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Who’s a clever boy then?

Parrots are colourful characters of the rainforest and the companions of pirates. Here are 11 more things worth knowing about them.

1. Bird brain

The male African grey parrot is the most accomplished user of human speech in the animal world. The most famous example was Alex who learned more than 100 English words. He could also count and distinguish colours.

2. Deadly business

Sixty six of the 375 or so species of parrots are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. Three quarters of the birds taken from the wild to be sold as pets die in transit.

The ‘devastating’ illegal trade in parrots

Tony Juniper describes the scale and impact of the ‘thriving’ illegal parrot trade.

3. Parrot prints

Edward Lear, author of The Owl and the Pussycat, drew parrots while sitting in their cages in the zoo gardens at Regent’s Park. He produced and published 42 lithograph prints before he was 25.

Edward Lear's illustration of a red-capped parrot. © Trustees of NHM, London

4. Unique beak

Parrots have a hinged upper and lower beak. Unlike other birds, parrots can raise the upper part of their beaks without moving their whole heads.

5. Impressive feat

Parrots are the only birds that can lift food to their beaks using their feet.

6. Worn down

Parrots’ beaks grow continuously and are worn by eating, chewing wood or grinding the top and bottom parts together.

7. Call signs

Wild parrots use unique signature calls that identify each bird individually.

A Cornell University study found that parrots learn these calls from their parents. Each chick was given a call by its parents which it chirped back at them and continued to use.

8. Love and war

Parrots bond intensely with their owners, occasionally being violent to rivals.

Lucy the parrot 'ripped a hole in my cheek'

Jonathan Elphick explains what happened when he looked after a neighbour's parrot.

9. Two toes forward

Parrots are zygodactyls, meaning they have four toes on each foot, two pointing forward and two projecting backward.

10. Night owls

Some parrots, such as the kakapo, are nocturnal. Kakapos are also flightless and the heaviest parrots in the world.

11. Perfect partners

Many parrot species are monogamous and spend their lives with only one mate. The mates work together to raise their young.

Sources: Natural Histories, National Geographic, Live Science