Parrot Facts For Kids – Information About Different Types of Parrots
Parrots are the most popular pet birds on the planet. Here are some interesting facts for kids on the different types of parrots, what they eat, their habitat, behaviour and other characteristics.
By Dr Shyam Kumar
Parrot information for children
Parrots are very social birds known for their association with human beings throughout history. They are especially loved for their ability to mimic human speech and are favoured as pet birds.
They are also the most colourful, clever and charismatic birds on the planet. In fact, a 2019 research study done by a team of Harvard researchers demonstrated the cognitive skills of an African Grey parrot to be comparable to a five-year-old child.
This article would not only tell you a few interesting facts about parrots but also enlighten you about their physical features, eating habits, habitat and lifespan.
- The scientific name of parrots is Psittaciformes and they are members of the Psittacidae family.
- Parrots, also known as psittacines, are a very diverse group of birds with approximately 390 known species.
Different types of parrots
Parrots can be differentiated based on their size. They vary in length, with the smallest being 4.5 inches tall (lovebirds) and the largest ones 39 inches (macaws). On a comparison chart, parrots can be classified as small, medium and large, or extra-large.
Some examples of the various parrot species are given below:
- Small parrots – Lovebirds, budgerigars, parakeets, parrotlets, scarlet-chested or splendid parrots
- Medium-sized parrots – Cockatiels, small cockatoos, caiques, conures, lories and lorikeets, monk parakeet, pionus parrots, poicephalus parrots, Amazon parrots, Cape parrots, Eclectus parrots, Alexandrine parrots, small macaws (Hahn’s macaw), African Grey parrots and red fan parrot
- Large parrots – Black palm cockatoo, macaws (hyacinth, scarlet, Harlequin, Catalina), keas and kakapos
Before moving on to detailed information about the different types of parrots in India, Australia, America, Africa and New Zealand, let us explore the physical characteristics, habitat and eating habits of parrots.
Parrot: Physical features
Although the various species of parrots differ in colouration, they share similarities such as curved beaks and zygodactylous feet (four toes on each foot, two pointing forward and two facing backward).
Eyes: Parrots’ eyes are placed on both sides of the head. This lateral placement gives them a larger field of vision but creates a blind spot in front of their beak.
Also, parrots can voluntarily contract and dilate their pupils. This behavior is termed ‘eye pinning’ and is visible when the birds get agitated or excited.
Parrots also have monocular vision which means they can focus with one eye at a time.
Ears: Parrots’ ears are placed below and slightly behind each eye. It is difficult to visualise the external ears as they are covered with feathers. The ears appear as small round holes.
Beak: The upper portion of the beak is curved; because of this, parrots are also referred to as ‘hookbills’.
Parrots have very strong beaks with which they can crush hard seeds and nuts, and cut open fruits with thick skin. They also use them to burrow holes in trees and soft rocks for nesting, to preen their feathers and climb up branches.
The beak is made up of keratin which is the same material our fingernails are made of. It grows at a rate of 1 to 3 mm per month; therefore, parrots need to rub their beak on hard surfaces to keep it in shape.
Parrots have an excellent sense of touch with their beaks as the area has good blood supply and a network of nerve endings.
Nose: The nostrils are located on the cere, which is the soft thick portion at the base of the upper beak. However, birds, in general, have an underdeveloped sense of smell.
Tongue: Their tongues are thick and broad with which they can manipulate seeds or nuts into position to crack them. They also assist in eating fruits, nectar and pollen. It should be noted here that parrots taste with the roofs of their mouths as their tongue lacks taste buds.
The parrot's tongue is generally grey or pink in colour and consists of a series of bones in it unlike that of humans.
Some parrots like lories and lorikeets have a brush-tipped tongue with which they feed on nectar.
Feet: Parrots have highly dexterous feet with which they can climb and hold objects.
Parrots' toes are zygodactyl which means each foot has four toes with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward. It is this arrangement of the toes that makes parrots excellent climbers and good at grasping objects with their feet.
