Psittacoidea (true parrots)
New Zealand parrots)
Range of parrots, all species (red)
Parrots, also known as psittacines /ˈsɪtəsaɪnz/, are birds
of the roughly 393 species in 92 genera that make up the order
Psittaciformes, found in most tropical and subtropical regions. The
order is subdivided into three superfamilies: the
Cacatuoidea (cockatoos), and the
Zealand parrots). Parrots have a generally pantropical distribution
with several species inhabiting temperate regions in the Southern
Hemisphere, as well. The greatest diversity of parrots is in South
America and Australasia.
Characteristic features of parrots include a strong, curved bill, an
upright stance, strong legs, and clawed zygodactyl feet. Many parrots
are vividly coloured, and some are multi-coloured. Most parrots
exhibit little or no sexual dimorphism in the visual spectrum. They
form the most variably sized bird order in terms of length. The most
important components of most parrots' diets are seeds, nuts, fruit,
buds, and other plant material. A few species sometimes eat animals
and carrion, while the lories and lorikeets are specialised for
feeding on floral nectar and soft fruits. Almost all parrots nest in
tree hollows (or nest boxes in captivity), and lay white eggs from
which hatch altricial (helpless) young.
Parrots, along with ravens, crows, jays, and magpies, are among the
most intelligent birds, and the ability of some species to imitate
human voices enhances their popularity as pets. Trapping wild parrots
for the pet trade, as well as hunting, habitat loss, and competition
from invasive species, has diminished wild populations, with parrots
being subjected to more exploitation than any other group of birds.
Measures taken to conserve the habitats of some high-profile
charismatic species have also protected many of the less charismatic
species living in the same ecosystems.
1.1 Origins and evolution
3 Distribution and habitat
4.3 Intelligence and learning
4.3.1 Sound imitation and speech
5 Relationship with humans
5.4 Feral populations
5.5 Threats and conservation
6 See also
8 Cited sources
9 External links
Origins and evolution
Fossil dentary specimen
UCMP 143274 restored as a parrot (left) or an
Psittaciform diversity in
South America and
Australasia suggests that
the order may have evolved in Gondwana, centred in Australasia. The
scarcity of parrots in the fossil record, however, presents
difficulties in confirming the hypothesis, and there is currently a
higher amount of fossil remains from the northern hemisphere in the
early Cenozoic. Molecular studies suggest that parrots evolved
approximately 59 million years ago (Mya) (range 66–51 Mya) in
Gondwana. The three major clades of Neotropical parrots originated
about 50 Mya (range 57–41 Mya).
A single 15 mm (0.6 in) fragment from a large lower bill
UCMP 143274), found in deposits from the
Lance Creek Formation
Lance Creek Formation in
Niobrara County, Wyoming, had been thought to be the oldest parrot
fossil and is presumed to have originated from the Late Cretaceous
period, which makes it about 70 million years old. However,
other studies suggest that this fossil is not from a bird, but from a
caenagnathid oviraptorosaur (a non-avian dinosaur with a birdlike
beak), as several details of the fossil used to support its identity
as a parrot are not actually exclusive to parrots, and it is
dissimilar to the earliest-known unequivocal parrot fossils.
Likewise, the earliest parrots did not have the specialised crushing
bills of modern species.
It is now generally assumed that the Psittaciformes, or their common
ancestors with several related bird orders, were present somewhere in
the world around the Cretaceous–
Paleogene extinction event (K-Pg
extinction), some 66 Mya. If so, they probably had not evolved
their morphological autapomorphies yet, but were generalised arboreal
birds. The combined evidence supported the hypothesis of
Psittaciformes being "near passerines", i. e., the mostly terrestrial
birds that emerged in close proximity to the K-Pg extinction. Analysis
of transposable element insertions observed in the genomes of
passerines and parrots, but not in the genomes of other birds,
provides strong evidence that parrots are the sister group of
passerines, forming a clade Psittacopasserae, to the exclusion of the
next closest group, the falcons.
Europe is the origin of the first undeniable parrot fossils, which
date from about 50 Mya. The climate there and then was tropical,
consistent with the Paleocene-
Eocene thermal maximum. Initially, a
neoavian named Mopsitta tanta, uncovered in Denmark's Early
Formation and dated to 54 Mya, was assigned to the
Psittaciformes; it was described from a single humerus. However, the
rather nondescript bone is not unequivocally psittaciform, and more
recently it was pointed out that it may rather belong to a newly
discovered ibis of the genus Rhynchaeites, whose fossil legs were
found in the same deposits.
