Found primarily in warm areas of the Southern Hemisphere, parrots are iconic birds that can often mimic sounds and even words! There are many kinds of parrots around the world and while many are found in warm areas, there are some like the maroon fronted parrots and thick-billed parrots that prefer snowy weather. With over 350 species and 60 genera, parrots all over the world have slight differences in appearance, size, personality, and more. The key similarities for parrots are that they have a curved beak and are zygodactyls, which means they have four toes on each foot. Two toes point forward while two project back.
Many parrots are omnivores and will have a diet that consists of nuts, fruit, seeds, insects, and flowers! Their strong, long beaks help them break open nuts and dig insects out of the ground. Parrots will also lay 1-8 eggs at a time that need 2-4 weeks of incubation before hatching. After hatching, baby parrots still rely heavily on their parents for food for some time.
Depending on the species, parrots can have a really long life span. Blue and yellow Macaws, for example, can live to be 50 years old and while the average lifespan for a kakapo is around 60, they can live to be 90! According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest pet parrot was a cockatoo named Cookie who was 82 years and 88 days old when he passed away in August 2016.
Despite preferring certain climates, parrots can now be found in many parts of the world. The United States was home to two different native parrot species that have unfortunately been driven out or died off. The Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) officially went extinct in 1918 when a male Carolina parakeet named Incas died at the Cincinnati Zoo due to natural causes. The Carolina parakeet, as a species, was a medium-sized, long-tailed bird with mostly green feathers and splashes of blue, yellow, red, or orange. This species dramatically decreased in population because of European settlers decimated their habitats to make room for farms and cities. The other species was the thick-billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha), which was run out of the US and currently live in the pine forests of northern Mexico.
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However, there are some non-native parrots that live in the United States. This has happened in large part because of the illegal exotic pet trade. But wild parrots are hard to tame, which has frustrated some owners into intentionally letting them go while other parrots have managed to escape. All of that means there are several parrot species living in the US. In fact, a recent Forbes article recently stated that there are 56 different parrot species in 43 states and 25 of those species are breeding in urban areas in 23 states. Brooklyn, for example, has several colonies of monk (green) parakeets.
Exotic Pet Trade
At the moment, the Convention on Internation Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) bans the sale of any wild-caught parrot species because of the species’ wild decline in many places around the world. Despite that ban, the popularity of parrots continues, which helps drive the illegal catching and trade. According to the Humane Society of the United States, wildlife trafficking is the third largest kind of illegal trade in the world and only falls behind drugs and arms/guns in that trade.
There are many things to consider when it comes to the illegal wildlife trade and potentially adopting a wild animal as a pet. One is that there are some real health implications for humans, as wild animals carry diseases and viruses like herpes B, rabies, and salmonella. Additionally, some wild animals do not deal well with captivity, especially in private homes, and can get malnourished and stressed. That can lead to some behavioral issues like bites and attacks. One last consideration is that removing wild animals can have environmental impacts, as removing animals can affect how the ecosystems work and the life cycles of plants and other animals.
Ultimately, parrots are these amazing birds that are often able to mimic sounds and words and can be incredibly beautiful and colorful. While they are found around the world, the illegal pet trade and other factors have lead to some species living and thriving in areas where they are not native to. Having a parrot as a pet isn’t as simple, both ethically and literally, as many might imagine.