Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world. There are eight different genera in the family classified as rabbits, including the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), cottontail rabbits (genus Sylvilagus; 13 species), and the Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi, an endangered species on Amami Ōshima, Japan) (Dell 1691P battery). There are many other species of rabbit, and these, along with pikas and hares, make up the order Lagomorpha. The male is called a buck and the female is a doe; a young rabbit is a kitten or kit.
Habitat and range
Outdoor entrance to a rabbit burrow
Rabbit habitats include meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands. Rabbits live in groups, and the best known species, the European rabbit, lives in underground burrows, or rabbit holes. A group of burrows is called a warren(Dell 310-6321 battery).
More than half the world's rabbit population resides in North America. They are also native to southwestern Europe, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, some islands of Japan, and in parts of Africa and South America. They are not naturally found in most of Eurasia, where a number of species of hares are present. Rabbits first entered South America relatively recently(Dell 312-0068 battery), as part of the Great American Interchange. Much of the continent has just one species of rabbit, the tapeti, while most of South America's southern cone is without rabbits.
The European rabbit has been introduced to many places around the world.
Morphology and ecology
The rabbit's long ears, which can be more than 10 cm (4 in) long, are probably an adaptation for detecting predators. They have large, powerful hind legs(Dell 312-0078 battery). The two front paws have 5 toes, the extra called the dewclaw. The hind feet have 4 toes. They are plantigrade animals while at rest; however, they move around on their toes while running, assuming a more digitigrade form. Wild rabbits do not differ much in their body proportions or stance, with full(Dell 312-0079 battery), egg-shaped bodies. Their size can range anywhere from 20 cm (8 in) in length and 0.4 kg in weight to 50 cm (20 in) and more than 2 kg. The fur is most commonly long and soft, with colors such as shades of brown, gray, and buff. The tail is a little plume of brownish fur (white on top for cottontails).
Because the rabbit's epiglottis is engaged over the soft palate except when swallowing, the rabbit is an obligate nasal breather(Dell 312-0305 battery). Rabbits have two sets of incisor teeth, one behind the other. This way they can be distinguished from rodents, with which they are often confused. Carl Linnaeus originally grouped rabbits and rodents under the class Glires; later, they were separated as the predominant opinion was that many of their similarities were a result of convergent evolution(Dell 312-0326 battery). However, recent DNA analysis and the discovery of a common ancestor has supported the view that they share a common lineage, and thus rabbits and rodents are now often referred to together as members of the superclass Glires.
Rabbits are hindgut digesters. This means that most of their digestion takes place in their large intestine and cecum(Dell 312-0518 battery). In rabbits the cecum is about 10 times bigger than the stomach and it along with the large intestine makes up roughly 40% of the rabbit's digestive tract. The unique musculature of the cecum allows the intestinal tract of the rabbit to separate fibrous material from more digestible material; the fibrous material is passed as feces, while the more nutritious material is encased in a mucous lining as a cecotrope(Dell 312-0566 battery). Cecotropes, sometimes called "night feces", are high in minerals, vitamins and proteins that are necessary to the rabbit's health. Rabbits eat these to meet their nutritional requirements; the mucous coating allows the nutrients to pass through the acidic stomach for digestion in the intestines. This process allows rabbits to extract the necessary nutrients from their food(Dell 312-0585 battery).
Rabbits are prey animals and are therefore constantly aware of their surroundings. For instances, in Mediterranean Europe, rabbits are the main prey of red foxes, badgers, and Iberian lynxes. If confronted by a potential threat, a rabbit may freeze and observe then warn others in the warren with powerful thumps on the ground. Rabbits have a remarkably wide field of vision(Dell 312-0831 battery), and a good deal of it is devoted to overhead scanning. They survive predation by burrowing, hopping away in a zig- zag motion, and, if captured, delivering powerful kicks with their hind legs. Their strong teeth allow them to eat and to bite in order to escape a struggle.
Further information: Sleep (non-human)
The average sleep time of a captive rabbit is said to be 8.4 hours.
A litter of rabbit kits (baby rabbits)
A nest containing baby rabbits
Rabbits have a very rapid reproductive rate. The breeding season for most rabbits lasts 9 months, from February to October(Dell BAT30WL battery). In Australia and New Zealand breeding season is late July to late January. Normal gestation is about 30 days. The average size of the litter varies but is usually between 4 and 12 babies, with larger breeds having larger litters. A kit (baby rabbit) can be weaned at about 4 to 5 weeks of age. This means in one season a single female rabbit can produce as many as 800 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren(Dell D6400 battery). A doe is ready to breed at about 6 months of age, and a buck at about 7 months. Courtship and mating are very brief, lasting only 30 to 40 seconds. Courtship behavior involves licking, sniffing, and following the doe. Spraying urine is also a common sexual behavior. Female rabbits are reflex ovulators. The female rabbit also may or may not lose clumps of hair during the gestation period(Dell HF674 battery).
