The Animal Answer Guide
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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My early interest in natural history was piqued not by parrots but by birds of prey. As a teenager, I recall spending hours poring over Tom Cade’s 1982 Falcons of the World and Jack and Lindsay Cupper’s 1981 Hawks in Focus. My dream was to become a raptor biologist. Growing up in the Riverina town...
1. Introducing Parrots
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What are parrots?
Young children can readily pick a parrot out of a storybook lineup. What is it about parrots that make them as recognizable as dogs, ducks, and dinosaurs? Their brilliant coloration is part of the explanation. Parrots are mostly green, with splashes of red, yellow, and blue. Males and...
2. Form and Function
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What are the largest and smallest living parrots?
One of my most memorable experiences with parrots was sitting on the edge of a clearing in central Brazil watching squadrons of Hyacinth Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) fly past, their blue bodies framed against a backdrop of green palms. Their plumage was breathtaking, but what stuck...
3. Parrot Colors
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Why are so many parrots green?
Green plumage appears to have the obvious advantage of making birds less conspicuous among the forest canopy and thus less vulnerable to predators. While intuitively correct, the camouflage value of green coloration is...
4. Parrot Behavior
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Are parrots social?
I pulled off the quiet country road to examine a bundle of green feathers lying on the verge. As I got out of the car, a flock of Superb Parrots (Polytelis swainsonii) exploded from the lush weeds growing by the road. The flock landed in a nearby tree, allowing me to quickly count 25 birds. The sexes
5. Parrot Ecology
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Do parrots migrate?
The most famous parrot migrants hail from Australia. The Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) is a small bright-green bird with a blue forehead and orange abdomen. Fewer than 50 individuals remain in the wild, making it one of the world’s rarest birds. Orange-bellied Parrots...
6. Reproduction and Development
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Where do parrots nest?
Most parrots nest in holes in trees, relying on natural cavities or those excavated by other species. Nests are often high in the canopy, posing a challenge for parrot biologists. Single rope techniques employed by cavers are used to access nests. A slingshot is employed to fire a line over a branch...
7. Foods and Feeding
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What do parrots eat?
Seeds dominate the diets of parrots inhabiting temperate and arid environments. These granivorous species come to the ground to feed on grass and herb seed. Many also feed in the canopy, extracting seed from the dry fruits of native shrubs and trees. In tropical environments, parrots include a...
8. Parrots and Humans
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Do parrots make good pets?
Whether parrots make good pets depends on the establishment of appropriate relationships between humans and birds. Many parrot books, magazines, and websites devote large sections to behavioral problems, highlighting the potential for things to go wrong in parrot-human interactions...
9. Parrot Problems (from a human viewpoint)
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Are some parrots agricultural pests?
I pulled up next to the fruit packing shed and went in search of the landholder. I had been asked to assess the damage done to his apple crop by Gang-gang Cockatoos (Callocephalon fimbriatum), a threatened parrot endemic to southeastern Australia. Following a brief discussion about the...
10. Human Problems (from a parrot’s viewpoint)
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Are any parrots endangered?
We had been climbing steadily for an hour, zigzagging across the steep slope. Our objective was the top of a cliff on which nine pairs of Red-and-green Macaws (Ara chloropterus) nested. The landholder had arranged for his brother to act as my guide, and a couple of children had come along...
11. Parrots in Stories and Literature
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What roles do parrots play in religion and mythology?
Parrots are important birds to the Pueblo people of the American Southwest. Today, parrot feathers are incorporated into ritual objects used in traditional ceremonies. Macaw feathers are especially important, with the tail and wing feathers of Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) highly prized...
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Why study parrots?
We study parrots to obtain the information required to conserve them. Once, it was possible to create national parks large enough to ensure the long-term viability of natural communities without human input. The loss and fragmentation of habitat in recent decades means this is no longer the...
Appendix: Common and Scientific Names of Living Parrots
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Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 37 color photos, 70 halftones, 7 maps, 3 graphs
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist