How much do you know about parrots?

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By jwblackwell



9 Questions

What is the order that parrots belong to?

What is the most common reason for the decline in wild parrot populations?

What is the most intelligent bird along with parrots?

What is the diet of most parrots?

What is the primary reason for the establishment of feral parrot populations?

What is the significance of World Parrot Day?

What is the main threat to parrots?

What is the name of the hero in Polynesian legend who undertook a dangerous voyage to obtain red parrot feathers?

What is the name of the act that made importation of wild-caught parrots into the US and Europe illegal?


Parrots: Characteristics, Diet, Habitat, and Taxonomy

  • Parrots are birds found mostly in tropical and subtropical regions, with 398 species in 92 genera comprising the order Psittaciformes, subdivided into three superfamilies: Psittacoidea ("true" parrots), Cacatuoidea (cockatoos), and Strigopoidea (New Zealand parrots).

  • Parrots have a generally pantropical distribution with the greatest diversity in South America and Australasia. One-third of all parrot species are threatened by extinction, with higher aggregate extinction risk than any other comparable bird group.

  • Characteristic features of parrots include a strong, curved bill, an upright stance, strong legs, and clawed zygodactyl feet. They are vividly coloured, with little or no sexual dimorphism in the visual spectrum. They are the most variably sized bird order in terms of length.

  • Most parrots' diets consist of seeds, nuts, fruit, buds, and other plant material, with a few species sometimes eating animals and carrion. Almost all parrots nest in tree hollows and lay white eggs from which hatch altricial young.

  • Parrots are among the most intelligent birds, with the ability of some species to imitate human speech enhancing 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.

  • Parrots are the only creatures that display true tripedalism, using their necks and beaks as limbs with propulsive forces equal to or greater than those forces generated by the forelimbs of primates when climbing vertical surfaces.

  • The order Psittaciformes may have evolved in Gondwana, centred in Australasia, approximately 59 million years ago. The three major clades of Neotropical parrots originated about 50 million years ago.

  • 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.

  • Parrots are found on all tropical and subtropical continents and regions, including Australia and Oceania, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, and Africa. Some Caribbean and Pacific islands are home to endemic species.

  • 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 swift parrots.

  • 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.

  • The order Psittaciformes consists of roughly 393 species belonging to 92 genera, divided into three main lineages: Strigopoidea, Psittacoidea, and Cacatuoidea. The Psittacoidea parrots are far more variable, ranging the full spectrum of sizes shown by the family.

  • Parrots have a strong tongue (containing similar touch receptors to thoseParrots: Diet, Breeding, Intelligence, Sound and Relationship with Humans

  • Parrots have a varied diet that includes seeds, fruit, nectar, pollen, buds, and sometimes arthropods and other animal prey. They are granivores and carefully remove seed coats and other chemically defended fruit parts prior to ingestion.

  • Geographical range and body size predominantly explain diet composition of Neotropical parrots rather than phylogeny. Lories, lorikeets, hanging parrots, and swift parrots are primarily nectar and pollen consumers, and have tongues with brush tips to collect it, as well as some specialised gut adaptations.

  • Parrots are monogamous breeders who nest in cavities and hold no territories other than their nesting sites. Pair bond formation is preceded by courtship displays. Both parents participate in the nest excavation and incubation varies from 17 to 35 days, depending on the species.

  • Parrots are considered the most intelligent of birds, along with crows, ravens, and jays. They have shown an ability to associate words with their meanings and form simple sentences, and some species are highly skilled at using tools and solving puzzles.

  • Learning in early life is important to all parrots and much of that learning is social learning. Foraging behaviour is generally learnt from parents and play forms a large part of learning in parrots. An absence of stimuli can delay the development of young birds and captive birds in zoo collections or pets can develop stereotyped and harmful behaviours like self-plucking.

  • Many parrots can imitate human speech or other sounds. Grey parrots are known for their superior ability to imitate sounds and human speech. Parrots are unusual among birds due to their learned vocalizations, a trait they share with only hummingbirds and songbirds.

  • Parrots may not make good pets for most people because of their natural wild instincts such as screaming and chewing. 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. Parrots invariably require an enormous amount of attention, care, and intellectual stimulation to thrive, akin to that required by a three-year-old child.Parrots: Trade, Culture, Mythology, Feral Populations, Threats and Conservation


  • Parrots are popular as pets, leading to a thriving illegal trade and putting some species at risk of extinction.
  • Importation of wild-caught parrots into the US and Europe is illegal after the Wild Bird Population Act was passed in 1992.
  • The EU halted the importation of all wild birds, including parrots, in 2007 with a permanent ban.
  • Mexico has a licensing system for capturing and selling native birds, with a mortality rate of over 75% for parrots before reaching a buyer.


  • Parrots have been featured in human writings, story, art, humor, religion, and music for thousands of years.
  • Parrot feathers have been used in ceremonies and for decoration.
  • Parrots are used as symbols of nations and nationalism.
  • Sayings about parrots colour the modern English language.


  • Parrots have been considered sacred in different cultures.
  • In Polynesian legend, the hero Laka/Aka undertook a dangerous voyage to obtain red parrot feathers.
  • Parrots are popular in Buddhist scripture and many writings about them exist.

Feral populations:

  • Escaped parrots of several species have become established in the wild outside of their natural ranges, sometimes becoming pests and threatening local ecosystems.
  • Feral parrot flocks can be formed after mass escapes of newly imported, wild-caught parrots from airports or quarantine facilities.
  • The most common years that feral parrots were released to non-native environments was from the 1890s to the 1940s, during the wild-caught parrot era.

Threats and conservation:

  • The principal threats of parrots are habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and for certain species, the wild-bird trade.
  • Several projects aimed specifically at parrot conservation have met with success.
  • As of 2009, the IUCN recognises 19 species of parrot as extinct since 1500.
  • Trade, export, and import of all wild-caught parrots is regulated and only permitted under special licensed circumstances in countries party to CITES.
  • World Parrot Day is celebrated every year on 31 May.


Do you know everything there is to know about parrots? Take this quiz to test your knowledge on the characteristics, diet, habitat, taxonomy, trade, culture, mythology, feral populations, threats, and conservation of these fascinating birds. From their strong, curved bills to their ability to mimic human speech, parrots are truly unique creatures with a rich history in human culture and mythology. See if you're an expert on these colorful birds with this quiz.

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