Fossil skull of a presumed parrot relative from the
Eocene Green River
Formation in Wyoming
Fossils assignable to Psittaciformes (though not yet the present-day
parrots) date from slightly later in the Eocene, starting around
50 Mya. Several fairly complete skeletons of parrot-like birds
have been found in England and Germany. Some uncertainty remains,
but on the whole it seems more likely that these are not direct
ancestors of the modern parrots, but related lineages that evolved in
the Northern Hemisphere and have since died out. These are probably
not "missing links" between ancestral and modern parrots, but rather
psittaciform lineages that evolved parallel to true parrots and
cockatoos and had their own peculiar autapomorphies:
The earliest records of modern parrots date to about
23–20 Mya. The fossil record—mainly from
Europe—consists of bones clearly recognisable as belonging to
parrots of modern type. The
Southern Hemisphere does not have
nearly as rich a fossil record for the period of interest as the
Northern, and contains no known parrot-like remains earlier than the
early to middle Miocene, around 20 Mya. At this point, however,
is found the first unambiguous parrot fossil (as opposed to a
parrot-like one), an upper jaw that is indistinguishable from that of
Phylogenetic relationship between the three parrot superfamilies
The Psittaciformes comprise three main lineages: Strigopoidea,
Psittacoidea and Cacatuoidea. The
Strigopoidea were considered
part of the Psittacoidea, but recent studies place this group of New
Zealand species at the base of the parrot tree next to the remaining
members of the Psittacoidea, as well as all members of the
Cacatuoidea are quite distinct, having a
movable head crest, a different arrangement of the carotid arteries, a
gall bladder, differences in the skull bones, and lack the Dyck
texture feathers that—in the Psittacidae—scatter light to produce
the vibrant colours of so many parrots. Colourful feathers with high
levels of psittacofulvin resist the feather-degrading bacterium
Bacillus licheniformis better than white ones. Lorikeets were
previously regarded as a third family, Loriidae,:45 but are now
considered a tribe (Loriini) within the subfamily Lorinae, family
Psittaculidae. The two other tribes in the subfamily are the closely
related fig parrots (two genera in the tribe Cyclopsittini) and
budgerigar (tribe Melopsittacini).
Lories and Lorikeets
Phylogenetic relations between parrots 
Main article: List of parrots
The order Psittaciformes consists of roughly 393 species belonging to
92 genera. The following classification is based on the most
recent proposal as of 2012.
Skeleton of a parrot
New Zealand parrots
Family Nestoridae: two genera with two living (kea and New Zealand
kaka) and several extinct species of the
New Zealand region
Family Strigopidae: the flightless, critically endangered kakapo of
Superfamily Cacatuoidea: cockatoos
Subfamily Nymphicinae: one genus with one species, the cockatiel.
Subfamily Calyptorhynchinae: the black cockatoos
Tribe Microglossini: one genus with one species, the black palm
Tribe Cacatuini: four genera of white, pink, and grey species
Superfamily Psittacoidea: true parrots
Subfamily Psittacinae: two African genera,
Psittacus and Poicephalus
Tribe Arini: 18 genera
Tribe Androglossini: seven genera.
Subfamily Psittrichasinae: one species, Pesquet's parrot
Subfamily Coracopsinae: one genus with several species.
Tribe Pezoporini: ground parrots and allies
Tribe Platycercini: broad-tailed parrots
Subfamily Psittacellinae: one genus (Psittacella) with several species
Tribe Loriini: lories and lorikeets
Tribe Melopsittacini: one genus with one species, the budgerigar
Tribe Cyclopsittini: fig parrots
Subfamily Agapornithinae: three genera
Tribe Polytelini: three genera
Tribe Psittaculini: Asian psittacines
Tribe Micropsittini: pygmy parrots
Glossy black cockatoo
Glossy black cockatoo showing the parrot's strong bill, clawed feet,
and sideways-positioned eyes
Living species range in size from the buff-faced pygmy parrot, at
under 10 g (0.4 oz) in weight and 8 cm (3.1 in) in
length,:149 to the hyacinth macaw, at 1 m (3.3 ft) in
length, and the kakapo, at 4.0 kg (8.8 lb) in
weight. Among the superfamilies, the three extant Strigopoidea
species are all large parrots, and the cockatoos tend to be large
birds, as well. The
Psittacoidea parrots are far more variable,
ranging the full spectrum of sizes shown by the family.
The most obvious physical characteristic is the strong, curved, broad
bill. The upper mandible is prominent, curves downward, and comes to a
point. It is not fused to the skull, which allows it to move
independently, and contributes to the tremendous biting pressure the
birds are able to exert. A large macaw, for example, has a bite force
of 35 kg/cm2 (500 lb/sq in), close to that of a large
dog. The lower mandible is shorter, with a sharp, upward-facing
cutting edge, which moves against the flat portion of the upper
mandible in an anvil-like fashion. Touch receptors occur along the
inner edges of the kerantinised bill, which are collectively known as
the "bill tip organ", allowing for highly dexterous manipulations.
