RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Midway up an old palm tree in Brownsville, a pair of young Red-crowned parrots peer out their nest cavity. They are waiting expectantly for their parents to arrive with the late afternoon meal.
There are actually at least three young parrots in the hollow, as every now and then you can glimpse a third beak and distinctive red crown.
Finally, the parents arrive. They alight quietly in an adjacent mesquite and carefully survey the surroundings before venturing to the nest site.
Deciding there is no immediate threat, the first adult lands at the cavity entrance. However, the parent is still cautious and before feeding the young leans out to make one final inspection.
Considering the coast is clear; the parent pokes its head into the cavity and begins regurgitating a nutritious meal for the youngsters.
While Red-crowned parrots are now well established in the Rio Grande Valley, there is some debate as to whether they are native to what is now South Texas. Priests and other early travelers recorded periodic sightings dating back for centuries, but it was not until the 1980’s that their numbers began to increase dramatically.
Their native range in Mexico along the Rio Corona is some 180 miles south, but their numbers there have declined markedly due to habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade.
They have found a home in the Rio Grande Valley at backyard birdfeeders and perfect nest sites in old palm trees. Some are no doubt descendants from escapees of the pet trade, while others origins can be traced to natural migration.
Whether they are considered native or not doesn’t really mater, as they enhance our homeland with their enamoring tropical flair.