Ovulation begins 10 hours after mating. After mating, the female makes a nest or burrow, and lines the nest with fur from her dewlap, flanks and belly. This behavior also exposes the nipples enabling her to better nurse the kits. Kits are altricial, which means they are born blind, naked, and helpless. Passive immunity (immunity acquired by transfer of antibodies or sensitized lymphocytes from another animal) is acquired by kits prior to birth via placental transfer(Dell N3010 battery).
Due to the nutritious nature of rabbit milk kits only need to be nursed for a few minutes once or twice a day. At 10 to 11 days after birth the baby rabbits' eyes open and they start eating on their own at around 14 days old. Although born naked, they form a soft baby coat of hair within a few days. At the age of 5 to 6 weeks the soft baby coat is replaced with a pre-adult coat(Dell Inspiron N4010 battery). At about 6 to 8 months of age (the age that rabbits are fully grown) this intermediate coat is replaced by the final adult coat, which is shed twice a year thereafter.
The expected rabbit lifespan is about 9–12 years; the world's longest-lived was 18 years.
Diet and eating habits
Rabbits are herbivores that feed by grazing on grass, forbs, and leafy weeds. In consequence, their diet contains large amounts of cellulose, which is hard to digest. Rabbits solve this problem by passing two distinct types of feces(Dell INSPIRON 1100 battery): hard droppings and soft black viscous pellets, the latter of which are immediately eaten. Rabbits reingest their own droppings (rather than chewing the cud as do cows and many other herbivores) to digest their food further and extract sufficient nutrients.
Rabbits graze heavily and rapidly for roughly the first half hour of a grazing period (usually in the late afternoon), followed by about half an hour of more selective feeding(Dell Inspiron 1200 battery). In this time, the rabbit will also excrete many hard fecal pellets, being waste pellets that will not be reingested. If the environment is relatively non-threatening, the rabbit will remain outdoors for many hours, grazing at intervals. While out of the burrow, the rabbit will occasionally reingest its soft, partially digested pellets; this is rarely observed, since the pellets are reingested as they are produced(Dell Inspiron 1420 battery). Reingestion is most common within the burrow between 8 o'clock in the morning and 5 o'clock in the evening, being carried out intermittently within that period.
Hard pellets are made up of hay-like fragments of plant cuticle and stalk, being the final waste product after redigestion of soft pellets. These are only released outside the burrow and are not reingested. Soft pellets are usually produced several hours after grazing, after the hard pellets have all been excreted. They are made up of micro-organisms and undigested plant cell walls(Dell Inspiron 1464 battery).
The chewed plant material collects in the large cecum, a secondary chamber between the large and small intestine containing large quantities of symbiotic bacteria that help with the digestion of cellulose and also produce certain B vitamins. The pellets are about 56% bacteria by dry weight, largely accounting for the pellets being 24.4% protein on average(Dell Inspiron 1564 battery). These pellets remain intact for up to six hours in the stomach; the bacteria within continue to digest the plant carbohydrates. The soft feces form here and contain up to five times the vitamins of hard feces. After being excreted, they are eaten whole by the rabbit and redigested in a special part of the stomach. This double-digestion process enables rabbits to use nutrients that they may have missed during the first passage through the gut(Dell Inspiron 1764 battery), as well as the nutrients formed by the microbial activity and thus ensures that maximum nutrition is derived from the food they eat. This process serves the same purpose within the rabbit as rumination does in cattle and sheep.
Rabbits are incapable of vomiting.
For a more comprehensive list, see Category:Rabbit diseases.
Some rabbits may have rabies.
Differences from hares
Main article: Hare
The most obvious difference between rabbits and hares is how their kits are born. Rabbits are altricial, having young that are born blind and hairless. In contrast, hares are born with hair and are able to see (precocial) (Dell Inspiron 1520 battery). All rabbits except cottontail rabbits live underground in burrows or warrens, while hares live in simple nests above the ground (as do cottontail rabbits), and usually do not live in groups. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with longer ears, larger and longer hind legs and have black markings on their fur. Hares have not been domesticated, while European rabbits are both raised for meat and kept as pets(Dell Inspiron 1521 battery).
