Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wild Mitred Conure Parrots of Seattle's Seward Park

This article, Peru Natives Make Annual Trip to Seward Park, by Katie McVicker, was published in its entirety by Seattle Parks and Recreation, March 25, 2014:

Mitred conure on a cherry blossom tree in Seward Park.
Photo by Denise Takahashi.

Mitred Conures, or green parrots, are native to the Andes in South America, but every spring a flock shows up in Seward Park. Joey Manson, the Operations Manager at Seward Park Audubon Center, said no one on staff is clear on the birds’ history, but there is a theory that the parrots are released or escaped house pets from Ballard. Friends of Seward Park Board President Paul Talbert said people have claimed to see the birds in the park since the 1970s. He said the flock has ranged from a high of 16 members to a low of three. This year’s number hasn’t been determined, but Manson said people have been hearing the birds chattering overhead for a few weeks.

In earlier years, the flock used to spend its winters in the Maple Leaf neighborhood, but hasn’t been spotted there recently. The parrots had a nest in a hole in a Douglas fir near one of the picnic shelters, but Talbert said the nest was taken over by bees. Local residents have reported that the birds frequently raid their growing sunflowers and bird feeders.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the parrots, Talbert said sightings are most likely to occur around picnic shelter #3 or near flowering trees, and the best way to find the parrots is to listen: although the birds fly high, they are very loud.
To update this story we are happy to report several sightings of the Seward Park parrots during the course of this past winter. They have been confirmed in Shoreline's Ridgecrest neighborhood, just north of Seattle, as well as Seattle's Laurelhurst neighborhood within the past couple of weeks. With Seattle experiencing an early spring we can expect their return to Seward Park in the not too distant future.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Parrots of War: Baghdad Edition

We parrot people in the First World have a difficult enough time caring for our companion parrots. We simply can not fathom the headaches and heartaches that come with caring for companion parrots in the Third War. Throw in complications resulting from living in what is essentially still a war zone, and then the trials and tribulations of parrot people in that environment becomes incomprehensible to us Westerners.

Add to the equation the fact that most of these parrots offered for sale are probably illegally wild caught. The odds of surviving the ordeal of being poached from their wild homes and smuggled into a depressing Third World bird market are overwhelmingly weighted against the parrots. Living with inadequate space. Inadequate food. Inadequate knowledge of parrot care. Literally dodging bombs and guns. We find ourselves alternately fascinated, shocked, and depressed. We hope, and trust, that somehow the parrots will not just survive, but thrive, and enjoy a modicum of good life.

Iraqi men sell African Grey parrots at the Al-Ghazel animal market in the capital, Baghdad, on February 19, 2016. The Al-Ghazel market is one of the largest animal markets in Iraq open for the trade of domestic animals.

Baghdad Bird Market, 2014, Video by Colton Lee

BAGHDAD. Reported by Associated Press, May 18, 2012 — Three bombs struck near simultaneously at a busy bird market in eastern Baghdad on Friday morning, killing five people and wounding dozens, police and health officials said. Two police officials said the bird market in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City was crowded with shoppers when the bombs exploded at around 7:00 a.m. At least 37 people were wounded in the blasts, officials said. A hospital official confirmed the casualty toll. Every Friday, thousands of Iraqis converge on pet markets to shop and spend some relaxing family time during the Muslim weekend. The markets are one of the favorite targets for militants who seek to inflict large numbers of causalities.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Parrots of War

In the midst of a horrendous civil war, amid the black market for fuel, cigarettes, guns, and bombs, there seems to be a thriving black market for parrots. Yes, parrots! In spite of civil war, strife, and turmoil, people seem to be inexorably drawn to parrots.

This story, Turkish army seizes parrots, budgies on Syria border, in its entirety, was published by Reuters, February 5, 2016:

ISTANBUL, Feb 5 (Reuters) - The Turkish army has confiscated 700 parrots and 294 budgerigars on the border with Syria, it said on Friday, as its tighter security measures ensnare what was once a thriving trade in domesticated birds.

NATO member Turkey has stepped up security along its 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria as it tries to prevent foreign fighters joining Islamic State militants and defend itself against spillover from the country's civil war. But the measures, including more frequent border patrols and reinforced fencing, have also shut off what was long a thriving illicit trade in goods including fuel, cigarettes, sugar and, it seems, birds.

"They were generally bringing Sultan, Love and Paradise parrots. Here in Turkey a Paradise parrot goes for 1,000 lira, but they were bringing them over for 500," said Mehmet Turan, a bird breeder in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli. "It's the same for lovebirds. We were selling them at 25 lira retail, but they came from Syria at 12.5 to 15," he told Reuters by telephone.

Some basic goods like sugar sold for around half the price in Syria, where it was produced, than in Turkey before the war. Fuel is heavily taxed in Turkey, meaning the black market for illegal diesel, however crudely refined, also thrived.

Turkey has won international praise for its humanitarian response to Syria's war, maintaining an open door policy to those fleeing the violence and taking in more than 2.5 million refugees over almost five years. But it is under pressure from Europe to stem the flow of migrants and from NATO allies to do more to secure the border. While continuing to allow in refugees at border crossings, the Turkish army has been detaining those trying to cross illegally on an almost daily basis.

It said it detained almost 800 people on Thursday, and seized 2,660 packets of cigarettes, three cattle and a mobile phone along with the birds.