A bird owner's guide to the parrot

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Native to warm and tropical regions across the planet, parrots are a diverse bird species with a high level of intelligence. Their sharply curved beaks and colorful feathering are among their most readily identifiable physical characteristics. African grey parrots are particularly smart, displaying the ability not only to mimic human speech, but also to build vocabularies of several hundred words. Other popular variants include conure parrots and eclectus parrots.

Origins and Natural Habitat

Given the incompleteness of parrot fossil records, the origin of the species is a matter of conjecture and debate. The species appears to have originated in Australasia, and there's evidence to suggest their evolutionary ancestors were present on Earth as far back as the time of the dinosaurs.

Appearance and Characteristics

Size: Parrots display the most variation in body size of any species of bird. Hyacinth macaw parrots grow as large as 3.3 feet in length, while other parrot species are as small as 3 inches. Quaker parrots grow to an average of 11 inches. Senegal parrots are usually about 9 inches from beak to tail, and Amazon parrots range from small (spectacled Amazon parrots) to medium (yellow-headed and mealy Amazon parrots) in size.

Plumage: The color of parrots encompasses a complete range of hues, from blue and green to the vibrant red and orange seen in more exotic breeds. Scientists have recently isolated a unique pigmentation in the parrot species that's found nowhere else in nature, which contributes directly to parrots' brilliant, rich colors.

Song/Chirp: All parrot species display a distinctive, short whistle and squawk. Their voices are scratchy and high-pitched.


Most parrot species that are kept as pets have the ability to mimic human speech, though it's a skill that must be conscientiously taught through practice. Even domesticated parrots often behave aggressively towards other birds, so it's not a good idea for a parrot to share a cage with another pet. During the springtime mating season, males can become unruly and unpredictable, so it's a good idea to train the bird to perch on your hand or arm, rather than on your shoulder, to prevent accidental injury.

Health and Care

Feeding: In the wild, all parrot species eat seeds, insects, pollen, nectar and fruit. The nutrients they receive from these food sources must be replicated in the enriched bird food they're fed, or they'll be at risk of developing malnutrition-based illnesses. Your local pet store will have healthy supplies of parrot food for sale.

Grooming: Fresh bath water is essential, and nail trimming should take place regularly. Nail length can be moderated by providing your pet parrot with a sandy or concrete perch. Their sharp beaks must also be trimmed when they get too long, but this isn't a task you should perform yourself since vital blood vessels are located close to the beak. Take your bird to an avian vet when beak trimming becomes necessary.

Health Concerns: If you have cats as well as birds, bear in mind that felines carry Pasteurella bacteria, which can be deadly for your parrot. This bacteria is spread when your cat comes in direct contact with your bird or its water or food sources. Take your parrot to the vet immediately if direct cat-bird contact takes place; otherwise, your bird could die. Chocolate, coffee, avocado and salt are also highly toxic to parrots, so be sure your bird doesn't come into contact with these food items.

Life Expectancy: Large birds tend to live longer. Most domesticated parrots reach an age of at least 30 to 50 years, though the oldest pet parrot on record survived to be 80 years old.

Posted by Taylor M on April 07,2013 at 11:50 AM
how do i make dispensing toys for my parakeet?
Posted by Varinia on November 07,2010 at 11:22 PM
I found a double yellow headed amazon that no one reported lost. It is afraid of people and doesn't want to be touched. It screams when we leave the room. I would love to train it not to be afraid of me and to let me touch it. Do you have any suggestions, any help would be great. Thank you
Posted by Linda on November 09,2010 at 04:55 PM
Hi The bird will naturally be stnd offish to strangers. Try the "step up" command to start. Plaes run ads to find the desperate owners, call the humane society to see if they have a missing parrot report. Good luck.
Posted by david boyles on April 25,2010 at 08:47 PM
as afreind can i be welcome to place a order with you;ll on your bird toys .or do you have a catalog with shipping charges .thank you david boyles at 603 west lake ave dequeen ark 71832
Posted by hilda Campos on February 12,2010 at 07:08 PM
I just got a bird i heard it was a concure (i don't know) all green with a red beek any info on good bird vet and care..?
Posted by lora on January 14,2010 at 03:34 PM
do you have a garypaiort
Posted by judy on December 03,2009 at 02:23 AM
i was wondering if there is any help for a disabeled and low income person for my double yellow headed amazon parrot so i dont have to try to find it a home because it is very hard to pay for food and bullet proof toys and his trimmings because it would hurt me and my 4 kids and the parrot! any help would be great!
Posted by LINDA DAMES on December 28,2009 at 10:08 PM
Do you still have the bird? Where do you live? Dos the bird bite, behaves, noisy? How old is the bird? Thanks
Posted by cynithia Harris on October 21,2009 at 11:59 PM
very helpful information can you send me more information I have a ten year old female quaker parrot and I am trying to teach it to talk and go potty
Posted by Mona on December 28,2010 at 08:55 AM
I have a male Quaker since he was 10 wks. old. He is six yrs. old. I found that if you say things to him constantly and repeatedly he picks up all the words. He can call the dog,kitty kitty, time to go night night,Oh Baby,give me that beautiful belly and so on. I have been trying to find a female Quaker for Rocky,but with no luck.I also have 2 lutino Lovebirds,they have had 4 clutches of babies. Just have one on one time about 15 mins. at a time and concentrate on two words at a time, she will start to talk Thank You for listening. Mona
Posted by Bunnydrawers on September 14,2009 at 01:04 PM
Hello anyone know where to get reasonably price bird toys? I live in Toronto Canada and we have very little choice and very high prices!! I have been searching for quite awhile now and everyone is located in the U.S.A. Any ideas? I own 4 birds and could really use some new ones. Thanks for reading.
Posted by Jacky O on July 08,2010 at 12:21 PM
I also go to yard sales and flea markets for baby toys but I also go to bird fairs in my area and buy wooden blocks to make my own toys. You can buy sisel rope at your local hardware store for just a few dollars and string the blocks(and baby toys). Try for inexpensive toys and supplies. They will ship to you. Hope this helps.
Posted by Brenda Pietrzak on March 20,2010 at 03:18 PM
Hi! I have an Umbrella Cockatto who is 15 years old, brought her home at 4 mos. And I have rescue cats and dogs, however, I want to say to those asking about toys, I buy her toys at garage sales. Wooden building blocks, necklaces, baby teething rings, barbie dolls, any plastic toy figure with arms and legs.. The key plastic coloured key rings you pay $8.00 for in a pet store, I pay 50cents or less. And there are always baby toys at garage sales. Because they like to chew and shred! LOL! Hope this helps out. Oh, and take an old tee shirt or towel, and tear it into strips, and then tie knots on the cage, they love it!
Posted by saraa on August 31,2009 at 12:26 PM
Hi.. well i just have a question about the beak trimming my senegal parrot has alot of toys so when he uses that does that help the beak become healthy and does it prevent the soloution of going to the vet and trimming it?
Posted by morgyn on August 26,2009 at 03:04 PM
it wont change her unless its traumatic
Posted by kirk faber on August 07,2009 at 04:09 AM
I have a female Senegal (Bella) that is 8 years old. She has never layed a egg in that time. We are thinking about breeding her. We have raised a few parrots so we are not novices but what I'm wondering is if she does lay some eggs will it affect her personality. She is a great friend to my wife and I and if this is going to change Bella we will forget about it.
Posted by Erin on December 01,2009 at 11:33 PM
I would say that is is unlikely that your companion bird will except another bird in her territory. I would also say it is even more unlikely that she would be willing to breed with another bird. Most birds that are used for breeding are parent raised and not well socialized with humans.
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