See also: House rabbit and Domestic rabbit
European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Domestic rabbits can be kept as pets in a back yard hutch or indoors in a cage or house trained to have free roam. Rabbits kept indoors are often referred to as house rabbits. House rabbits typically have an indoor pen or cage and a rabbit-safe place to run and exercise, such as an exercise pen, living room or family room(Dell inspiron 1525 battery). Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box and some can learn to come when called. Domestic rabbits that do not live indoors can also serve as companions for their owners, typically living in a protected hutch outdoors. Some pet rabbits live in outside hutches during the day for the benefit of fresh air and natural daylight and are brought inside at night(Dell inspiron 1526 battery).
Whether indoor or outdoor, pet rabbits' pens are often equipped with enrichment activities such as shelves, tunnels, balls, and other toys. Pet rabbits are often provided additional space in which to get exercise, simulating the open space a rabbit would traverse in the wild. Exercise pens or lawn pens are often used to provide a safe place for rabbits to run(Dell Inspiron 1720 battery).
A pet rabbit's diet typically consists of unlimited timothy-grass or other hay, a small amount of pellets, and a fair quantity of fresh vegetables and need unrestricted access to fresh clean water. Rabbits are social animals. Rabbits as pets can find their companionship with a variety of creatures, including humans, other rabbits, birds, chinchillas, guinea pigs(Dell Inspiron 2000 battery), and sometimes even cats and dogs (however they require supervision when with dogs and cats, as they might be preyed upon or attacked by these animals). Rabbits can make good pets for younger children when proper parental supervision is provided. As prey animals, rabbits are alert, timid creatures that startle fairly easily. They have fragile bones, especially in their backs, that require support on the belly and bottom when picked up(Dell INSPIRON 2600 battery). Older children and teenagers usually have the maturity required to care for a rabbit.
As food and clothing
See also: Domestic rabbit
Rabbit meat sold commercially
Tanned rabbit pelt; rabbit pelt is prized for its softness.
An Australian 'Rabbiter' circa 1900
An old wooden cart, piled with rabbit skins, in New South Wales, Australia
Leporids such as European rabbits and hares are a food meat in Europe, South America, North America, some parts of the Middle East.
Rabbit is still sold in UK butchers and markets, and some supermarkets sell frozen rabbit meat. Additionally, some have begun selling fresh rabbit meat alongside other types of game. At farmers markets and the famous Borough Market in London(Dell INSPIRON 3800 battery), rabbits will be displayed dead and hanging unbutchered in the traditional style next to braces of pheasant and other small game. Rabbit meat was once commonly sold in Sydney, Australia, the sellers of which giving the name to the rugby league team the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but quickly became unpopular after the disease myxomatosis was introduced in an attempt to wipe out the feral rabbit population (see also Rabbits in Australia) (Dell INSPIRON 4000 battery). Rabbit meat is also commonly used in Moroccan cuisine, where it is cooked in a tajine with "raisins and grilled almonds added a few minutes before serving".. Rabbit meat is unpopular in the Asia-Pacific.
When used for food, rabbits are both hunted and bred for meat. Snares or guns are usually employed when catching wild rabbits for food. In many regions, rabbits are also bred for meat, a practice called cuniculture(Dell Inspiron 5000 battery). Rabbits can then be killed by hitting the back of their heads, a practice from which the term rabbit punch is derived. Rabbit meat is a source of high quality protein. It can be used in most ways chicken meat is used. In fact, well-known chef Mark Bittman says that domesticated rabbit tastes like chicken because both are blank palettes upon which any desired flavors can be layered. (Dell INSPIRON 500M battery)Rabbit meat is leaner than beef, pork, and chicken meat. Rabbit products are generally labeled in three ways, the first being Fryer. This is a young rabbit between 4.5 and 5 pounds and up to 9 weeks in age. This type of meat is tender and fine grained. The next product is a Roaster; they are usually over 5 pounds and up to 8 months in age. The flesh is firm and coarse grained and less tender than a fryer(Dell INSPIRON 5100 battery). Then there are giblets which include the liver and heart. One of the most common types of rabbit to be bred for meat is New Zealand white rabbit.
There are several health issues associated with the use of rabbits for meat, one of which is tularemia or rabbit fever. Another is so-called rabbit starvation, due most likely to deficiency of essential fatty acids in rabbit meat. Rabbits are a common food item of large pythons, such as Burmese pythons and reticulated pythons, both in the wild and in captivity(Dell INSPIRON 510M battery).
