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parrot

parrot, common name for members of the order Psittaciformes, comprising 315 species of colorful birds, pantropical in distribution, including the parakeets. Parrots have large heads and short necks, strong feet with two toes in front and two in back (facilitating climbing and grasping), and strong, thick bills, with the larger hooked upper mandible hinged to the bones of the head. They are arboreal, feeding on seeds and fruits—except the kea (Nestor notabilis) of New Zealand, which is a scavenger in winter. Although they belong to a different order, parrots have certain affinities to pigeons and cuckoos; like them, they feed their young by regurgitation, and they have swellings (ceres) at the base of the nostrils. Usually their voices are harsh, but the thick, fleshy tongue and special voice apparatus permit a wide range of articulations, and some species can be taught to imitate the human voice. The best mimics are the African gray parrots, Psittacus erithacus, and the Amazons, genus Amazona. In size parrots range from the 31/2-in. (8.7-cm) pygmy parrot of the South Pacific to the 40-in. (100-cm) Amazon of South America, while in build they vary from the stocky lovebirds, e.g., the masked lovebird (Agapornis personata), to the slender lories, e.g., the black-capped lory (Lorius domicella) and the cockatoo. Their plumage is brilliant, the bodies solid green, yellow, red, white, or black with contrasting red, yellow, or blue on the head, wings, and tail. The cockatoos, crested parrots native to the Australian region, may be pink, white with yellow or scarlet crests, or dark-plumaged, like the great black, or palm, cockatoo, Probosciger aterrimus. They eat insects and are also able to crack extremely hard nuts. The smaller cockateels are gray with yellow heads. The large, long-tailed macaws are found in the rain forests of Central and South America. The species are named for their gaudy colors, e.g., the scarlet (Ara macao), gold-and-blue (A. ararauna), and red-and-green macaws. In captivity adult macaws may be vicious. In the wild they travel in pairs. The small Old World parrots known as lovebirds are so named for the apparent fondness of the mates for one another. The Australasian lory and smaller lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) feed on fruits and nectar. Parrots are long-lived, and many are popular as cage birds. Care should be exercised, however, by selecting birds with known histories, since even apparently healthy birds may be carriers of infectious psittacosis, or parrot fever. Parrots are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Psittaciformes, family Psittacidae.

See study by J. M. Corshaw (1973).

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parrot

par·rot / ˈperət; ˈparət/ • n. a bird (family Psittacidae), often vividly colored, with a short down-curved hooked bill, grasping feet, and a raucous voice, found esp. in the tropics and feeding on fruits and seeds. Many are popular as cage birds, and some are able to mimic the human voice. The parrot order (Psittaciformes) also contains the cockatoos, lories, lovebirds, macaws, conures, and budgerigars. • v. (parroted , parroting ) [tr.] repeat mechanically: parroting back information.

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parrot

parrot Common name for many tropical and subtropical birds. Parrots are brightly coloured and have thick, hooked bills. They include budgerigars, macaws, lories, lorikeets, parakeets, keas, kakapos, and others. In the wild they nest in tree holes, rock cracks or on the ground. Length: 7.5–90cm (3in–3ft). Family Psittacidae.

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parrot

parrot XVI. perh. appellative use of F. †Perrot (cf. PIERROT), dim. of Pierre Peter; cf. F. pierrot sparrow, and PARAKEET.

