(NEXSTAR) — The Lone Star State may not be the first place you would think to find wild parrots but one species of parrot has defied the odds to become a native Texan. What’s more, new research shows that while these birds’ numbers may be in trouble, they have one quality that could help keep them around.
Recently published research out of Texas A&M University took a look at a population of red-crowned parrots in the urban areas of South Texas and how they’ve adapted to urban expansion in the state. But the team, led by Dr. Donald J. Brightsmith and graduate student Simon Kiacz, found something interesting — not only are the parrots surviving increasingly urban areas, they’re thriving in part because of it.
These types of species are known as synanthropes, according to researchers. Despite this unique feature, the red-crowned parrots are nevertheless currently considered endangered in their native habitat (though they’re not originally native to Texas, the state later bestowed the species with native status).
Researchers say since it’s unusual for synanthropes to also be endangered, these types of populations are ripe for studying to understand how to conserve these and other species.
So what makes Texas so habitable for the roughly 675 red-crowned parrots that call it home?
A few factors:
- Climate — Texas’ environment (minimum-maximum precipitation, average temperatures, etc.) make the state a “high-quality” habitat for these warmth-loving birds. Texas’ climate is a huge factor and states with somewhat comparable climates (California and Florida) also have some parrot populations
- Population density — Large amounts of people who live in certain areas benefit synanthropes (think of mice or pigeons in New York City) and researchers note Texas is becoming even more urban at a rapid pace
- Urban landscaping/development — Researchers found the parrots had some preferences that made the kinds of neighborhoods Texas has desirable living spaces. Research found the parrots liked areas with larger homes (Texas ranks among the states with the largest average home sizes) and lots of non-native plants (think gardens, planted trees). The data showed that of the trees that Texas’ red-crowned parrots used for nesting, roosting and feeding, about 70% of the trees were non-native to Texas. As the researchers noted, while the parrots are now considered native to Texas, they also require some modifications in order to properly live here — and the state is increasingly delivering these modifications through city expansion
So though the parrots remain in danger, for now, is there any hope for them? Texas A&M researchers seem to think so.
“… If urbanization continues along its recent trajectory, and urban yards and landscaping are maintained at similar levels, populations of these and other synanthropes are likely to grow in California, Texas, and Florida,” the researchers write.
Finally, if you’re wondering how the heck the red-crowned parrots ended up in Texas at all, the authors say it’s believed that the animal trade in the 1980s contributed to them being here. Additionally, since the birds are native to Mexico, it’s highly likely many just flew over the border and stayed.