Plumage: Parrots have three types of feathers – flight feathers, body feathers, and the down feathers.
The flight feathers (contour) are situated on the wing's edges and the tail. They are long, strong and flexible.
The body feathers (covert) are responsible for giving parrots their beautiful colour and shape. They overlap each other in layers and protect the body from rain, weather and injury.
The down feathers form the innermost layer. These are soft and fluffy, and help keep the body warm.
Parrots' habitat and distribution
Parrots live in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world and are primarily distributed across the southern hemisphere. A great number of parrot species can be found in Australia and South America. Many other species of parrots live in Africa, India and South East Asia.
They are found in a wide variety of habitats which include woodlands, palm forests, rain-forests and grasslands. Some parrot species can also be found inhabiting farmlands, gardens and parks.
Parrots nest in tree cavities which they dig out with their claws and beaks. They also occupy holes in rocky surfaces or old buildings and deserted nests of other birds.
Parrots' food: What do parrots eat?
Parrots are omnivores. They love to eat fruits, vegetables, flowers, seeds, nuts and, occasionally, insects. They use their incredibly strong beaks to crush the nutshells open and eat the seeds inside. In the wild, they spend an incredible amount of time foraging for food.
Parrots' sound: How do parrots talk?
Parrots learn to talk by imitating human speech or other sounds. They produce sounds from their vocal cords which are located at the lower end of the windpipe. Although parrots do not have lips to vocalise words, they have independent control over their voice membranes which allows them to create a wide variety of sounds.
Parrots are termed ‘vocal learners’ and they are better imitators than other bird species. An international team of scientists led by Duke University researchers attribute this mimicking ability to key structural differences in their brains. This is documented in a 2015 research study by Chakraborty et al titled, ‘Core and Shell Song Systems Unique to the Parrot Brain’, published in the PLoS ONE journal.
Different types of parrots in the world
1. Types of parrots in India
Here are some facts about the three common types of parrots in India.
A. Indian ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameria manillensis)
- The Indian ringneck parakeet is a sub-species of the rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri). It is also known as Indian ring-neck parrot.
- It is commonly found in parts of Southern India and Sri Lanka. These birds congregate in large flocks and are found in the wild as well as urban areas.
- The length of this species varies between 14 and 17 inches and its wings are 6 to 7 inches long. The bird weighs between 120 and 140g.
- The plumage of the Indian ring-necked parakeet is apple green in colour. The mature male has a black neck ring and pink nape band which is absent in the female. Also, it has a long tail and an orangish upper beak.
- Lifespan: Up to 30 years
B. Alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria)
- The Alexandrine parakeet is named after Alexander the Great who is said to have exported these birds from their native habitat in India and Southeast Asia to the Mediterranean region and Europe. These birds were a prized possession of the royal class.
- The Alexandrine parrot is also known as Alexandrine ring-necked parrot, great-billed parakeet, and large parakeet. It is native to India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.
- It is a medium size species, with length ranging from 22 to 25 inches and a wingspan between 7 and 9.5 inches. It weighs around 250g.
- The plumage of Alexandrine parakeet is generally green in colour with a shade of maroon or reddish brown on the wings and yellowish green colour on the belly. It has a long tail like that of the Indian ring-necked parakeet.
- The adult male can be differentiated from the female by its pitch-black neck ring and rose-coloured band on the nape.
- Lifespan: Up to 40 years
C. Plum headed parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala)
- The plum-headed parakeet or plum-headed parrot is native to the Indian subcontinent. It inhabits the woodlands and forested areas in the northeast and the Himalayas.
- It is a medium-sized beauty with a strikingly coloured plumage. The adult plum-headed parakeet measures around 12 inches in length and weighs between 65g and 70g.
- Males have a plum-coloured head with a black outline whereas the females have a grey-blue coloured head without the black stripe. The body is predominantly green in both sexes. The upper bill is yellow in colour.
- Lifespan: Between 16 and 20 years.