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parrots

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parrot

parrot •gamut •imamate, marmot •animate •approximate, proximate •estimate, guesstimate, underestimate •illegitimate, legitimate •intimate •penultimate, ultimate •primate • foumart • consummate •Dermot •discarnate, incarnate •impregnate • rabbinate •coordinate, inordinate, subordinate, superordinate •infinite • laminate • effeminate •discriminate • innominate •determinate • Palatinate • pectinate •obstinate • agglutinate • designate •tribunate • importunate • Arbuthnot •bicarbonate • umbonate • fortunate •pulmonate •compassionate, passionate •affectionate •extortionate, proportionate •sultanate • companionate •principate • Rupert • episcopate •carat, carrot, claret, garret, karat, parrot •emirate • aspirate • vertebrate •levirate •duumvirate, triumvirate •pirate • quadrat • accurate • indurate •obdurate •Meerut, vizierate •priorate • curate • elaborate •deliberate • confederate •considerate, desiderate •immoderate, moderate •ephorate •imperforate, perforate •agglomerate, conglomerate •numerate •degenerate, regenerate •separate • temperate • desperate •disparate • corporate • professorate •commensurate • pastorate •inveterate •directorate, electorate, inspectorate, protectorate, rectorate •illiterate, literate, presbyterate •doctorate • Don Quixote • marquisate •concert • cushat • precipitate

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Parrots

Parrots

Biology of parrots

Species of parrots

Parrots in North America

Parrots and people

Resources

Parrots, macaws, lories, parakeets, and related birds, known collectively as psittacids, are 328 living species of birds that make up the family Psittacidae. The psittacids and the cockatoos (family Cacatuidae) are the only families in the order Psittaciformes.

Species of psittacids occur in Central and South America, Africa, Madagascar, South and Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand. The greatest richness of species occurs in Australasia and South America. No native species of the parrot family now breed in North America, although one previously abundant species, the Carolina parakeet, is recently extinct.

Parrots are arboreal birds, living in and around trees. Most species breed in forests, ranging from temperate to tropical, but other species occur in savannas and other relatively open, treed habitats.

Parrots and their allies are beautifully colored birds, and they are also quite intelligent and personable. These birds are very interesting and vital components of their ecosystems, and sightings of psittacids are highly sought-after by bird-watchers and field ornithologists. Several species are also commonly kept as pets.

Biology of parrots

Parrots range in body length from 3-40 in (8-102 cm). Their head is relatively large, the neck is short, the body is chunky, and their wings are long and usually rounded. Some species have a short tail, but in others the tail is quite long. Parrots have short, strong legs and feet, with long claws, and the toes arranged in a zygodactyl manner, that is, with two pointing forward, and two backward.

Parrots and their allies are highly adapted to living in trees. Both the feet and beak are very dexterous, and are used as aids to climbing. The feet are also used to hold and maneuver food and other objects, as are the beak and tongue. No other birds have the dexterity of parrots.

The bill and the large, muscular tongue of parrots are highly distinctive. The upper mandible is down curved and strongly hooked, and the lower mandible fits neatly into the shell of the upper when the beak is closed. The upper mandible is attached to the skull by a flexible joint, which allows relatively free-ranging, up-and-down movement. The nostrils are contained in a specialized, fleshy, enlarged structure known as a cere, present

at the top of the upper mandible, where it joins the face. Like many other species of seed-eating birds, parrots have a well-developed crop, an esophageal pouch in which hard seeds are kept for softening, and a gizzard where the seeds are ground with particles of inorganic grit and small stones.

Almost all of the psittacids are rather attractive, brightly colored birds. The most frequent base color of the plumage is green, but this is commonly offset by bold patterns of bright red, yellow, blue, violet, white, or black. The sexes are similarly colored in most species.

Parrots and their allies are highly social birds, commonly occurring in noisily chattering, shrieking, squawking, or whistling family groups and larger flocks. Some of the smaller species in semi-arid habitats can occur in huge colonies; flocks of budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus ) in Australia can contain more than one million individuals. The social

psittacids forage in groups, mostly for fleshy fruits and seeds. Some species forage in fruit orchards, where they may cause significant damages. Flocks of psittacids are wary and wily, and are usually difficult to approach closely.

Psittacids fly quickly and directly, using rapid wingbeats, but they tire quickly and do not usually fly very far. Most species are sedentary, spending the entire year in and around their breeding territory. However, species living in arid and semi-arid habitats often wander widely in search of food, which can vary greatly among years depending on the amounts and timing of the rains.

