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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feral Parrots

Have you ever seen a wild parrot in L.A.? Like many other North American cities, Los Angeles has a healthy population of many species of parrots, the most commonly seen of these species in Exposition Park is the Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Brotogeris chirri.

Yellow-chevroned Parakeets feeding on coral tree nectar

Jail Break!
People like to keep parrots as pets. To satisfy this demand, literally hundreds of thousands of parrots have been imported legally (and untold numbers illegally) into the United States over the past 50 plus years. In some cases this demand has lead to demonstrable drains on natural populations and even endangerment of some species. Inevitably, imported birds escape or are released, and over the decades enough free-flying parrots have survived to establish breeding populations in the U.S.A., particularly in metropolitan areas of south Florida and Southern California.

Time to Get Liquored Up

If you’ve never seen a feral parrot around L.A. you might start looking for them in trees. At this time of year the parrots can be seen feeding on blossoms and nectar in flowering coral trees in the genus Erythrina (see picture above). This behavior is not unique to feral parrots as coral trees also appear in their native range. However other food sources they exploit in this region, such as Eucalyptus, are not found in their native range which is another example of adaptation to our altered L.A. landscape.


Yellow-chevroned Parakeets are native to Brazil and adjacent areas, and were introduced to L.A. earlier this century. No one knows exactly how the introduction happened, but we do know it was from parrots that were imported here for the pet trade.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is This Your Dog?

Sam moved the camera trap last week. We wanted to see what else we might find in the North Campus. Here's what we found.


I guess the Opossum was like the rest of us totally unaffected by Carmageddon!


How did this dog get into the North Campus at 9:02 on a Sunday morning, when all the gates are locked until 9:30?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dinosaurs Open Part of North Campus!

Unless you're living in a cave somewhere (no offense to the troglobites out there), you've heard that we're opening a new Dinosaur Hall next week. In anticipation of this meteoric occassion all Museum staff were invited to preview the hall, which began with a jaunt through the soon to be open sections of the North Campus (car park, transition garden, entrance plaza, and footbridge). Even though these areas of the North Campus were only recently planted, we're already noticing wildlife visiting, including a ladybug that landed on me during the preview and another cat caught on camera trap!

Lost Ladybugs?
The ladybug that landed on me during the staff preview was a Multicolored Asian Ladybug, Harmonia axyridis. It's an introduced species from Japan, which has become very common in our area. This is the first ladybug of its kind that I've found in the North Campus, which brings the total for North Campus to seven species. I wonder what ladybug species number eight will be!

Multicolored Asian Ladybug, Harmonia axyridis

Curious Cats
After finding the ladybug on Thursday, Sam and I went out to the North Campus to set up our trusty camera trap. We weren't expecting to find much of anything over the weekend, but we wanted to give it a try. Sam scaled the living wall and installed the trap around the base of a palo verde tree.


Here's some footage of what we found!

video

Its another domestic cat, Felis catus. Incidentally, we can be sure that this cat is a different individual than the one caught on camera three weeks ago. The first cat had a lot more white markings. This is cat number two for Expo Park! As for what the bright, white, floating thing is, we're not sure. Maybe a leaf, or a caterpillar even?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dumpster Diving Gulls

It never fails. Every year we have the same problem with dumpster divers. No it's not the hipster artist looking for obscure objects for his next sculpture, and it isn't the local freegan looking for her next luncheon. It's actually Western Gulls, Larus occidentalis.

Here's an image I captured on my way back from lunch on my smartphone.


It follows the same routine every weekday. Soon after the field trippers have exited the building they descend to the lawns and eat their lunches. About this time the gulls appear in a massive flock, like a reenactment of Hitchcock's, The Birds. The gulls around here are not as aggressive as others I've seen on my high school campus in the Inland Empire, or those at Seaworld that literally snatch burgers out of patrons' hands! Instead the gulls of Exposition Park wait for our school children to "finish" their packed lunches and put them in the trash. Soon after the gulls go to work on the overflowing trash cans. Garbage is strewn left, right, and center as the gulls are looking for a tasty morsel. All those half eaten sandwhiches, leftover lunchables, and wayward McDonald's French fries, are consumed and the packaging is left behind as an unsightly reminder of the carnage.


The Western gull’s willingness to consider our trash its treasure illustrates a common trait of urban animals. Creatures who are able to thrive once their native habitats have been altered by humans do so in large part because they are adaptable. While bears and mountain lions have been pushed to the fringes of the city, animals that make the most of what is around them become successful urbanites. If you’re willing to eat trash—a plentiful commodity in urban settings—you’ve got a lot more options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Have you seen any wildlife dumpster divers in your neighborhood?