If you are walking down the city streets of Scottsdale or Mesa in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area, you are bound to hear the squeaks of little green peach faced lovebirds as they fly between the trees and cactuses.
They nest in the holes in the saguaro cactuses that have been made by other birds (mostly woodpeckers and flickers), and they are just as adorable as can be when they peek out of these nesting holes and look down at you.
I have wanted to get a photo of one of these little cuties sitting in a saguaro for ages, and I had the chance a few days ago when we were visiting with our friend John Sherman, a professional wildlife and bird photographer who shoots for Arizona Highways. He knew of a saguaro cactus nearby where the peach faced lovebirds hang out in the late afternoons.
He is a full-time RVer who lives in a wonderful custom built Class C motorhome, and he has a mouthwatering collection of photography gear. He very kindly he let me borrow his humongous 150-600 mm Tamron lens (that I have been lusting after) to take a bunch of shots.
Wow, what a lens, and WOW what a fun experience! (And thanks, John, for the inspiration to buy one a few months later!).
I’m not used to lenses that hang out nearly a foot from the camera body, so it took me a while to wrestle the thing into submission and make it stay still in my hands. But the little birds in the arms of the saguaro cactus waited very patiently as I got myself sorted out, and once I started shooting, they seemed happy to pose.
What a surprise it was to see one lovebird in the flock that was a blue mutation!
Peach faced lovebirds are not native to Arizona. They are actually native to southwestern Africa! However, over the years escaped pet birds have established themselves in the urban Sonoran Desert, and they have become naturalized citizens of the state. All the flocks in the desert areas here are descendants of escaped pet birds.
They love the dry desert heat of the Sonoran Desert because it is just like their ancestral home across the ocean in southwestern Africa! They are savvy to bird feeders, and they make the most of whatever offerings they can find in residents’ back yards. Wisely, they seem to have developed a palate for yummy Sonoran Desert goodies too.
Not all “introduced” species are appreciated, and certainly not all of them have endearing little personalities like these guys. This part of Arizona seems to attract special feral animals, though, and last year I wrote about the wonderful wild horses we found living just beyond the Phoenix city limits. Arizona’s wild parrots have been enjoyed for many years (here is an article about them.
Wild parrots can be found all over the country, and a few years back we bumped into a wonderful documentary about a flock of wild parrots that has taken up residence in San Francisco. This is charming movie, Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, is one of our favorites (blush), and we have watched it time and again, as it always makes us smile.
Where do these peach faced lovebirds live around Phoenix? Check out the streets between 52nd and 64th Street and Cactus Road to Thunderbird Road in Scottsdale. They can also be seen in the trees between Albertson’s and the Shell station across the parking lot at McDowell Road and Power Road in Mesa, here.
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Other fun bird sightings from our Arizona RV travels — and on our boat in Mexico:
- Burrowing Owls southeast of Phoenix, Arizona – Cutie pies with big eyes in Zanjero Park in Gilbert
- Sandhill Cranes — and a Great Horned Owl – It’s a Wild Bird Party in Willcox, Arizona
- To Catch a Hummingbird – Photographing hummers at our RV’s window feeder in Arizona
- Water Birds of the Sonoran Desert — Waterfowl abound on the edges of hot, dry, Phoenix, Arizona
- Landlubbing with Parrots in Huatulco Mexico! – A wild flock of half-moon conures enchants me high up in a tree
- Snowbird RVers — a Human Subspecies of their own — in Quartzsite, Arizona
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What a great camera and patience. We found where they hang out on the canal in Mesa between Broadway and Southern on the edge of a horse ranch. We could hear them as we rode our bikes.
How neat. We’ll have to look for them there too. I love their little squeaks!!!
ummm…. they wake me up every morning eating peanuts and sunflower seeds i toss out. 51st place n sweetwater seems to be their “hood”
That’s the hood. Lucky you!!