Rabbit pelts are sometimes used for clothing and accessories, such as scarves or hats. Angora rabbits are bred for their long, fine hair, which can be sheared and harvested like sheep wool. Rabbits are very good producers of manure; additionally, their urine, being high in nitrogen, makes lemon trees very productive. Their milk may also be of great medicinal or nutritional benefit due to its high protein content(Dell INSPIRON 6000 battery).
See also: Rabbits in Australia
Rabbits have been a source of environmental problems when introduced into the wild by humans. As a result of their appetites, and the rate at which they breed, feral rabbit depredation can be problematic for agriculture. Gassing, barriers (fences), shooting, snaring, and ferreting have been used to control rabbit populations, but the most effective measures are diseases such as myxomatosis (myxo or mixi, colloquially) (Dell INSPIRON 600M battery) and calicivirus. In Europe, where rabbits are farmed on a large scale, they are protected against myxomatosis and calicivirus with a genetically modified virus. The virus was developed in Spain, and is beneficial to rabbit farmers. If it were to make its way into wild populations in areas such as Australia, it could create a population boom, as those diseases are the most serious threats to rabbit survival(Dell Inspiron 6400 battery). Rabbits in Australia and New Zealand are considered to be such a pest that land owners are legally obliged to control them.
When introduced into a new area, rabbits can overpopulate rapidly, becoming a nuisance, as on this university campus
European Rabbit in Shropshire, England, infected with myxomatosis, a disease caused by the Myxoma virus
In culture and literature
See also: List of fictional hares and rabbits
Rabbits are often used as a symbol of fertility or rebirth, and have long been associated with spring and Easter as the Easter Bunny. The species' role as a prey animal also lends itself as a symbol of innocence, another Easter connotation(Dell INSPIRON 7000 battery).
Additionally, rabbits are often used as symbols of playful sexuality, which also relates to the human perception of innocence, as well as its reputation as a prolific breeder.
Further information: Playboy Bunny
Folklore and mythology
The rabbit often appears in folklore as the trickster archetype, as he uses his cunning to outwit his enemies.
In Aztec mythology, a pantheon of four hundred rabbit gods known as Centzon Totochtin, led by Ometotchtli or Two Rabbit, represented fertility, parties, and drunkenness(Dell INSPIRON 700M battery).
In Central Africa, "Kalulu" the rabbit is widely known as a tricky character, getting the better of bargains.
In Chinese literature, rabbits accompany Chang'e on the Moon. Also associated with the Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year), rabbits are also one of the twelve celestial animals in the Chinese Zodiac for the Chinese calendar. It is interesting to note that the Vietnamese lunar new year replaced the rabbit with a cat in their calendar, as rabbits did not inhabit Vietnam(Dell Inspiron 710m battery).
A rabbit's foot is carried as an amulet believed to bring good luck. This is found in many parts of the world, and with the earliest use being in Europe around 600 B.C.
In Japanese tradition, rabbits live on the Moon where they make mochi, the popular snack of mashed sticky rice. This comes from interpreting the pattern of dark patches on the moon as a rabbit standing on tiptoes on the left pounding on an usu, a Japanese mortar (Dell INSPIRON 8200 battery).
In Jewish folklore, rabbits (shfanim שפנים) are associated with cowardice, a usage still current in contemporary Israeli spoken Hebrew (similar to English colloquial use of "chicken" to denote cowardice).
In Korean mythology, like in Japanese, presents rabbits living on the moon making rice cakes (Tteok in Korean) (Dell INSPIRON 8600 battery).
In Native American Ojibwe mythology, Nanabozho, or Great Rabbit, is an important deity related to the creation of the world.
A Vietnamese mythological story portrays the rabbit of innocence and youthfulness. The Gods of the myth are shown to be hunting and killing rabbits to show off their power.
On the Isle of Portland in Dorset, UK, the rabbit is said to be unlucky and speaking its name can cause upset with older residents(Dell INSPIRON 9100 battery). This is thought to date back to early times in the quarrying industry, where piles of extracted stone (not fit for sale) were built into tall rough walls (to save space) directly behind the working quarry face; the rabbit's natural tendency to burrow would weaken these "walls" and cause collapse, often resulting in injuries or even death(Dell INSPIRON 9200 battery). The name rabbit is often substituted with words such as “long ears” or “underground mutton”, so as not to have to say the actual word and bring bad luck to oneself. It is said that a public house (on the island) can be cleared of people by calling out the word rabbit and while this was very true in the past, it has gradually become more fable than fact over the past 50 years. See also Three hares(Dell INSPIRON 9300 battery).
