Category: Birds Rearing

Parrot Biology, Natural History and Socio-ecology

“Parrot” is a term commonly used to refer to any of the more than 350 species belonging to the Psittaciformes order comprising three families:
-Psittacoidea (‘true” parrots),
-Cacatuoidea (cockatoos), and
-Strigopoidea(New Zealand parrots).
These species are found worldwide in subtropical and tropical climates, but there are species living in temperate latitudes, high altitudes (e.g., Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, New Zealand) and even sub-Antarctic islands. Parrot body size ranges from a few centimeters to more than one meter in length: from the relatively small budgies,
cockatiels and lovebirds and medium-sized conures, Amazons, and African Greys to larger cockatoos and macaws.
Parrots are well known for their perceptiveness, brilliant and spectacular plumage, strong tongues, curved beaks, and zygodactyl feet (two digits facing forward and two facing backward) that allow these birds to be formidable climbers. They demonstrate the ability and inclination to learn human language and their cognitive acumen is likened to “feathered apes”.
Some species are very long lived; there are recorded ages beyond 100 years (e.g., Amazon yellParrotsow-naped (Amazona
Parrot ranges may extend hundreds of miles and vary with cycles of fruiting and other food availability. Flocks can fly tens to hundreds of miles a day in search of food. Their overall diet generally consists of fruit, seeds, nuts, insects, bark, nectar, and other plant materials.
Typically, parrots nest in hollowed-out tree boles. As altrical species, young parrots spend three months or more dependent on their parents to feed them, followed by an extensive period of time in cohort crèches. Parrots are generally diurnal and highly social. They establish strong, monogamous pair-bonds and roost in large flocks and colonies sometimes consisting of up to thousands of other, same-species birds (e.g., burrowing parrots).
Much of their time is spent socially: allopreening (grooming each other), engaging in vocal communications and other intense exchanges and interactions, foraging, and rearing young. Diverse lines of research document how forming and maintaining relationships among “social brained” species (sensu Dunbar, 1998) is critical for survival not only in terms of predator avoidance and foraging efficiency, but for healthy emotional and psychological development and overall well-being Unsurprisingly, parrots in captivity also form deep lasting bonds. The majority spends their lives without the company of members of their species, but their social affinity often leads to strong relationships with humans and others with whom they live.