2. African gray parrot (Psittacus erithacus)
- The African gray parrot is much sought after as a pet bird due to its exceptional intelligence. It is considered the most talented talking parrot in the world. Its ability to mimic human speech and other common sounds is unmatched.
- This native African parrot is commonly found in the savannahs, coastal mangroves, and woodlands of Central and West Africa. It is also referred to as the Congo African gray or the Congo gray parrot.
- The African gray is a medium-sized parrot with gray-coloured feathers, a shiny black beak and a bright red tail.
- The adult African gray parrot measures about 13 inches in length and weighs around 400g. It has a wingspan ranging from 18 to 20 inches.
- Lifespan: 40 to 60 years.
3. Australian parrots
Australia is also known as the 'Land of Parrots'. Around 56 species of parrots are distributed across the Australian continent. These include cockatoos, cockatiels, budgerigars, rosellas, lorikeets and ringnecks. Here are some facts on the popular parrots found in Australia:
A. Cockatiel parrot (Nymphicus hollandicus)
- The cockatiel parrot is the smallest member of the cockatoo family. It is referred to as weiro or quarrion in native terms. It is the most popular pet bird in most households due to its gentle and docile nature.
- The adult cockatiel parrot measures between 12 and 13 inches and weighs between 3 and 4 ounces.
- The cockatiel is a small parrot with a head crest, a pointed tail and a variety of colour patterns.
- Lifespan: Between 15 and 20 years.
B. Cockatoo parrot
- The various types of cockatoos found around Australia are red-tailed black cockatoo, sulphur-crested cockatoo, glossy-black cockatoo, yellow-tailed black cockatoo and Major Mitchell’s cockatoo.
- An adult cockatoo bird can measure between 12 and 26 inches in length and weigh between 280 and 830g, depending on the species it belongs to.
- Cockatoos are generally white, black or grey in colour. It is difficult to differentiate between the sexes as the plumage is similar in both males and females. The cockatoo has a distinctive head crest which it raises to make itself look bigger and impressive.
- Lifespan: Between 30 and 70 years based on the species.
C. Budgerigar or budgie (Melopsittacus undulates)
- The budgerigar is a small green and yellow-coloured parakeet that is native to inland Australia. It is quite popular, with people wanting to own a talking parrot which is also easy to take care of. As a result, it is one of the most preferred pets in the world.
- In the wild, the budgerigar lives in small flocks and displays nomadic behaviour based on environmental conditions and availability of food and water.
- The adult budgie measures between 7 and 8 inches in length and has a wingspan of 12 inches. It weighs around 30 to 40g.
- Lifespan: Between 5 and 10 years in captivity.
D. Eclectus parrot (Eclectus roratus)
- The native habitat of the Eclectus parrot is in the tropical forests of Solomon Islands, Maluku Islands, northeastern Australia and Indonesia.
- The length of the adult Eclectus parrot varies between 17 and 20 inches and it weighs between 370 and 510g.
- The Eclectus parrot is sexually dimorphic which means, the male and female can be differentiated by looking at the feather coloration. While the male is a brilliant emerald green in colour with a bright orange beak, the female is bright red in colour and has a black beak. It has a big head and a rather short tail.
- Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
4. South American parrots
The South American parrots include the Eclectus parrots, Amazon parrots, the conures and the macaws.
A. Types of conures
Conures are loud and noisy birds that are native to Central and South America. They are mostly yellow, green or orange in colour with a grey or black-coloured bill.
Here are the two common types of conures found in South America.
a) Green cheek conure (Pyrrhura molinae)
- The green cheek conure is a long-tailed small parakeet with a brownish head and green cheeks with a maroon patch on the belly. It is found in the forested areas of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay.
- The adult green-cheeked parakeet measures around 10 inches in length and weighs about 56 to 85g.
- It is very popular as a pet bird due to its small size, beauty and gregarious nature.
- Lifespan: Up to 20 years.
b) Sun conure (Aratinga solstitialis)
- The sun conure or sun parakeet is a vividly coloured bird native to Northern Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.