Seed-eating parrots have a strong tongue (containing similar touch
receptors to those in the bill tip organ), which helps to manipulate
seeds or position nuts in the bill so that the mandibles can apply an
appropriate cracking force. The head is large, with eyes positioned
high and laterally in the skull, so the visual field of parrots is
unlike any other birds. Without turning its head, a parrot can see
from just below its bill tip, all above its head, and quite far behind
its head. Parrots also have quite a wide frontal binocular field for a
bird, although this is nowhere near as large as primate binocular
Parrots have strong zygodactyl feet with sharp, elongated claws, which
are used for climbing and swinging. Most species are capable of using
their feet to manipulate food and other objects with a high degree of
dexterity, in a similar manner to a human using their hands. A study
conducted with Australian parrots has demonstrated that they exhibit
"handedness", a distinct preference with regards to the foot used to
pick up food, with adult parrots being almost exclusively
"left-footed" or "right-footed", and with the prevalence of each
preference within the population varying by species.
Cockatoo species have a mobile crest of feathers on the top of their
heads, which they can raise for display, and retract. No other
parrots can do so, but the Pacific lorikeets in the genera
Phigys can ruffle the feathers of the crown and nape, and the red-fan
parrot (or hawk-headed parrot) has a prominent feather neck frill that
it can raise and lower at will. The predominant colour of plumage in
parrots is green, though most species have some red or another colour
in small quantities.
Cockatoos are the main exception to this, having
lost the green and blue plumage colours in their evolutionary history;
they are now predominately black or white with some red, pink, or
yellow. Strong sexual dimorphism in plumage is not typical among
parrots, with some notable exceptions, the most striking being the
eclectus parrot.:202–207 However it has been shown that some
parrot species exhibit sexually dimorphic plumage in the ultraviolet
spectrum, normally invisible to humans.
Distribution and habitat
Most parrot species are tropical, but a few species, like this austral
parakeet, range deeply into temperate zones.
See also: List of Psittaciformes by population
Parrots are found on all tropical and subtropical continents and
Australia and Oceania, South Asia, Southeast Asia,
Central America, South America, and Africa. Some Caribbean and Pacific
islands are home to endemic species. By far the greatest number of
parrot species come from
Australasia and South America. The lories
and lorikeets range from
Sulawesi and the
Philippines in the north to
Australia and across the Pacific as far as French Polynesia, with the
greatest diversity being found in and around New Guinea. The
Arinae encompasses all the neotropical parrots, including
the amazons, macaws, and conures, and ranges from northern
Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego in the southern tip of South
America. The pygmy parrots, tribe Micropsittini, form a small
genus restricted to
New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The
Strigopoidea contains three living species of aberrant
parrots from New Zealand. The broad-tailed parrots, subfamily
Platycercinae, are restricted to Australia, New Zealand, and the
Pacific islands as far eastwards as Fiji. The true parrot
superfamily, Psittacoidea, includes a range of species from Australia
New Guinea to
South Asia and Africa. The centre of cockatoo
Australia and New Guinea, although some species reach
Solomon Islands (and one formerly occurred in New Caledonia),
Wallacea and the Philippines.
Several parrots inhabit the cool, temperate regions of South America
and New Zealand. Three species—the Thick-billed parrot, the Green
parakeet, and the now-extinct Carolina parakeet—have lived as far
north as the southern United States. Many parrots have been introduced
to areas with temperate climates, and have established stable
populations in parts of the
United States (including New York
City), the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain, as
well as in Greece.
Few parrots are wholly sedentary or fully migratory. Most fall
somewhere between the two extremes, making poorly understood regional
movements, with some adopting an entirely nomadic lifestyle. Only
three species are migratory – the orange-bellied, blue-winged and
Numerous challenges are found in studying wild parrots, as they are
difficult to catch and once caught, they are difficult to mark. Most
wild bird studies rely on banding or wing tagging, but parrots chew
off such attachments. Parrots also tend to range widely, and
consequently many gaps occur in knowledge of their behaviour. Some
parrots have a strong, direct flight. Most species spend much of their
time perched or climbing in tree canopies. They often use their bills
for climbing by gripping or hooking on branches and other supports. On
the ground, parrots often walk with a rolling gait.
A yellow-tailed black cockatoo using its strong bill to search for
A white-eyed parakeet couple eating queen palm seeds; parrots have
curved and strong beaks that can break very hard seeds.
The diet of parrots consists of seeds, fruit, nectar, pollen, buds,
and sometimes arthropods and other animal prey. The most important of
these for most true parrots and cockatoos are seeds; the evolution of
the large and powerful bill can be explained primarily as an
adaptation to opening and consuming seeds. All true parrots except the
Pesquet's parrot employ the same method to obtain the seed from the
husk; the seed is held between the mandibles and the lower mandible
crushes the husk, whereupon the seed is rotated in the bill and the
remaining husk is removed. A foot is sometimes used to help hold
large seeds in place. Parrots are seed predators rather than seed
dispersers, and in many cases where species are recorded as consuming
fruit, they are only eating the fruit to get at the seed. As seeds
often have poisons that protect them, parrots carefully remove seed
coats and other chemically defended fruit parts prior to ingestion.
