Wild Parrots

There are approximately 398 species of parrots in the world. They live primarily in tropical and subtropical countries. Let’s immerse ourselves in this wonderfully garish and charismatic bird.

Parrots are classified under the Order Psittaciformes and this includes cockatoos, lorikeets, parakeets, macaws and of course parrots. All birds featured here are wild parrots (photographed pre-Covid).

When you spot a wild parrot, the first surprise is its stunningly bright colors. The bird’s color palette is in full swing–blues, reds, yellows, oranges and lime greens.

But even with their splashy colors, they’re not always as conspicuous as you might think.

This mealy parrot blends in perfectly with the trees.

We spotted this yellow-naped parrot (Amazona auropalliata) from aboard a small boat on a river. You can see how much this green and yellow parrot blends into the background.

Focusing further, you see that a parrot’s bill is magnificent. It is not fused to the skull, allowing it to move independently and also contributing to tremendous biting pressure. A large macaw, like this one below, has the same bite force as a large dog.

The strong bill and jaw helps parrots to crack open hard nuts; their dexterous tongues work out the seeds.

With eyes positioned high on the skull, a parrot can see over and even behind its head.

Even their feet are impressive. Their zygodactyl toes (two toes face forward, two toes face backward) give them dexterity similar to a human’s hand. You can see how this cockatoo, about the size of a small puppy, can effortlessly balance on flimsy branches.

Wikipedia Parrot

Their intelligence is extraordinary. As a highly social creature, they converse frequently among themselves and develop distinct local dialects. They use their local dialects to distinguish familiar members of the flock, and ostracize the unfamiliar members.

You always know when parrots are nearby for the loud squawking you hear among their flocks. They can also be trained to imitate human speech and other sounds.

Unfortunately, their intelligence and beauty have made them attractive as pets for humans, leading to much trouble for parrots. Illegal trapping of wild parrots for the pet trade has led to near-extinction of many parrot species. Pet birds should always be purchased from a reputable source.

Wikipedia International Parrot Trade

Macaws are parrots found only in the New World. We trekked to a macaw lick one dawn morning in Peru, to watch these red-and-green macaws.

They extract and eat minerals out of the clay river bank to neutralize natural toxins they have ingested. Post I wrote about it: The Macaw Lick.

Of the 350+ parrot species in the world, 56 can be found in Australia. If you are looking to see parrots in the wild, this continent is a joy for spotting parrots.

Eucalyptus trees (aka “gum trees” to Australians) and other flowering trees supply the diet for many parrot species.

Cockatoos, one of the largest parrots, can be seen in Australia’s urban and rural settings.

We came upon this large cockatoo flock foraging in the fields.

A bold and kaleidoscopic bird that can talk, fly, climb, bite like a dog and see behind its head. That’s a talented bird.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Parrot range.png
Range Map: Parrots. Courtesy Wikipedia.

81 thoughts on “Wild Parrots

  1. Wow. These birds are all stunning, Jet, especially the Rainbow Lorikeet. I had no idea there were so many parrots in Australia–I assumed incorrectly they were mostly in Central and South America. Thanks for sharing so much fascinating information about these beautiful birds. Who knew they were so dexterous with their feet? One of the folks in my church has had a parrot for 38 years and we occasionally hear it during our Zoom virtual coffee hours after our Sunday services. That definitely counts as a long-term relationship. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Athena loves to photograph parrots, and we have seen so many, so it was tricky narrowing down which ones to share here. It is a great joy to share the parrots with you, Mike. Years ago we thought the same as you, about the different parrot venues, i.e., more in Central and South America. They are there, but are often very high up, espec. in So. Amer., and difficult to see. Often you just hear them. But in Australia they’re more photographically accessible. I smiled at the Zoom calls with your church friend’s parrot. They are delightfully noisy creatures, and yes, long-lived. Sending parrot smiles to you, Mike, and thanks.

  2. Wowza! What a gorgeous selection of Parrots you have seen and photographed, Jet!
    I’ve only seen the wild ones that slept in the tree across the street from our old in San Jose. 3 flew in every evening for about a year then just stopped coming. I have also seen the ones in San Francisco. I hoped the 3 from our neighborhood found the flock up in San Francisco and lived happily up there. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • I’m happy you enjoyed Athena’s parrot photos, Deborah. Glad you mentioned the feral city parrots, too. Those are escapees, mostly the red-masked parakeets, who have colonized in the mild temperatures of the Bay Area. I’ve read there are populations of parrots in many temperate cities. I love seeing the flocks in SF. Thanks so much for your visit and contribution, Deborah. Parrot cheers to you.

