It’s World Parrot Day! Squawk! Let’s take a little time to appreciate these intelligent, colorful birds. Parrots, also known as psittacines, belong to the order Psittaciformes and are found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world.
What makes a parrot a parrot? The most defining and recognizable feature is a thick, hooked beak, which most species use to crack open their preferred food of nuts and seeds. They also have feet that are known as zygodactyl, meaning they are arranged in sort of an X-shape, with two toes pointing forward, and two pointing backward. This helps them hold on to tree branches, and also lets them manipulate food and other items with their claws.
Though all parrots share those characteristics, they are otherwise highly variable in size and coloration. Many are brightly colored, but those in the superfamily Strigopoidea (the New Zealand parrots) are mostly dull. Members of the superfamily Cacatuoidea (cockatoos) have prominent feathered crests on their heads. The third superfamily, Psittacoidea, contains the “true” parrots that most people are quite familiar with, including macaws, conures, lorikeets, amazons, and parakeets.
Parrots are very intelligent, and many species can imitate human speech. African Grey Parrots are particularly skilled at this and are able to learn a vocabulary of over 100 words. Parrots also show signs of problem-solving abilities, and are considered among the most intelligent bird species along with crows and ravens (of the family Corvidae).
Because of their speech abilities and their flashy colors, parrots like macaws and budgies make very popular pets. However, they can be quite demanding in captivity, and many owners are not always prepared for the difficulty of owning a parrot. Parrots are quite loud, and require a lot of attention and stimulation. They also can live for many decades, which can come as a surprise for those who are not expecting such a commitment. Still, the desirability and attractiveness of owning a parrot has led to a bustling pet trade that often involves illegal taking of birds, leading to many species facing extinction.
You can always take home a parrot without the intense responsibility in the form of one of our many figurines, including our green-cheeked amazon, our green-winged macaw, our cockatoo, our hyacinth macaw, and our green budgies. Our figures our meticulously sculpted and individually hand painted to accurately reflect the beauty of these astonishing birds.
Bernie’s Bonus Fun Fact: The heaviest parrot is the kakapo, a flightless member of the Strigopoidea superfamily that can reach up to 8.8 lbs.