Many species in the Americas, Africa, and Papua
New Guinea consume
clay, which releases minerals and absorbs toxic compounds from the
Chestnut-fronted macaws, Yellow-crowned amazons, and Dusky-headed
parakeets at a clay lick in Ecuador
The lories and lorikeets, hanging parrots, and swift parrot are
primarily nectar and pollen consumers, and have tongues with brush
tips to collect this source of food, as well as some specialised gut
adaptations to accommodate this diet. Many other species also consume
nectar when it becomes available.
In addition to feeding on seeds and flowers, some parrot species prey
on animals, especially invertebrate larvae. Golden-winged parakeets
prey on water snails, the kea of
New Zealand hunts adult sheep
(though uncommon), and the Antipodes parakeet, another New Zealand
parrot, enters the burrows of nesting grey-backed storm petrels and
kills the incubating adults. Some cockatoos and the kākā
excavate branches and wood to obtain grubs; the bulk of the
yellow-tailed black cockatoo's diet is made up of insects.
Some extinct parrots had carnivorous diets. Pseudasturids were
probably cuckoo or puffbird-like insectivores, while messelasturids
were raptor-like carnivores.
With few exceptions, parrots are monogamous breeders who nest in
cavities and hold no territories other than their nesting
sites. The pair bonds of the parrots and cockatoos are strong
and a pair remains close during the nonbreeding season, even if they
join larger flocks. As with many birds, pair bond formation is
preceded by courtship displays; these are relatively simple in the
case of cockatoos. In
Psittacidae parrots' common breeding displays,
usually undertaken by the male, include slow, deliberate steps known
as a "parade" or "stately walk" and the "eye-blaze", where the pupil
of the eye constricts to reveal the edge of the iris. Allopreening
is used by the pair to help maintain the bond. Cooperative breeding,
where birds other than the breeding pair help raise the young and is
common in some bird families, is extremely rare in parrots, and has
only unambiguously been demonstrated in the
El Oro parakeet
El Oro parakeet and the
golden parakeet (which may also exhibit polygamous, or group breeding,
behaviour with multiple females contributing to the clutch).
The vast majority of parrots are, like this feral rose-ringed
parakeet, cavity nesters.
Only the monk parakeet and five species of lovebirds build nests in
trees, and three Australian and
New Zealand ground parrots nest on
the ground. All other parrots and cockatoos nest in cavities, either
tree hollows or cavities dug into cliffs, banks, or the ground. The
use of holes in cliffs is more common in the Americas. Many species
use termite nests, possibly to reduce the conspicuousness of the
nesting site or to create a favourable microclimate. In most
cases, both parents participate in the nest excavation. The length of
the burrow varies with species, but is usually between 0.5 and
2 m (1.6 and 6.6 ft) in length. The nests of cockatoos are
often lined with sticks, wood chips, and other plant material. In the
larger species of parrots and cockatoos, the availability of nesting
hollows may be limited, leading to intense competition for them both
within the species and between species, as well as with other bird
families. The intensity of this competition can limit breeding success
in some cases. Hollows created artificially by arborists have
proven successful in boosting breeding rates in these areas. Some
species are colonial, with the burrowing parrot nesting in colonies up
to 70,000 strong. Coloniality is not as common in parrots as might
be expected, possibly because most species adopt old cavities rather
than excavate their own.
The eggs of parrots are white. In most species, the female undertakes
all the incubation, although incubation is shared in cockatoos, the
blue lorikeet, and the vernal hanging parrot. The female remains in
the nest for almost all of the incubation period and is fed both by
the male and during short breaks. Incubation varies from 17 to 35
days, with larger species having longer incubation periods. The newly
born young are altricial, either lacking feathers or with sparse white
down. The young spend three weeks to four months in the nest,
depending on species, and may receive parental care for several months
As typical of K-selected species, the macaws and other larger parrot
species have low reproductive rates. They require several years to
reach maturity, produce one or very few young per year, and do not
necessarily breed every year.:125
Intelligence and learning
Sun conure demonstrating parrots' puzzle-solving skills
Studies with captive birds have given insight into which birds are the
most intelligent. While parrots are able to mimic human speech,
studies with the grey parrot have shown that some are able to
associate words with their meanings and form simple sentences. Along
with crows, ravens, and jays (family Corvidae), parrots are considered
the most intelligent of birds. The brain-to-body size ratio of
psittacines and corvines is comparable to that of higher primates.