Other fictional rabbits
Main article: List of fictional hares and rabbits
The rabbit as trickster appears in American popular culture; for example the Br'er Rabbit character from African-American folktales and Disney animation; and the Warner Bros. cartoon character Bugs Bunny.
Anthropomorphized rabbits have appeared in a host of works of film, literature, and technology, notably the White Rabbit and the March Hare in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland(Dell Inspiron 9400 battery); in the popular novels Watership Down, by Richard Adams (which has also been made into a movie) and Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson, as well as in Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit stories.
Main article: Rabbit test
It was commonly believed that pregnancy tests were based on the idea that a rabbit would die if injected with a pregnant woman's urine. This is not true. However, in the 1920s it was discovered that if the urine contained the hCG, a hormone found in the bodies of pregnant women(Dell Inspiron E1505 battery), the rabbit would display ovarian changes. The rabbit would then be killed to have its ovaries inspected, but the death of the rabbit was not the indicator of the results. Later revisions of the test allowed technicians to inspect the ovaries without killing the animal. A similar test involved injecting Xenopus frogs to make them lay eggs, but animal tests for pregnancy have been made obsolete by faster, cheaper, and simpler modern methods(Dell Inspiron E1705 battery).
Parrots, also known as psittacines ( /ˈsɪtəsaɪnz/), are birds of the roughly 372 species in 86 genera that make up the order Psittaciformes, found in most tropical and subtropical regions. The order is subdivided into three superfamilies: the Psittacoidea ('true' parrots), the Cacatuoidea (cockatoos) and the Strigopoidea (New Zealand parrots). (Dell Inspiron Mini 9 battery) Parrots have a generally pantropical distribution with several species inhabiting temperate regions in the Southern Hemisphere as well. The greatest diversity of parrots is found in South America and Australasia.
Characteristic features of parrots include a strong, curved bill, an upright stance, strong legs, and clawed zygodactyl feet. Many parrots are vividly coloured, and some are multi-coloured(Dell Latitude D400 battery). The plumage of cockatoos ranges from mostly white to mostly black, with a mobile crest of feathers on the tops of their heads. Most parrots exhibit little or no sexual dimorphism. They form the most variably sized bird order in terms of length.
The most important components of most parrots' diets are seeds, nuts, fruit, buds and other plant material. A few species sometimes eat animals and carrion, while the lories and lorikeets are specialised for feeding on floral nectar and soft fruits(Dell STUDIO 1450 battery). Almost all parrots nest in tree hollows (or nest boxes in captivity), and lay white eggs from which hatch altricial (helpless) young.
Parrots, along with ravens, crows, jays and magpies, are among the most intelligent birds, and the ability of some species to imitate human voices enhances their popularity as pets. Trapping wild parrots for the pet trade, as well as hunting, habitat loss and competition from invasive species(Dell Vostro 1400 battery), has diminished wild populations, with parrots being subjected to more exploitation than any other group of birds. Measures taken to conserve the habitats of some high-profile charismatic species have also protected many of the less charismatic species living in the same ecosystems(Dell Vostro 1500 battery).
Origins and evolution
Blue-and-yellow Macaw eating a walnut held by a foot
Psittaciform diversity in South America and Australasia suggests that the order may have evolved in Gondwanaland, centred in Australasia. The scarcity of parrots in the fossil record, however, presents difficulties in supporting the hypothesis.
A single 15 mm (0.6 in) fragment from a large lower bill (UCMP 143274), found in deposits from the Lance Creek Formation in Niobrara County, Wyoming(Dell XPS GEN 2 battery), had been thought to be the oldest parrot fossil and is presumed to have originated from the Late Cretaceous period, which makes it about 70 Ma (million years ago). Other studies suggest that this fossil is not from a bird, but from a caenagnathid theropod or a non-avian dinosaur with a birdlike beak(Dell XPS M1210 battery).
