Many parrots like macaws, Amazon parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, and cockatoos are kept as pets and have been popular companions throughout history because they are intelligent, colorful, and charismatic. Current research shows that some 372 species of approximately 86 genera of parrots exist as of today.
These parrots are often quoted as the ‘true parrots’ because, geographically, they happen to be most widely spread. Species under this superfamily are prominently found in the United States, Polynesia, South and Central America, Australia, Western Africa and Southeast Asia. Common varieties include the regularly found green parrots, macaws, lorikeets, lorries, parakeets, etc.
Scientific Classification of Psittacoidea
This superfamily comprises birds commonly known to us as Cockatoos. There are approximately 21 species in this superfamily and are native to regions such as Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, Solomon Islands and Philippines. Some of the well-known varieties include the palm cockatoo, Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, Sulphur-crested cockatoo, Gang gang cockatoo, Salmon-crested cockatoo, Blue-eyed cockatoo etc.
Scientific Classification of Cacatuoidea
Cacatuinae:- Probosciger, Callocephalon, Eolophus, Lophochroa, Cacatua
This superfamily of parrots is native to the island country of New Zealand. A couple of species were previously found on islands surrounding Australia and New Zealand as well. This superfamily is composed of three genera of parrots, out of which the Nelepsittacus genus has been declared as completely extinct. Most of the species in the remaining two genera are either near extinction or highly endangered.
Scientific Classification of Strigopoidea
Nestor:- Nestor notabilis, Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis, Nestor meridionalis meridionalis
Strigops:- Strigops habroptila
Nelepsittacus:- Nelepsittacus daphneleeae, Nelepsittacus donmertoni, Nelepsittacus minimus, Nelepsittacus spec
Most parrots have some common physical features like strong curvy beaks, zygodactyl claws and a straight posture. Green happens to be their primary color, with variations in shades as per different sub species. Parrots also have beautiful plumage in bright shades of red, green, blue, and also neutral shades of white, black, and gray. The shape and length of feathers is likely to vary in different varieties of parrots.
Parrots are known to live in large parrot colonies or groups. They make their nests in hollows of large trees that offer plenty of green foliage and abundance of fruits and seeds. Only the Monk Parakeet and five species of Agapornis lovebirds actually build nests in trees. Three Australian and New Zealand parrots nest on the ground itself. Today, parrots are rapidly losing their natural habitat and are forced to seek shelter in nooks under roofs of houses and recesses in walls.
Parrots are primarily herbivores. Typically, they are known to feed on seeds, nuts, fruit flesh and nectar from flowers. Seeds form such an integral part of their diet, that parrots have learned to remove seed coats and other fruit parts that contain protective poisons, prior to ingestion. Several species in America, Southeast Asia and Africa eat clay, which soaks up toxic compounds from their gut. A few are also known to feed on chillies and prey on creatures and small insects.
Mating and Reproduction
Most species of parrots are known to form monogamous pairs with their mating companions, right after they attain sexual maturity. During the mating season, they start displaying their attractive feathers, along with eye flashing, crest and tail flashing etc. Once a female lays her eggs, she incubates them for approximately 28 days till they hatch. Egg colors can range from pure white to shades of gray. The size of eggs varies for every parrot species.
Black-fronted Parakeet (Cyanoramphus zealandicus)
Broad-billed Parrot (Lophopsittacus mauritianus)
Cebu Hanging Parrot (Philippensis chrysonotus)
Cuban Macaw (Ara tricolor)
Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis)
Chatham Kaka (Nestor sp)
Conquered Lori (Vini vidivici)
Dominican Green-and-Yellow Macaw (Ara atwoodi)
Guadeloupe Parrot (Amazona violacea)
Guadeloupe Parakeet (Aratinga labati)
Glaucous Macaw (Anodorhynchus glaucus)
Jamaican Red Macaw (Ara gossei)
Jamaican Green and Yellow Macaw (Ara erythrocephala)
Lesser Antillean Macaw (Ara guadeloupensis)
Mauritius Gray Parrot (Lophopsittacus bensoni)
Martinique Parrot (Amazona martincana)
Mascarene Parrot (Mascarinus mascarinus)
Norfolk Island Kaka (Nestor productus)
Newton’s Parakeet (Psittacula exsul)
New Caledonian Lorikeet (Charmosyna diadema)
Paradise Parrot (Psephotus pulcherrimus)
Rodrigues Parrot (Necropsittacus rodericanus)
Rufous-Tailed Parrot (Sumatranus heterurus)
Seychelles Parakeet (Psittacula wardi)
Society Parakeet (Cyanoramphus ulietanus)
Parakeets: 10 to 18 years
Macaws: 50 to more than 100 years
Eclectus Parrots : 65 to 80 years
Cockatoos: 40 to 65 years
Lorikeets: 10 to 25 years
Lovebirds: 15 to 25 years
African Grays: 45 to 65 years
Canaries: 12 to 15 years
Amazon: 55 to 70 years
Finches: 5 to 10 years
Some Famous Parrots
An African gray parrot named Lory owned by Queen Victoria could effortlessly sing “God save the Queen’. Another African Gray owned by American psychologist Irene Pepperberg had a vocabulary of about 150 words could do basic levels of logical reasoning and identification of objects, shapes, and colors too. ‘Poll’, the African gray owned by President Andrew Jackson could communicate in two languages – English and Spanish.
The Ever-Popular Macaws
Macaws are one of largest and most popular parrot species in the world, who have an exceptional capacity to learn and mimic human speech. They do not possess any vocal cords like human beings. Instead, they have developed a knack for changing the shape of their trachea to control the passage of air through their respiratory system. This helps them to create sounds that resemble human speech.
Interesting Parrot Trivia
Parrots are some of the most intelligent birds because their brain to body ratio is almost equal to higher level mammals. Experiments show that parrots are capable of identifying objects and remembering names. These birds were even used as spies and messengers during olden times due to their sharp memories.
They are able to exert tremendous biting pressure and have strong tongues, which they use to manipulate seeds or position nuts in their bills. Most parrots can climb tree canopies when they are not flying. They use their bills for gripping the branches or other supports with their beaks. They frequently walk with a rolling gait on the ground.