A-z - Animals

Parrot

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Parrots are popular as pets, providing loud and flamboyant entertainment.

Parrots belong to the Psittaciformes family of parrots and are known for their quick wit, fun and intelligence, though they also have an incredibly affectionate side. They are known for their extensive imitations, including human speech and a large number of voices.

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6 Unbelievable Parrot Facts!

  • Common in tropical areas, such as tropical rainforests.
  • The term "parrot" covers a wide variety of birds—372 different species, to be exact. Some familiar species include gray parrots, macaws, and monk parrots.
  • Known for their bright colors, they are easy to spot in their natural habitat. To see some of the most beautiful parrots in the world, check out "10 Most Beautiful Parrots in the World".
  • As one of the smartest birds, parrots have brain development that is strikingly similar to that of humans.
  • These birds are able to imitate many different sounds with their advanced vocal cords, and often imitate human speech.
  • The largest parrot in the world is the Kākāpō, a flightless bird from New Zealand that can weigh up to 9 pounds!

The word "parrot" is believed to have originated in the early 16th century, from the French word "perrot". "Perrot" is a variant of the name "Peter", which means "stone" or "rock" in the original Greek root.

You can check out more incredible facts about parrots here.

Parrot infographic

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scientific name

Parrots belong to the kingdom Animalia and the phylum Chordate. Their class is Aves, and their clade is Psittacopassarae. The scientific name of the parrot is Psittaciformes. The family is divided into three super families. True parrots are called Psittacoidea. Cockatoos are Cacatuidea. New Zealand parrots are called Strigopoidea. There are 398 species of parrots in the world!

The scientific name of the parrot is Psittaciformes

© Quatro212/Shutterstock.com

Parrot Health and Recreation

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evolution

Molecular data suggest that cockatoos and other psittacids split from each other before the K/T boundary 65 million years ago (MYA). More parrot lineages began to form around 60-65 MYA when Australia and New Guinea first separated from East Antarctica. It is estimated that the main parrot family was established in 30 MYA, when Australia, Antarctica and South America were completely separated.

According to fossil data calibrated at 50 MYA, this split occurred at 45.04 MYA, shortly before Australia separated from Antarctica. Parrots in the Neotropics began to evolve 33 MYA when South America separated from West Antarctica.

There is evidence that Australia is the home of parrots, as Australia has a large number of endemic genera, some of which lie near the base of parrot trees. Furthermore, the splitting of New Zealand taxa suggests their origin in the Cretaceous Gondwana Paleocontinent. Cockatoos form monophyletic groups (one common ancestor), while many parrots are polyphyletic (more than one common ancestor). There is no clear relationship between certain parrot species and other modern birds. The study shows that birds evolved during the Cretaceous period, while parrots are an ancient lineage with no close relatives. Many scientists are working hard to unravel this mystery.

Two small eclectic parrots isolated on white background.
Parrots originated in Australia millions of years ago.

©Bryoni Castelijn/Shutterstock.com

common parrot species

  • Gray Parrot – The gray parrot is a medium-sized bird native to Africa. They are primarily gray with black bills and red tail feathers.
  • Macaws – Macaws range in size from small (like the Hahn's Macaw, about 12 inches long) to large (like the Hyacinth Macaw, about 40 inches long). Macaws are native to Mexico, Central and South America. These birds have long tails and large beaks.
  • Cockatiels – Cockatiels are small birds with pointed tails endemic to Australia. Pet cockatiels are bred to exhibit a variety of colors. Wild cockatiels are usually gray in color with white flashes on both wings and orange spots on the sides of the face.
  • Budgerigar – Also known as a parakeet, this bird is a small, long-tailed bird. These birds are bright green with a yellow head and black stripes on their wings. Budgerigars are native to Australia.
  • Amazon Parrot – The Amazon parrot is a medium-sized short-tailed parrot native to South and Central America and the Caribbean. These birds are predominantly green with bright accent colors, which vary by species.
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Eclectic parrot sitting on a branch in West Papua, New Guinea against a transparent brown background.
Eclectic parrots are found in the West Papua Islands of New Guinea.

©iStock.com/Ondrej Prosicky

appearance and behavior

Parrots vary in their brightly colored plumage, and each species of parrot has a different pigmentation. Most people think of these birds as bright green with beautiful, strong, curved beaks. Parrots perch upright and even walk upright on clawed feet.

Not all of these species are one color, such as macaws, which range in color from black, red, or yellow. Like most parrots, macaws are not sexually dimorphic, meaning there are no visual differences between males and females.