Psittacids are mostly vegetarian birds. Many species are frugivorous, eating fruit as the major component of their diet. Others also eat seeds, buds, and other plantmatter. A few species also eat insects, and the kea (Nestor notabilis ) of New Zealand is known to eat sheep carrion. (This has led to erroneous beliefs that the kea also kills healthy sheep. The kea may, however, finish off sheep that are virtually dead.) Most species of psittacids will habitually hold their food in their feet as they eat. The beak is used to crack seeds and nutscaptive individuals of hyacinthine macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus ) are even able to crack the hard shell of Brazil nuts.

Parrots have a monogamous breeding system, in which the male and female are faithful to each other, sometimes for life. The nest is usually located in a hollow in a tree. That cavity may have been developed naturally through decay, or it may have previously been excavated by another species of bird, such as a woodpecker. A few species will also nest in hollows in rock piles, earthen banks, or similar places. The clutch size ranges from 1-12, with larger species laying fewer eggs. Both sexes incubate the eggs, and they share in the feeding and rearing of the babies. Young parrots are fed by regurgitation.

Parrots are relatively long-lived birds. In captivity, individuals of some of the larger species have lived for more than 80 years.

Species of parrots

The parrots and their allies in the family Psittacidae include a wide range of groups of species.

The systematics of psittacids is not totally agreed upon, but there appear to be 6-8 subfamilies, some of which may eventually be segregated into separate families after additional research is completed. The major groups of parrots are described below.

The typical parrots are a heterogenous group that contains most species of psittacids, and comprises the subfamily Psittacinae. These range in size from the tiny hanging parrots (Loriculus spp. ), only 3-3.5 in (8-9 cm) long, to the largest parrots, the macaws, which can reach a body length of more than 3 ft (1 m). Typical parrots occur throughout almost all of the range of the parrot family, including all of the native species of the Americas. A few prominent examples are the scarlet macaw (Ara macao ), hyacinthine macaw, and green or common amazon (Amazona amazonica ) of tropical forests in South America, the African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus ) and you-you (Poicephalus senegalus ) of tropical rainforests in Africa, and the eclectus or red-sided parrot (Eclectus roratus ) of tropical rainforests and eucalyptus forests of Australasia. This latter species is unusual in its sexual dimorphism, with the male having an all-green body with red wing-patches, and the female a red body with blue on the belly and wings.

The lories and lorikeets are about 60 species of often long-tailed species that make up the subfamily Loriinae, native from Southeast Asia through Australasia. These birds have a brush-tipped tongue, useful for feeding on nectar and pollen. The lories and lorikeets also eat fruits, seeds, and invertebrates. The rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus ) breeds in diverse types of forest in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands.

The long-tailed parrots are species in the subfamily Polytelitinae. The most familiar species to most people is the cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus ) of Australia, which can be bred in captivity and is commonly kept as a pet.

The fig-parrots or lorilets are five species in the subfamily Opopsittinae. These are small-bodied, large-headed, short-tailed, fruit- and seed-eating birds of tropical forests. The double-eyed fig-parrot (Psittaculirostria diophthalma ) occurs in Australia and New Guinea.

The broad-tailed parrots are 29 species of Australasia and New Zealand that make up the sub-family Platycercinae. The most familiar species is also the smallest in this group, the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus ) of Australia, which is one of the worlds most popular cage-birds. The rosellas (Platycercus ) are larger birds, and are also sometimes kept as pets.

The pygmy parrots are six species of tiny birds that comprise the subfamily Micropsittinae. These birds occur in tropical forests of New Guinea and nearby islands.

The kea (Nestor notabilis ) and kaka (Nestor meridionalis ) of New Zealand are the only members of the subfamily Nestorinae. These are both relatively omnivorous species of montane regions, which include relatively large quantities of animal foods in their diet.

The owl parrot or kakapo (Strigops habroptilus )is the only member of the subfamily Strigopinae. The kakapo is a nocturnal, ground-living species that only occurs in high-elevation heathlands of New Zealand. This species cannot fly, although it can glide from higher to lower places, but must later walk back up. The continued survival of this unusual species is severely threatened by introduced predators, such as dogs.