It is now generally assumed that the Psittaciformes, or their common ancestors with several related bird orders, were present somewhere in the world around the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (K-Pg extinction), some 65 Ma If so, they probably had not evolved their morphological autapomorphies yet, but were generalised arboreal birds(Dell XPS M1330 battery), roughly similar (though not necessarily closely related) to today's potoos or frogmouths (see also Palaeopsittacus below). Though these birds (Cypselomorphae) are a phylogenetically challenging group, they seem at least closer to the parrot ancestors than, for example, the modern aquatic birds (Aequornithes). The combined evidence supported the hypothesis of Psittaciformes being "near passerines"(Dell XPS 1340 battery), i.e. the mostly land-living birds that emerged in close proximity to the K-Pg extinction. Indeed, analysis of transposable element insertions observed in the genomes of passerines and parrots, but not in the genomes of other birds, provides strong evidence that parrots are the sister group of passerines, forming a clade Psittacopasserae, to the exclusion of the next closest group, the falcons. (Dell XPS M1530 battery)
Europe is the origin of the first presumed parrot fossils, which date from about 50 Ma. The climate there and then was tropical, consistent with the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Initially, a neoavian named Mopsitta tanta, uncovered in Denmark's Early Eocene Fur Formation and dated to 54 Ma, was assigned to the Psittaciformes(Dell XPS M170 battery); it was described from a single humerus. However, the rather nondescript bone is not unequivocally psittaciform, and more recently it was pointed out that it may rather belong to a newly-discovered ibis of the genus Rhynchaeites, whose fossil legs were found in the same deposits.
The feathers of a Yellow-headed Amazon. The blue component of the green colouration is due to light scattering while the yellow is due to pigment(Dell XPS M1710 battery).
Fossils assignable to Psittaciformes (though not yet the present-day parrots) date from slightly later in the Eocene, starting around 50 Ma. Several fairly complete skeletons of parrot-like birds have been found in England and Germany. Some uncertainty remains, but on the whole it seems more likely that these are not direct ancestors of the modern parrots(Dell XPS M1730 battery), but related lineages which evolved in the Northern Hemisphere and have since died out. These are probably not "missing links" between ancestral and modern parrots, but rather psittaciform lineages that evolved parallel to true parrots and cockatoos and had their own peculiar autapomorphies:
Psittacopes (Early/Middle Eocene of Geiseltal, Germany)—basal?
Serudaptus—pseudasturid or psittacid?
Pseudasturidae (Halcyornithidae may be correct name)
Pseudasturides – formerly Pseudastur
Vastanavidae(Dell XPS M2010 battery)
Vastanavis (Early Eocene of Vastan, India)
Quercypsitta (Late Eocene)
The earliest records of modern parrots date to about 23–20 Ma and are also from Europe. Subsequently, the fossil record—again mainly from Europe—consists of bones clearly recognisable as belonging to parrots of modern type. The Southern Hemisphere does not have nearly as rich a fossil record for the period of interest as the Northern(Dell Latitude E5400 battery), and contains no known parrot-like remains earlier than the early to middle Miocene, around 20 Ma. At this point, however, is found the first unambiguous parrot fossil (as opposed to a parrot-like one), an upper jaw which is indistinguishable from that of modern cockatoos. A few modern genera are tentatively dated to a Miocene origin, but their unequivocal record stretches back only some 5 million years (see genus articles for more) (Dell Latitude E5500 battery).
Fossil skull of a presumed parrot relative from the Eocene Green River Formation in Wyoming.
The named fossil genera of parrots are probably all in the Psittacidae or close to its ancestry:
Archaeopsittacus (Late Oligocene/Early Miocene)
Xenopsitta (Early Miocene of Czechia)
Psittacidae gen. et spp. indet. (Bathans Early/Middle Miocene of Otago, New Zealand)—several species
Bavaripsitta (Middle Miocene of Steinberg, Germany)
Psittacidae gen. et sp. indet. (Middle Miocene of France)—erroneously placed in Pararallus dispar, includes "Psittacus" lartetianus(Dell Latitude E6400 battery)
Some Paleogene fossils are not unequivocally accepted to be of psittaciforms:
Palaeopsittacus (Early – Middle Eocene of NW Europe)—caprimulgiform (podargid?) or quercypsittid?
"Precursor" (Early Eocene)—part of this apparent chimera seems to be of a pseudasturid or psittacid
Pulchrapollia (Early Eocene)—includes "Primobucco" olsoni—psittaciform (pseudasturid or psittacid) (Dell Latitude E6500 battery)?
Molecular studies suggest that parrots evolved approximately 59 Ma (range 66–51 Ma) in Gondwanaland. The three major clades of Neotropical parrots originated about 50 Ma (range 57–41 Ma).
Phylogenetic relationship between the three parrot families based on the available literature
The Psittaciformes comprise three main lineages: Strigopoidea, Psittacoidea and Cacatuoidea(Dell Inspiron Mini 12 battery).
The Strigopoidea were considered part of the Psittacoidea, but recent studies place this group of New Zealand species at the base of the parrot tree next to the remaining members of the Psittacoidea as well as all members of the Cacatuoidea.
