On the afternoon of February 24, the last of three wild parrots recently shot in Point Loma and Ocean Beach succumbed to its injuries.
Brooke Durham, director of SoCal Parrot, said the parrots’ deaths were the most heartbreaking she has experienced.
"Losing three birds to blatant animal cruelty in a community where the parrots are synonymous with the community’s culture is devastating,” she said.
As far as the types of parrots killed during the past few days, Durham said, "The parrot we were called to rescue on February 19 was a lilac-crowned Amazon; the two that we received on February 22 were red-masked conures. Both species are two of thirteen that have been naturalized in California during the last 40-plus years."
The lilac-crowned Amazon (Amazona finschi) is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List Assessment. The two red-masked conures (Psittacara erythrogenys) are classified as “near threatened and declining.”
The parrot that most recently died was from the second incident (February 22) at the intersection of Gage Drive and Talbot Street in Point Loma. That afternoon, Project Wildlife contacted SoCal Parrot about the two red-masked conures.
"One had already died but they had kept the body since it was very unusual to get two injured parrots together — this usually indicates that some type of human-wildlife conflict has occurred. The other seemed to have a fracture in the right wing,” Durham said.
Due to the suspicious circumstances, both parrots were transferred to SoCal Parrot in Jamul. After their veterinarian — Todd Cecil at Pet Emergency and Specialty Center in La Mesa — determined that the bird was too unstable for x-rays, he kept the parrot overnight for observation. After x-rays were taken the next day, it was determined that though there were no projectiles present, it was likely the injuries were due to a pellet/bb projectile.
"It was at that point that we decided that we had nothing to lose by x-raying the deceased flock mate for evidence of a pellet/bb projectile as the cause of death," said Durham. "It was that x-ray that proved these two birds had indeed been shot. The deceased bird most likely has a lead pellet projectile at center mass."
The surviving parrot was transferred to SoCal Parrot's sanctuary late on February 23.
"We were cautiously optimistic about his possible recovery,” Durham said, “but despite our best efforts, overnight this bird’s condition rapidly declined by morning and by early afternoon it was apparent to me from over ten years of wildlife rehabilitation experience that this bird was not going to survive its injuries."
The prior incident occurred on February 19 in the Mariners Cove Apartments in Ocean Beach. Durham was out of town at an avian conference that day as the lilac-crowned Amazon was examined by the veterinarian. The x-rays showed the bird had been shot at least once (possibly twice).
After surgery was performed, the parrot was transferred to SoCal Parrots’ sanctuary late on February 19. The parrot appeared to be recovering normally but passed away sometime during the night.
These past few days have heightened Durham's concern for San Diego's wild parrots.
"Four out of the six parrots that SoCal Parrot has taken in since January 1, 2016, from inside San Diego County have been confirmed pellet/bb projectile injuries,” Durham said.
"From speaking with other wildlife rehabbers and veterinarians, I also believe that it's a much bigger problem than anyone realizes. Unfortunately, there currently isn’t enough data to prove that hunch. What we really need is a comprehensive study of wildlife-rehab patients to see how often, what types of animals are most likely to suffer a projectile injury, and where those injuries are happening most often."
If the parrots had healed fully, Durham would have returned them to the same area at which they'd been found.
Durham and her husband founded SoCal Parrot in 2012. The nonprofit's sanctuary and rehabilitation facility sits on two acres in Jamul. They are the only local organization dedicated to rehabilitating and protecting San Diego's wild parrots.
Dawn Danielson, director of the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, can't speak to the laws regarding endangered or threatened species, but she did talk about California Penal Code 597 on February 25:
"Anyone that subjects an animal to malicious and needless suffering is committing a felony punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine of $20,000,” said Danielson. “If someone sees someone shooting parrots and either gets a license-plate number or can identify the person, we will investigate. This is outrageous, this should not be happening.”
At 7:30 p.m. February 25, Dina Jo Madruga started a conversation about a reward fund to help identify who is shooting the parrots (on an Ocean Beach Facebook page). As of 8:30, almost 75 locals were in support of the bounty offer.
UPDATE 2/26, 10:40 a.m.
Brooke Durham emailed yesterday evening: "I just wanted to let you know that we got another dead parrot from the same location in Point Loma today (Gage/Talbot). We had to wait on x-rays to confirm that it did have a pellet in the heart."
"We were finally able to get an officer to make a report and we have a case number for the public to reference to. (Case #16-008314) and the OB/PL community is trying to raise reward funds for information leading to arrest/conviction. We really need the public to be diligent and come forward with solid information. Animal cruelty did become a felony under the FBI in January of this year."