December 27, 2012
Rosy-faced Lovebird with mesquite pod
Rosy-faced Lovebird with mesquite pod

The American Birding Association, just in time for Christmas, recently accepted the spectacular avian package formerly known as Peach-faced Lovebird as an established species in the Phoenix area, a suitably seasonally wrapped red and green gift for listers.  I’ll have a footnote about “competitive listing” in my next column, but for now if you’re keeping a Life List and have seen Rosy-faced Lovebirds, you can add one more checkmark to that list.  And you can catch up with all you need to know about this little exotic in a couple past columns I’ve written about it - and

The first free-flying lovebirds in the Valley were reported by Michael Moore in 1987 based on his observations of a small flock passing over his yard in Apache Junction.  In subsequent years Mike observed fledglings from an old Gila Woodpecker nest in a Saguaro cavity, the first report of breeding for this species.  Twenty-five years later, here’s what Mike, a PhD avian researcher had to say:  “I never would have imagined that they would have spread to the extent they have.”

That extent is basically all over the Valley.  The three best places to observe the now “countable” species are Encanto Park in downtown Phoenix, the Arcadia neighborhood south of Camelback in east Phoenix, and the Gilbert Water Ranch in Gilbert.  I work in Arcadia and rarely a day goes by that I don’t at least hear their raucous, high pitched squeals, typically as they fly over.  Learning the “song” is the best way to pinpoint their presence as they are swift flyers and can be hard to spot camouflaged in green foliage.  They favor palm fronds and utility wires, and we now have a small flock that periodically visits our frontyard fountain and backyard seed feeders, sunflower seeds preferred.

In February of 2010 the Arizona Field Ornithologists coordinated a one day Rosy-faced Lovebird census throughout the Valley and estimated 2500 individuals.  This is certainly a well established, viable breeding population that is expected to be part of the Valley avifauna for years to come.  Many observers have used the adjective “charismatic” to describe these little parrots, a descriptive term that for me translates as “you just can’t stop watching them.”  Some of this can be ascribed to the exotic color package which reminds us of the tropics, some to the well documented, eons old human fascination with the parrot family.

And it’s an economic boost for Phoenix.  Since the announcement, I’ve had two inquiries from out-of-state birding friends, and last fall I guided a Boston birder who had Rosy-faces high on his Arizona want list, figuring he could put them “on the shelf” until they became countable.  Furthermore, every Big Year birder will now have to pass through Phoenix for this tick on their list.

So, Merry Christmas in red and green from the ABA, thanks to Troy Corman and Kurt Radamaker for doing the documentation that made acceptance possible, and welcome to exotic Phoenix.