When you have a parrot as a pet, they can be fun but demanding. Parrots have long lifespans, are intelligent, need a lot of attention and interaction. They can have silly personalities and are highly social, but can become bored, stressed, or pick up bad habits if left unattended.
A parrot is classified in the class of Aves, order Psittaciformes, and of the family Psittacidae. There are more than 350 different species of parrots, including Parakeets, Macaws, Cockatiels, and Cockatoos, just to name a few.
For a bird to be classified as a parrot, it has to have a curved beak. A parrot also has to have zygodactyl feet, meaning the feet have four toes – two facing backward and two facing forward. Parrots have the ability to manipulate items with their feet.
Parrots vary in size from small, 5-inch lovebirds, to 40-inch macaws. The species vary by color, and some species have varieties of colors while some may only have one or two. In some species, the female and male look entirely different.
Parrots have some unique traits and interesting facts which is why they can be so fun as companions. Here are some:
- They have long lifespans: Parrots live considerably longer than many other types of pets. Lovebirds and Budgies aren’t considered to be senior until they’re six years old. A Cockatiel isn’t a senior until it’s twelve years old. Larger birds, like Macaws, African Greys, and Cockatoos aren’t considered a senior until they reach thirty years of age. Quite a few parrots have a lifespan close to a human’s, so having a parrot as a pet is indeed a life-long commitment.
- They mate for life: Most parrots will only mate with one partner for their whole life. The male parrot courts a female parrot by singing songs and dancing. Then this pair will work together to raise any young. There are usually around five eggs which the female incubates for about a month. Once they hatch, the mother feeds the young and the father supplies the meal. A female bird can lay an egg whether a male is present or not. But, because they’re not fertilized, they won’t hatch.
- Their feathers serve a purpose: Their brilliant plumage isn’t only for looks. The bright feathers are also a different defense against damage. A bacteria-resistant pigment that parrots produce, called Psittacofulvins, is what gives the feathers their yellow, green and red colors.
- They can make their feathers water-resistant: There is a two-lobed gland near the upper side of their tails (in most parrots, except Amazons and some Macaws) called a uropygial gland, also known as the preen gland. The gland produces a secretion that a parrot uses in grooming. It produces vitamin D3 when reacting with sunlight or a full spectrum light and the parrot ingests it while grooming. By rubbing oils from the preen gland onto the feathers, it can make the feathers water-resistant. This is why a bird will rub its head on the base of the tail and then rub along its feathers with its head.
- They have blind spots: A parrot has a blind spot directly in front of their beaks. However, with their eyes placed laterally, it gives them a larger field of vision. They can focus one eye on a particular object, which is called monocular vision. Plus, parrots can contract their pupils automatically, which is called eye pinning. Rapid eye pinning usually denotes excitement, and the eye pinning can give an indication of a parrot’s mood.
- They use their beaks for more than eating: Parrots are adept when putting their beaks to use. They use them to hold things, climb, eat, or manipulate things. A parrot’s beak grows continuously and must be trimmed. These beaks can crack the toughest of nuts and your finger if you’re not careful. Plus, parrots have about 300 taste buds, found on the roofs of their mouths. Some species of parrots have some taste glands at the backs of their throats.
- Some of them talk, some don’t: Vocal abilities vary between the parrot species, some can learn to speak human language and other species only talk among themselves. All birds are individuals, however, and just because the parrot can talk, doesn’t mean it will. Interestingly, if a captive parrot who talks is released back into the wild into a flock, the rest of the flock will pick up some of the phrases from the parrot who was captive.
- They’re all very different: Parrots come in an impressive variety of sizes and shapes. The Buff-faced Pygmy is tiny, weighs only an ounce and is the size of an adult finger. The Hyacinth Macaw, with its brilliant plumage, can grow three and a half feet from tip to tail and is the world’s longest parrot. But the nocturnal Kakapo from New Zealand can weigh up to nine pounds when fully grown. For comparison, that’s the average weight of an adult cat.
Do you have a parrot? Tell us about them in the comments!