International parrot day

World parrot day is on May 31st every year since 2004. This special day was started by World Parrot Trust. Around the world, this day has a purpose of highlighting the threats to parrots that are both captive and wild, all over the globe. World Parrot day aims to raise awareness about the role of importing birds.

Did you know that before the first International Parrot Day by World Parrot Trust,  they had put a petition forward that called for the European Union to ban the trade of wild birds in Europe. Thousands of people signed this petition from many different countries. On the first World Parrot Day, people gathered in London and those who were in support of the petition marched from London’s Trafalgar Square to Downing street to deliver the petition.

World parrot day is celebrated by special events and parties. Sometimes, zoos or bird sanctuary’s may get involved in the celebration.

What is the World Parrot Trust?

They are an organisation who implement programs to protect parrots. Their goal is to save wild parrots from extinction and ensure that companion parrots are cared for in an optimal way. They do some great work and are involved in research, conservation programs, education and awareness programs and they help to support the rehabilitation of parrots that are caught in illegal trade.  If you have your own pet parrot, they can support you by ensuring you have correct information on how to care for your parrot. World Parrot Trust also encourages people to adopt and re-home parrots that come from sanctuaries to make sure that rescue facilities don’t get overloaded with these beautiful birds.

What are parrots?

So do you actually know what a parrot is? You may recognise their colourful plumage they are known for. And in popular culture, parrots are associated with sitting on a pirates shoulder.

Parrots are also known as psittacines. And there are almost 400 different species of parrot. There are 92 genera comprising of the order Psittaciformes that are found mostly in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. One third of parrot species are threatened by extinction. According to the IUCN Red List Index, parrots, when compared to other similar bird groups, have a higher aggregate extinction risk.

Parrots are divided into three superfamilies. The “true” parrots – Psittacoida, the cockatoos – Cacatuoidea, and the New Zealand parrots – Strigopoidea.

New Zealand parrots

New Zealand parrots include the kea, kaka  and kakapo. Have you seen these beautiful parrots? They really are quite unique. Because New Zealand is a geographically isolated part of the world, it has made it difficult for mammals to reach the country. This has caused an absence of land mammals other than bats.

Kakapo parrot

The kakapo is a flightless, nocturnal species and is camouflaged to avoid birds of prey. Another interesting fact about the kakapo is that it is  the only flightless bird in the whole world to use a lek breeding system. A lek is when male animals gather to engage in competitive displays of courtship to entice the females which survey the choices for mating that are on offer. Kakapo only breed every three to five years.

The kakapo name means “night parrot” and this is because they prefer solo night time walks. They are called the “midnight rambler” because kakapo like to sleep all day and wander about the forest at  night. They are normally found tucked in a tree during the day and then found wandering the forest when it’s dark.

These birds are also introverts. They pretty much only look for company when it’s time to breed or to raise their young ones. The female kakapo raise their chicks alone. And because she does this she has to leave her chicks alone at night when she wanders about looking for food. This makes her babies vulnerable to predators (their nests are also quite smelly and not very difficult to find).

Kea parrot

The kea are found in the snow at ski resorts. They have adapted well to high altitudes and because there are no trees in the alpine zone, the kea parrot breeds in the ground. This is different from most other parrot species who breed in the hollows of trees.

The kea is generally an olive green colour with bright orange, yellow and black feathers on the underside of its wings. The orange feathers of the kea can be seen in the UV spectrum (light waves we can’t see but other birds and insects can).

Keas are quite heavy birds. The male birds can weight up to 1 kilogram and the females are slightly smaller. So basically, they are the weight of a small breed chicken. The way kea are shaped, and their weight, means they don’t get cold too quickly. This is very important due to their life on the alpine mountains.

Kaka parrot

The kaka parrot is a large bush parrot. They live in the forests of New Zealand. There are fewer that ten thousand of these birds Forest clearance has destroyed the kaka’s former habitat. And they are threatened by mammalian predators like the stoat and bush tail possum.  

There are conservation recovery programs for the kaka and the kakapo in New Zealand, the kea is also closely watched. Thus far, over 200 kakapo are in a breeding and conservation program and all of these birds have been individually named.

16 fun facts about parrots

  1. Parrots are very intelligent birds. They are able to imitate human speech. This is one reason they are so popular as pets.
  2. Unfortunately, parrots are subjected to far more exploitation than any other groups of birds.
  3. Parrots taste with the roofs of their mouths. Parrots have taste glands at the back of their throats but they have taste buds on the roofs of their mouths. Humans have about 10,000 taste buds, and parrots have about 300. Even though they don’t have as many taste buds as humans, they still have preferences for certain foods.
  4. It is very difficult to tell male and female parrots apart. Of course there are some exceptions but for the most part, most parrot species look pretty much identical.
  5. Puck, a famous parrot, in 1995 landed in the GuinnessP Book of World records for recognizing 1,728 words.
  6. As I have said, parrots are intelligent birds, so much so that parrots have been observed pulverizing cockle shells. The males then offer this regurgitated snack to females before mating due to its richness in calcium.
  7. Parrots have the equivalent of two pairs of opposable thumbs. They have toes that are configured to ensure they have maximum grip – two “toes” in front, and two behind.
  8. Most parrots live in tropical and subtropical regions but some parrots do not follow this pattern. For example, the kea which I mentioned above, lives in alpine regions in New Zealand. There is also the maroon-fronted parrot that lives in the mountains of Mexico
  9. Most parrots eat seeds as their food. Some eat fruit, nectar, flowers or small insects.
  10. Have you seen a parrot eat? They do so with their feet. They clasp the food in between their “toes” and bring it up to their beak while eating.
  11. Parrots can live a long time. Some parrots can live to 6o years old. Even the household pet parrot can live for around 30 years, with many living longer than this.
  12. Parrots are together as mates for a long time. Once a male and female parrot get together they stay together, even outside of their breeding season. They only depart from each other if they do not produce parrot babies or if their partner dies.
  13. Parrots are not vegetarians. They actually eat meat and vegetables. They eat seeds, nuts, corn, flowers. The parrots diet is very varied.
  14. At any one time, parrots lay two to eight eggs. The incubation period lasts up to thirty days. And did you know that both parents take turns to sit on the eggs.
  15. There are wild parrots living in New York City. We really don’t know how they got there for certain, but it’s estimated there are at least 550 parrots in the city. The most popular theory of how they ended up there is that they escaped from a shipment that was heading to JFK Airport!
  16. Parrots are a crucial part of research. They have been used to help gauge the intelligence of animals.

Because it is World Parrot Day on 31st May, I want to say that parrots are important. We need birds more than they need us. Birds help to control pests, pollinate plants, and spread seeds.

To the detriment of birds, the eggs they lay have been a source of food for humans since humans evolved. We have also hunted many bird species to extinction. Not to mention, feathers were usually gathered by killing the parrot. Birds also appear in ancient art and mythology. Their birdsong enriches the daily life of many people for centuries. And of course, we all know someone who is an avid  bird watcher.

Birds even inspire science, they have helped to inspire the technology of flight and the invention of zippers. We as humans, have drawn inspiration from our bird friends since the beginning of time. They deserve our respect as the messengers of this earth, who warn us of the ill health of the planet. They quickly respond to changes in the environment and they are our early warning beacon for climate change concerns. Let’s make sure we listen.  

Do you know any facts about parrots? And did you know about World Parrot Day. Please let me know below!

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