All about Parrots

By ACS Distance Education on August 29, 2013 in Wildlife | comments

An Extract from our ebook "Birds" by John Mason and staff of ACS Distance Education, published August 2013.


Superorder: Neognathae
Orde: Psittaciformes
Families: 1
Species: 352

Examples: Gang-gang Cockatoo, Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Crimson Rosella, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Blue-headed Parrot,

Distribution: they are widespread in every continent except for Europe. Depending on the species, they live in a variety of habitats such as forests, suburban areas, woodlands, coastal scrubs, grasslands, tree-lined rivers, mangroves, marshlands, and other tropical and subtropical regions, as well as some areas of the Southern Hemisphere. 

Anatomy: Psittaciformes have bulgy bodies, short necks and brightly coloured plumage, although some species can be almost entirely one colour; they have 2 forward facing toes, 2 hind toes and strong claws. They have a powerful hooked bill with the upper beak hinged on facial bones. Their size and weight varies among species, where the smallest weighs around 12g and grows up to 7cm (i.e. Pygmy parrots) and the largest can grow up to 1m in length and can weigh around 1kg (i.e. some macaws), with exception of the Kakapo which weighs 3kg. Tail size and shape differs among each species: lorikeets, parakeets and macaws have distinctive long pointy tails, while others such as the cockatoos are shorter and square-shaped.

Diet: mainly seeds, nuts, fruits, buds, pollen and nectar, but some can eat remains of dead animals or sometimes even insects.

Behaviour: gregarious and noisy. Mainly non-migratory, but some are partially-migratory

Breeding: monogamous. They nest in hollows (i.e. unused woodpecker holes, abandoned
termite nests, earth cliffs, fallen hollow posts or broken tree branches). Birds from this order lay approximately 10 eggs. Incubation time varies among species but normally between 20 to 30 days. Chicks are born naked. The chicks are fed by both parents. They generally have a long life span; some species can live up to 50 years in the wild and up to 80 in captivity.

Main predators: Peregrine Falcons, Whistling Kites, Goshawks (i.e. Brown and Grey Goshawks), Little Eagles, Wedge-tailed Eagles and Spotted Wood Owls; mammals such as foxes and cats; reptiles such as boa constrictors and pythons; however, depending on the location, predators might be specific to different bird species, for example, Brushtail Possums prey on Glossy Cockatoos.

Human interaction: they are mainly threatened by deforestation but are also collected as cage-birds. Galahs can be considered as pests for agriculturists.

Interesting facts: the Kakapo is the heaviest bird species in this order and the only one incapable to fly.