Parrot Identification Guide (With Photos)


The following types of parrot/keets have been observed flying free in California. Not all of these species have successfully naturalized. The underlined blue words lead to pages describing or photos of these species. Most of these are offsite, please use the back button on your browser to return to this site.


PARROT / AMAZONA

big, blocky body with squared tail / “kree” call/flight pattern – wings do not go above the horizontal plane
Much of the time, we do not make any further distinction

Blue-fronted Parrot  

photo courtesy of Kathy Moyd © 2000. Parrot Project/Pasadena Audubon
  • Blue-fronted Parrot  Amazona aestiva (Linné)
  • Length: 35-40 cm, wing length 214-238 mm, tail 112-140 mm; a wing length 199-229 mm, tail 106-134 mm.
  • 2 subspecies:   A. a. aestiva (Linné)         A. a. xanthopteryx (Berlepsch)
  • Description: Chunky parrot generally green, underparts yellowish-green; feathers edged in black (mostly on the neck) with a square green tail broadly tipped with yellowish-green. Head characters: lores powder blue,  forecrown yellow with white; hind crown, front cheeks, ear coverts, throat yellow; the base of feathers yellow; cheeks bright green, nape and back of head violet-blue; bill gray; iris orange; Thighs green with some yellow throughout; Wing primary coverts dark green tipped with violet-blue; tips of primaries violet-blue turning to green at bases; secondaries green turning violet-blue at tips, red speculum on five outer secondaries; under wing-coverts underside flight feathers bluish-green. Legs gray.
  • Immatures as adults except not as many blue and yellow feathers on the head. Iris dark brown.
  • Voice: flight call – help… help
  • Distribution: Native habitat. North-eastern Brazil south to Paraguay and northern Argentina.
  • Habitat: Palm groves, moist and dry forest, open savannahs.
  • Status: A. a. aestiva rare. A. a. xanthopteryx common.
  • Habits: Small flocks gather during the day foraging and resting at the treetops. Not easily disturbed but when disrupted they will call and screech while flying to the new feeding area. Roosts in groups in trees.
  • Natural diet: From treetops seeds, fruits, berries, flowers, and leaf buds. Can be agricultural pests.

Black-hooded Parakeet

photo courtesy of Jan Baker © 2000. The California Parrot Project
  • Black-hooded Parakeet Nandayus nenday (Vieollot)(AKA) Nanday Conure
  • Description: General color green. Blackhead and chin. Blue wash on throat, breast. Deep blue outer webs of flight feathers and tips of tail feathers. Grey underside of flight and tail feathers. Pale yellowish-green underwing linings and cheeks. Crimson feathers on the ankle. Feet pink. Bill black. Iris dark brown.
  • Immatures as adults except for only less blue on throat and breast with a shorter tail.
  • Length:  30 cm, wing length 170-190 mm, tail 139-172 mm. 
  • Voice: screeching, repetitive call – kree-ah…kree-ah
  • Distribution: Native range: south-eastern Bolivia, southern Mato Grosso, Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina in the provinces of Formosa, Chaco, and occasionally Santa Fe
  • Introduced North American range: Small colonies in California areas as follows; Malibu, Brentwood, Culver City, West Los Angeles, San Gabriel Valley, and Huntington beach. Other populations have been reported in Florida, Hawaii, Texas, New York, and Puerto Rico (van Doorn 1997, Long 1981)
  • Habitat: savannahs, palm forests, deciduous canyons, and agricultural areas.
  • Habits: Gathers in small flocks; forage in groups screeching en route to new feeding areas. 
  • Natural diet: seeds, fruits, berries, and nuts. As is evident by the photos, the birds will feed at feeders and seem to enjoy sunflower seeds. 

