Psittaciformes – Parrots & cockatoos

Parrots are among the most intelligent of birds, with brain-to- body size ratios comparable to higher primates

A remarkable order of birds that boast an extraordinary palette of colors and the capacity for vocal mimicry, characteristics that have endeared them to humans for centuries. These birds are predominantly found in a wide range of environments in tropical and subtropical regions, from rainforests to savannas and even in alpine areas.

The anatomical design of parrots is finely tuned to their arboreal lifestyle. Their zygodactyl feet—two toes pointing forward and two backward—are perfect for grasping branches and handling food items. This distinctive foot arrangement and strong, muscular legs allow them to maneuver skillfully among tree canopies.

Their beaks are another marvel of evolution: robust, curved, and formidable, and these beaks are capable of cracking open hard-shelled nuts and seeds, which constitute a significant part of their diet. The upper beak is particularly mobile, being attached to the skull by a unique joint that allows it to move independently of the skull, an adaptation that is not found in other birds.

Parrots are highly social creatures with complex social structures, including lifelong pair bonds and communal roosts. Their social nature is also evident in their communication. Vocalizations play a crucial role in maintaining social ties, with calls used to identify individual birds, signal alarms, and coordinate movements among the flock. Some species of parrots are known for their impressive ability to mimic human speech and other sounds, a trait that has made them highly sought after as pets.

The intelligence of parrots is notable; they are considered among the most intelligent of birds. Studies have shown that some species can use tools, solve complex problems, and exhibit signs of a theory of mind—an ability to understand the desires and intentions of others.

Unfortunately, the beauty and intelligence of parrots have contributed to their decline. The illegal pet trade has devastated populations, as birds are captured from the wild to supply demand. Habitat destruction further exacerbates the issue, leaving many species with shrinking territories.