Parrots of Pacific Beach
April 18, 2020
It was almost a month since I did any serious litter picking, and the ocean is closed. As you well know, we are still in statewide COVID-19 quarantine. The quarantine is a good thing because we all need to #flattenthecurve. I also was not sure if I was exposing my patients and my family to unnecessary risk if I litter picked. But yesterday I saw a purple single-use disposable glove on the street in front of our neighbor’s house, and that just is not right. I was masked, used gloves and a metal grabber and picked up a small bag of litter. I washed my hands also and showered afterwards. I felt so much better after picking up those few pieces, and am confident I did not catch anything. More importantly, I think I am preventing social unrest because trash like that will push people to the brink. Maybe that is why there are protestors now at various state capitals. I bet you they live on littered streets, but really they should just pick it up. So I will litter pick in the early mornings now with a metal grabber, mask and gloves.
The great thing about litter picking is that because you are trying to find things that other people usually miss, you notice other unusual things about your environment. This is the litter-picking gaze or mindset that had helped my mind heal from blinding tension headaches last summer. From the day I decided to start plastic picking around my local beach, I began noticing things I had never noticed before. This includes birds, guitarfish https://drplasticpicker.com/beached-stingray/ and insects https://drplasticpicker.com/xeres-invertebrate-society-can-a-pediatricians-avatar-drplasticpicker-help-save-the-western-monarch-butterfly/.
Yesterday, since it had been such a long time since I litterpicked – I noticed parrots. Yes parrots! I was walking along a street 2 blocks north of our house and up at least 3 stories high is a large massive canary palm Phoenix canariensis and nestled in the crevices of its trunk were a family of 3 bright green parrots! These large palms are common and decorative in the US but are either considered naturalized or invasive, depending on who you ask. But it was so interesting to see parrots in our neighborhood.
After seeing those parrots, and taking a picture and showing them to the whole family – I noticed more! Later that afternoon when I went for a walk with our daughter, I noticed flocks of them darting back and forth across the sky going from one tall tree to the other! I have no idea why I never noticed them before because they are a distinctive green. My experience is not uncommon as there is a movie about a colony in San Francisco called the “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” which was mentioned by one our instagram friends @foggybottomhumboldt who also seels sustainable, reclaimed and upcycled goods.
The birds I see are the Red masked Parakeet Psittacara erythrogenys native to the dry lowland habitat of Ecuador and Peru. Their wild populations number now only in the low 10,000s due to habitat fragmentation https://abcbirds.org/bird/red-masked-parakeet/ and are at a “near threatened” status. My experience is not uncommon because according to the American Bird Conservancy there are “established flocks in Spain, Puerto Rico, and the United States, particularly in Hawai’i, Florida, and California.” Indeed one of my litter picking instagram community let me know that they are in Pasadena as well. If you are interested in hearing their calls or want to read more here is also a good link http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/955/overview/Red-masked_Parakeet.aspx. A group of parakeets is known as either a “chatter” or a “flock.”
Isn’t that amazing? Right in our backyard there is a special species of near threatened parakeet that they are thriving here. One of my more, how shall we say it, colorful pediatrician friends said they are in his San Diego neighborhood as well and called them “noisy little [insert profanity word of your choice]” and suggested that we eat them. I let him know that would not be advisable because you can get Parrot Fever (Chlamydia psittaci) from zoonatic transmission. I read this on www.healthline.com which got this from the CDC website. Only about 10 cases of Parrot Fever are reported every year since 2010. You can get this from handling an infected bird or “breathing in the fine particles of its urine, feces, or other bodily excretions” or if you kiss your bird or it bites you. It would present as a pnemonia. I have never seen a case of this, have you? The treatment is doxycycline and I bet you azithromycin would probably work too. We use a lot of azithromycin in kids older than 6 for atypical pneumonia. I wonder how many cases of parrot fever I was actually treating instead?
So litter picking brought me this appreciation of two now naturalized species in our neighborhood, the canary palm Phoenix canariensis which is home to a chatter of Red masked Parakeets Psittacara erythrogenys native to the dry lowland habitat of Ecuador and Peru. Since there are only 10,000 in their native habitat, we are lucky to have this “chatter” or “flock” here. And we certainly should not eat them as you could get Parrot Fever (Chlamydia psittaci)from zoonatic transmission. I will just go for my walks and appreciate them in the neighborhood. Like so many of us, there are descended from immigrants. And I imagine that when we repair the Rainforest of Peru and Ecuador by preserving the rainforest that exist through donations to Rainforest Trust https://drplasticpicker.com/donation-round-up/, switching our search engines to Ecosia which plants trees when you use their search engine https://drplasticpicker.com/ecosians-drplasticpicker-has-always-liked-alien-like-names-change-your-search-engine-to-ecosia-they-plant-trees-you-become-an-ecosian/ or donations to Eden Reforestration Project – then maybe when they need more Red masked Parakeets Psittacara erythrogenys, they can catch the ones of our neighborhood and take them home to live in their native rainforest. This is what I dream about.