  3. Amazing and so beautiful, Jet! I follow an account on Instagram where the woman has wild Lorikeets, Butcher Birds, and other species freely come and go. So beautiful.

  4. Now you have me for good, Jet! ๐Ÿฆœ๐Ÿฆœare my favorite birds and Australia has been a must-visit place for me all along. One time… Thank you for showing these beautiful pictures. They made a big smile on my face ๐Ÿ˜

  5. By the way, thousands of wild collared parakeets, descendants of escaped caged animals, now live in Germany along the Rhine. They manage surprisingly well in freedom. This is certainly also due to climate change.

    • Thanks for the feral parakeet info on the Rhine, Simone. Seems like it would be too cold, but I’m guessing climate change, like you, is the reason. Appreciate knowing about the Rhine’s parrot population.

  6. So enjoyed immersing myself in your post about this “wonderfully garish and charismatic bird.” Indeed! Again, Athena’s photographs captured many diagnostic features of these species and, in the case of the mealy and the yellow-naped, especially, emphasized the harmony of the birds’ appearances with their immediate surroundings. Your report not only features the amazing characteristics of these birds but also notes our need to help protect them from human greed, which I certainly appreciate. Your work has inspired enthusiasm for encountering my first wild parrots (hopefully) later on this year!

    • I thought of you when I composed this post, Walt, because of your upcoming (hopefully) trip. And I so hope you have the chance to see parrots in the wild, which it seems like you will, based on where you’re going and your outdoorsy inclinations. Keep your ears open for the squawking, that’s often the first sign of their presence. I’m delighted you enjoyed the post, and I enjoyed your words here today, thank you so much.

  7. They are so colorful and cheery – just a wonderful reminder of warm weather (especially in the winter). Beautiful pictures and post!

    • I, too, thought that was fascinating about the tremendous bite-force of the parrot, and I’m glad you enjoyed all the parrot info, Frank. Wonderful to have you stop by, your comment gave me a smile, thank you.

  8. Beautiful captures and great information on parrots! I so wish we had colorful parrots in the US! I have captured Nanday (Black-hooded) parakeets in Florida once. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve sufficed with having parrot decor, with a cool collection started when we became ‘parrotheads’ back in the 90’s. (lol I’m listening to Margaritaville while reading your post ๐Ÿ˜)

    • I enjoyed your comments and laughter here, Donna, thanks so much. The joy of parrots is a fun thing to share. I also liked hearing that you captured photos of the black-hooded parakeets in FL, another one of the feral parakeet species who have colonized. Many thanks.

  9. So much information, so many varieties! All so stunning! These birds can be almost
    a shock when first sighted their beauty is so stunning! Wonderful to have them
    spread around the world like that, as if God does not want anyone to miss the
    excitement of seeing or hearing them. Thank for sharing this great post with us.
    Have a perfect day Jet. love Eddie

    • There is no end to the beauty of parrots, and I see you and I agree on this completely, Eddie. They are such jewels to have on our planet. My warmest thanks for your delightful comment and visit today.

    • I’m really glad you enjoyed the demonstration of the camouflaging parrots, Nan. All those bright colors on a bird, you wouldn’t think they would blend in. Another mystery of the forests and birds. Thanks so very much, Nan.

  10. Athena’s superb photos (per usual) make this a delightfully colorful post. I didn’t realize that so many species were endemic to Australia. I’ve seen them while traveling in Central and S. America and many were residents in the hotels I stayed atโ€“ acting as nosy, noisy watch dogs. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Most memorable was the cacophony of parrots at Tikal from dawn to dusk, silenced only momentarily by the roar of a jaguar mid-afternoon. The Lord of the Jungle didn’t like his slumber disturbed, I guess. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • I liked your descriptions of the Central American rainforest, Eliza, really a nice treat. Although I have been there, I have never had the honor of hearing a jaguar. Many thanks for your visit and words.

  11. Macaws, Parakeets, Parrots, Parrotlets, Cockatoos, etc. All are boisterous, loud, make a tremendous ado out of nothing, but, most of them have the brightest colors and ample energy to drive anybody crazy with their noise. Beautiful nevertheless. Can’t help it but love them. Great post, my friend, as always. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That’s a great idea to make postcards out of the parrot photos, Anneli. I do make notecards, via Snapfish, of Athena’s photo of the wildlife we’ve seen (I write a lot of letters and notes to family and friends. But I have never included a parrot, and now I will. Your wealth of creativity is much appreciated.