Temperamentally, these birds tend to be affectionate, making them well-loved pets for centuries. Their high energy levels may be beyond the reach of novice pet owners, but these creatures express empathy on a unique level. However, the humans that live with them play a huge role in the mood and behavior of birds.

Just be careful – some species can be very dangerous and aggressive if provoked. For example, Senegalese parrots are small in size, but if they feel threatened, they will bite hard with their sharp beaks, causing great pain and possible injury.

Mostly, parrots will only attack when they are in danger, it is a natural "fight or flight" response to protect themselves from harm. In captivity, whether in a zoo or at home, parrots may throw food around and tear up their surroundings if agitated or frightened. Parrots are chatty day and night, filling their homes with an array of loud sounds and potential imitations.

Brightly colored eclectic parrot perched on a stick in a cage
This parrot can sing up to 115 decibels.

©iStock.com/redchanka

character

Parrots are very smart and quick-witted. If kept as pets, they form tight bonds and are mostly friendly and sociable. They enjoy the socializing of their close family, which allows them to build trust and form lasting relationships.

Parrots have a lot of energy and have surprisingly short attention spans. However, due to this bird's empathetic nature, they have plenty of time to display their emotions dramatically. As the bird spends more time with its human owner, it may begin to mimic common phrases and sounds it hears.

yellow-billed parrot
The yellow-billed cockatoo is one of many feathered parrots in Jamaica.

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

Habitat

Due to the warm and humid climate, parrots often thrive in the tropics. However, they don't necessarily need this habitat to survive, which is why so many birds live in warm climates around the globe. In addition to pet stores, these species are found naturally throughout Australia, South and Central America.

Most wild parrots will build a resting place among deciduous broadleaf trees and bright tropical plants, while domesticated parrots are able to adapt to their current home environment.

The grey-yellow female budgie parrot thrives in the tropics.

© iStock.com/Vronja_Photon

diet

These birds are omnivorous in nature and their diet is varied. As a pet, the diet should mimic that of a wild parrot and include raw or steamed vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains (such as rice, oats, quinoa, barley, or buckwheat). An organic diet, if possible, best supports parrots by preventing them from ingesting dangerous chemicals that can cause health problems.

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A typical diet for most birds consists of fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers and sprouts. Some species thrive (almost) entirely on nectar. While they will eat raw and cooked vegetables, the only predators you need to worry about are insects. If parrots can't find insects to eat, they will occasionally switch to snails, mice or snakes.

what do parrots eat
Parrots eat insects, seeds, nuts and fruit.

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Predators and Threats

Like all living animals, parrots are important contributors to the natural food chain. They are both prey and predator in the wild, falling prey to birds of prey larger than themselves.

However, the main threat to these birds is humans. Human activities—such as deforestation, encroachment, industrialization, etc.—destroy their natural habitats. Along with habitat loss, human activity has also weakened and destroyed parrot-inhabited forests, making it impossible for these birds and other animals to maintain a steady source of food and disrupting reproductive and growth cycles.

Types of Pet Birds – Hyacinth Macaws
The hyacinth macaw is the largest flying parrot.

© iStock.com/Uwe-Bergwitz

Reproduction and Lifespan

Most species are monogamous, meaning they spend their entire lives with the same partner. While these birds choose breeding partners for themselves, they also stay together throughout the non-breeding season.

Parrots prefer to mate with the seasonal changes in their environment, mainly the warmer times of the year. In most cases, the breeding process begins in the spring due to warmer temperatures and an adequate food source for the offspring. During these months, the parrot begins to naturally release sex hormones, attracting the opposite sex to mate.

Like many other birds, parrots lay eggs. They usually lay about two to eight eggs at a time. It takes about 18 to 30 days to hatch before hatching. The offspring of parrots are simply called "chicks" like many other birds.

Small parrots generally live 15 to 20 years, while larger parrots can live up to 80 years. A handful of these species have broken the 100-year lifespan record! When considering a bird mate, it's crucial to understand that it can be a lifelong commitment.

baby parrot
Parrots are monogamous, which means they spend their entire lives with the same partner. This could be as long as 100 years!

© Shark_749/Shutterstock.com

population

The exact number of parrots worldwide is currently unknown. However, there are more than 350 species of parrots around the world, including macaws, gray parrots and monk parrots.

Since parrots as a group have been declared "not extinct" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, no conservation efforts have been undertaken on a wider scale. However, in just the last decade, trade in parrots and habitat destruction have driven nearly 50 percent of these species to the brink of extinction. Half of these species are now considered "critically endangered". Some species—such as citron cockatoos—are so frequently sold on the black market that local governments have imposed restrictions.

