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The Animal Answer Guide

Matt Cameron

Publication Year: 2012

Have you ever wondered what parrots eat in the wild? Or why so many species live in the Amazon? How intelligent are parrots? What is the world’s rarest parrot? Parrots: The Animal Answer Guide provides detailed, factual answers to the ninety questions most on our minds. There are more than 350 species of these colorful callers, ranging in size from the diminutive lovebird to the massive macaw. Many species can live to be octogenarians in captivity—sometimes outliving their human caretakers by decades. The beautiful plumage of parrots and the ability to mimic sounds are both a blessing and a curse. A number of species are in danger of extinction because they are captured and sold into the pet trade by unscrupulous dealers. Fortunately, most parrot owners and retailers rely on captive breeding, although an appalling amount of wild collection continues. In addition to discussing parrot behavior and biology, Matt Cameron reveals the truth about the trade in wild parrots and explains what each of us can do to help save native populations. Whether you are a parrot owner, birder, ornithologist, or curious naturalist, you will find that Cameron asks and fully answers every question you have about these incredible birds.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xii


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xviii

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...

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1. Introducing Parrots

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pp. 1-16

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...

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2. Form and Function

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pp. 17-28

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...

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3. Parrot Colors

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pp. 29-45

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...

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4. Parrot Behavior

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pp. 46-81

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

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5. Parrot Ecology

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pp. 82-109

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...

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6. Reproduction and Development

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pp. 110-138

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...

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7. Foods and Feeding

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pp. 139-149

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...

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8. Parrots and Humans

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pp. 150-158

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...

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9. Parrot Problems (from a human viewpoint)

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pp. 159-168

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...

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10. Human Problems (from a parrot’s viewpoint)

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pp. 169-183

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...

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11. Parrots in Stories and Literature

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pp. 184-195

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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12. “Parrotology”

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pp. 196-208

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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pp. 209-218

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 219-230


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pp. 231-238

E-ISBN-13: 9781421406596
E-ISBN-10: 1421406594
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421405445
Print-ISBN-10: 142140544X

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