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The 'winged rainbows'

Unique among the inhabitants of the animal kingdom due to their feathers, birds will never fail to fascinate us. There are hundreds of thousands of bird species around the world whose beautifully coloured feathers, lifestyles and flying abilities are beyond our imagination; they make us wonder as to whether there really are such creatures in existence in our world...
 


Look out for more information about the different species belonging to the parrot family later...

Today, the species of feathered friends we feature will be familiar to most of you, as some of you may even have them as pets. They are none other than the parrots. Of course, there are many different kinds of parrots and the green coloured ones you have as pets aren't the only kind we are focusing on....Parrots or Psiltacines are a large group of birds numbering around 353 species.

They are generally grouped into two main families - the Cacatuidae or Cockatoos and Psitlacidae or true parrots. These species of birds have been around for quite some time, as it is said that the earliest parrot-like fossil was discovered around 70 million years ago.

What they look like

One of the most colourful members of the bird kingdom, (with the exception of a few species) parrots are considered awesome due to their majesty and elegance. They are often referred to as 'winged rainbows'.

Though predominantly green in colour, especially those from South America, parrots come in all colours. Some are mostly blue or yellow while others may have red, blue, green, purple, pink, brown, yellow and even black feathers. They have large heads, short necks, characteristic curved beaks, with the upper mandible having slight mobility in the joints, and four toes with two pointing forward and the other two, backwards. They are excellent climbers.

These beauties range in size depending on the species, from 3 1/2 inches to about 10 inches in length.The Hyacinth Macaw is said to be the world's largest parrot at 100 cm in length and 1.7 kg in weight. The smallest is the pygmy parrot.

Some species of parrots are endangered since many are captured and sold as exotic pets, especially the beautifully coloured macaws and also the cockatoos.

Communication and breeding

Parrots love chattering to each other. In fact, they make lots of different sounds and they all mean different things.

Many species can mimic human speech and sounds, but this does not happen when they are in the wilds. African Grey Parrots are considered to be the best mimics. Some of you who have the little green parrots, commonly found in our country as pets, must be familiar with such mimicry. It is believed that parrots pair for life; once they reach maturity between 1-4 years, they are ready to become parents and so they find a mate and start a family. They usually build nests in tree holes, termite mounds, rock cavities and tunnels in the ground, depending on the species.

Once the eggs are laid, both parents take turns to keep the eggs warm. The chicks are born blind without any feathers. They need to be fed and kept warm until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

The mama and papa parrots take turns to find food for their babies since someone has to always be on guard when they are really tiny.

However, as they grow bigger, and become strong enough to be by themselves in the nest, both parents go off to find food for them. When the chicks are older, the parents put them in a creche with other young parrots to learn more about parrot skills. Even though man has had a long history with these beautiful birds, unfortunately, the humans are the birds' worst enemies.

Social and eating habits

Parrots usually live in flocks. They help each other to find food which comprises fruits, seeds, buds, nectar pollen and sometimes insects. Their thick muscular tongues help them to eat this wide range of food, especially the different types of seeds. Parrots generally store food in a sack in the throat (crop) and when it's full, they regurgitate to feed their young.

Fact file

* Most common parrot species are green in colour and make wonderful pets.

* Macaws are colourful, captivating, intelligent and flamboyant birds.

* Parakeets mean 'small parrots'. There are many variations of their breeds.

Distribution and species

Parrots are found in the warm regions of the world, especially in India, Southeast Asia, West Africa, Australia, South America and Central America. The greatest number of parrots come from the three latter regions.

The parrot family ranges from huge macaws to tiny lovebirds and parrotlets. Some of these species are among the most spectacular birds in the world. Lories and Lorikeets are the most distantly related birds of the family.

About 53 species in dozen genera are found, all confined to Australia, eastern Indonesia and many remote South Pacific Islands. The world's rarest bird is a blue macaw named the Spix's Macaw or Cyanopsilta spixii. One lonely male was recorded to be living in eastern Brazil way back in 2000.

Australia has around 56 species of parrots from tiny budgerigars to large cockatoos.

Larger Macaws, African Grey Parrots, Amazon Parrots and Cockatoos are some of the main species in the parrot family. Conures, Neotropical Parakeets, Parrotlets, lovebirds, lories and lorikeets too belong to this family. Some are in doubt as to whether lorikeets belong to a group of their own.

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