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Fun Facts About Parrots

Birds are one of the most popular pets in the United States. About 14 million of these avian pets live in captivity across the country and the majority of them are parrots.
Parrots are very communicative and intellectually developed, so if you want to get yourself one, you should know that these birds demand a lot of attention, otherwise they will be bored and even stressed. Although some parrots are grown in breeders, trafficking in wild birds still takes place. Consequently, the number of parrots that live out in the freedom of the wild decreases every day. Fortunately, the 1992 Wild Bird Conservation Act has reduced the rate of importing of exotic birds greatly. In honor of the National Bird Day, here are some fun facts about parrots:

1. Some Parrots Grind Their Own Calcium Supplements

A well-known African grey parrot Alex is believed by scientists to be intellectually equal to a 5-year-old child. What is more, it was observed that vasa parrots can use a pebble or a date pit as a grinding "tool" to crush shells into powder. After that, male vasa parrots eat the powder, regurgitate it and then give this calcium-rich mixture to female parrots before mating.

2. Parrot Toes Are Zygodactyl

Just like many other birds, parrots have 4 toes on each foot. But here is a difference: unlike other birds, who have 3 toes in front of each foot and 1 toe behind, parrots have a specific two-in-front-two -behind arrangement. This feature makes them more adapted for climbing and, consequently, for surviving in the wild.

3. Polly Wants Mutton, Too

A lot of parrots are omnivorous birds and their ration is quite diverse. Though such parrot species like the lorikeets and rainbow-colored lories are considered to be nectar consumers, even they observed eating meat. The first time parrots were seen eating meat was in New Zealand in 1868 when native keas attacked and killed a sheep.

4. Not All Parrots Are Tropical

Indeed, the majority of known parrot species reside on the territories with the tropical or subtropical climate. However, not all species are so. The maroon-fronted parrot dwells in the mountainous area of Mexico. Another example is the keas that live in the mountains of New Zealand.

5. A Third of the World's Parrots Face Extinction

As a result of deforestation and the activity of pet trading business, the list of endangered species of parrots increases every day. As of November, 99 % of the whole population of the African grey parrot in Ghana has been extirpated in consequence of logging.

6. Parrots Usually Match Their Mates

In most cases it is quite difficult to tell the difference between female and male parrots without a lab test. Nevertheless, some parrots, including the Solomon Island eclectus have so many differences between males and females that they may seem to be completely different species. Females have a red and blue body, a scarlet-colored head with black beak, while males have emerald-colored bodies and bright yellow beaks.

7. Parrots Taste with the Tops of Their Beaks

Although some of parrots' taste sensors are located at the back side of their throats, the majority of them are on the top of their beaks. Even though, parrots have significantly less taste buds than humans do, their food preferences are clearly determined.

8. The Heftiest Parrot Weighs as Much as a Cat

Different species of parrots may vary in size and shape greatly. For example, one of the smallest parrots is the buff-faced pygmy which is around the human finger-length. The gorgeous hyacinth macaw is the longest parrot that grows up to the length of 3.5 feet. And as for the heaviest parrot, nocturnal kakapo is an obvious leader with his weight of 9 pounds—it is the weight of an average adult cat.

9. Your Pet Parrot May Outlive You

Some parrot species can live do long that they may even outlive their owners. Cockatoos' and macaws' lifespans are usually about 35 to 50 years. The oldest living parrot in the world is Cookie, a dweller of Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. The age of this cockatoo is 82 years!

10. Parrot Feathers Contain Antibacterial Pigments

Parrots can produce Psittacofulvins, a unique bacteria-resistant pigment which provides parrot's plumage with a specific defence. Scientists discovered that pigments which affect the coloring of feathers help protect parrot's plumage from the harmful impact of certain bacteria.

11. Some Parrots Migrate

In spite of the fact that almost all parrots don't leave their home area, there are some exceptions. The orange-bellied parrot and the swift parrot migrate between Tasmania and Australia every year. In fact, these species are under threat of extinction.

12. The World Record Holder Knew More Than 1,700 Words

Most of parrots are quite talkative, but there are some real record-breakers. For example, a blue parakeet Puck is world-known for his impressive vocabulary – 1,728 words! However, speaking is not their only talent: for instance, the amazon parrots are known for their singing. Probably the most famous of them is Groucho, a parrot who gained his popularity in 2010, when he performed "How Much is that Doggie in the Window".

13. The Black Palm Is the Panda of Parrots

The black palm cockatoos reside in the South Pacific rainforests. It is almost impossible to raise them in captivity because, for still unknown reasons, a lot of black palm chicks die at the age of one year or so. It is believed that this fact is somehow connected with photosensitivity of their skin.

14. A Parrot-Proof Tracker Is on the Horizon

Parrots' behavior still remains an unexplored question for scientists. The reason is that it is extremely difficult to see and keep track of these birds while they are in their natural habitat. The usage of GPS tracking comes to nothing because parrots can easily remove all tracking devices from their bodies. But last year scientists managed to create a GPS tracker encapsulated in special bite-proof plastic. Practical test have proven both its effectiveness and the absence of harm to parrots.