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Parrots are known for their amazing colours, their ability to talk and their charismatic personalities. These intelligent, but playful birds may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are great companions for anyone that has the time to train and interact with them. They are affectionate birds that have a bit of a mystery behind them, though they love to mimic people and sounds. If you are thinking about owning a parrot, here are 8 fun facts that you may not know about them.
1. They eat with their feet
Not only that, but they also happen to be the only birds on the planet that do this. Parrots have zygodactyl feet, which means that their feet each have four toes; two facing forward and two facing backward. This allows them to use their feet to pick up food to eat. It also means that their feet are extremely strong, allowing them to pick up many other things as well.
The reason we often see parrots clinging to branches or hanging upside down is because of their zygodactyl feet. Another interesting parrot foot fact is that they often prefer one foot over the other. Like humans, a parrot can be left-handed or right-handed.
2. They are intelligent
Parrots are one of the most intelligent birds out there, which is why they are a popular pet species. Their intelligence means that they are quick learners, and that they take everything in. Some parrot species are smarter than others, like, for example, the African Grey Parrot that can learn up to 100 words. In fact, it is believed that they have the same logic as a four year old child. A cheery blue parakeet by the name of Puck was in the Guinness Book of World Records for knowing a whopping 1,728 words!
Not only can parrots speak, but they also associate words with situations or objects. For example, when their owner comes home they recognise this and associate a word with it. The same is true for other daily activities like having a morning coffee, reading emails, watching TV and going to bed.
3. They taste with the top of their beaks
A parrot has between 300 and 400 taste buds, all of which are on the top of their beak. This is not a lot compared to the 10,000 taste buds that we have, but it is enough to be able to determine what they like and dislike. Unlike most other bird species, parrots are able to taste sweetness, making them love fruit and nectar. They also eat seeds and buds.
Some parrot breeds are carnivours, eating things like insects and invertebrate larvae. The Golden-winged parakeets prey on water snails, the large kea of New Zealand is known to hunt adult sheep and some cockatoos eat grubs.
4. They are big
Well, not all of them, but some parrot breeds can grow to be nearly 1 metre long. The world’s largest parrot is the hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), which is roughly 110 cm from the top of its head to its tail. Although they are the largest parrot, they are not the heaviest. That title goes to the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), which is also known as the night parrot. This flightless bird hails from New Zealand and can weigh as much as nine pounds. It also happens to be the only flightless parrot species and one of the longest living birds in the world.
5. They have been pets for over 3,000 years
Parrots have been pets longer than any other bird species in the world. In fact, they were pets in ancient Egyptian times over 3,000 years ago. They then became popular household companions in India and China, before being brought to Europe in 300 BC. Back then, they were only owned by the rich and the noble, with famous people like Marco Polo, Aristotle, Marie Antoinette, King Henry VIII and Queen Victoria having a pet parrot or two. More recently, Teddy Roosevelt and Steven Spielberg have had a pet parrot.
Parrots are one of the most popular birds to have as a pet, which, unfortunately, is why they are rarely seen in the wild today.
6. Not all parrots are tropical
Most people think about the tropics and warm weather when they think about parrots. There are over 390 different species of parrots, and although most are tropical, not all of them are. There are species that prefers the cold to the warm, and the mountains to the tropical jungle.
The Kea is one of these parrots, which lives in the alpine regions of New Zealand. These parrots have thick feathers to keep them warm in the colder weather. They are also rounder than tropical parrots to help them conserve their body heat. There is also the endangered maroon-fronted parrot (Rhynchopsitta terrisi) that lives in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains in Mexico.
7. They live a long time
Your pet parrot may even outlive you! The average lifespan of a parrot is anywhere between 25 and 50 years, though some can live even longer. Macaws have an average life span of 80 years, which means that they are forever pet companions. These breeds live for so long that owners often have to make arrangements for them just in case they do happen to outlive them.
8. They only have one life partner
Parrots believe in love and once they find it, this is their partner for life. Not only that, but they are completely monogamous. To find their one true love, a male parrot will court a female parrot, parading around, dancing, and making sounds and various facial expressions to impress her. Once the female gives in, the two stay together for life. It is really quite romantic.
Parrot couples will sleep together, groom each other, eat together and watch out for each other. These things just strengthen their bond even more. Plus, they are together all of the time, even outside of breeding season.