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The Parrot: Smart And Colourful Vocalist - Yellow Magpie

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Birds no image

Published on January 19th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie


The Parrot: Smart And Colourful Vocalist


Easily the most famous of all birds, Parrots are one of the most prized pets. Yet, they are so much more than this. One of the animal kingdoms most intelligent creation, parrots have amazing vocal abilities matched only by their penchant to astonish us as in the case of Alex, one of the most famous parrots of all time.

Blue And Yellow Macaw

Perhaps, aside from their amazing voices, the most compelling reason for our unique affinity with parrots is their incredibly bright colours. Names such as Rainbow lorikeet and Peach-faced lovebird do not do the birds justice, so are their beautiful displays.

Unnatural Colours

In fact, it was only until relatively recent that the nature of parrots’ features was understood. Previously it had been assumed that diet played a significant role in the colouration of parrot’s features. However, it has since been discovered that parrots have unique molecules not found in any other animal which give them bright and elaborate colours.

Kea: Scorned And Loved

Interesting most parrot species are green in colour. Perhaps one of the smartest and most fiendish species of parrot is New Zealand’s Kea. Which regularly terrorises people. Cars, bins and hikers have often fallen victim to this rather mischievous bird. The Kea’s intellectual capabilities matched with its incredibly strong beak make it quite a potent force.

The bird has been known to land on sheep and tear out the fat along its back. Although this does not cause the animal to die directly. Infection and blood loss may result in the sheep dying. Today the Kea is a protected species.

Nevertheless, this was not always the case and the bird was widely culled for its propensity to harm livestock and destructive behaviour. Though scorned by New Zealand locals the Kea is a magnet for tourist who cannot get enough of its idiosyncratic behaviours.

Yellow-Headed Amazon Parrot

Tremendous Beaks

Unlike most birds, parrots can move both their upper and lower beaks. They generate up to 150 kg (350 lbs) of pressure per square inch and as a result can crack the hardest of objects. Parrots also have a surprising amount of taste buds for a bird in excess of 400 in some cases. Although this appears to be small in comparison to humans who have in excess of 10,000, other birds have as little as 30 or 40 taste buds.

This large amount of taste buds probably explains parrots affinity for sweet things as other birds probably have an insufficient amount of taste buds to detect the presence of sugar.

As of now, parrots have still to be observed imitating other birds or animals in the wild. Therefore, parrot imitation seems to be exclusive to captive birds.

Scarlet Macaw Riding A Tricycle

Alex: The Smartest Of The Smartest

Alex, an African Grey, is thought to have been one of the smartest birds of all time. Taught by Dr Irene Pepperberg, by the time of his death in 2007, Alex could speak over 200 words and could use 50 sentences. Alex died prematurely at just 31 years of age. African-grey parrots have been known to live up to 80 years in captivity. A necropsy revealed that they bird was perfectly healthy.

His last words were ‘You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you.’

Vital Statistics

  • Parrots can be as small as 10 cm (three inches) in length as in the case of the Buff-faced pygmy or as tall as one metre (three feet) as is the Hyacinth Macaw.
  • They are found mainly in the warm tropics.
  • Some species of wild parrots can live to be up to 50 years old.

Further Reading

Parrots of the World is a detailed guide book that helps to identify wild parrots. With beautifully crafted drawings it is ideal for parrot spotters.

Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot is an excellent book perfect for those who own one. It shows how to look after the birds and also delves into the psychology of parrots.

For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom you can access Parrots of the World and Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot here:

For those living in Canada you can obtain Parrots of the World and Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot from here.

For Germany: Parrots of the World and Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot.

For France: Parrots of the World and Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot .

About the Author

One Response to The Parrot: Smart And Colourful Vocalist

  1. I have a macaw and this specific breed is impressive, but it was difficult to select a good bird cage.

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