I had no idea lovebirds have “gone wild” in Arizona! Glad to know that even though they’re not natives, they’re not pesky invasives. Your photos of the birds peeking out of the saguaro are absolutely adorable!
They are a sweet bit of wildness in the city, and they are so cute to watch as they climb in and out of their holes…!
When visiting family in Tarpon Springs, Fla., I was amazed at the large flocks of wild parakeets (budgies) roosting on telephone wires towards sunset. At times, I could count well over 100 individuals in one flock. Whether they caused agricultural/home garden concerns, I didn’t know.
How fun! There are pockets of feral parrot flocks all over the US, and it is so neat to see them. We watched a flock in a tree near a harbor in St. Petersburg, Florida (can’t remember which type), and I remember reading about a large flock of Monk Parakeets that took up residence in Chicago. Such fun little guys. I think their numbers are too few to have much of an impact on local flora and fauna. Cats keep their population from growing too fast!
Great article on the lovebirds, thank you. I live in Scottsdale between Hayden Rd and the 101 on Camelback Rd, and we have had them in this area for well over 5 yrs. I have a feeder directly out my front kitchen window and enjoy watching them feed most every day. Some days, as many as 6 birds will wait patiently (sometimes not) as the 3 that will fit on the feeder take their turn. I have tried many times to take pictures but only have my phone camera, and through the window screen, just doesn’t work. They won’t let us get closer than about 100 feet. I originally put the feeder up to watch the darling little finches that flock to it. They are pretty too, with their red and sometimes yellow, heads and breasts. This is year around entertainment!!
Lucky you, Ginna. How fun to have so many at your feeder and to be able to watch their crazy antics all year long!
Hello, I live in Sahuatria Az and just now had about 8 love birds at my feeders. I hope they stick around.
Lucky you! That’s quite a flock. Enjoy them — I hope they stick around for you!
Just an update about the love birds. I am so sorry to say one of them was caught and killed by a roadrunner, (I have yet to forgive him). We only have 3 that are still hanging around. We put up a bird house by our bird feeder in one of out mesquite tree’s hoping that they will nest in it. Would you recommend any sort of food/fruit to “bribe” them into living in the bird house, or any other possible suggestions on a location to put the bird house where they would feel more comfortable?
Too bad about that roadrunner, but they do eat other birds. I watched one kill a mourning dove once, and it was quite a gruesome sight. I don’t blame them, though, that’s just what they like to eat, but I was very surprised to watch the roadrunner tackle that dove because they aren’t all that different in size!
As for bribing them to come back, I’m not sure what kinds of treats would tempt them. Maybe try a variety of things like fruits (apple, cherry, orange, banana) and various seeds. They might like hot peppers or red/green peppers (the seeds especially, so leave those on!). If you’re using regular backyard bird seed, perhaps stop by a pet store and pick up some parrot seed. There is a lot more safflower seed in parrot mixes than in backyard mixes and a lot less sunflower seed too, and the seeds may be fresher.
Also, birds like to be higher up so they can have a “bird’s eye view” and “rule the roost.” So maybe try hanging the feeder in a spot that feels like the “highest” thing around, either the top of the pole it’s hanging from or from the highest strong branch in a tree (in a low enough tree so you can still enjoy watching them).
You could also try hanging a nesting box for them. They’ll nest in saguaros, but a wooden parrot breeding box might appeal to them if you don’t have a handy saguaro with bird nests already made in it by previous occupants. Again, stop by a pet store or search online. You can line the inside of the nesting box with commercially made dried corn cob nesting material or let them line it with whatever they wish…
Good luck. I hope they return!
I’m staying temporarily at my brother’s house in Mesa, near Power and Brown. A couple weeks ago, they said they saw a green parrot-like bird. Yesterday I saw one in the tree. Today it was hanging on the “sock” finch feeder. And then a second one came along. I was amazed! They are beautiful birds.
They are very beautiful birds and they are little comedians too. Enjoy!!
