Learning from the Parrot Project

My new neighborhood has parrots. We used to have parrots–I believe parakeets–when we lived in WeHo. I never observed any parrots in DTLA–I think they like to be in groups, and I think they like free flight.

At our new home, we have I think two distinct groups of parrots. I went to the California Parrot Project Page to identify them. I think our green birds are the Mitred parakeet. They have little red faces, they are about the right size, and they numerous.

But we also have grey parrots–I’m pretty sure–and they are not listed on the parrot pages anywhere. I’m assume they are naturalized African Greys, but perhaps I am wrong. They are hard to see well, but they are bigger than the green ones, and there are fewer in the flock that swoop around. They are also chatterboxes, yammering at each other even they are at rest.

I filled out a parrot report–let’s see if they get back in touch. I’m going to try to catch a picture of them, but I usually see them when I am pottering around in the garden.

Have any of the rest of you seen grey parrots in SoCal?

Here is a picture of the parakeet I’m pretty sure of, from the Parrot Project website:

Voila Capture150

Trading on owls and their imagery, immiserating the species

Mother Jones has this sad link to a story about the proliferating owl trade, given parent’s desire to give raptors as toys to children in the aftermath of Harry Potter:

This week, India’s minister of the environment blamed Potter’s popularity for boosting the illegal bird market in his country. “Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls,” minister Jairam Ramesh told the BBC. Ramesh isn’t the only one noticing the trend: in the UK, there is now a shelter for the owls dumped by owners when the magic of caring for a large raptor wore off. Shelter operator Don Walser told the Telegraph that he is rehabilitating owls from all over England, and is particularly dismayed by “a pair of snowy owls that were left in a garden by their owners for three days without food. They would have died. It was disgusting.”

Here’s a thing that parents can do: it’s the word “no.” Is it really that hard to understand that animals have agency beyond that of being human playthings?

The rest of the story is just depressing. I wouldn’t have a huge problem with indigenous rituals if animals are not endangered and they are destroyed humanely, but requesting them as party favors strikes me as blazing new trails in “urban=stupid about wild animals” history. And with all the bajillions made off the Harry Potter movies, you can’t pony up decent conditions for the animals in the film?


Service animals and coming back to life

The NYT ran a story yesterday about dogs trained to help veterans learn to deal with anxiety and post-traumatic stress, enabling them to reduce or eliminate anxiety medicine: For the Battle-Scarred, Comfort at Leash’s End – NYTimes.com

I have a running list about why dogs are better than people. Yes, dogs do disgusting things and it’s important not to sentimentalize them (why it’s important, I’m not sure, but you have to say that otherwise people get on your case). But here’s part of my list:

1. Dogs don’t schedule pointless meetings on my outlook.

2. Dogs do not talk about themselves constantly.

3. Dogs don’t write shitty reviews.

4. Dogs don’t care about grades (though Border Collies and Dobies might);

5. Dogs derive tremendous utility from wandering around with you.

6. As a Dug from the movie Up points out: “I just met you and I already looooooooove you.”


In response to my post the other day about my favorite bat, one of my wonderful students emailed me to say that she didn’t realize that I had a favorite bat. She, too, it seems, is a bat enthusiast.

Among my other enthusiasm is grass. Yes, grass (no, not that kind of grass. You People). I’m a sucker for ornamental grasses in any landscape. So it was nice to read an op-ed in the New York TImes Olivia Judson, quickly becoming my favorite writer in their stable, on grasses:

Evolution by the Grassroots – Opinionator Blog – NYTimes.com

I’ve always rather felt a bit guilty about my fondness for grasses, as trying to maintain a Kentucky Bluegrass yard is a pretty big environmental bad in arid southern California. But there are plenty of grasses that don’t need the water, and many of them are beautiful, as well, and as Judson points out, useful as corridors for wildlife.

Secret mall gardens and survivor seeds

Grist has a couple of stories on the sublime and the ridiculous. First off, the sublime:

The secret mall gardens of Cleveland | Grist covers the Gardens Under Glass transformation of a struggling Cleveland mall into an envisioned Eco-Village.

Grist also has a posting of Steve Colbert’s send-up of SurvivorSeeds.Com in which

Colbert grows a ‘crisis herb garden’ | Grist

Make sure you watch it if you haven’t.

Nothing sells product like the hot stench of fear.

I love mini-squash.

Urbana Natura in New York

The New York Daily News has a slideshow up on New York’s urban jungle: wild animals around town. Animals: some people hate them, fear them. I love them, all kinds–and they seep through our cities because of our choices and their needs.

Good for Mary Tyler Moore, btw. It’s one thing you don’t want animals inside your own apartment, but it’s another to try to remove them from the city entirely. Yes, they can and do smell and make a mess. Man up: the city needs a sentience besides our own.

And that Yates guy is totally not getting his damage deposit back.

Polar Bear Simulacra

The St. Louis Zoo is putting electronic proxy bears in their exhibit now that their live bears have passed away.

One of my favorite colleagues, Martin Krieger, discussed the idea of simulated nature in piece he published in Science in 1973. He talks, however, about rare natural environments, not zoo environments–the latter being inherently constructed. In a short, concise piece, he develops this notion of “proxy” nature.

It all brings up the question: what is the role of the zoo in the sustainable city? Is there one? Are they destined to become Disneyland natura?

Krieger, M. 1973. “What’s wrong with plastic trees: rationals for preserving rare natural environments involve economic, societal, and political factors.” Science. 179 (4072): 446-455.

Luke, T.  2002. Museum Pieces: Power Plays at the Exhibition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 298 pp.