The Cacatuoidea are quite distinct, having a movable head crest, a different arrangement of the carotid arteries, a gall bladder, differences in the skull bones, and lack the Dyck texture feathers which(Dell XPS M140 battery), in the Psittacidae, scatters light in such a way as to produce the vibrant colours of so many parrots. Colourful feathers with high levels of psittacofulvin resist the feather-degrading bacterium Bacillus licheniformis better than white ones.
Lorikeets were previously regarded as a third family, Loriidae, but are now considered a tribe (Loriini) within the subfamily Lorinae. The two other tribes in the subfamily are the closely related fig parrots (two genera in the tribe Cyclopsittini) and Budgerigar (tribe Melopsittacini) (Dell XPS 13 battery).
The following classification is based on the most recent proposal, which in turn is based on all the relevant recent findings.
A list of all parrots sortable by common or binomial name, about 350 species.
Taxonomic list of Cacatuidae species, 21 species in 7 genera
Taxonomic list of true parrots which provides the sequence of Psittacidae genera and species following a traditional two-subfamily approach, as in the taxobox above, about 330 species(Dell XPS 16 battery).
List of Strigopidae
List of macaws
List of Amazon parrots
List of Aratinga parakeets
Glossy Black Cockatoo showing the parrot's strong bill, clawed feet, and sideways positioned eyes
Extant species range in size from the Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot, at under 10 g (0.4 oz) in weight and 8 cm (3.1 in) in length, to the Hyacinth Macaw, at 1 m (3.3 ft) in length, and the Kakapo, at 4.0 kg (8.8 lb) in weight. Among the superfamilies(Dell XPS 1640 battery), the three extant Strigopoidea species are all large parrots, and the cockatoos tend to be large birds as well. The Psittacoidea parrots are far more variable, ranging the full spectrum of sizes shown by the family.
The most obvious physical characteristic is the strong, curved, broad bill. The upper mandible is prominent, curves downward, and comes to a point. It is not fused to the skull, which allows it to move independently(Dell XPS 1645 battery), and contributes to the tremendous biting pressure the birds are able to exert. The lower mandible is shorter, with a sharp, upward-facing cutting edge, which moves against the flat portion of the upper mandible in an anvil-like fashion. There are touch receptors along the inner edges of the kerantinised bill, which are collectively known as the 'bill tip organ', allowing for highly dextrous manipulations. Seed-eating parrots have a strong tongue (Dell XPS 1647 battery) (containing similar touch receptors to those in the bill tip organ), which helps to manipulate seeds or position nuts in the bill so that the mandibles can apply an appropriate cracking force. The head is large, with eyes positioned high and laterally in the skull, so the visual field of parrots are unlike any other birds. Without turning its head, a parrot can see from just below its bill tip, all above its head, and to quite far behind its head(Dell Latitude 131L battery). Parrots also have quite a wide frontal binocular field for a bird, although this is nowhere near as large as primate binocular visual fields.
Parrots have strong zygodactyl feet with sharp, elongated claws, which are used for climbing and swinging. Most species are capable of using their feet to manipulate food and other objects with a high degree of dexterity, in a similar manner to a human using his hands. A study conducted with Australian parrots has demonstrated that they exhibit "handedness"(Dell Latitude C400 battery)—that is a distinct preference with regards to the foot used to pick up food, with adult parrots being almost exclusively "left-footed" or "right footed", and with the prevalence of each preference within the population varying from species to species.
Cockatoo species have a mobile crest of feathers on the top of their heads which can be raised for display, and retracted. No other parrots can do so, but the Pacific lorikeets in the genera Vini and Phigys are able to ruffle the feathers of the crown and nape and the Red-fan Parrot (Dell Latitude C500 battery) (or Hawk-headed Parrot) has a prominent feather neck frill which can be raised and lowered at will. The predominant colour of plumage in parrots is green, though most species have some red or another colour in small quantities. Cockatoos are the main exception to this, having lost the green and blue plumage colours in their evolutionary history they are now predominately black or white with some red(Dell Latitude C510 battery), pink or yellow. Strong sexual dimorphism in plumage is not typical among parrots, with some notable exceptions, the most striking being the Eclectus Parrot.