One argument against the supposed intelligent capabilities of bird
species is that birds have a relatively small cerebral cortex, which
is the part of the brain considered the main area of intelligence in
other animals. However, birds use a different part of the brain, the
mediorostral HVC as the seat of their intelligence. These species
tend to have the largest hyperstriata, and Harvey J. Karten, a
neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, who studied
bird physiology, has discovered that the lower part of the avian brain
is functionally similar to that in humans. Not only have parrots
demonstrated intelligence through scientific testing of their
language-using ability, but also some species of parrots such as the
kea are also highly skilled at using tools and solving puzzles.
Learning in early life is apparently important to all parrots, and
much of that learning is social learning. Social interactions are
often practised with siblings, and in several species, creches are
formed with several broods, and these, too, are important for learning
social skills. Foraging behaviour is generally learnt from parents,
and can be a very protracted affair. Suprageneralists and specialists
generally become independent of their parents much quicker than partly
specialised species who may have to learn skills over long periods as
various resources become seasonally available. Play forms a large part
of learning in parrots; it can be solitary, and related to motor
skills, or social.
Species may engage in play fights or wild flights
to practice predator evasion. An absence of stimuli can delay the
development of young birds, as demonstrated by a group of vasa parrots
kept in tiny cages with domesticated chickens from the age of 3
months; at 9 months, these birds still behaved in the same way as
3-month-olds, but had adopted some chicken behaviour. In a similar
fashion, captive birds in zoo collections or pets can, if deprived of
stimuli, develop stereotyped behaviours and harmful behaviours like
self plucking. Aviculturists working with parrots have identified the
need for environmental enrichment to keep parrots stimulated.
Sound imitation and speech
Main article: Talking bird
Video of an orange-winged amazon saying "hello" having been prompted
by some humans
Many parrots can imitate human speech or other sounds. A study by
Irene Pepperberg suggested a high learning ability in a grey parrot
named Alex. Alex was trained to use words to identify objects,
describe them, count them, and even answer complex questions such as
"How many red squares?" with over 80% accuracy. N'kisi, another
grey, has been shown to have a vocabulary around a thousand words, and
has displayed an ability to invent, as well as use words in context
and in the correct tense.
Parrots do not have vocal cords, so sound is accomplished by expelling
air across the mouth of the bifurcated trachea, in the organ called
the syrinx. Different sounds are produced by changing the depth and
shape of the trachea. Grey parrots of all subspecies are known for
their superior ability to imitate sounds and human speech. This
ability has made them prized as pets from ancient times to the
present. In the Masnavi, written by Rumi of
Persia in 1250, the
author describes an ancient method for training parrots to speak.
Although most parrot species are able to imitate, some of the amazon
parrots are generally regarded as the next-best imitators and speakers
of the parrot world. The question of why birds imitate remains open,
but those that do often score very high on tests designed to measure
problem-solving ability. Wild grey parrots have been observed
imitating other birds.
Animal Cognition stated that some birds preferred to work
alone, while others like to work together as with grey parrots.
With two parrots, they know the order of tasks or when they should do
something together at once, but they have trouble exchanging roles.
With three parrots, one parrot usually prefers to cooperate with one
of the other two, but all of them are cooperating to solve the
Relationship with humans
Further information: Companion parrot
Pet Cuban amazons in Cuba
Parrots may not make good pets for most people because of their
natural wild instincts such as screaming and chewing. Although parrots
can be very affectionate and cute when immature, they often become
aggressive when mature (partly due to mishandling and poor training)
and may bite, causing serious injury. For this reason, parrot
rescue groups estimate that most parrots are surrendered and rehomed
through at least five homes before reaching their permanent
destinations or before dying prematurely from unintentional or
intentional neglect and abuse. The parrots' ability to mimic human
words and their bright colours and beauty prompt impulse buying from
unsuspecting consumers. The domesticated budgerigar, a small parrot,
is the most popular of all pet bird species. In 1992, the
USA Today published that 11 million pet birds were in the
United States alone, many of them parrots. Europeans kept birds
matching the description of the rose-ringed parakeet (or called the
ring-necked parrot), documented particularly in a first-century
account by Pliny the Elder. As they have been prized for thousands
of years for their beauty and ability to talk, they have also often
been misunderstood. For example, author Wolfgang de Grahl says in his
1987 book The Grey
Parrot that some importers had parrots drink only
coffee while they were shipped by boat, believing that pure water was
detrimental and that their actions would increase survival rates
during shipping. Nowadays, it is commonly accepted that the
caffeine in coffee is toxic to birds.
Pet parrots may be kept in a cage or aviary; though generally, tame
parrots should be allowed out regularly on a stand or gym. Depending
on locality, parrots may be either wild-caught or be captive-bred,
though in most areas without native parrots, pet parrots are
Parrot species that are commonly kept as pets include
conures, macaws, amazon parrots, cockatoos, greys, lovebirds,
cockatiels, budgerigars, caiques, parakeets, and Eclectus, Pionus, and
Poicephalus species. Temperaments and personalities vary even within a
species, just as with dog breeds. Grey parrots are thought to be
excellent talkers, but not all grey parrots want to talk, though they
have the capability to do so. Noise level, talking ability, cuddliness
with people, and care needs can sometimes depend on how the bird is
cared for and the attention he/she regularly receives.
