Feral Parrot Populations in San Francisco

There are two feral parrot populations established in San Francisco. Best known are the Red-masked Parakeet (Aratinga erythrogenys). These range from Walton Square to the east end of the Presidio. They are green with variable amounts of red on the head, red on the underwings and marginal wing coverts and they have long pointed tails. Part of this flock was photographed in Laurel Heights on March 12, 1998. Mark Bittner has documented hybridization between a single Mitred Parakeet (Aratinga mitrata) and the Red-masked parakeets in the Telegraph Hill area. The original Mitred Parakeet became ill and was rehabilitated in captivity and released. For the latest information and sightings, check out the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. A healthy flock of feral Mitred Parakeets is breeding at a site in Palo Alto, Santa Clara County (Mark Bittner pers. comm.).

A second flock of small parakeets in the genus Brotogeris have a major roost in a palm tree at Dolores and 24th, just south of the intersection, in the island in the middle of the road. According to Luke Cole, early evenings finds them there, loudly, and they are easily visible from the sidewalk on either side of Dolores. They are mostly White-winged Parakeets (formerly Canary-winged Parakeets B. versicolurus) but a few are Yellow-chevroned Parakeets (B. chiriri) which lacks the white patch on the secondaries and inner primaries found on Canary-winged Parakeets. Yellow-chevroned Parakeets have largely replaced White-winged Parakeets in Florida and in Southern California but according to recent observations by Luke Cole, the San Francisco population is still primarily White-winged as it was prior to 1980 when studied by Patricia Arrowood.

Kimball Garrett provided the following useful information on distinguishing Canary-winged from
Yellow-chevroned on perched birds:

The main things to look for on perched birds are:

(1) presence of white or yellow in the secondaries: this is diagnostic for White-winged; however, the white on White-winged is sometimes (rarely) not visible on the folded wing, so its apparent absence does not confirm a bird as Yellow-chevroned. In Yellow-chevroned the yellow is limited to the coverts; on White-winged, even when no white is visible, the yellow extends back from the coverts to include the visible outer webs of some secondaries, giving the yellow wing patch a different shape.

(2) overall plumage color: much brighter yellow-green in Yellow-chevroned, as opposed to a darker, forest green in White-winged.

(3) bare facial patterning: both species have evident blue-gray bare orbital rings, but in White-winged this is expanded anteriorly into the loral area.

(4) under side of tail: strongly washed with turquoise blue in White-winged; plain green in nominate chiriri Yellow-chevroned (but beware possibility of behni Yellow-chevroned, which are bluer on the undertail).

(5) bill color: as pointed out to me by Donald Brightsmith of Duke University (who is writing the BNA account for these taxa), the bill of Yellow-chevroned is a deeper darker flesh-pink color than that of White-winged.

There are several published photos of Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, including in the Audubon Master Guide to Birding and in Birding 25:426; some of the plumage characters I mentioned are shown in a photo of specimens on p. 430 in that same issue of Birding.

Much more excellent information is available at the Parrot Project site.

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