By Laura Scully
Like many visitors, they wing their way here but choose to stay and nest as residents. You may hear them each morning, like a squawking alarm clock. They are the large green parrots you see flying around the Heights. And they have been captured artistically by someone “thinking outside of the box.”
“Everybody in Belmont Heights knows about the birds,” said utility box artist Doug Walker. Walker, a long-time Belmont Heights resident and artist has painted several utility boxes in the neighborhood. He tries to find eye-catching subjects that are familiar to locals. The “Parrots” box is located at 4th Street and Park Avenue, adjacent to the Colorado Lagoon.
“People will say, oh those are the noisy birds,” Walker explained. He told the story of a Pasadena Nursery which also sold exotic birds. “Around 1969, the Nursery was on fire and they let the Parrots go,” he said. “They flew into the neighborhood and then, eventually down the San Gabriel River,” Walker said.
“They loved it here and they stay near Belmont Pier and Belmont Heights,” he added.
These birds have truly flocked to Long Beach. Imported to the Southland from South America between the 1960s and 1980s, the parrots were once found mainly in the San Gabriel Valley. Known scientifically as Mitred Conure, they were either freed or escaped. Since then, their numbers increased here in Long Beach from a handful to hundreds.
Walker lived in Pasadena and enjoys that connection with the birds.“I loved the Parrots because I came from there,” he said.“We have a shared background.”