- Young sun conures are primarily green in colour but take on an orange colour as they mature. It has white rings around its eyes, a black beak and a long tail.
- The adult sun conure measures approximately 12 inches in length and weighs between 100 and 120g.
- The sun conure makes a great companion bird as it can learn to talk easily and mimic a variety of sounds.
- Life expectancy: Between 15 to 25 years.
B. Macaw parrot (Ara macao)
- South America is home to many different types of macaw parrots. These beautiful and large birds are referred to as giants of the parrot world.
- The common types of macaw parrots found in the jungles of Central and South America are blue and yellow macaw, hyacinth macaw, scarlet macaw and Hahn’s macaw.
- The macaw parrot has a large beak, white facial patches, long tails and brightly-coloured feathers. In the wild, it feeds on fruits, palm nuts, leaves, flowers, seeds and nectar.
- An adult macaw can measure nearly 40 inches in length from the tip of the beak to the end of the tail feathers. Based on the species, the adult macaw can weigh between 150g (Hahn’s macaw) and 1.7kg (hyacinth macaw).
- Many species of macaws are endangered in the wild due to deforestation and trapping for pet trade. The Spix macaw or blue macaw has become extinct in the wild.
- Lifespan: Between 30 and 60 years.
C. Amazon parrot (Amazona)
- The Amazon parrot inhabits the tropical forests of the West Indies and Mexico to northern South America. There are about 31 odd species in the Amazon parrot family.
- The adult Amazon parrot is a medium to large-sized bird that measures 10 to 16 inches in length.
- The male and the female look similar. The plumage is predominantly green in colour but marked with other bright colours. The crown feathers are slightly erectile, and the tail is short and squared.
- Lifespan: Up to 50 years.
5. New Zealand parrots
New Zealand is home to several endemic parrot species which include kakapos, keas, red-crowned parakeets, yellow-crowned parakeets, New Zealand kakas and more. Here are some facts about the kakapo and the kea:
A. Kakapo parrot or owl parrot (Strigops habroptilus)
- The kakapo is a large flightless and nocturnal parrot which is endemic to New Zealand. It is also referred to as owl parrot and is the only true nocturnal species of parrot. Kakapo in the native Maori language means ‘night parrot.’
- The plumage of the New Zealand kakapo parrot is yellow-green in colour with a finely blotched appearance and whiskers on the face. The beak is large and pale blue in colour.
- The adult kakapo bird measures up to 24 inches in length and weighs between 2 and 4kg. It has small wings and a short tail.
- The kakapo is a heavy bird and is the only flightless parrot in the world. It is classified as critically endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- Lifespan: Between 45 and 60 years
B. Kea (Nestor notabilis)
- The New Zealand kea is a mountain parrot which nests in rocky crevices and holes in high elevation alpine areas. It is a highly intelligent and social bird, and is very popular due to its clownish activities. The kea is naturally curious about its surroundings and is known to damage car accessories and ski equipment.
- The plumage of the kea parrot is olive green in colour with a darker olive green on the head. The tail has a line of black feathers. It has a dark gray beak which is long and curved.
- The adult kea bird measures about 18.9 inches in length and weighs between 0.8 and 1kg. The male is slightly larger than the female.
- Lifespan: Around 15 years in captivity.
Some common health issues seen in parrots
- Feather picking and neurotic behaviour
- Nutritional deficiency
- Bacterial infections (pneumonia)
- Aspergillosis (fungal disease)
If you found this article about parrots to be interesting and informative, why not share it with your family and friends? Children will surely love to read tthis interesting information about parrots found in different parts of the world.
Also leave us a comment about your experiences in case you have a pet parrot in your family.
About the author:
Written by Dr Shyam Kumar on 31 January 2020
The author holds a degree in Homoeopathy with an MBA in Hospital Management and has worked across multiple disciplines including healthcare and technology. As a nature lover, he attended the world's first underwater CEO's conference to combat marine pollution.
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