Red-crowned Parrot

photo courtesy of Alison Sheehey © 2001. Parrot Project/Pasadena Audubon
  • Red-crowned Parrot Amazona viridigenalis (Cassin)(AKA) Green-cheeked Amazon, Red-crowned Amazon, Mexican Red-headed Parrot
  • Description: Chunky parrot generally green, underparts yellowish-green; feathers edged in black (mostly on neck) with a square green tail broadly tipped with yellowish-green. Head characters: lores, forehead, crown crimson red; base of feathers yellow; cheeks bright green,  nape and back of head violet-blue; bill pale yellowish; iris yellow; Wing primary coverts green; outer webs of primaries violet-blue turning to green at bases; secondaries green, blue at tips; under wing-coverts underside flight feathers green. Legs pale greenish-gray. 
  • Immatures as adults except only forehead and lores crimson.
  • Length: 30-33 cm (11.8-12.9 in), wing length 200 – 213 mm (7.9 – 8.4 in) tail 103-116 mm (4.0-4.6 in) a wing 194-205mm (7.6-8.0 in) tail 97-109 mm (3.8-4.3 in).
  • Voice: harsh call – kee-craw…craw…craw
  • Distribution: Native range. North-eastern Mexico from Nuevo León and Tamaulipas through San Luis Potosí to northern Veracruz.
  • Introduced Range: Major populations of the species lie in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, with smaller but still significant populations in Orange Co., the northern San Fernando Valley LA, and portions of w. San Diego and w. San Bernardino Counties.
  • Habitat: arid tropical lowlands, dry open pine-oak ridges, and in tropical deciduous forests. Suburban areas with mature trees, riparian areas, and parks.
  • Status: Endangered according CITES.
  • Habits: Gathers in large flocks; noisiest in the morning and evening; forages in groups moving enmasse with a screeching cacophony to new feeding area, flies in formation with rapid wing-beats. Roosts in trees.
  • Natural diet: seeds, fruits, berries, flowers and nectar; wasteful eaters, only taking a small bite and letting the rest fall to the ground.  Agricultural pests.
  • NOTICE:

31 July 2001, from Kimball Garrett… The California Bird Records Committee has officially added Red-crowned Parrot to the California state list as an Introduced species. On your copies of the state list, insert between the PIGEONS AND DOVES and CUCKOOS, ROADRUNNERS & ANIS the following:

PARROTS (Family Psittacidae)
Red-crowned Parrot, Amazona viridigenalis — I

The CBRC makes no rulings on “countability” of individual populations of Red-crowned Parrots within the state.


PARAKEET / CONURE

slender body with pointed tail / wheezy call/flight pattern where wings go above horizontal plane… flapping flight
Aratingas are extremely difficult to identify species in the field. Many times the only distinction is an Aratinga with or without red.

  • Aratinga
    • Mitred Parakeet Aratinga mitrata =conure has red above the bill and red cheek, green body, difficult to distinguish from Red-masked
    • Red-masked Parakeet (red and green) Aratinga erythrogenys =conure has red on crown as well, difficult to distinguish from Mitred except much more red on the bend of the wing
    • Blue-crowned Parakeet Aratinga acuticaudata =conure has some blue above bill, no red, green body; a red or pink wash on underside of tail is diagnostic
  • Nandayus

BROTOGERIS

small size /  like parrotlets


ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET

Psittacula krameri slender body / long pointy tail / fluttery flight / kee ak call  (NOT “Rose-winged Parakeet”) Unmistakable. Once you see one and ID it you’ll never mistake it for anything else. Check out this page of the research on the Bakersfield flock.


OTHER

Cockatoos, macaws, lovebirds, budgies, cockatiels, etc.


Guides to Introduced Dove, Parrot, and Passerine Identification

  • Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. National Audubon Society. Third edition. pp. 254-261 (doves) 262-266 (parrots) 536-537 (naturalized passerines).
  • 1999.Field Guide to the Birds of North America. National Geographic Society. Third edition. pp. 234-237 (doves) 240-243 (parrots) 456-457 (naturalized passerines).
  • Juniper, T. and M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Yale UP, New Haven.
  • Guide to Pet Birds. Simon and Schuster
  • “The Field Identification of Feral Parrots in Southern California”, Western Tanager, Volume 61, Number 8, May 1995, by Kimball Garrett
  • Western Birds, Volume 28, Number 4, 1997, the entire issue is devoted to naturalized parrots in southern California. (ordering information for this issue is found at the Western Birds website)
  • Caution: many field guides simply do not discuss naturalized populations of birds, except for the most common such as Rock Doves. 

Recent Posts