Scarlet-fronted parakeets, courtesy Dennis Paulson.
It starts, usually, with a cacophonous cackle from a cherry or cedar tree.
Follow the sound and find some brightly colored birds that obviously don’t belong in Maple Leaf. It’s our flock of Scarlet-fronted parakeets, a band of South American birds that routinely migrates all the way south to … Seward Park.
They were spotted (and heard) most recently at Northeast 90th Street and 12th Avenue Northeast on Friday afternoon by Simone Lupson-Cook, a birder and Maple Leaf resident.
The flock has been around for decades, at least since the early 1990s, and possibly got started when bird-lovers discovered their pet parakeets were too loud to keep in the house. Local lore has it that the birds winter in Maple Leaf and spend summer vacations at Seward Park.
The size of the flock varies, but there don’t seem to be as many now as eight or 10 years ago, when a dozen or more parakeets would descend on the neighborhood. Over time they have been called parrots, Crimson-fronted parakeets, Red-fronted Conures and Mitred conures.
Some years they’re been missing altogether, but were heard last fall, and but three birds showed up here on January 20, as did Dennis Paulson, another Maple Leaf resident and ornithologist who is director emeritus of the Slater Museum of Natural History.
Paulson, who frequently teaches for the Seattle Audubon Society, confirmed his previous identification of those birds as Scarlet-fronted parakeets, Aratinga wagleri.
If you see (or hear) them in your trees, let us know!