While some laws protect against trade and hunting, parrots are still largely kept in captivity as pets or zoo attractions thanks to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Some zoos in the United States that are popular for parrot exhibits include the San Diego Zoo, the Houston Zoo, and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

African gray parrot walking on the floor of the house
African gray parrots can learn about 1,000 words. There are 350 species of parrots in the world.

© iStock.com/Adrian Black

Protect

Sadly, nearly one-third of all parrot species are at risk of extinction. Human activities are often responsible for this serious problem, with habitat loss and fragmentation being the biggest problem. Illegal capture and poaching of nests also plays an important role. Other threats include climate change, disease and environmental pollution. All of these factors negatively impact wild parrot populations.

Isolated panama and yellow crown amazon
Parrots are critically endangered. Many parrot species have fewer than 50 living members on Earth.

©iStock.com/GlobalP

owner tips

Before owning a bird, especially an intelligent and highly focused parrot, it is crucial to understand that these birds can live for decades and require constant stimulation. All over the world, wild birds are illegally taken from their natural habitat and sold as pets. Sadly, almost 80 percent of these captured birds die before reaching their destination, from disease, starvation, trauma, or injury. Perpetrators violently capture these birds by felling trees or cutting open nests, causing habitat destruction and affecting other bird and animal populations. While protections have been put in place to prevent such atrocities, the rules are difficult to enforce and easy to circumvent. While certain birds are able to breed in captivity, many of them are still caught from the wild.

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Unfortunately, many pet owners don't research their companions before owning a bird and become bored or annoyed with the animal. Some of the birds escaped while others were released, resulting in wild populations. These non-native birds may introduce diseases or invasive species into new environments, adversely affecting native bird and animal populations. If you are unable to take care of your domestic bird further, make sure to take it to a humane organization for rehousing.

Best Apartment Animals
Before owning a bird, especially an intelligent and highly focused parrot, it is crucial to understand that these birds can live for decades and require constant stimulation.

©TumCruise/Shutterstock.com

intelligence and learning

Some gray parrots know a highly sensitive ability to associate words with meaning and be able to form simple sentences. These traits are common in crows, crows and parrots. Parrots are considered the most intelligent of birds, with a brain-to-body size ratio comparable to that of great apes and other higher primates. Birds do not use the cerebral cortex like mammals, but use the meso-rostral HVC for cognition.

Not only are parrots scientifically proven to be smart, but their use of language is astounding. Plus, some parrots will even use tools and solve puzzles.

Learning early in life is important for these animals, and much of that learning comes from socially interactive environments. Sometimes socially interacts with siblings or with several other species. Parrots have been known to form strong bonds with their playmates and owners.

African gray parrot looking up with a blurred background
Not only are parrots scientifically proven to be smart, but their use of language is astounding. Plus, some parrots will even use tools and solve puzzles.

©iStock.com/Lilly Nonamaker

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Parrots are omnivorous in nature, which means they eat both meat and plants. In the wild, they feed primarily on nuts, buds, seeds, flowers and fruit.

Parrots belong to the animal kingdom.

Parrots belong to the class Aves.

Parrots belong to the phylum Chordate.

Parrots belong to the parrot family.

Parrots belong to the order Parrots.

Parrots are covered with feathers.

Parrots live in tropical rainforests and tropical jungles.

Parrots eat fruit, nuts, seeds and insects.

Predators of parrots include humans, monkeys and large birds.

Yes, a parrot is a type of bird.

Parrots are known for imitating a variety of sounds. These sounds sometimes include human speech.

Parrots are known to be friendly, affectionate, and easygoing. Most parrots are easily socialized and sympathetic to their humans.

In the wild, parrots feed primarily on nuts, buds, seeds, flowers and fruit. However, when kept as pets, they can be fed raw or steamed vegetables and fruits, whole grains, pseudocereals, and oats.

Yes, parrots can fly, and their flying skills are often considered remarkable.

Certain species of parrots are known to have a migratory instinct.

At one time, parrots lay about two to eight eggs.

Parrots fly at speeds ranging from 81 mph to 200 mph.

Different species of parrots have different wingspans. Some of them have a wingspan of about 41 to 45 inches.

It is not known when the chicks leave the nest, but their incubation period is 18 to 30 days, after which the eggs hatch.

Parrots have large, colorful bodies and curved beaks.

Parrots can live 40 to 80 years.

Parrots lay eggs.

There are some differences between parrots and macaws, although all macaws are technically parrots. Macaws are larger than most parrot species and are found in more places around the world than macaws.

The key difference between toucans and parrots is that they are not closely related, toucans have very large beaks and parrots are found all over the globe whereas toucans are only found in South America.