Urban Legends: Parrots


by Kelsey Kloss | Managing Editor


“Whaack. Whaack! Wha-haack!”

It’s something like that. It’s three octaves above comfort, and it’s Orange-native Courtney Bramstedt’s best imitation of the parrots she has coexisted with since childhood.

“I always just thought they’re here because there are a lot of orange trees,” said Bramstedt, a junior political science and sociology major. “Maybe because of the tropical foods, the tropical birds came.”

The parrots stick out. They color treetops and telephone lines with green and yellow feathers, Bramstedt said. The tropical, yellow-beaked fellas can be spotted around campus, mostly around Glass Hall, Crean Hall and Memorial Lawn.

But the question lingers: how did jungle birds glide into Chapman’s manicured foliage?

The urban theories are creative. They escaped from a pet shop and got busy. They somehow accompanied Hawaiian students to the campus. It was a stunt that Chapman used to amp up the resort theme, since the birds “match our pools and fountains,” Bramstedt said.

Matt Simon, a junior business major and Orange native, heard a more probable theory from his grandmother.

“She told me they escaped from the zoo, and they couldn’t catch them back,” Simon said.

Mention that theory to Santa Ana Zoo registrar Ethan Fisher, and you’ll get a bold-faced “no.”

Pet parrots would never be able to thrive outside a shop, he said. Instead, they are most likely descendents of wild-caught Mexican birds meant to be sold in Orange County in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but escaped first. This wasn’t the result of a single incident, but rather of multiple random escapes throughout the years.

“They’re not descendents of captive-caught birds, because they wouldn’t have the survival skills in the wild,” Fisher said. “These parrots have adapted to a foreign land and seem to be doing well.”

And they do have a name other than “noisy.” These specific parrots are green-cheeked Amazon parrots, aka the red crown parrot or Amazona virdigenalis.

They make home anywhere they can find fruit, often in the olive and palm trees in shopping centers and backyards. The Southern California population is increasing quickly, despite the parrots’ endangered status in Mexico, Fisher said.

Programs like The California Parrot Project seek help from the public to report parrot sightings as a method of tracking bird populations.

It’s kind of like being a parrot eyewitness.

And at Chapman, most of us already are. But, next time you hear a parrot conspiracy theory, run along.

Those urban legends can be “whaa-cked” on the head.