Terrifyingly Noisy Parrots

San Francisco is home to a number of wild parrot flocks. They are an amazingly noisy bunch as they fly by, louder than most I’ve heard here in San Francisco, and definitely noisier than geese and ducks who also fly in noisy flocks.

Today I was watching a coyote casually hunting when the sounds of the parrots flying overhead reached my ear. I pointed my camera up to catch them in flight as they passed by, took a few shots, and then turned back to what had been a fairly relaxed coyote who now was freaking out. She was darting quickly and anxiously back and forth as she looked at the flock passing high overhead.

I’ve seen this coyote become “playful” with some ravens who seem to interact with her every so often, and with a Sharp Shinned Hawk who teases her now and then. Neither of these two birds vocalized as they flew and neither was in a flock: she jumped UP and frolicked a few paces with them, almost trying to reach them. It always appears to be a game of one-upmanship from both sides.

This time, with the noise, which could easily have been mistaken for alarmist shrieks or warning calls, it was very different: the coyote actually DUCKED DOWN into the grasses, hugged the ground, and displayed the same kind of extremely anxious, uncontrolled fear as when she once wanted to protect another coyote from a dog she so tremendously feared. This was the first time I had seen her react to the flock.  I’m wondering if it reminded her of a previous terror, or if it was just something new for her, or if the pitch of the parrot sounds was instinctively alarmist to her. Her distress was intense, but it was short-lived as the birds moved on and their noise faded, and life continued on as before, with her unscathed — maybe to her surprise! This coyote has endured some harsh treatment over the past 7 months, so her reaction might be related to something that happened during that time period.

We have several different wild parrot flocks here in the city. One of these roosts in the Presidio, and another on Telegraph Hill. Those that reside on Telegraph Hill had a book written about them by Mark Bittner, and then a movie based on that book by Judy Irving, both entitled “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”. Author and movie-maker are now married! Chance encounters and experiences can end up in magic!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Christian Hunold
    Sep 10, 2019 @ 19:55:30

    Interesting story, Janet! The ravens and coyotes at Valley Forge, PA interact similarly. One explanation I’ve heard is that since both species are social animals and spend a lot of time around each other – e.g. wolves following ravens to winter kills – they pick up on one another’s intentions, such as playfulness.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Sep 10, 2019 @ 20:26:04

      Nice to hear from you, Christian! Yes, what you say makes sense: they may even harass each other, but it’s never detrimental to either of them — just a game. I’m sure they are also very aware of each other’s intelligence — possibly even seeing each other as “equals” in some respects? And certainly if they lead each other to prey, they are “friends” on some level! It’s fun to think about! Janet

  2. Linda Bolon
    Sep 11, 2019 @ 17:38:52

    Very interesting perspectives on the coyote behavior between fear and play, They continue to fascinate me still after all these years. Thank you, Janet.


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