Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published April 12, 2001.)
Q: I was walking the Red Mountain Ranch area in east Mesa recently when I saw five or six parrot looking birds with bright green bodies and red heads. What were they?
A: My first instinct was to assume you are delusional, which is not necessarily a bad thing, nor would it necessarily distinguish you from many other readers.
But just on the off chance you actually saw these creatures, I called my old buddy, Dr. Robert Witzeman, long a stalwart of the Maricopa Audubon Society, and, by golly, it turns out you saw what you saw.
This is pretty interesting: The birds you saw,Witzeman said, were peach-faced lovebirds — pet birds that either were freed from or escaped from their cages and are doing just fine on their own. They have been around town for about 10 or 15 years, and Witzeman said the Valley is one of the few areas, perhaps the only one, in the country to have a wild population of the things.
Peach-faced lovebirds are native to Namibia, which I’m pretty sure is in Africa, and neighboring Angola, which I am almost positive is in Africa. Apparently, the climate and the lay of the land in those countries are similar to the Valley’s.
The birds nest in eaves and palm trees and the like. Witzeman said the state Game and Fish Department has been keeping an eye on them, because introducing non-native species can be disastrous in some cases. So far, at least, the lovebirds don’t seem to be displacing other cavity-nesters, such as woodpeckers.