The cockatoos are large birds with mobile crests, occurring in Australasia and parts of Southeast Asia. These are in the family Cacatuidae, and are not members of the Psittacidae, although they are very similar animals.

Parrots in North America

No native species of parrots breed in North America. The only native species known to have bred in North America was the once-abundant, Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis ). Regrettably, this native species is now extinct, with the last sightings of the species occurring in Florida as late as 1920. The original range of the Carolina parakeet was the southeastern United States, although it sometimes wandered as far north as New York and elsewhere near the Great Lakes. The Carolina parakeet was brightly colored bird, with a lime-green body, a yellow head, and peach-colored feathers about the face.

The Carolina parakeet lived mostly in mature bottomland and swamp forests, where it foraged for fruits and roosted communally. Although Carolina parakeets were sometimes killed for their colorful feathers, they were not highly valuable in this sense. This native species became extinct because it was considered to be a pest of agriculture, as a result of damages that flocks caused while feeding in fruit orchards and grain fields. The Carolina parakeet was relentlessly persecuted by farmers because of these damages. Unfortunately, the species was an easy mark for extinction because it nested and fed communally, and because these birds tended to aggregate around their wounded colleagues, so that entire flocks could be easily wiped out by hunters.

The red-crowned parrot (Amazona viridigenalist ) is a native, breeding species in northeastern Mexico, and is an occasional visitor to the valley of the Rio Grande River in southern Texas. In addition, the thick-billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha ) has been a rare visitor to montane pine forests in Arizona. However, there have been no sightings of these species for several decades.

A number of species in the parrot family have been introduced to North America, and several of these have established locally breeding feral populations, especially in southern Florida. These alien parrots include the budgerigar, native to Australia, and the canary-winged parakeet (Brotogeris versicolorus ), native to South America. A few other escaped species have also nested in south Florida, including the monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus ) of Argentina, and the red-crowned parrot (Amazona viridigenalis ) of Mexico.

Parrots and people

At least 15 species in the parrot family have recently become extinct, all as a result of human influences. The greatest threats to rare and endangered psittacids are to species occurring in naturally small populations, for example, those endemic to islands or to unusually restricted, continental habitats. These species are mostly put at risk by habitat losses associated with the conversion of their natural ecosystems into agricultural, urban, or forestry land-uses. In addition, rare species of psittacids have great value in the illicit pet trade, and illegal trapping can further endanger their already small populations.

In certain cases, members of the parrot family are considered to be serious agricultural pests. This happens when locally abundant populations destroy fruits in orchards, or eat large quantities of ripe grain. These species are sometimes persecuted to reduce those damages.

Psittacids are economically beneficial in some places, because bird-watchers and other tourists come to see these animals, either in their natural habitat, or in aviaries or theme parks. For example, feeding stations for wild psittacids are maintained in several places in Australia, as tourist attractions. One place in Queensland draws thousands of rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus ) and scaly-breasted lorikeets

KEY TERMS

Feral This refers to a non-native, often domesticated species that is able to maintain a viable, breeding population in a place that is not part of its natural range, but to which it has been introduced by humans.

Frugivore An animal the subsists largely or entirely on fruit.

Sexual dimorphism The occurrence of marked differences in coloration, size, or shape between males and females of the same species.

(T. chlorolepidotus ) to daily feedings, and is a renowned attraction for tourists. In other places, theme parks have developed around world-class collections of tame or caged parrots, for example, Parrot World in Florida.

Numerous species of psittacids are kept as pets. Their attraction includes their beautiful plumage, interesting behavior, tameness if they are raised from a young age, and the fact that some species can be trained to imitate human speech. The parrots whose natural calls are rasping and harsh tend to be the most proficient mimics of human words.

The most abundant psittacids in captivity are the budgerigar, cockatiel, peach-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis ), masked lovebird (A. personata ), green amazon, and African grey parrot. Many other species are also kept as pets, but less commonly. These birds sometimes escape from their cages, or are deliberately released in attempts to establish breeding populations, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

Resources

BOOKS

Alderton, David. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds of the World. London: Lorenz Books, 2005.

