Birds are the fourth most popular pets in the US, with parrots ranking high on that list. However, it’s not a surprise that most people cannot tell the different parrot breeds apart.
A great majority believe that all parrots are the same, save for their varied sizes. Maybe it’s because dog and cat breeds are so obviously different. Nonetheless, this article will help demystify these beautiful birds and make their identification easier.
An Overview of the Different Parrot Breeds
There are over 350 bird species that belong to the parrot family. Incredible, right? The colors that people most associate parrots with are blue, green, red, and yellow. However, many variations to these birds depend on their size and the region that your pet parrot is from.
For a bird to qualify as a parrot, they must have the following characteristics:
- A curved beak
- Zygodactyl feet, i.e., their four toes should be arranged in pairs – one pair facing the front, while the second pair points backward. An interesting point to note is that woodpeckers have similar feet.
Parrot Sizes and Habitats
Given the numerous parrot species existing, you can expect these birds to vary in sizes. They typically range within 3.5 and 40 inches (8.7 to 100 cm) and weigh anywhere from 0.14 to 3.5 lbs (64g to 1.6kg).
However, other breeds don’t necessarily fall into the typical category. For instance, the kakapo parrot can get to almost 4kg while the pygmy parrot can barely attain 12g.
Let’s delve a little into some of these birds’ natural habitats.
- Parrots from Africa and the neighboring islands include the African grey parrot, Cape parrot, lovebirds, Meyer’s parrots, Senegal parrot, etc.
- Parrots from Asia: Hanging parrots, blue-crowned parrots, blue-rumped parrots, king parrots, mustached parakeets, plum-headed parakeets, etc.
- Parrots from Australia: Budgerigars (budgies), cockatoos, cockatiels, king parrots, Australian ring-neck parakeets, rosellas, etc.
- Parrots from Melanesia (Islands in the Northern side of Australia): Tiger parrots, king parrots, fig parrots, pygmy parrots, etc.
- Parrots from the North, South, and Central Americas and Caribbean Islands: Amazon parrots, canary-winged parakeets, grey-breasted parakeets, macaws, Quaker parrots, etc.
- Parrots from New Zealand: Alpine parakeets, red-fronted parakeet, owl parrots (kakapo parrots), black-fronted parakeets, etc.
African Grey Parrot
As the name suggests, you can find this parrot breed in the African savanna grasslands, coastal mangroves, woodlands, and the edges of forest clearings of West and Central Africa. Even within this breed, the parrots differ in sizes.
The Congo African grey, which is the larger subspecies, predominantly exists in the Congo forest. However, you can find the other greys in the East African countries like Kenya and Tanzania.
The African grey parrot is very distinct from other parrots. They have silver feathers, a white patch across their face, a brilliant red tail, and weigh approximately 2.5lbs. African greys are highly social birds and enjoy traveling in flocks. Their diet consists of palm nuts, fruits, seeds, and other leafy matter. You can supplement their diet with veggies high in beta-carotene, e.g., fresh kale and cooked sweet potatoes.
Referred to most bird lovers as ‘the Einstein of the bird world,’ the African grey parrot is brilliant. Of all parrot breeds, the African grey has the most extensive vocabulary. Not only can they mimic sounds profoundly well, but they can also talk in context. How incredible is that? So, if you’re looking for a chatty bird pet, the African grey should be at the top of your list.
Another intelligent parrot breed is the Amazon parrot. They can mimic human speech, among other sounds, and are popular companion parrots worldwide.
Unfortunately, this brilliant trait has led to their capture from their native habitats of South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. As a result, the livelihood of Amazon parrots is slowly becoming threatened to the point where the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has had to intervene.
Amazon parrots are medium in size, weighing about 1.3lbs (600g). Although their plumage is predominantly green, they have other colorful markings to differentiate them from each other. From their tender age, Amazon parrots have a grey-brown iris. By ages 2-3, these colors change to red-orange or chestnut-brown. The common Amazon parrot varieties include:
- And red-lored Amazon.
When it comes to their diet, Amazon parrots are frugivores and omnivores, so you’ll find them feeding on flowers, fruits, seeds, and insects. Seed diets lack in minerals like calcium and vitamin A. That said, you’ll need to supplement your pet bird with foods like red peppers, carrots, collards, broccoli leaves, etc.
Cockatoos and Cockatiels
Did you know that there are over 20 different cockatoo species? You can distinguish them from other birds by their showy crests and curved bills. However, be careful not to confuse cockatoos with cockatiels. The former is more prominent, growing up to 26 inches tall, while the latter get to only 14 inches. Unlike the cockatoo, cockatiels have longer tails that spread out like fans during flight.
Like the African grey parrot, cockatoos are generally not as colorful as the other parrot breeds. However, you will notice their colored features on the cheeks, crests, and tails. Some good examples are the yellow-crested cockatoos, red-tailed black cockatoos, and palm cockatoos. On the other hand, cockatiels live up to the parrot characteristics – they are very colorful in appearance.
Cockatoo’s lifespan ranges between 40 and 60 years, which is close to a human’s lifespan. This means that cockatoos can make great companions to young families because they’ll steadily grow up together.
Since they love getting attention and affection, they’ll enjoy interacting with kids and playing mentally stimulating games. As for their diets, cockatoos love feeding on seeds, sprouts, green leafy veggies, nuts, etc.
Their name says it all. These tiny parrots are loving and inquisitive and make excellent companion pets. Although there are nine lovebird species, their predominant colors are like most parrots, i.e., green, blue, yellow, and orange. Lovebirds are native to Africa.
However, like most animal species, there is a unique lovebird variety that resides in Madagascar – the grey-headed lovebird.
Don’t be fooled by the lovebird’s tiny frame. Their beaks are strong enough to break or tear up most toys. You should, therefore, give them toys that are non-hazardous.
As with most birds, they also enjoy a good exercise, meaning that you will need to get them a reasonably large-sized cage. This will allow them room to fly around and not engage in self-mutilating activities.
Although lovebirds are not talkers, you will hear them whistling or chattering loudly. That said, it is crucial to have them in pairs to keep each other company. In a conducive environment, lovebirds have a life expectancy of 20 years. This said environment entails affection, companionship, and a well-balanced diet.
Other popular parrot breeds that you can consider keeping as pets include budgerigars, conures, monk parakeets, macaws, among so many more. Although each bird will have their distinct features, you will still notice some apparent similarities across most parrots.
Of importance, however, is to make sure that you purchase your parrot from a credible breeder. Failure to do so means that the bird was probably obtained from the black market, leading to their extinction. What’s worse is that it could also lead to your arrest if concerned authorities catch wind of this. Nonetheless, with some due diligence, you will enjoy lifetime companionship with your winged friend.