name as the book.

City Librarian Steve Fjelsted who introduced Mark Bittner to us says:

South Pasadena is, of course, home to its very own flocks of naturalized
wild parrots. The population probably numbers in the hundreds.
Originally native to Latin America, the birds seem to be well adjusted.
They are also very social and usually travel in groups of a dozen or
more. It's customary for them to "talk" with each other as they travel
and they have a different look to them compared to other birds of their
size because they flap their wings very quickly as they fly. When they
land on a specific tree or building they apparently like to be noticed,
because they will often squawk continually. But they are wild birds so
they don't sit still for long. Then they take off to visit another local

Depending on who's telling the story, the popular theory is that the
South Pasadena parrots originally either came from a pet store or a
nursery or a flower shop in Pasadena when it caught on fire in the 1950s
or 1960s. As the stories go, the parrots were either released by the
owner or the firefighters so they could be saved –or they were able to
get out on their own on time. Another story has it that the original
parrots escaped from one of Lucky Baldwin's aviaries in nearby Arcadia.
Still another story proliferates that claims they were originally black
market birds released by smugglers. Despite all the urban legends, it's
also possible that the parrots migrated here from northern or central
Mexico. Even with all the mystery surrounding their origin –and no
matter if they are migrants or escapees– the South Pasadena parrots
have made this town their happy home. They are obviously thriving too as
evidenced by their population that increases each spring.

Many of South Pasadena's parrots are Yellow-Headed Amazon Parrots, an
endangered species that has been kept as a pet for decades partly
because they are some of the best "talkers" among the many different
species of parrots. Somewhat more infrequently, scarlet-fronted Amazons
can be seen. There is also a significant population of Conures, which
are smaller and pointy-tailed.

There have even been a few (relatively mild) public protests at City
Council meetings about the disquieting sounds of the parrots, but the
birds have nevertheless come to be accepted –and admired-by many South
Pasadenans. Each evening visitors to the Library Park can be seen
walking around and looking upward for the parrots. The birds appear to
be particularly fascinating to young children.