14 Interesting Facts About Parrots
Parrots are birds that belong to the order Psittaciformes. They are generally found in tropical and subtropical regions. They have the most diversity in South America, Australia, and Asia.
They are famous for their vivid and often multi-colored feathers. Parrots also have a peculiar ability to mimic sounds. They can even learn how to speak as we do! Due to these reasons, people often keep them as pets in homes.
According to some estimates, almost 50 million parrots are living in captivity. Unfortunately, many species of parrots are also endangered and on the verge of going extinct. Let us now learn some more facts about these fantastic birds.
Basic Parrot Facts
Parrots are also called Psittacenes.
They fall under the order Psittaciformes. They are further divided into three families. These are the Psittacoidea, the Cacatuoidea, and the Strigopoidea.
There are close to 400 different species of parrots. Each of these has a different Latin name. Some of the most common species are –
Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus)
Cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus)
African gray parrots (Psittacus erithacus)
Appearance and Physical Characteristics
Parrots have a strong, curved, and wide bill. They also have firm claws with two toes facing forwards and two towards the back. This is why they’re called zygodactyls.
The dominant color in their plumage, or feathers, is green. However, some species may have other colors mixed in. Cockatoos are an exception as they are generally black or white.
Different Types of Parrots
Size and Weight
Parrots show incredible variation in their sizes. The Buff-faced Pygmy parrots only get to 3 inches in length. It also weighs only 0.4 ounces. Bigger species, such as the Hyacinth Macaw, can grow up to 39 inches in length. Their weight can exceed 4 pounds!
Habitat and Range
Parrots are omnivores. This means they eat both plants and meat. They generally feed on fruits, seeds, buds, pollen, and nectar. Some species feed on small animals and insects, especially larvae.
Parrots have great life expectancies. Larger species generally live for longer. Some species, like gray parrots, can live for more than 60 years. Small parrots like parakeets live for 5 to 15 years only. The oldest parrot in the world is an 82 years old cockatoo at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago!
14 Interesting Parrot Facts
- Scientists believe parrots evolved almost 60 million years ago, near Gondwana. The oldest parrot fossil, discovered in Wyoming, dates nearly 70 million years! Today, there are 398 recorded species of parrots around the world.
- Parrot claws have two toes in front and two toes behind. This gives them a fantastic grip, which they use to eat! They can use their feet to hold large seeds in place. Then they use their strong beak to crush the seeds before feeding.
- Parrots love eating seeds. When seen feeding on fruits, they are often trying to get to the seeds inside! Many seeds contain poisons to prevent birds from eating them. But parrots have learned how to remove the seed coats before eating the seeds.
- Not all parrots eat seeds. Some only like to consume fruits. For instance, Pesquet’s parrot feeds only on figs. Other species feed only on nectar using their tongues. This includes rainbow-colored lories which have unique brush-tipped tongues.
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- Some species like Peruvian Amazon rainforest parrots are even seen eating clay! They use the pebbles from the clay to grind down food in their stomachs. Sometimes, the clay also provides them with essential minerals.
- Kea parrots display a unique feeding behavior. They are large, olive-green parrots found in New Zealand. Usually, they eat roots, leaves, and carrion meat. But in the late 1860s, they were also killing and eating sheep! Farmers even put up a bounty for killing keas. But people finally put this practice to an end in 1986.
- Parrots are mostly found in the tropics. But one species lives differently from the others. The maroon-fronted parrot is a large dark-green parrot from Northern Mexico. They usually dwell in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains at more than 6,000 feet!
- Most parrot species lack sexual dimorphism. This means that males and females of a species look the same. But a notable exception to this is the Solomon Island Eclectus. The males have brilliant emerald green plumage and flame-colored beaks. The females are royal blue and purple, with black beaks and a bright scarlet head. They look so different; they were thought to be distinct species until the 20th century!
- Parrots taste using the top of their bills. Some taste glands are present at the backs of their throats. But most of their 300 odd taste buds occur at the roofs of their beaks. Many other birds can taste bitter foods to avoid poisonous substances too. But parrots are special in that they can taste sweetness as well.
- Parrots also show a preference for eating chili pepper seeds. Humans have nearly 10,000 taste buds. Compared to this, parrots lack enough buds to feel the hotness of chilies. They also do not have receptors to detect capsaicin, which gives chilies their spicy taste. Chilli peppers are also rich in Vitamin A, essential for parrots.
- Talking about senses, parrots have an acute sense of vision. Unlike humans, they can see in the ultraviolet spectrum as well. Male and female parrots themselves look different in the ultraviolet spectrum. Males generally also have reflective patches of feathers. Females prefer males with fancier plumages and usually mate with them for life.
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- Parrots can mimic many sounds. They can also copy human speech. But they lack vocal cords. So instead, they make sounds by expelling air across their windpipes. They do this through a particular organ called a syrinx. Due to this, they can sing, mimic other birds, and even produce the sound of water dripping from a tap! Some, like green-rumped parrots, even give their babies unique names. The flock then uses these names to address them throughout their life.
- They are also highly intelligent birds. Parrots possess the brain capacity of a five-year-old human baby. They can also understand human speech. For example, Alex, a famous gray parrot, could identify and describe objects and answer questions. Another blue parakeet, Puck, had a vocabulary of over 1700 words! Some parrots have even invented entirely new words to describe new situations.
- The Kakapo is the only flightless parrot in the world. Found in New Zealand, it is also the largest species. They are nocturnal, have no natural predators, and can weigh over 9 pounds. Another nocturnal parrot, the night parrot, is the rarest in the world. It is so shy and hard to spot that people didn’t even photograph it until 2013!
Parrots come in all colors, shapes, and sizes and are one of the most popular pets worldwide. They are brilliant creatures. They can even learn how to talk and sing. But almost one-third of all parrot species are either threatened or endangered.
Parrots are also demanding to keep track of since the birds often chew through their tracking tags. So it is crucial to understand the diversity and importance of parrots and take steps to protect their existence.