SoCal Parrot rescues, rehabs and releases San Diego’s naturalized parrots

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It is not unusual for people to see brightly colored birds such as the hooded oriole or Townsend’s warbler, and even parrots. Often heard before they are seen, the parrots fly in flocks all around the county.

Urban legends galore surround the parrots’ origin. The talk is that they escaped from a burned down pet store. Another story is that they are all descendants of run-away parrots that had been caged.

It is not unusual for people to see brightly colored birds such as the hooded oriole or Townsend’s warbler, and even parrots. Often heard before they are seen, the parrots fly in flocks all around the county.

Urban legends galore surround the parrots’ origin. The talk is that they escaped from a burned down pet store. Another story is that they are all descendants of run-away parrots that had been caged.

In reality, the parrots are descendants of caught-in-the-wild imported parrots. They have become naturalized, living in urban environments.

The parrots sometimes run into trouble in their very human environment. In fact, it is people who often cause the harm. SoCal Parrot, based in Jamul, comes to the rescue of the 13 species of parrots.

SoCal Parrot (SCP), founded by Brooke Durham, is a non-profit in Jamul that rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned parrots, including rose-crowned parrots and lilac-crowned parrots, the two most common parrots found in San Diego County.

“SoCal Parrot is the only urban-based organization that does what we do in not just Southern California, but the nation, and possibly the world,” said Durham.

Always sweet on animals and birds, Durham got her start in 2007 with rescuing parrots while volunteering for Project Wildlife. She worked at the Call Center when “Hilo,” the lilac-crowned parrot came in. There were no rehabilitation programs for parrots through Project Wildlife, so whoever offered to take the bird in had to keep him. So Durham did.

Durham has a soft heart for these birds in part because they are so widely misunderstood.

“These guys can live 40 to 50 years,” she said. “They are more intelligent than most people’s small children. They mate for life and they are good parents to their babies, and sometimes other birds’ babies, if need be.”

The birds that Durham cares for are orphaned or injured. People cause most of the trauma. The most recent arrival to SoCal Parrot is the parrot that was shot by a BB gun in Imperial Beach.

“We call him IB,” Durham said, leaning down to look at the injured bird.

Two weeks ago, Durham consulted over IB with a veterinary surgeon friend, Dr. Todd Cecil in La Mesa. Together, they decided to bandage the bird’s wing, which had been shattered by the BB pellets. The bird will need to recuperate for a bit longer before Cecil can surgically mend the bones.

“IB will probably never be able to fly again. I’m just glad that we got the call about him when we did. He will be an ambassador bird for us,” Durham said.

It was Cecil’s support in Durham’s early years of working with parrots that helped her to decide to create a 501c3 organization, she said.

SoCal Parrot relies on Amanda Plante, the organization’s development and education director. Plante works to make parrot care, conservation, and education of the public a main focus.

The other aspect of SoCal Parrot is the release program of birds that have been rehabilitated. The specific details of a release are currently being planned for later this fall.

“Since we want the release to be successful and with little public disturbance—both for the parrots and people—we don’t publicly release the details,” Plante said.

There are almost 30 volunteers at SoCal Parrot. These volunteers provide care and enrichment for the wild parrots as well as some of the resident sanctuary parrots that serve as “ambassadors.”

Neither Durham nor Plante could do their job well without the help of those volunteers. 

“Our rescue/transport volunteers drive as far as LA and Ventura County to save an injured or orphaned wild parrot,”Plante said.

Daily care of the parrots is paramount; without it, the birds would never be fully rehabilitated and healthy enough for a release.

Sarah Mansfield is one of those regular volunteers. She spends Sunday mornings cleaning the parrots’ food and water dishes, changing the paper in their cages and enclosures, sweeping up after them, and she said she loves it.

“The birds create what I refer to as a ‘nature soundtrack,’ and it’s not something most people get to experience. Plus, I am spending time with endangered species,” Mansfield said.

Running SoCal Parrot takes more money than Durham and her husband can earn for themselves. Picnic with the Parrots, the biggest—and only fundraiser—is coming up on Oct. 26. Animal and bird lovers from all over San Diego will be there, including Nancy Conney, founder of Sky Hunters in Lakeside. –

“It’s a large undertaking [what Brooke does] and a mission to help save our native wildlife. We are both in the bird saving business,” Conney said.

Tickets must be purchased in advance online at www.socalparrot.org.

1 COMMENT

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