Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Fighting Quaker defends his fig tree from a pandemonium of parrots

They began arriving just after dawn, a raucous cacophony  of parrots that made a beeline for our fig tree. Hundreds of them, ripping and tearing branches and leaves, voraciously scarfing down figs, until I came out and scared them away with a loud yell and mighty broom. As I stood glaring at them with all the malevolence I could muster, they eyed me from the telephone line, squawking and gawking.

I was intrigued to learn the term for such a flock of parrots is "pandemonium," a word that the poet Milton made up to describe a gathering of demons.

I don't want to demonize Pasadena's parrots, but the description is apt. These red-crowned parrots are devilishly annoying and they can devastate fruit trees. They are also an endangered species that have found a niche here in Pasadena. They gather in flocks of hundreds and fly around the city, looking for trees (especially fruit trees), where they can roost and feed.

When the parrots "discovered" my fig tree, I knew that if I didn't take action, they would strip it of all its fruits, just as the squirrels did this spring to our apricot tree. I don't mind if critters devour 10% or even 20% of my fruit--I consider that a tax I pay to nature--but when critters become so greedy they tax me at 90% or more, my fighting spirit is aroused.

Yes, I am a fighting Quaker when it comes to defending my fruit trees.

Since this pandemonium was arriving at the same time every day, just after dawn, I slept in our front room so I could hear them (not difficult, since their squawks are deafening). I then leaped off my couch to the front porch and shooed them away with my mighty broom.

I tried netting the tree, but it's too large, so I settled on the guard dog approach. Every morning I rose at dawn and waited for them on the porch. I even slept on my yoga mat!

They don't like humans very much and they glared at me from the telephone line, waiting for me to leave so they could get back to business and raid my tree.

I decided it was time for my Ultimate Weapon. The garden hose.

I set it on jet and aimed at the parrots. By the time it reached them, it was probably no more than a gentle spray, but the shock of it scared them away.

So far, they haven't come back.

I am thinking of using a similar tactic with squirrels. A power water gun, perhaps spiked with a little hot sauce, could make the squirrels think twice before attacking my apricot tree. That approach, along with netting, will probably work.

As a Quaker, I believe in intimidation, not extermination, when it comes to greedy critters.

In case you're wondering  how these red-crowned parrots came to Pasadena, here's the scoop:

So if these parrots aren't native, how did we get so many of them?
Urban legends tell of epic pet store fires and hoards of parrots making a narrow escape to freedom. These tales range in decade and city where the alleged blaze took place but after looking into stories, experts simply can't find evidence that supports the pet-store-fire-theory.
Yes, the red-crowns were brought to Southern California through the pet trade but there isn't one event of an en masse parrot release. Instead, it was a steady flow of individual escapees that laid the foundation for the current population.
The flocks you see dashing around Southern California skies are the descendants of individual pet parrots that escaped and found one another in the wild. 



  1. Let me tell you about Santa Fe's Quaker House rock squirrels some day. Still working with friendly persuasion. Now they are nesting under the portal. Shall I wait until Fall when a one-way door and more chicken wire will help parents and juvenile's escape and not return (ha ha).

  2. Check out the work of Machaelle Small Wright who works in partnership with nature. Her website is Perelandra-ltd.com