Friday, March 15, 2013

What Makes a Parrot a Parrot?

When I say the word parrot, I'm sure most people are thinking large macaws and cockatoos. Yes, those types of birds are parrots, but there are small parrots too. You might be surprised to know that birds like parakeets and cockatiels are also parrots. Parrots range in size from very small to very large. So what exactly makes a parrot a parrot?


A bird that belongs to the Psittacine order is considered a parrot. Psittacine is pronounced "sit-a-seen". An easy way to remember which birds belong to this family are the ones with "hookbills", which is another common name for them. Their beaks are shaped like a hook. Birds like canaries and finches have straight beaks and are not considered parrots.

Besides their beaks, psittacines have different toes. They are called Zygodactyl toes. This means that the have two toes pointing forward, and two toes that point backwards. Birds like chickens have 3 toes that point forward and one that points backwards.

Zygodactyl toes on a Goffin's Cockatoo.
Photo via Eric C Bryan

Psittacines also have extremely muscular tongues. They use their tongues to move food out of their mouth and down into their esophagus. This is important because parrots do not produce saliva and have dry tongues. This is a reason why they like to dip their food in water, causing a big water bowl mess.

Parrots are intelligent animals that are very good at communicating. Most live in large flocks in nature. In the wild, they form strong bonds with other birds in their flock. Their ability to bond with others like this is one of the reasons they are popular pets. Many parrots can even learn how to talk or mimic sounds.

Here is a list of common psittacines, most of which have several variations.

  • Rosellas
  • African Grey
  • Parakeets
  • Parrotlets
  • Conures
  • Amazons
  • Lories
  • Lorikeets
  • Lovebirds
  • Macaws
  • Cockatiel
  • Cockatoos
  • Jardine's Parrot
  • Quaker Parrot
  • Senegals
  • Caiques
  • Eclectus

So what's your favorite type of parrot? There are so many different types, it's hard for me to choose!

28 comments:

  1. Has to be said I'm not a fan of birds as pets,I'll stick to bunnies

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  2. We have macaws now in our park. They are everywhere on the outskirts of London. Noisy things but so pretty. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. Wow, that's crazy! Austin has large flocks of quaker parakeets flying around here.

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  3. I will say it at the risk of offending my Senegal and Hahns Macaw, that African Greys are my favorite. I just love their quiet intelligence.

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    1. Hehe, Greys are great. They do pack a lot of personality!

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  4. I don't like it when people keep them in cages, they should be free.. I didn't know we had Macaws Molly.. Have a wonderful Friday xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

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  5. We love Macaws very much - but we think to spend the whole life in a cage isn't fair - so we watch them on their natural environment. Even mom's nickname is: the parrot (for her non stop talking);o)

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    1. Yes, there are a lot of parrots that should probably not be kept as pets.

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  6. So interesting. We had parakeets growing up and I loved them!

    Oink oink,
    Katie and Coccolino the mini pig

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  7. Oh wow! Most names I had never heard of!
    Purrs

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  8. Hey Ann, I love birds! We have 5 hookbills...an African Gray named Sebastian, a Blue-Front Amazon named Griffin, an Albino Ringneck named Marley and 2 Superbs named Everett and Quigley!! They talk all day long, it sounds like an office full of people when they get started!! Sebastian is constantly calling for the cats and Olivia...Olivia the big fearless bird dog that she is...yeah right she is scared to death of the birds, I think mainly because they can talk and yell at her when shes bad :) Birds make wonderful (although terribly messy!) pets and can learn many, many words! Griffin sings whole songs and Sebastian has a vocabulary better than most 10 year olds!! Thanks for this great posting! Charmaine and all at Kitty Kanteen

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    1. Oh my gosh Charmaine! I never knew you had birds! You must share some pictures of them - I would love to see them all.

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  9. Hi Ann, You come up with some really interesting animal information! I've learned a lot just reading your column. Thanks. Have a good weekend!

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  10. I haven't been around many parrots and any of their relations, so it would be hard to choose which one is my favorite. But that is good information. I did not realize that a parakeet is a parrot. Makes sense. Have a great day.

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  11. I love birds, and have owned a few over the years. So pretty, yet....messy.

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  12. deer cod...R werst nite mare haz come troo...a post anda total post bout

    ......BURDS.........

    help uz...sum bodee :)

    Haza awesum seachtain OH deireadh anda happee Lá Fhéile Pádraig
    Ore:
    haza awesum week oh end anda happee st patricks day



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    1. Hehe - thanks guys, hope you have an awesome St. Patty's day too!

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  13. I agree with Loy, you have the best and most informative posts and I really do enjoy your blog, seriously!

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    1. Thank you Brian - I appreciate it! I know that not everyone has some of these pets, but I really do enjoy writing about them. Thanks for taking the time to read :)

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  14. Don't tell anyone, but mom is kind of nervous about birds. But she really loves a book called Alex & Me about a very clever and famous African Grey.

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    1. When I first started working with birds I was totally nervous! They are hard to read and their bites hurt lol. Plus, they seem so breakable. I got to be the technician for a board certified avian vet and I became the best bird handling tech at the clinic - now I love them!

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  15. Very informative piece. Gramma used to have a hook nose. Wonder if she was a parrot. Hmmm.

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    1. Lol, I thought you were saying your grandma had a hooknose for a minute... good one CK.

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  16. Mom is always learning something new. The photos of different types of parrots is nice, but we kitties wish each had been identified so we could put a name with a face in case we ever meet any. Purrs and hugs from the kitties at www.thecatonmyhead.com, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette

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  17. My favorite by far is a parakeet. We had one when our son was small & he was a beautiful singer. When someone called on the phone they always commented on his beautiful singing. Pretty Boy. He was a beautiful blue. Sure do miss him.

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    1. I also had a parakeet when I was in middle school. They are great little birds.

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  18. Who knew there were so many different types!

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  19. Very interesting. I like the really big ones that can talk!

    your pal,
    Garth

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