Noisy flock identified as Amazon parrots
NEWTOWN ESTATES resident Duane Angelo raises birds for a hobby, so he was particularly interested in our Jan. 26 column
, in which a reader complained about a large flock of "macaws" making a noisy racket as they flew between Pearl City and Aiea every morning and evening.
She asked why no one was taking any steps to eradicate or control the birds, because of their possible impact on the environment as an alien species.
David Smith, Oahu wildlife manager for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said there was no need to take such action because they were not considered a threat to the environment. He also said the birds were rose-ringed parakeets.
However, Angelo was adamant they were Amazon parrots, which he traced back to a handful of pet birds that escaped from a friend's house more than 20 years ago.
We figured a photo would resolve the identity question. The birds appeared only in the distance, and only after a Star-Bulletin photographer had left after trying to shoot from the vantage point of Angelo's house.
But the Star-Bulletin's FL Morris was on hand to photograph the wild birds as dozens of them flew over Angelo's house last Sunday. The experts, including from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, agreed: The green-and-red birds were what are commonly referred to as Amazon parrots.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Part of a flock of Amazon parrots that flies regularly into a valley above Waimalu, between Newtown Estates and Royal summit, was photographed from the home of Duane Angelo on Hapaki Street.
At Angelo's suggestion, we contacted his friend in California, bird breeder Roger Bringas, to identify the birds more specifically.
We e-mailed a photo to Bringas, who said the birds are green-cheeked Amazons (Amazona viridigenalis), "sometimes referred to as Mexican red-headed Amazons (that) are indigenous to northeastern Mexico."
Bringas said he's a federally licensed bird importer and exporter who has kept and bred birds, including Amazon parrots and rose-ringed parakeets, for more than 30 years. He also was an associate editor of Watchbird magazine, published by the American Federation of Aviculture, for five years.
"I reside in Los Angeles, where we too have small colonies of various South American parrots who have managed to adapt and survive in our environment," he e-mailed back. "This is not all that uncommon as there are groups of such birds in many cities in California, Florida, New York and elsewhere."
Bringas also said that the species of Amazon parrot flying above Pearl City is protected under the Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species, and, "to the best of my knowledge, has never been deemed a 'pest species' by any government authority."
Angelo said the parrots have broken off into different colonies, but sometimes will come together in a large flock of up to 100, flying almost daily over his house.
Recently, including the day our photographer was present, the birds have been flying over his home in flocks ranging from about a half dozen birds to 35 to 40 and more, he said.
Angelo says he even knows how the parrots got established in the Pearl City area.
His late friend, who lived in Aiea, raised birds. When Hurricane Iwa struck in 1982, three to four pairs of the parrots got out and established themselves in the wild, Angelo said.
"Everybody sees them," he said. "They travel from (Pacific) Palisades to Newtown Estates, on toward Waimalu (and back). Pretty much a pattern."
In the valley behind his house is a large tree to which the birds gravitate because they like to eat the shoots and leaves, he said. The birds "go down in the valley, drink water and come back up."
He described the birds as intelligent and not inclined to approach people or homes: "You can't get them to come close."
When breeding season begins soon, he said they'll disappear from view for awhile, reappearing again with their babies.
Like Smith, Angelo says there is no need to destroy the birds, just because they may be too noisy.
"They don't damage anything -- any crops or native plants," he said. "They just feed off the same trees" and "have been flying around for 20-plus years."
Even if, in the future, the birds are found to be a pest species in Hawaii, "Would it not serve the birds better to be captured and placed into captive breeding environments?" he asked. "Future progeny could be hand-raised by responsible bird breeders, and the baby parrots enjoyed by many bird lovers. Perhaps it seems too logical, but that, in my opinion, is a win-win situation."
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