    • Parrots are indeed fascinating creatures, Teagan. I’ve never seen them flourish in cages like they do in the rainforest, so I’m glad I could bring life to what we saw in the wild. Thanks very much for your visit today. Hugs on the wing to you, my friend.

  12. What a colourful post! I kept going back to the Rainbow Lorikeet, and smiling, it is almost unreal, and it is such an arresting photograph by Athena. I had no idea about the bite force, what a fact that is. Amazing birds and a wonderful post – thanks, Jet!

    • I enjoyed this post, seeing all the different kinds of colorful parrots you’ve encountered on your travels. The scarlet macaw from Peru is dazzling! It’s fascinating that a parrot can see even behind its head. Wow! Your post also reminded me of a 2003 documentary I saw about a flock of feral parrots, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” And just yesterday our local nature center posted that there are wild parrots living in Connecticut. Monk parakeets, from South America, but probably escaped from captivity.

      • I’m happy you enjoyed the parrots, Barbara, and thanks so much for your lovely comment. The feral parrots of SF were well-represented in that documentary, I enjoyed it too. They are red-masked parakeets and the flock isn’t really around Telegraph Hill anymore, but it is bigger now and all over SF. I see them often, and am thrilled each time. I was interested to hear of the monk parakeets in Connecticut. And yes, I am certain they are escapees who have adapted to your weather (but brrr, it’s cold there in winter!) and established a flock. Thanks for the info and for your visit today.

    • I agree, pc, those rainbow lorikeets are absolutely stunning. They’re all over, even in Sydney. They stopped me in my tracks, and since they were all over, I didn’t get too far for the first few days. ha. I didn’t know about the bite force, either, until I was researching/writing this post. I’m glad I didn’t try wrangling anything out of the jaws of the parrots. Sending many thanks and many smiles your way, pc. I hope you get more snow….

  13. So good to see parrots in the wild. We have a Timneh Grey called Dinka (after the African tribe). He says, “I want egg,” for breakfast. “What do you want to drink?” and much more. If we drop something he says “Oh S—!” No idea how he learned that or how he learned to whine “Mommy.” He was born in the US and registered. He runs the house and makes a lot of mess.

  14. Thank you, Jet for introducing these wild parrots. It must be a thrill to watch these coloful birds. Red and Green Macaws are just stunning. Beautiful photos!!

  15. Enjoyed learning about the beautiful wild parrots, although I will always look at them a little differently now knowing they can have the same bite force as a dog. Beautiful collection of photos by Athena, especially the crimson rosella and the fabulous rainbow lorikeet portrait!

    • I agree with you, ACI, parrots with such powerful bite force do indeed cast a different light on this merry, bright bird. I enjoyed your comment, thanks so much for stopping by.

  16. Pingback: Wild Parrots โ€” Jet Eliot | huggers.ca

  17. Cannot even begin to imagine how it feels to actually see such vibrantly colored parrots in the wild. What an incredible experience, Jet. Thank you for both the pictures and the information. I always receive an education when I come here.

  18. I had never dreamed that parrots coloring who have them blend into their surroundings. Yet Athena’s photos clearly demonstrate it. Fascinating about the various dialects and the intelligence of the birds. In balance of course the issue of them being sought after as pets. We humans do cause so many issues.
    Thank you for this educational and vibrant post Jet.

    • I’m glad I could share the fascinating joy of parrots with you, Sue. Their intelligence is astounding, and they are truly wonderful to observe. I didn’t expound on their disturbing demise caused by humans here in the post as much as I would go on about it in person. The numerous caged parrots we came upon while birding through the small villages was heart-breaking. Parrots in the wild were so vibrant, while the same species in those cages were so distressed. Hopefully this will be turned around while there is still time, laws are headed in the right direction. My warm thanks to you for your visits today, Sue. So nice to see you, and my best to Dave too.

  19. Wow! Some of those parrots are quite dazzling. I reckon the map at the end should include Britain as there a huge numbers of parakeets in SE England, London especially, and they are spreading. Of course they are not native.

  20. Wonderful to “see” you today, Alastair, thanks so much. The range map is for native parrots, so the feral parakeets in SE England are not included on it. But I did appreciate hearing about the feral populations in London and England. The populations that have developed from escapees have increased due to the warming temperatures of the planet. It used to just be warm climates that hosted them, now they’re fluttering throughout many cities that get cold in the winter, like London. Always a joy to have you stop by, thank you.

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