Tropical parrots, native to South America, thrive well in several North American countries. Nor will they be discouraged by the freezing weather. Some endangered species are doing better in the US than in their native country.

In the 1950s and 1960s, around 190 species of Amazon parrots began to be imported into the US as pets. 56 of them were spotted in 43 states across the US, from California, Texas, and Florida, where the weather is still warm, to New York, Illinois, and Washington, where temperatures fall below zero in winter.

Ability to Adapt

25 of the imported species began to breed in the US. One of them is a monk parakeet, now living in 23 American states. It resists the cold weather in Chicago, New York, or Seattle, along with the other two species, the red-crowned Amazon, and the nanday parakeet, and they are the three most common tropical parrots in the US.

“We think they’re basically pre-adapted to survive in cold climates because they build their own nests and they can vary their diets so dramatically across the year,” says Stephen Pruett-Jones, an ecologist at the University of Chicago, who has been studying birds for decades. “They roost in their nest every single night of the year, so the nest is really more like a home to the monk parakeet. And their diet changes completely during the winter to seed in backyard bird feeders.”

Ornithologist Pruett-Jones and his student Jennifer Uehling are currently investigating whether the monk parakket has undergone anatomical or morphological alterations: “We’re testing the idea that maybe they’re growing thicker feathers or more dense feathers in northern and colder climates as a way of staying warm longer. “

Can the US Save any Endangered Species?

The endangered Amazon with the red-crowned Amazonian parrot is now more abundant in California than in its native Mexico, where it is in the hands of animal trade and habitat loss due to logging and land cleaning for agriculture.

Red-crowned Amazonian parrot

According to Ian Newton, an ecologist and ornithologist at the Center for Ecology and Hydrology, a UK-based government environmental research organization, species could be preserved through new colonies in the US.

“The main conservation value, I think, is in providing a safe home for at least one species which is endangered and declining in its native home,” he says. “Its establishment in the U.S. could save the species, and perhaps provide birds for reintroduction to the ancestral range if conditions improve there.”

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