Parrot Facts: What You Never Knew.

Alternatively titled ‘a bunch of parrot facts.’

I’m, er, kind of bird obsessed. You might have noticed.

I enjoy reading about all things feathered, but most especially parrots – and you can imagine that David Attenborough’s Life of Birds is just about my favourite documentary ever, as much as I enjoy them all.

Here are a few interesting facts I’ve stumbled across in my research and reading:

  • The hyacinth macaw—the largest of all parrots—has an enormous wingspan of more than 4 feet (127 cm). A celestial parrotlet has a wingspan of about 4-4.5 inches.
  • Though parrotlets are the smallest parrots bred in aviculture, there is a smaller species still: The pygmy parrot of New Guinea measures in at 3.5 inches long.
  • All budgies are parakeets, but not all parakeets are budgies. Parakeet itself simply means ‘long tail.’ Some different kinds of parakeets are:
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From Budgie-opolis Blog – click to go through. Four budgerigars.

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Bowie is an Indian Ringneck, and also a parakeet. (Click to visit his YouTube page.)

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A sun parakeet, or sun conure (image from kaieteurnewsonline).

A Quaker Parakeet, like Basil. You can click the photo to go through to her blog.

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Quaker parakeet.

There are also mountain parakeets, which look to me – and sound to Ptak – like parrotlets, save for their long tails.

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From Paradise Park’s website: two mountain parakeets.

Does anyone really care about the difference? Nah. But I find it fascinating to read about all the different kinds of parakeets. (Those are just a few.) Just as a quick note, if you’d like me to take down your photo, feel free to let me know in the comments and I will.

Some more facts…

  • There are about 350 different kinds of parrots, budgies and cockatiels amongst them.
  • Their toes are evolved for gripping and climbing, with two placed forwards, and two placed backwards. This is called zygodactyl. Finch feet – three  toes forward, one backwards – are made for perching.
  • Parrots’ hook beaks are designed to multitask: Preen, grind, crack, manoeuvre, bite, grip, tear. It’s effectively a third hand.
  • A bird’s beak is made of keratin, like its feathers, and the shape tells you what it is evolved to do.
  • The longest-lived macaw is 111 years old, according to the BBC, and the oldest cockatoo lived to 80.
  • Parrots don’t have vocal cords. They produce sound by pushing air out of their trachea, and control their pitch by changing the shape and depth of it.
  • They have a muscular tongue, but only 50-500 taste buds, depending on the species. They can taste bitter, sour, and sweet.
  • Birds see into the UV spectrum, but indoors they tend to see a lot of grey hues. Ultra violet doesn’t travel far.
  • Some birds can produce more than one sound at once in their songs.
  • A bird’s sense of smell is its least developed sense, and they don’t use it extensively. It’s a myth that wild avians will reject a nestling that’s been handled by human hands.
  • The shape of a bird’s head can affect its hearing, as in owls, whose facial discs help direct sound toward their ears.

Finally, a last trio of facts:

  • They’re messy – but why?

In the wild, flinging their food and being so ‘messy’ helps the environment by spreading plants’ seeds. Yes, these seeds also travel in their droppings, hopefully (for the plants’ sakes) being spread miles and miles away.

  • All about vitamin D3 synthesis.

Birds are covered in feathers, so their skin can’t simply absorb nutrients from the sun… ‘In most birds, the preen gland collects the precursor D3 from the bloodstream and concentrates it in the gland oils,’ (Arcadia, Lighting for Birds pamphlet). The bird then spreads the oil on its feathers and ingests the UV exposed material when it preens itself again – at that point, the oil enters the body as previtamin D. Finally, the liver and kidney convert this to vitamin D3.

A bit complicated, no? I think it’s pretty amazing.

  • The second way birds perceive light (this from the same Arcadia excerpt linked above):

A special gland surrounds a bird’s eye, known as the Harderian Gland. This measures the duration of light – called the photoperiod – and passes the information along to the pineal gland. The pineal gland and the pituitary gland both act as regulators to the endocrine system, and therefore to the entire metabolism of the bird.

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5 thoughts on “Parrot Facts: What You Never Knew.

  1. I have the Life of Birds documentary on DVD too! Think that we are well and truly addicted…and I never want a cure 😀

  2. Very cool facts!

    I have loved David Attenborough’s movies since I was a little girl. ‘The Life of Birds’ being my favorite, of course.

    • There’s something about his BBC English, as well, that improves the entire experience, ya know? Although I have realised that English/Scottish accents are sadly neutral to me now, so I don’t get that benefit anymore. 😦

      • I looove British accent. In Poland, I was taught British English by native speakers. So when I came to NY with my ‘tomahtoe’ pronounciation with a Polish accent, I was given strange looks LOL. Quickly had to switch to a more American talk. I still love to watch BBC… Love it. And Mr. Attenborough is just so cultured and smart. And has a great narrative skills.

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