Yeah the love bird is very playful parrot. They’re funny as pets. Some will be your best friends but be careful during breeding season. They can be very territorial, and the blue gene mutation comes from the velvet specie. These birds are a mix breed 1-3 different colored specie.
It would be nice to see a wild flock of lovebirds. It’s surprising there appears to be no wild lovebirds in the desert areas of CA near San Diego and Los Angeles because there are plenty of lovebird breeders within this region. I’m sure plenty of lovebirds escaped as a result.
I have a Cinnamon Pied lovebird as a pet and she is adorable and loves to snuggle and be held. She tends to have a habit of not wanting to go back in her cage once she’s on me and will grab whatever part of my hand when I place her in the cage.
I moved to Arizona in February and brought a bird feeder with me from Washington. I put it out with some specialty birdseed and the love birds flocked to it. I currently have four feeders out there now and attract about thirty of them each morning (in addition to many other small amd large birds). They are so entertaining and such beautiful birds We are located between 32nd and 36th Street just off Shea.
How fun!!! Lucky you to see these beautiful little birds playing at your feeder every day!!
There are about six of them in the Saguaro across the street from us. You can see there heads poking out looking to see when I head to the feeder. They will literally sit on the window sill and peck the window if I take to long to feed them.
How fun! Those little guys are super smart, so I’m not surprised they keep an eye on everything you do around that feeder!!
We are birders from Dallas, where we enjoy seeing the huge nests of naturalized monk parakeets in the Dallas suburbs. Today we came to visit the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort in Arizona and were surprised to see these cute little rosy-faced lovebirds. I saw a flock of 12 drinking from a little puddle at the resort. We have also seen big flocks of red-crowned parrots during the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Harlingen, Texas. Parrots of any kind are always beautiful and exciting to see.
How cool is that?! I remember reading about a big colony of monk parakeets in the Chicago back in the 80’s. How cool that they are in the Dallas suburbs too. I had no idea red-crowned parrots could be seen in large numbers in Texas too. That is awesome!!
I feed a flock of about 20 peach-faced lovebirds every day. There are also two blue mutations who have white faces and blue bodies, and one who is almost entirely bright yellow. As for ‘what to feed them”, I have tried many things including very expensive parrot food, peanuts, wild bird seed, and black oil sunflower seeds. Their favorite, by far , is the sunflower seeds. Just bought three 10 lb bags for $5 each at Ace. They go through two feeders full each day. I had one wonderful bird feeder that held many birds together, but it was big enough for the pigeons which I did not want to encourage. I now have a cylindrical nut feeder which can hold sunflower seeds and has no place for pigeons to hold on. Also have a simple cylindrical feeder with 6 smallish roosts that will accommodate the lovebirds and porch finches.
My flock of 20+ is at Camelback and Hayden in Scottsdale.
Wow!! How amazing and fun to have two blue mutations and one all yellow mutation in with the rest of your flock. I’m glad you have been able to find an affordable feed for them and that you have a feeder that will accommodate them without encouraging the pigeons. Enjoy your flock. We’ll have to swing over to that area and see if we can see any flying around. We saw a bunch near 52nd and Cactus the other day.
We have a small flock of 6 lovebirds that moved into our Pineapple Palm tree here in Sun City West in January of 2019. They showed up eating on the quail and dove block that we have out for those birds. Fun to watch and they are great coversationalists! We are snowbirds so hope they are still there when we return in the fall.
Oh my, lucky lucky you, Mike! What a fun little family to watch and listen to. I hope they are there for you when you return in the fall. If not, maybe the quail and dove block will lure them back!
I just moved to a house in Mesa and there are like 20 that hang out in a tree out back. They are beautiful!
Lucky lucky lucky you!!! Have fun watching them!!!
I am here temporarily and would love to view and photograph these lovebirds. I’m staying in Mesa. Do you know where there’s a good chance of seeing some without having to go in someone’s back yard?
There are some places mentioned in the text right before the last photo. I hope you get some great pics!