The occasional flash of green is normal in the skies of Burbank, where colorful parrots have made their home.
But for the past few mornings, those flashes have turned into a swarm with more than a hundred noisy birds swooping in and out of a large tree in front of Thom Salisbury’s home.
“It’s unusual, so you feel like you’re seeing something interesting,” said Salisbury, a sales manager who works out of his Burbank residence.
The birds have not worn out their welcome yet, even though they’re making what Salisbury called “an incredible racket.”
“They’re really loud,” he said. “I thought it would be messy, but they’ve just knocked some leaves down. They haven’t made a mess, if you know what I mean.”
During the 17 years Salisbury has lived in Burbank, he said he’ll usually see a couple parrots fly over but never as large a flock as this one.
But these tropical transplants are not so uncommon in Southern California even though they are not indigenous to the area.
Decades of importing parrots from around the world, specifically Mexico and South America, for the pet bird trade has led to some flocks escaping or being released, said Kimball Barrett, the bird collections manager at the National History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Because of the huge of variety of tropical trees and shrubs planted in SoCal, the wild Southland has proved a suitable habitat complete with roosting sites and plenty of nuts, seeds, nectar and berries that make up the parrots’ diet.
“They have everything they need here,” Barrett said. “And they can breed very successfully because there are not as many predators as there might be in the tropical areas that they come from.”
There about a dozen species of wild parrots breeding in Southern California, Barrett said. Of the more common varieties, there are about 4,000 individual birds.
Southland parrots fit into two groups: Amazons, which are larger and stockier with big heads and short, squared off tails; and conures, or parakeets, which are slender with long pointed tails.
Burbank’s latest flock has yet to be officially identified.
“They’re not that pretty in flight. They don’t glide, they just flap a lot,” Salisbury said of the birds he described as all green with stubby tails.
But that description can apply to just about any parrot, experts said.
Knowing what types of parrots live in Burbank, they’re likely conures, which can also be found in Studio City, Highland Park and the L.A. basin.
A smaller species, called the yellow chevron parakeet, call the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys their home.
Residents are curious to know why the colorful birds are swarming their neighborhood, and experts said it could be one of two reasons.
First, the population of parrots in the Southland is growing, Barrett said. Sometimes a roost will get too large, and groups will bud off and find new sites.
Second, and more unlikely, recent windstorms that have torn through Southern California could have blown trees over or opened them up so much that they were not longer suitable for the parrots who like to roost in dense trees, Barrett said.
Parrots are social birds, he said. They travel in large flocks and where there’s an abundant source of food, they’ll make themselves comfortable, so there’s no telling how long they could be staying in this residential Burbank neighborhood.
A roost in Temple City has been there for about 30 years, if not longer, Barrett said. Sometimes they’ll move around but the birds tend to stay in a general area. Other times, smaller roosts will pop up and move on after a couple months.
Salisbury’s flock has been putting on their musical for just a few days now, so the neighborhood will have to wait to see if the birds move in permanently.
“It’d be annoying if they were there every morning,” Salisbury said. “I’d probably move out of Burbank.”