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.
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.
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.
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