Parrots in the United States
Believe it or not, there are wild parrots living in some parts of the United States, although these species originally came from somewhere else on the planet.
The wild parrots in the U.S. today are descendants of imported birds from generations ago. These were pet birds that escaped and managed to adapt to local climates in order to survive and reproduce in the wild.
Escaped parrots have been breeding in parts of Texas, Florida, and California at least since the 1950s. As one example, there is a thriving wild population of red-masked parakeets in the city of San Francisco. In these areas, wild parrots are now so numerous that they sometimes become pests to city dwellers or cause ecosystem imbalances.
Where Parrots Live Naturally
Natural populations of parrots are located throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Many species originally come from South America, Central America, Africa, Australia, Oceania, and parts of Asia.
- The home of macaws, conures or parakeets, and Amazons ranges from southernmost South America to the Bahamas and northern Mexico.
- Pygmy parrots come from New Guinea, and most cockatoos originate in New Guinea or Australia.
- African greys originate from West and Central Africa, while lovebirds come from Madagascar or various parts of the African continent.
- Cockatiels hail from the Australian outback.
- Budgerigars, also commonly known as budgies or simply “pet parakeets,” are also found wild in Australia.
Where Pet Parrots Come From: Breeding and Importation
Many of the parrot species currently sold as pets in the U.S. have been bred in captivity to be sold as pets. Pet shops typically buy parrots that have been domestically raised by breeders, although some shops may actually do the breeding themselves. In many cases, parrots bred for domestic sale may even have been hand-fed in infancy, making them well-accustomed to human contact by the time they are brought to a new home as a pet.
Unfortunately, illegal capture and trading of wild parrots from other countries does happen. These birds have been removed from their wilderness homes and smuggled into other countries to be sold on the black market.
In addition to stealing parrots from their native habitats, this practice results in the death of many of the smuggled birds during transport—up to half, by some accounts.
Many countries have adopted the “Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species” (CITES) that was formulated in 1975.
It is illegal to import captured wild parrots into Europe or the U.S. In accord with the U. S. Wild Bird Conservation Act, which became law in 1993, exotic wild birds can only be purchased in special circumstances and in limited numbers, such as for scientific research or adoption by a zoo.
Unauthorized wild parrots are most likely to be brought into the U.S. from Mexico.