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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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Weird (and Wonderful) Birds of Southern California

Parrots? In California? Yes!

Parrots are NOT native to California, but they have been brought to the state and released -- accidentally or on purpose. The wild ancestors of pet store imports, these small parrots are moving into cities throughout North America and Europe. Some of these parrots now thrive in wild flocks in both Southern and Northern California.

Parrots are captivating -- until you try to sleep and enjoy a conversation with their noisy backdrop!

Biographies of San Francisco's parrot settlers appear in Mark Bittner's stories and film, "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." The stories document the trials and tribulations of an intriguing range of characters, just like a television soap drama.

"Generally the birds are pretty popular," Bittner said. "They are colorful, noisy and funny. They do a lot of acrobatics, things you don't usually think of a bird as doing. They hang upside down from the power lines. They chase each other and fight. Yet they also make devoted pairs. You often see them preening each other and being, well, 'lovey dovey'. People enjoy seeing all of that."

The California Parrot Project was initiated in 1994 by Kimball Garrett, Ornithology Collections Manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. His objective is to determine the prevalence of parrots in southern California. The California Parrot Project

Hummingbirds -- Flying Miracles...and More Species than Anywhere Else!

Hummingbirds are tiny but ferocious! Their fights (bird brawls) are fast, darting and hard to follow, but when you see them fighting, you gain new respect for their flying skills and their competitive drive!

The general tendency to frequent red flowers is not because hummingbirds like red flowers, but because bees avoid red flowers and the lack of bees means that there is usually better nectar quantity and quality in red flowers.

Hummingbirds are highly dependent of lavish supplies of high-sugar content blossoms to feed their high metabolism -- and ability to fly. Las Pilitas Nursery has a wonderful page about hummingbirds and what they like to eat. You can use their information to garden for these aerial acrobats! Las Pilitas Nursery

These species of hummingbirds have been found in California.

  • Broad-billed hummingbird, Cynanthus latirostris
  • Xantus's hummingbird, Hylocharis xantusii
  • Violet-crowned hummingbird, Amazilia violiceps
  • Blue-throated hummingbird, Lampornis clemenciae
  • Ruby-throated hummingbird, Archilochus colubris

Pelicans -- Dinosaur Relics

Today the California Brown Pelican is still found in it's original range, but breeding colonies in California, which are now only located in the Channel Islands National Park at West Anacapa Island and the Santa Barbara Islands, continue to decline.

In 1970, California brown pelicans were faced with extinction, due to the use of DDT as a pesticide. This chemical gets into the food chain and affects the bird’s ability to produce calcium, resulting in thin-shelled eggs that break during incubation. Although the use of DDT was banned in 1972, persistent residues in the coastal environment continue to cause reproductive problems. Some birds still show relatively high levels of pesticides in their tissues.

Learn more about these amazing diving and soaring birds at Santa Barbara's EdHat website or UC Santa Cruz.

FYI: California also has WHITE pelicans....and they live on and along fresh water -- not the ocean!

Cormorants -- Diving Birds with Wet Feathers!

Brandt's Cormorant is the third common species found in California waters. Its breeding colonies are primarily along the California and Baja coast Towhee provides good information about cormorants...but that's NOT A CORMORANT in the photo!!! To find photos of these weird birds, try a photography site like this one OceanLight Photography

Mudhens -- with Green Feet!

The black mudhen -- or American Coot -- is a simple looking bird that surprises you with its green feet! Take a quick look at Answers-Mud-hen-- but you probably won't find many photos that show their feet. They love the water! These birds can dive for food but can also forage on land. They are omnivorous, eating plant material, insects, fish, and other aquatic animals.

With all those watery behaviors you would think they would have webbed feet, but they don't -- they sport a strange hybrid foot design. It's worth the hunt to find a photo of these weird feet!

I don't want to spoil all your "hunting fun" here are a few more weird birds of California that you might like to research...

Godwits -- with Foot-long Beaks!

Burrowing Owls -- Nest in Underground Tunnels!

Transient Birds -- Pacific Flyway Vagrants that Fly Thousands of Miles!

...and if you want to find other weird birds...and wonders... try this link