Members of SoCal Parrot, a Jamul-based rescue group, addressed the Ocean Beach Town Council recently to enlighten residents on the history of transplanted wild parrots in OB — and, in some cases, about their endangered plight in other parts of the world where they are native. Photo by Tony de Garate
For all their squawking, the wild parrots in Ocean Beach sure seem to enjoy it around here.
And why not? Like most of their human counterparts, the parrots are not native. They came here from elsewhere and found Ocean Beach to their liking. The only real difference between them and your average out-of-towner is that when someone from New York or Chicago moves to Southern California, he eventually kind of blends in like your average Joe.
Not the parrots. They’ve become rock stars. Think of the outcry that would result if, for some reason, a likeness of the iconic critter did not appear on the entryway sign that greets travelers on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.
Now, that would be something to squawk about.
Yes, the creatures annoy with their untimely chattiness. But when a regional parrot advocate asked an audience of several dozen people if they were fond of the birds Aug. 24 at the monthly public meeting of the Ocean Beach Town Council, a room full of hands shot up without hesitation.
Yet the admiration is not universal. A few months ago, an oddly grease-covered parrot was spotted beneath a bush at Sacred Heart Church in Ocean Beach. The wild animal was scooped up by a concerned citizen and eventually transferred to SoCal Parrot, a Jamul-based group that asked to address the Town Council.
An X-ray revealed the critter had been shot once by a BB gun in a body-part area known as the flight girdle, rendering it permanently flightless.
No one knows the reason for the shooting. But it’s unlikely the shooter knew this: the maimed bird — a red-crowned Amazon parrot — is a species in serious trouble. Fewer than 5,000 exist, said Amanda Plante, SoCal Parrot’s development and education director.
The birds are thriving locally, but in their native northeast Mexico, populations are collapsing. An effort is under way to have the parrots listed as an endangered species, but so far, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t budged the critter from candidate status, Plante said.
As they become more abundant in Ocean Beach, Plante wants people to know of their plight and appreciate their presence here.
“You guys have the power as Obeceans and residents of southern California to save a wild species,” she said.
Southern California hosts a few other exotic parrots that can be found in Ocean Beach and are less threatened. But the condition of the red-crowned Amazon has degraded to the point that there are now more birds living outside their native habitat than in Mexico, Plante said. South of the border, the wild populations are threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation and poaching, which fuels a burgeoning, black-market pet trade.
So how did they get here? Though they have wings, they didn’t get to Southern California by flying. Some are stowaways aboard produce vessels, Plante said. Others were hastily released at the border by smugglers who lost their nerve at the last minute. Still others arrived in egg form, transported by smugglers wearing specialized shirts with multiple pockets.
Plante dispelled the popular belief that parrots in Ocean Beach descended from a few individuals set free by pet owners. Some certainly did, but the sheer numbers indicate they also were transported, she said.
Once in Ocean Beach, the birds thrive, dining on fruits of palm trees and other ornamental plants, Plante said.
As for the crippled bird, SoCal Parrots decided surgery to remove the BB was too risky. The critter is being cared for as a member of the group’s “foster flock,” Plante said.
The bird has proven to be quite ornery to its human guardians as it convalesces, which is a good sign.
“He’s very much a wild animal. He has a lot of gumption. He does not like people, which is a great thing. That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Plante said.
The group continues to be on the lookout for the well-being of the birds — even making house calls at odd hours.
“Sometimes we’ll get a call at 9:30 on a Saturday night about an injured, orphaned parrot,” Plante said.
“There’s no one else doing what we’re doing.”
More information is available at socalparrot.org.
IN OTHER NEWS
• Several residents describing themselves as longtime aficionados of the surf break north of the Ocean Beach Pier are complaining about being displaced by surf schools. “The pier has always been where advanced surfers go. It’s not fair for people who live here to have to put up with this,” said Howard Elliot, who said he has enjoyed the sport for more than a half century. The group suggested moving the schools to Dog Beach, a spot they said was less coveted and safer.
• The OBTC’s Board of Directors will have a new look by the time it holds its next public meeting Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Point Loma Masonic Lodge, 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Seven of the 15, two-year terms were up for grabs in annual elections that ended this week. Candidates and voters had to be dues-paying members as of Aug. 23 and live, work or own property in the 92107 ZIP code. The race attracted 10 candidates who briefly introduced themselves but a scheduled question-and-answer period was canceled in the interest of time. Results were not available at press time.
• Private security hired by the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association to patrol around the pier parking lot and during special events has made a difference, said Chet Barfield, aide to San Diego District 2 City Councilman Ed Harris. So much so that Harris has pledged $8,000 in discretionary money known as Community Projects, Programs and Services funds to extend the patrol for several more months, Barfield said.