Scarlet macaw riding a tricycle at a show in Spain
Parrots invariably require an enormous amount of attention, care, and
intellectual stimulation to thrive, akin to that required by a
three-year-old child, which many people find themselves unable to
provide in the long term. Parrots that are bred for pets may be
hand fed or otherwise accustomed to interacting with people from a
young age to help ensure they become tame and trusting. However, even
when hand fed, parrots revert to biting and aggression during hormonal
surges and if mishandled or neglected. Parrots are not
low-maintenance pets; they require feeding, grooming, veterinary care,
training, environmental enrichment through the provision of toys,
exercise, and social interaction (with other parrots or humans) for
Some large parrot species, including large cockatoos, amazons, and
macaws, have very long lifespans, with 80 years being reported,
and record ages of over 100. Small parrots, such as lovebirds,
hanging parrots, and budgies, have shorter lifespans up to 15–20
years. Some parrot species can be quite loud, and many of the
larger parrots can be destructive and require a very large cage, and a
regular supply of new toys, branches, or other items to chew up.
The intelligence of parrots means they are quick to learn tricks and
other behaviours—both good and bad—that get them what they want,
such as attention or treats.
The popularity, longevity, and intelligence of many of the larger
kinds of pet parrots and their wild traits such as screaming, has led
to many birds needing to be rehomed during the course of their long
lifespans. A common problem is that large parrots that are cuddly and
gentle as juveniles mature into intelligent, complex, often demanding
adults who can outlive their owners, and can also become aggressive or
even dangerous. Due to an increasing number of homeless parrots, they
are being euthanised like dogs and cats, and parrot adoption centres
and sanctuaries are becoming more common.:77–78 Parrots do not
often do well in captivity, causing some parrots to go insane and
develop repetitive behaviours, such as swaying and screaming, or they
become riddled with intense fear.
Feather destruction and
self-mutilation, although not commonly seen in the wild, occur
frequently in captivity.
Ten thousand hyacinth macaws were taken from the wild for the pet
trade in the 1980s. As a result, Brazil now has only a very small
number of breeding pairs left in the wild.
Main article: International parrot trade
The popularity of parrots as pets has led to a thriving—and often
illegal—trade in the birds, and some species are now threatened with
extinction. A combination of trapping of wild birds and damage to
parrot habitats makes survival difficult or even impossible for some
species of parrot. Importation of wild-caught parrots into the US and
Europe is illegal after the Wild
Bird Population Act was passed in
The trade continues unabated in some countries. A report published in
January 2007 presents a clear picture of the wild-caught parrot trade
in Mexico, stating: "The majority of parrots captured in
in the country for the domestic trade. A small percentage of this
capture, 4% to 14%, is smuggled into the USA."
The scale of the problem can be seen in the
Tony Silva case of 1996,
in which a parrot expert and former director at Tenerife's Loro Parque
(Europe's largest parrot park) was jailed in the
United States for 82
months and fined $100,000 for smuggling hyacinth macaws (Such birds
command a very high price.) The case led to calls for greater
protection and control over trade in the birds. Different nations have
different methods of handling internal and international trade.
Australia has banned the export of its native birds since 1960.
Following years of campaigning by hundreds of NGOs and outbreaks of
avian flu, in July 2007, the
European Union halted the importation of
all wild birds with a permanent ban on their import. Prior to an
earlier temporary ban started in late October 2005, the European Union
(EU) was importing about two million live birds a year, about 90% of
the international market: hundreds of thousands of these were
parrots. No national laws protect feral parrot populations in the
Mexico has a licensing system for capturing and selling
Moche parrot, 200 AD
Larco Museum Collection Lima, Peru
Parrots have featured in human writings, story, art, humor, religion,
and music for thousands of years. From
Aesop's fable "The parrot and
the cat" and the Roman poet Ovid's "The Dead Parrot" to Monty
Parrot sketch", parrots have existed in the
consciousness of many cultures. Recent books about parrots in human
In ancient times and current, parrot feathers have been used in
ceremonies and for decoration. They also have a long history as
pets, stretching back thousands of years, and were often kept as a
symbol of royalty or wealth. In Polynesian legend as current in
the Marquesas Islands, the hero Laka/Aka is mentioned as having
undertaken a long and dangerous voyage to Aotona in what are now the
Cook Islands, to obtain the highly prized feathers of a red parrot as
gifts for his son and daughter. On the voyage, 100 of his 140 rowers
died of hunger on their way, but the survivors reached Aotona and
captured enough parrots to fill 140 bags with their
feathers. Parrots have also been considered sacred. The
Moche people of ancient
Peru worshipped birds and often depicted
parrots in their art. Parrots are popular in
and many writings about them exist. For example,
changed himself into a parrot to aid in converting people. Another old
story tells how after a forest caught fire, the parrot was so
concerned, it carried water to try to put out the flames. The ruler of
heaven was so moved upon seeing the parrot's act, he sent rain to put
out the fire. In Chinese
Buddhist iconography, a parrot is
sometimes depicted hovering on the upper right side
Guan Yin clasping
a pearl or prayer beads in its beak.
