How Much Do You Really Know About Pet Birds?

How Much Do You Really Know About Pet Birds?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Feathered factoid: Birds are ranked as the fourth most beloved pets in America, following dogs, cats, and fish.

In the United States alone, there are approximately 14 million birds being kept in homes, a significant number of which are parrots.

This comes as no surprise considering the irresistible allure of these enchanting creatures — their vibrant plumage, impressive acrobatics, and endearingly silly behavior.

Living with pet parrots can be a fascinating experience, although it comes with unique demands. Unlike those who prefer cuddly mammals as companions, parrots can pose unforeseen difficulties.

These intelligent and sociable birds, known for their long lifespans, require excessive attention and mental stimulation.

Neglecting their needs can lead to unfavorable consequences such as developing bad habits or experiencing boredom and stress, resulting in self-destructive feather plucking.


The global market for exotic parrots is a thriving industry, leading to a significant decline in their population in the wild, despite some parrots being bred domestically.

Fortunately, the United States has witnessed a decrease in the issue of trafficking wild birds since the implementation of the 1992 Wild Bird Conservation Act and CITES regulations restricting the importation of exotic species.

So please delve into the realm of feathered friends with these intriguing feathered factoids.

Certain Parrots Create Tools to Obtain Calcium Boosters

The extraordinary intellect of the renowned African grey parrot named Alex was widely acknowledged, comparing it to that of a 5-year-old human.

However, the psittacine community can now boast another impressive achievement: their ability to use tools. Examination conducted by scholars at the University of York and the University of St. Andrews revealed that captive greater vasa parrots (Coracopsis vasa) showcased remarkable skills in grinding cockle shells, employing date pits and pebbles.

Males of the vasas species consume a powdered substance and subsequently present females with a calcium-enriched treat they had previously regurgitated, as a prelude to their mating ritual.

Cherish the fact that you are handed chocolates.

Zygodactyl Characteristics of Parrot Toes

Parrots, unlike their avian counterparts, possess a distinctive foot formation tailored for exceptional grasping. Typically, birds have three toes positioned in front and one behind.

However, parrots diverge from this convention by boasting a specialized foot structure resembling two pairs of opposable thumbs: two toes in front and two behind. As a result, parrots wield unparalleled gripping abilities, enhanced by their beaks capable of effortlessly breaking the most resilient nuts known to mankind. This extraordinary combination of dexterity and power transforms parrots into formidable consumers and adept climbers.

The Cravings of Your Parrot, Including Her Taste for Lamb

Parrots, being omnivorous creatures, have a diverse palate and consume a wide range of food items such as fruits, seeds, nuts, insects, and may even indulge in meat.

Among the parrot species found in the South Pacific, the captivating lories and lorikeets with their vibrant rainbow plumage predominantly rely on nectar as their primary source of sustenance.

However, there have been recent observations of these birds deviating from their nectar-based diet and consuming meat at feeding stations located in Australia.

Since 1868, when native kea (Nestor species) were discovered causing harm to sheep in New Zealand, they faced relentless persecution and were labeled as sheep-killers. This continued until 1986, when a turning point arrived, and the kea were finally granted protection status.

The Tropical Habitat is Not Exclusive to All Parrots.

Parrots are widely distributed across various continents, mainly residing in the tropical and subtropical areas of Australia, Asia, Central and South America, and Africa.

However, a minority of parrot species defy geographic norms. For instance, keas prefer the alpine regions of New Zealand, constructing their nests in underground burrows.

Similarly, the maroon-fronted parrot, an endangered species called Rhynchopsitta terrisi, makes its home at an impressive altitude of 6,000 feet within the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains in Mexico.

Discover these entertaining tidbits about parrots that’ll leave you amazed.

The African grey parrot, a beloved companion for many, faces grave danger while residing in its natural habitat.

One out of every three parrots in the world is on the brink of extinction.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is witnessing an alarming rise in species being listed, primarily as a result of habitat destruction and continuous poaching for the pet trade.

A recent study conducted in November has shed light on the devastating impact of logging in Ghana, where 99 percent of the African grey (Psittacus erithacus) population has been wiped out.

This has posed a severe threat to the survival of this iconic parrot species in the wild.

Parrots commonly find mates that are compatible with them.

Except for about 20% of species, the appearance of male and female parrots is nearly indistinguishable across most species.

Distinguishing between a male and female bird usually requires exceptional observation skills, and often necessitates laboratory testing.

