Love them or hate them, the parrots of Los Angeles are here to stay

All the parrots in Los Angeles were brought here from their native homes in Mexico to serve as pets. Through escape, accident, or intentional release, many species have now established themselves in the city. They also seem to be increasing. In the mid-1970s, Moore Lab Director Bill Hardy documented only one handful of Red-crowned Parrots in the city. They now number in the thousands.

The Moore Lab is studying the DNA of of the parrots of Los Angeles. Both are endangered in their native ranges due to habitat destruction and illegal capture for the pet trade. There might be more Red-crowned Parrots in Los Angeles than in Mexico! Some have even suggested that the Los Angeles parrots might someday be a sort of “rescue population" if they are lost from Mexico. But are the parrots in Los Angeles still remaining as a distinct species or are they interbreeding and collapsing into a hybrid swarm.

Using DNA from historical specimens of the parrots collected in Mexico in the 1930s-1950s, we have established a baseline of how different the species are genetically. Now, we are comparing those differences to what we see in Los Angeles from specimens that are found dead or that have died in animal rehab facilities.

Publications:

JM Maley, RJ Freeland, DA DeRaad, AJ Zellmer, ME Schedl, B Durham, WLE Tsai, RS Terrill, S Sannapareddy, KL Garrett & JE McCormack. 2021. Niche shifts and hybridization in two Amazona parrot sister-species introduced to Southern California. BioRxiv

 

Staff Lead Investigator: James Maley & John McCormack

Staff Researchers: Whitney Tsai & Ryan Terrill

Student Researchers: Paloma Strong

Past Students: Rowdy Freeland, Maggie Schedl & Devon DeRaad

Partners: Kimball Garrett (LACMNH), SoCal Parrot