Forshaw, Joseph. Parrots of the World: An Identification Guide. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Freedman, B. Environmental Ecology. 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1995.

Juniper, Tony, et al. Parrots of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Paress, 1998.

Bill Freedman

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Parrots

Parrots

Parrots, macaws, lories, parakeets, and related birds , known collectively as psittacids, are 328 living species of birds that make up the family Psittacidae. The psittacids and the cockatoos (family Cacatuidae) are the only families in the order Psittaciformes.

Species of psittacids occur in Central and South America , Africa , Madagascar, South and Southeast Asia , New Guinea, Australia , and New Zealand. The greatest richness of species occurs in Australasia and South America. No native species of the parrot family now breed in North America , although one previously abundant species, the Carolina parakeet, is recently extinct.

Parrots are arboreal birds, living in and around trees. Most species breed in forests , ranging from temperate to tropical, but other species occur in savannas and other relatively open, treed habitats.

Parrots and their allies are beautifully colored birds, and they are also quite intelligent and personable. These birds are very interesting and vital components of their ecosystems, and sightings of psittacids are highly sought-after by bird-watchers and field ornithologists. Several species are also commonly kept as pets.


Biology of parrots

Parrots range in body length from 3-40 in (8-102 cm). Their head is relatively large, the neck is short, the body is chunky, and their wings are long and usually rounded. Some species have a short tail, but in others the tail is quite long. Parrots have short, strong legs and feet, with long claws, and the toes arranged in a zygodactyl manner, that is, with two pointing forward, and two backward.

Parrots and their allies are highly adapted to living in trees. Both the feet and beak are very dexterous, and are used as aids to climbing. The feet are also used to hold and maneuver food and other objects, as are the beak and tongue. No other birds have the dexterity of parrots.

The bill and the large, muscular tongue of parrots are highly distinctive. The upper mandible is down curved and strongly hooked, and the lower mandible fits neatly into the shell of the upper when the beak is closed. The upper mandible is attached to the skull by a flexible joint, which allows relatively free-ranging, up-and-down movement. The nostrils are contained in a specialized, fleshy, enlarged structure known as a cere, present at the top of the upper mandible, where it joins the face. Like many other species of seed-eating birds, parrots have a well-developed crop, an esophageal pouch in which hard seeds are kept for softening, and a gizzard where the seeds are ground with particles of inorganic grit and small stones.

Almost all of the psittacids are rather attractive, brightly colored birds. The most frequent base color of the plumage is green, but this is commonly offset by bold patterns of bright red, yellow, blue, violet, white, or black. The sexes are similarly colored in most species.

Parrots and their allies are highly social birds, commonly occurring in noisily chattering, shrieking, squawking, or whistling family groups and larger flocks. Some of the smaller species in semi-arid habitats can occur in huge colonies; flocks of budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) in Australia can contain more than one-million individuals. The social psittacids forage in groups, mostly for fleshy fruits and seeds. Some species forage in fruit orchards, where they may cause significant damages. Flocks of psittacids are wary and wily, and are usually difficult to approach closely.

Psittacids fly quickly and directly, using rapid wing-beats, but they tire quickly and do not usually fly very far. Most species are sedentary, spending the entire year in and around their breeding territory. However, species living in arid and semi-arid habitats often wander widely in search of food, which can vary greatly among years depending on the amounts and timing of the rains.

Psittacids are mostly vegetarian birds. Many species are frugivorous, eating fruit as the major component of their diet. Others also eat seeds, buds, and other plant matter . A few species also eat insects , and the kea (Nestor notabilis) of New Zealand is known to eat sheep carrion. (This has led to erroneous beliefs that the kea also kills healthy sheep. The kea may, however, finish off sheep that are virtually dead.) Most species of psittacids will habitually hold their food in their feet as they eat. The beak is used to crack seeds and nuts-captive individuals of hyacinthine macaws (Probosciger aterrimus) are even able to crack the hard shell of Brazil nuts.

