There are several different types of parrots, but they all share at least a few things in common, starting with their classification as members of the order called Psittaciformes. In this animal order, there are approximately 350 different kinds of birds, including cockatoos, cockatiels, macaws, and parakeets, as well as the different types of parrots.
The characteristics which all parrots have in common are their curved beaks, and their four toes, two of which point backward, while the other two point forward. Most parrots prefer the warmer climates found in the southern hemisphere, although some are also situated in South America, Central America, Mexico, and Australia.
While everyone has probably seen a few parrots up close and personal, or at least in zoos, there are probably a lot of fascinating facts about these beautiful birds that many people are unaware of, some of which are detailed below.
They Like to Destroying Things
Most parrot toys are constructed so that they can be easily ripped apart and destroyed, and in fact, any parrot toy which you purchase that can’t be destroyed by the bird will probably hold very little interest for it. Out in the wild, parrots spend just about all their time searching for and eating food, so when maintained in a captive environment, they feel the need to search for things anyway, often instinctively destroying it.
Some of them are Poor Flyers
In many places where parrots are captured for sale, it’s a common practice to clip their flight feathers at an early age, when they would naturally attempt to fly. This of course results in the parrot being unable to fly not only at that time but at any other time in its life as well. By the same token, if you cage a parrot at that critical development time, in a structure which is too small for flight, it will never be a good flyer in its lifetime.
Some do not Speak
Virtually all parrots have the innate ability to learn how to speak the human language, but not all of them care too. Some of the most adept species at speaking English is the Yellow Forehead Amazon parrot, the Jacob, and the Budgie.
They Need Regular Baths
Parrots’ general need for taking baths stems from the fact that in their native rainforests, they are usually rained on at least three or four times every week. Parrots are quite happy to take a shower or a bath along with you, and they don’t have any problem with being put in the sink and having tap water splashed over them.
Parrots Tend to Match with Their Mates
For the most part, males and females for parrot species look very much the same, so much so that it’s virtually impossible to tell them apart. One of the few notable exceptions to this rule is the Solomon Island Eclectus parrot, and the male and female of this species are so completely different, that it was thought for many years they were two completely different species.
They Have Zygodactyl Toes
Like a number of other bird species, parrots have four toes on each foot. However, in contrast to other species which have three toes forward and one behind, parrots have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward. This amounts to having two pairs of opposable thumbs, and when this capability is coupled with their powerful nut-cracking beaks, they can be extremely good climbers and very powerful eaters.
Not All Parrots are Tropical
As mentioned previously, many parrot species inhabit the southern hemisphere countries, but there are some notable exceptions to this rule. Some parrots reside in the mountainous regions of New Zealand and actually make their nests in burrows. The rare Maroon-fronted Parrot of the Sierra Madre range in Mexico makes its home in an environment 6,000 feet above sea level.
They Taste Things in an Unusual Way
Since some parrots have taste glands situated near the backs of the throat, their taste buds are correspondingly located on the upper part of their mouths, with a full complement of 300 or so taste buds. While this may seem like a pittance compared to the 10,000 taste buds in a human’s mouth, parrots are perfectly capable of differentiating between various tastes, and actually, crave certain kinds of foods.
They are very Social
Most parrots live in flocks and enjoy being surrounded by others of their species. African Grey parrots for instance, routinely live in flocks of between 20 and 30 birds. Most parrot species mate for life and raise their young together in a collaborative effort. Communication between parrots is via certain kinds of vocalizations, combined with significant tail feather shaking that carries specific meaning.
Their Feathers Have Antibacterial Pigments
The brilliant feathers that you see on parrots are not just for show, because this extraordinary plumage actually provides protection against certain kinds of bacteria that could be harmful to them.
They Like to Bite
As many pet owners have discovered already, parrots don’t have any problem with biting the hand that feeds them. In the vast majority of cases, however, parrots do not bite out of aggression but out of anxiety or fear. Biting is also one of the ways they communicate, both with each other and with human owners.