Flocks of wild parrots make their homes on the Texas coast
Descendants of long-ago escaped pets and pets for sale, wild parrots adapted to the weather and rhythm of the Texas coast.
“People love them,” Galveston resident and bird watcher Charli Rohack said. “We used to have tons of them at Crockett Park.”
Also known as Quaker parrots or monk parrots or monk parakeets, the chartreuse birds live in flocks, build tall communal stick nests on electrical lines and charm the people who watch them.
As beautiful and exotic as they are, wild parrots are an invasive species, according to the Texas Invasive Species Institute at Texas A&M University.
The birds don’t threaten agriculture, but their condo-nests can cause damage to electrical lines, the institute said. While they don’t threaten crops, they are aggressive to sparrows and other small birds. In the 1960s, monk parrots arrived in the United States from South America as exotic pets. Some escaped and bred. And bred.
A colony of wild parrots lived at Crockett Park on the island for years until the city removed the utility poles while renovating the park last year, bird watcher Greg Whittaker said. Removing the poles and power lines left the birds without a place to rebuild their tall nests, he said.
“I haven’t identified if they re-established another location here on the island after that,” Whittaker said. “I do still see them making foraging flights in smaller groups, but I’m not sure if they’ve re-aggregated into a single colony or are just acting independently.”
Whittaker and other birders are looking for where the flocks moved. Some have seen small groups of wild parrots, but they have not seen many nest towers on power lines on Galveston Island, he said.
Bright green flocks of wild parrots live in San Leon, often seen near TopWater Grill, 815 Ave. O, residents said. the Railean Distillery, 341 Fifth St. also in San Leon, considers the wild parrot its mascot and features an image of one on its rum bottle labels.
In 1992, the United States banned importing monk parrots, but some people who captured young wild parrots can keep them as pets.
In May, Becky Salgado took four orphaned baby wild parrots into her Galveston home. She cared for the babies and found homes for two of them. She kept two.
“Then one got scared and flew off, so I am left with one,” Salgado said.
The one that flew away will adapt, she said.