Parrots have a monogamous breeding system, in which the male and female are faithful to each other, sometimes for life. The nest is usually located in a hollow in a tree . That cavity may have been developed naturally
through decay, or it may have previously been excavated by another species of bird, such as a woodpecker. A few species will also nest in hollows in rock piles, earthen banks, or similar places. The clutch size ranges from one to 12, with larger species laying fewer eggs. Both sexes incubate the eggs, and they share in the feeding and rearing of the babies. Young parrots are fed by regurgitation.

Parrots are relatively long-lived birds. In captivity, individuals of some of the larger species have lived for more than 80 years.


Species of parrots

The parrots and their allies in the family Psittacidae include a wide range of groups of species. The systematics of psittacids is not totally agreed upon, but there appear to be six to eight subfamilies, some of which may eventually be segregated into separate families after additional research is completed. The major groups of parrots are described below.

The "typical" parrots are a heterogenous group that contains most species of psittacids, and comprises the subfamily Psittacinae. These range in size from the tiny hanging parrots (Loriculus spp.), only 3-3.5 in (8-9 cm) long, to the largest parrots, the macaws, which can reach a body length of more than 3 ft (1 m). Typical parrots occur throughout almost all of the range of the parrot family, including all of the native species of the Americas. A few prominent examples are the scarlet macaw (Ara macao), hyacinthine macaw, and green or common amazon (Amazona amazonica) of tropical forests in South America, the African gray parrot (Psittacus erithacus) and you-you (Poicephalus senegalus) of tropical rainforests in Africa, and the eclectus or red-sided parrot (Eclectus roratus) of tropical rainforests and eucalyptus forests of Australasia. This latter species is unusual in its sexual dimorphism, with the male having an all-green body with red wing-patches, and the female a red body with blue on the belly and wings.

The lories and lorikeets are about 60 species of often long-tailed species that make up the subfamily Loriinae, native from Southeast Asia through Australasia. These birds have a brush-tipped tongue, useful for feeding on nectar and pollen. The lories and lorikeets also eat fruits, seeds, and invertebrates . The rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) breeds in diverse types of forest in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands.

The long-tailed parrots are species in the subfamily Polytelitinae. The most familiar species to most people is the cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) of Australia, which can be bred in captivity and is commonly kept as a pet.

The fig-parrots or lorilets are five species in the sub-family Opopsittinae. These are small-bodied, large-headed, short-tailed, fruit- and seed-eating birds of tropical forests. The double-eyed fig-parrot (Psittaculirostria diophthalma) occurs in Australia and New Guinea.

The broad-tailed parrots are 29 species of Australasia and New Zealand that make up the subfamily Platycercinae. The most familiar species is also the smallest in this group, the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) of Australia, which is one of the world's most popular cage-birds. The rosellas (Platycercus) are larger birds, and are also sometimes kept as pets.

The pygmy parrots are six species of tiny birds that comprise the subfamily Micropsittinae. These birds occur in tropical forests of New Guinea and nearby islands.

The kea (Nestor notabilis) and kaka (Nestor notabilis) of New Zealand are the only members of the sub-family Nestorinae. These are both relatively omnivorous species of montane regions, which include relatively large quantities of animal foods in their diet.


The owl parrot or kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is the only member of the subfamily Strigopinae. The kakapo is a nocturnal, ground-living species that only occurs in high-elevation heathlands of New Zealand. This species cannot fly, although it can glide from higher to lower places, but must later walk back up. The continued survival of this unusual species is severely threatened by introduced predators, such as dogs.

The cockatoos are large birds with mobile crests, occurring in Australasia and parts of Southeast Asia. These are in the family Cacatuidae, and are not members of the Psittacidae, although they are very similar animals.