Parrots are used as symbols of nations and nationalism. A parrot is
found on the flag of Dominica and two parrots on their coat of
St. Vincent parrot
St. Vincent parrot is the national bird of St. Vincent
and the Grenadines, a Caribbean nation.
Sayings about parrots colour the modern English language. The verb
"parrot" in the dictionary means "to repeat by rote". Also clichés
such as the British expression "sick as a parrot" are given; although
this refers to extreme disappointment rather than illness, it may
originate from the disease of psittacosis, which can be passed to
humans. The first occurrence of a related expression is in
Aphra Behn's 1681 play The False Count. Fans of
Jimmy Buffett are
known as parrotheads. Parrots feature in many media. Magazines
are devoted to parrots as pets, and to the conservation of
parrots. Fictional films include
Home Alone 3
Home Alone 3  and Rio,
and documentaries include The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.
Feral red-masked parakeets in San Francisco
Main article: Feral parrot
Escaped parrots of several species have become established in the wild
outside their natural ranges and in some cases outside the natural
range of parrots. Among the earliest instances were pet red
shining-parrots from Fiji, which established a population on the
islands of southern Tonga. These introductions were prehistoric and
red-shining parrots were recorded in
Captain Cook in the
1770s. Escapees first began breeding in cities in California,
Florida in the 1950s (with unproven earlier claims dating
back to the 1920s in
Texas and Florida). They have proved
surprisingly hardy in adapting to conditions in
Europe and North
America. They sometimes even multiply to the point of becoming a
nuisance or pest, and a threat to local ecosystems, and control
measures have been used on some feral populations.
Feral parrot flocks can be formed after mass escapes of newly
imported, wild-caught parrots from airports or quarantine facilities.
Large groups of escapees have the protection of a flock and possess
the skills to survive and breed in the wild. Some feral parakeets
may have descended from escaped zoo birds. Escaped or released pets
rarely contribute to establishing feral populations. Escapes typically
involve only one or a few birds at a time, so the birds do not have
the protection of a flock and often do not have a mate. Most
captive-born birds do not possess the necessary survival skills to
find food or avoid predators and often do not survive long without
human caretakers. However, in areas where there are existing feral
parrot populations, escaped pets may sometimes successfully join these
flocks. The most common era or years that feral parrots were
released to non-native environments was from the 1890s to the 1940s,
during the wild-caught parrot era. In the psittacosis "parrot
fever" panic of 1930, a city health commissioner urged everyone who
owned a parrot to put them down, but owners abandoned their parrots on
Threats and conservation
Norfolk kaka went extinct in the mid-1800s due to overhunting and
A mounted specimen of the Carolina parakeet, which was hunted to
Deforestation pushed the
Puerto Rican amazon
Puerto Rican amazon to the brink of
extinction, still remaining among the world's rarest birds despite
Many parrot species are in decline and several are extinct. Of the 350
or so living species, 130 are listed as near threatened or worse by
International Union for Conservation of Nature
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and 16 of
which are currently considered critically endangered. Several
reasons are given for the decline of so many species, the principal
threats being habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and for certain
species, the wild-bird trade. Parrots are persecuted because, in some
areas, they are (or have been) hunted for food and feathers, and as
agricultural pests. For a time, Argentina offered a bounty on Monk
parakeets (an agricultural pest), resulting in hundreds of thousands
of birds being killed, though apparently this did not greatly affect
the overall population.
Capture for the pet trade is a threat to many of the rarer or
Habitat loss or degradation, most often for
agriculture, is a threat to many species. Parrots, being cavity
nesters, are vulnerable to the loss of nesting sites and to
competition with introduced species for those sites. The loss of old
trees is a particular problem in some areas, particularly in
Australia, where suitable nesting trees must be centuries old. Many
parrots occur only on islands and are vulnerable to introduced species
such as rats and cats, as they lack the appropriate antipredator
behaviours needed to deal with mammalian predators. Controlling such
predators can help in maintaining or increasing the numbers of
endangered species. Insular species, such as the Puerto Rican
amazon, which have small populations in restricted habitats, are also
vulnerable to (unpredictable) natural events such as hurricanes.
