Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bulletin #9 - Miami parrots

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

Bulletin #9 – South Florida – part 4 – Miami parrots

Hello friends,

I have had the opportunity to visit Florida twice in the first half of 2007.

My first visit was to Sanibel Island in February. Last month, I had a business trip to Miami for a weekend and managed to spend about 2 full days birding with a great guide Paul Bithorn (305.431.5908 or email

The last group of exotic birds in Miami are the parakeets and parrots. These are all escaped or introduced birds. Miami and Los Angeles are home to more than a dozen mostly Neotropic birds in this family.

In Miami, they are very local in specific neighborhoods, and a good guide is essential to quickly navigate around the known areas. Paul Bithorn was superb and I had a great time seeing and photographing these birds. I have been to the tropics numerous times and the parrots are the hardest to see, but easy to hear with their squawking. Locating a mostly green bird in the rain forest is a challenge. In Miami, they were relatively easy to find in the scattered trees of a suburban area. We ended up with 7 species in 4 genera. There are numerous others for another visit to Miami, but these are the most commonly encountered.

The first is probably the most common parrot encountered in the USA. The Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) is a native of southern Brazil and Argentina. I have seen it in its home range. In the pet trade it is known as the Quaker Parrot. It builds large communal nests in trees or power transmission towers. According to Sibley, colonies can be found across the USA as far north as Oregon, Illinois and New York. We have them in numerous locations in the Houston area and I have actually had an occasional one fly over my house. It has been established long enough that it is an ABA countable species.

The next genus is the aratinga parakeets. As you know, parakeets are smaller parrots with long pointed tails. There are several species of these in Miami, but I was able to get photos of only 2 of them due to time restraints. They differ mostly with head, face and wing colorations. These parakeets are about 13.5 inches in length.

The first is the Mitred Parakeet (Aratinga mitrata). This was the most common aratinga that I saw on my visit. It is distinguished by red on face, red spots on head on neck and red socks. Here are a couple of photos of this bird. click 'next' once

The other aratinga is the Scarlet-fronted Parakeet (Aratinga wagleri). It has a deeper red on the face but only occasional other red spots on head and neck. It also has extensive red on the wing bend and underwing as shown. Here are 2 photos of this bird. Notice how closely these 2 parakeets resemble each other. Without my guide for confirmation of the ID of them, I would have been very confused. click ‘next’ once

Neither of these 2 aratinga species are ABA countable birds, but both were lifers for me.

The other parakeet genus that I saw was brotogeris. Originally called Sulphur-winged Parakeet, this was an ABA countable species. However about a decade ago, it was split but only 1 of the splits is ABA countable, even though both species of the split occur in Miami and the non-countable one is more numerous! Go figure! These are small parakeets only 8.75 inches long.

The countable species is the White-winged Parakeet (Brotogeris versicolurus). They have extensive white wing patches visible when flying, but perched, only an occasional bit of white is seen on the wing. It also has a large yellow wing patch. Look also at the face. There is a very pale blue patch between the eye and bill. These are the distinguishing marks from the other split partner. I was very confused seeing them in the wild, but with the photos, I can see clearly the differences that weren’t apparent through the binoculars. Here are a couple of photos of this bird. click ‘next’ once

The other half and non-countable split is the Yellow-chevroned Parakeet (Brotogeris chiriri). There is no white on the wings and the face is entirely green. click ‘next’ once

Parrots are larger than parakeets. The genus Amazona is a large group of neo-tropical parrots. The are heavy bodied and have square tails. There are several species in Miami of this genus.

The first is the Red-crowned Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis). This bird is native to northeastern Mexico and does occur in the Rio Grade valley of Texas naturally. But, most of these Texas birds are felt to be escaped pets. It also occurs in Miami and Los Angeles as escapes. It is an ABA countable species. Notice the red crown, blue nape of neck and square tail. He is 13 inches long.

The other amazon is the Orange-winged Parrot (Amazona amazonica). This bird is native to South America and established in the Miami area. It is not an ABA countable species. The field marks are the yellow and blue on the head and the orange wing feathers (just visible in this photo.)

The Miami guide (Paul Bithorn) I used, was extremely knowledgeable, especially for the mangrove species and exotics. Many of the exotics occur in specific neighborhoods in the Miami area, and a casual birder would have a difficult time locating them. To contact Paul, call him at (305) 431-5908 or email him at

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2007 David McDonald

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