Parrots in North America

No native species of parrots breed in North America. The only native species known to have bred in North America was the once-abundant, Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis). Regrettably, this native species is now extinct, with the last sightings of the species occurring in Florida as late as 1920. The original range of the Carolina parakeet was the southeastern United States, although it sometimes wandered as far north as New York and elsewhere near the Great Lakes. The Carolina parakeet was brightly colored bird, with a lime-green body, a yellow head, and peach-colored feathers about the face.

The Carolina parakeet lived mostly in mature bottomland and swamp forests, where it foraged for fruits and roosted communally. Although Carolina parakeets were sometimes killed for their colorful feathers, they were not highly valuable in this sense. This native species became extinct because it was considered to be a pest of agriculture, as a result of damages that flocks caused while feeding in fruit orchards and grain fields. The Carolina parakeet was relentlessly persecuted by farmers because of these damages. Unfortunately, the species was an easy mark for extinction because it nested and fed communally, and because these birds tended to aggregate around their wounded colleagues, so that entire flocks could be easily wiped out by hunters.

The red-crowned parrot (Amazona viridigenalist) is a native, breeding species in northeastern Mexico, and is an occasional visitor to the valley of the Rio Grande River in southern Texas. In addition, the thick-billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha) has been a rare visitor to montane pine forests in Arizona. However, there have been no sightings of these species for several decades.

A number of species in the parrot family have been introduced to North America, and several of these have established locally breeding feral populations, especially in southern Florida. These alien parrots include the budgerigar, native to Australia, and the canary-winged parakeet (Brotogeris versicolorus), native to South America. A few other escaped species have also nested in south Florida, including the monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) of Argentina, and the red-crowned parrot (Amazona viridigenalis) of Mexico.


Parrots and people

At least 15 species in the parrot family have recently become extinct, all as a result of human influences. The greatest threats to rare and endangered psittacids are to species occurring in naturally small populations, for example, those endemic to islands or to unusually restricted, continental habitats. These species are mostly put at risk by habitat losses associated with the conversion of their natural ecosystems into agricultural, urban, or forestry land-uses. In addition, rare species of psittacids have great value in the illicit pet trade, and illegal trapping can further endanger their already small populations.

In certain cases, members of the parrot family are considered to be serious agricultural pests . This happens when locally abundant populations destroy fruits in orchards, or eat large quantities of ripe grain. These species are sometimes persecuted to reduce those damages.

Psittacids are economically beneficial in some places, because bird-watchers and other tourists come to see these animals, either in their natural habitat, or in aviaries or theme parks. For example, feeding stations for wild psittacids are maintained in several places in Australia, as tourist attractions. One place in Queensland draws thousands of rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) and scaly-breasted lorikeets (T. chlorolepidotus) to daily feedings, and is a renowned attraction for tourists. In other places, theme parks have developed around world-class collections of tame or caged parrots, for example, Parrot World in Florida.

Numerous species of psittacids are kept as pets. Their attraction includes their beautiful plumage, interesting behavior , tameness if they are raised from a young age, and the fact that some species can be trained to imitate human speech . The parrots whose natural calls are rasping and harsh tend to be the most proficient mimics of human words.

The most abundant psittacids in captivity are the budgerigar, cockatiel, peach-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis), masked lovebird (A. personata), green amazon, and African gray parrot. Many other species are also kept as pets, but less commonly. These birds sometimes escape from their cages, or are deliberately released in attempts to establish breeding populations, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

Resources

books

Alderton, D. Parrots. New York, New York: Hodder, 1992.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. Birds in Jeopardy. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1992.

Forshaw, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Academic Press, 1998.

Freedman, B. Environmental Ecology. 2nd ed. Academic Press, San Diego, 1995.

Juniper, Tony, et al. Parrots of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.


Bill Freedman

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Feral

—This refers to a non-native, often domesticated species that is able to maintain a viable, breeding population in a place that is not part of its natural range, but to which it has been introduced by humans.

Frugivore

—An animal the subsists largely or entirely on fruit.

Sexual dimorphism

—The occurrence of marked differences in coloration, size, or shape between males and females of the same species.

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