Many active conservation groups have as their goal the conservation of
wild parrot populations. One of the largest is the World Parrot
Trust, an international organisation. The group gives assistance
to worthwhile projects, as well as producing a magazine
(PsittaScene) and raising funds through donations and
memberships, often from pet parrot owners. They state they have helped
conservation work in 22 countries. On a smaller scale, local parrot
clubs raise money to donate to a conservation cause. Zoo and wildlife
centres usually provide public education, to change habits that cause
damage to wild populations. Recent conservation measures to conserve
the habitats of some of the high-profile charismatic parrot species
has also protected many of the less charismatic species living in the
ecosystem.:12 A popular attraction that many zoos employ is a
feeding station for lories and lorikeets, where visitors feed small
parrots with cups of liquid food. This is usually done in association
with educational signs and lectures. Birdwatching-based
ecotourism can be beneficial to economies.
Several projects aimed specifically at parrot conservation have met
with success. Translocation of vulnerable kakapo, followed by
intensive management and supplementary feeding, has increased the
population from 50 individuals to 123. In New Caledonia, the
Ouvea parakeet was threatened by trapping for the pet trade and loss
of habitat. Community-based conservation, which eliminated the threat
of poaching, has allowed the population to increase from around 600
birds in 1993 to over 2000 birds in 2009.
As of 2009, the IUCN recognises 19 species of parrot as extinct since
1600 (the date used to denote modern extinctions). This does not
include species like the New Caledonian lorikeet, which has not been
officially seen for 100 years, yet is still listed as critically
Trade, export, and import of all wild-caught parrots is regulated and
only permitted under special licensed circumstances in countries party
to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species,
that came into force in 1975 to regulate the international trade of
all endangered wild-caught animal and plant species. In 1975, 24
parrot species were included on Appendix I of CITES, thus prohibiting
commercial international trade in these birds. Since that initial
listing, continuing threats from international trade led
CITES to add
an additional 32 parrot varieties to Appendix I. All the other
parrot species are protected on Appendix II of CITES. In
addition, individual countries may have laws to regulate trade in
certain species; for example, the EU has banned parrot trade,
Mexico has a licensing system for capturing parrots.
List of parrots
Parrots of New Zealand
Parrots of New Guinea
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Birds (class: Aves)
Origin of birds
Origin of flight
Evolution of birds
Families and orders
Glossary of bird terms
List by population
Lists by region
Recently extinct birds
Late Quaternary prehistoric birds
Casuariiformes (emus and cassowaries)
Phasianinae (pheasants and relatives)
Columbiformes (doves and pigeons)
Caprimulgiformes (nightjars and relatives)
Apodiformes (swifts and hummingbirds)
Charadriiformes (gulls and relatives)
Gruiformes (cranes and relatives)
Eurypygiformes (kagu and sunbittern)
Gaviiformes (loons or divers)
Procellariiformes (albatrosses and petrels)
Suliformes (cormorants and relatives)
Pelecaniformes (pelicans and relatives)
Cariamiformes (seriemas and relatives)
Falconiformes (falcons and relatives)
Passeriformes (perching birds)
Cathartiformes (New World vultures and condors)
Accipitriformes (eagles and hawks)
Trogoniformes (trogons and quetzals)
Leptosomatiformes (cuckoo roller)
Bucerotiformes (hornbills and hoopoes)
Coraciiformes (kingfishers and rollers)
Piciformes (woodpeckers and relatives)
Cockatoos (family: Cacatuidae)
Cockatiels in aviculture
Cockatiel colour genetics
Red-tailed black cockatoo
Glossy black cockatoo
Yellow-tailed black cockatoo
Carnaby's black cockatoo
Baudin's black cockatoo
Pink or grey
Galah (or rose-breasted cockatoo)
Major Mitchell's cockatoo
Major Mitchell's cockatoo (or Leadbeater's cockatoo)
Yellow-crested cockatoo (or lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo)
Greater sulphur-crested cockatoo
White cockatoo (or umbrella cockatoo)
Salmon-crested cockatoo (or Moluccan cockatoo)
Tanimbar corella (or Goffin's cockatoo)
Kea, kaka and kakapo (family: Strigopidae)
Species (extinctions: † indicates a species confirmed to be extinct;
₴ indicates evidence only from sub-fossils)
New Zealand kaka
Norfolk kaka †
Chatham kaka † ₴
Kakapo (supporting pages: List of kakapo
List of Strigopoidea
Birds of New Zealand
Birds in culture
In mythology and religion
Driven grouse shooting
In the arts
The Conference of the Birds
Ode to a Nightingale
To a Skylark
A History of British Birds
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck
The Ugly Duckling
In theatre and ballet
of the Tower of London
John James Audubon
John James Audubon (The Birds of America)
John Gerrard Keulemans
Roger Tory Peterson
Henry Constantine Richter
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
Category:Birds and humans
Dinosaurs in culture
Living things in culture
Fish in culture
Insects in culture
Mammals in culture
Reptiles in culture
Fauna Europaea: 16694