However, certain species like the Solomon Island Eclectus (Eclectus roratus) exhibit such striking contrasts that for a considerable period, they were mistakenly believed to be entirely separate bird species.

The males have a vibrant emerald hue that is exquisitely paired with beaks resembling the flicker of flames, whereas the females flaunt a stunning ensemble comprising of deep crimson and royal blue tones, complemented by ebony beaks and a captivating scarlet crown.

The Beak’s Tip: Parrots Savor Flavor

Even though parrots possess several taste glands situated at the posterior part of their throats, the majority of their approximately 300 taste buds can be found on the upper surface of their palates. It may be perceived as insignificant in comparison to humans’ 10,000 taste buds, yet parrots unmistakably exhibit specific food preferences.

The weight of the largest parrot equals that of a domestic feline.

Parrots come in a remarkable variety of forms and dimensions. Take, for instance, the petite buff-faced pygmy (Micropsitta pusio), weighing only one ounce and no larger than an adult’s finger.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the magnificent hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), holding the title for being the longest parrot worldwide, stretching an impressive 3.5 feet from its beak to its tail.

The extraordinary kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), a flightless, nocturnal bird native to New Zealand, claims victory in the weight division.

Surprisingly, a fully matured male can tip the scales at an astounding nine pounds, which happens to be equivalent to the typical weight of a grown-up domestic feline.

The longevity of your pet parrot might surpass your own existence.

Parrots possess lifespans comparable to humans, a fact often underestimated by individuals contemplating parrot ownership.

The longevity of larger parrot species like macaws and cockatoos spans from 35 to 50 years, surprising many. Contrarily, Tarbu, an African grey parrot located in England, defied expectations by thriving until the remarkable age of 55.

Presently, the title of the oldest living parrot was held by Cookie, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo inhabiting the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago who passed on 8/27/2016 (Hatched 6/30/1933) at the age of 83.

Antibacterial Properties are Found in Parrot Feathers

Parrots possess a unique method of safeguarding their stunning feathers against harm: the production of Psittacofulvins, a pigment resistant to bacteria.

This pigment, exclusive to parrots, endows their feathers with vibrant red, yellow, and green hues.

Conclusive evidence of this defense mechanism was garnered in a scientific inquiry published in Biology Letters in 2011.

The study revealed that various colored feathers were subjected to a destructive bacterial strain, yet the presence of these pigments effectively shielded the magnificent plumage from deterioration.

Migration Among Parrots

While the majority of species typically establish a specific territory for the entirety of the year, the swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) and the orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) exhibit a unique behavior of annual migration across the Bass Strait, spanning between Australia and Tasmania.

These two species, classified as critically endangered, embark on this daring journey.

With an astounding breadth of knowledge, the world record holder possessed a mastery of over 1,700 words.

Parrots often boast their loquacious nature, yet Puck, an optimistic blue parakeet, achieved a spot in the 1995 Guinness Book of World Records due to his extraordinary knowledge of 1,728 words.

Alongside their ability to speak, Amazon parrots are famed for their melodic talents.

For instance, Groucho captivated television viewers in 2010 as he crooned a delightful rendition of the popular song How Much is that Doggie in the Window.

The Parrot’s Equivalent to the Endangered Panda: The Enigmatic Black Palm

The enigmatic black palm cockatoo, found in the lush rainforests of the South Pacific, poses immense challenges when it comes to captive breeding and rearing.

In fact, even in their natural habitat, these majestic birds struggle to rear their precious chicks, often succumbing to mortality by the time they reach one year old.

The factors behind their mysterious reproductive woes remain elusive, but a potential connection may lie in their skin’s sensitivity to sunlight’s gentle touch.

A Tracker Resistant to Parrots is Imminent

Wild parrot behavior remains largely a mystery due to the difficulties associated with observing and tracking these elusive birds in their canopy habitats.

Furthermore, the lack of GPS-tracking studies can be attributed to the parrots’ exceptional skill in removing any foreign objects attached to their bodies. However, an extensive study published in The Auk in 2015 offers a promising solution for scientists aiming to improve their tracking methods for these enigmatic creatures.

Without any harm to the keas, the researchers successfully monitored their movements in New Zealand by safeguarding GPS trackers within a durable plastic casing, ensuring their resilience against bites.

Written and Approved by the Windy City Parrot Content Team.

Mitch Rezman

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