Bottineau resident John Olson is a Parrothead – that’s what Jimmy Buffett fans call themselves – and he proudly showed me a brightly colored plastic parrot hanging in his garage. He says he finds it amusing that about a week before Buffett came to town to give a concert, a real live parrot started visiting their bird feeders.
It’s a quaker parrot (also called a quaker parakeet or monk parakeet), about 10 -12 inches from head to tail, with a bright green back and cream-colored breast. It’s been visiting the Olsons’ feeders pretty much daily since June 23 and also eating the mulberries in a neighbor’s yard.
Olson and his wife Ann Olson and next-door neighbor Liz Reiser watch for it daily. They often hear it squawking loudly in nearby trees. It seems to be getting more comfortable with people, and even hung out in the yard when the Olsons had company.
Although wild flocks of quaker parrots derived from domestic ones live in some U.S. cities, including Chicago, this one appears to be solo, and probably is an escaped or released pet.
Would it survive long term in the wild? “Parrots are hardier birds than many people think they are,” said Karen Anderson, president of the Minnesota Companion Bird Association, and owner of Avian Suites, a boarding facility for birds. Quaker parrots in particular are a tough species and might be able to survive the Minnesota winter, provided they have a reliable source of food and water, she said.
Anderson explained that many times domestic birds will last just a few days outside, often providing a meal for a predator. That this one has survived for at least a month is a good sign, she said. The longer they’re out there, the more they figure out the ways of the outdoor world, she explained. “They’re very smart,” she said.
After reviewing a photo, she said that the Olsons’ visitor looks healthy, although some of its frayed upper wing feathers suggest it might have had an encounter with a larger bird. The day I took the photo, a Cooper’s hawk visited the Olson feeders, but flew away empty-handed.
While the bird might be having the time of its life in “the biggest cage it’s ever had,” as John Olson put it, there’s no way of knowing, and of course it would be safer in a home.
The parrot has not explored a cage left out for it with food inside, which is the recommended way to retrieve an escaped bird, according to Anderson and 911 Parrot Alert, a database for lost and found birds.
Pet birds flying wild have found their way into at least two Northeast residents’ homes: Holly Mozdin, who is a vet tech at Ark Pet Hospital in New Brighton, has enjoyed the company of Quinn, an unclaimed quaker parakeet who was brought into the clinic two years ago by a couple who said that the bird kept trying to get into their house; and I live with Harriet Alexander, a cockatiel who flew up to me while I was bird watching in Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville.
In spite of postings on multiple sites, no owner for the bird visiting the Olson’s feeder has come forward. Anyone with information about this bird’s humans can contact the Northeaster at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below: Before descending for a meal, a quaker parrot scopes out the bird feeders in a Bottineau neighborhood yard that it has been visiting since June. Anyone missing this bird? (Photos by Karen Kraco)