Distribution and habitat
Most parrot species are tropical but a few species, like this Austral Parakeet, range deeply into temperate zones
Parrots are found on all tropical and subtropical continents including Australia and Oceania, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America and Africa(Dell Latitude C540 battery). Some Caribbean and Pacific islands are home to endemic species. By far the greatest number of parrot species come from Australasia and South America. The lories and lorikeets range from Sulawesi and the Philippines in the north to Australia and across the Pacific as far as French Polynesia, with the greatest diversity being found in and around New Guinea. The subfamily Arinae encompasses all the Neotropical parrots(Dell Latitude C600 battery), including the Amazons, macaws and conures, and ranges from northern Mexico and the Bahamas to Tierra del Fuego in the southern tip of South America. The pygmy parrots, tribe Micropsittini, form a small genus restricted to New Guinea. The superfamily Strigopoidea contains three living species of aberrant parrots from New Zealand. The broad-tailed parrots, subfamily Platycercinae(Dell Latitude C610 battery), are restricted to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands as far eastwards as Fiji. The true parrot superfamily, Psittacoidea, includes a range of species from Australia and New Guinea to South Asia and Africa. The centre of cockatoo biodiversity is Australia and New Guinea, although some species reach the Solomon Islands (and one formerly occurred in New Caledonia), Wallacea and the Philippines(Dell Latitude C640 battery).
Several parrots inhabit the cool, temperate regions of South America and New Zealand. One, the Carolina Parakeet, lived in temperate North America, but was hunted to extinction in the early 20th century. Many parrots have been introduced to areas with temperate climates, and have established stable populations in parts of the United States (including New York City), the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain(Dell Latitude C800 battery).
Few parrots are wholly sedentary or fully migratory. Most fall somewhere between the two extremes, making poorly understood regional movements, with some adopting an entirely nomadic lifestyle.
There are numerous challenges in studying wild parrots, as they are difficult to catch and once caught they are difficult to mark. Most wild bird studies rely on banding or wing tagging, but parrots will chew off such attachments. (Dell Latitude C810 battery) Parrots also tend to range widely and consequently there are many gaps in knowledge of their behaviour. Some parrots have a strong, direct flight. Most species spend much of their time perched or climbing in tree canopies. They often use their bills for climbing by gripping or hooking on branches and other supports. On the ground parrots often walk with a rolling gait(Dell Latitude C840 battery).
A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo using its strong bill to search for grubs
The diet of parrots consists of seeds, fruit, nectar, pollen, buds, and sometimes arthropods and other animal prey. The most important of these for most true parrots and cockatoos are seeds; the evolution of the large and powerful bill can be explained primarily as an adaptation to opening and consuming seeds(Dell Latitude CPI battery). All true parrots except the Pesquet's Parrot employ the same method to obtain the seed from the husk; the seed is held between the mandibles and the lower mandible crushes the husk, whereupon the seed is rotated in the bill and the remaining husk is removed. A foot is sometimes used to help holding large seeds in place. Parrots are seed predators rather than seed dispersers(Dell Latitude CPX battery); and in many cases where species are recorded as consuming fruit they are only eating the fruit to get at the seed. As seeds often have poisons to protect them, parrots are careful to remove seed coats and other fruit parts which are chemically well defended, prior to ingestion. Many species in the Americas, Africa, and Papua New Guinea consume clay which both releases minerals and absorbs toxic compounds from the gut. (Dell Latitude D410 battery)
Parrots at a clay lick in Ecuador.
The lories and lorikeets, hanging parrots and Swift Parrot are primarily nectar and pollen consumers, and have tongues with brush tips to collect this source of food, as well as some specialised gut adaptations to accommodate this diet. Many other species also consume nectar as well when it becomes available(Dell Latitude D420 battery).
In addition to feeding on seeds and flowers, some parrot species will prey on animals, especially invertebrate larvae. Golden-winged Parakeets prey on water snails, and famously the Keas of New Zealand will kill juvenile petrels and even attack and indirectly kill adult sheep. Another New Zealand parrot, the Antipodes Island Parakeet, enters the burrows of nesting Grey-backed Storm Petrels and kills the incubating adults. (Dell Latitude D430 battery) Some cockatoos and the Kākā will excavate branches and wood to obtain grubs; the bulk of the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo's diet is made up of insects.
Although there are a few exceptions, parrots are monogamous breeders which nest in cavities and hold no territories other than their nesting sites. The pair bonds of the parrots and cockatoos are strong and a pair will remain close even during the non-breeding season(Dell Latitude D500 battery), even if they join larger flocks. As with many birds, pair bond formation is preceded by courtship displays; these are relatively simple in the case of cockatoos. In Psittacidae parrots common breeding displays, usually undertaken by the male, include slow deliberate steps known as a "parade" or "stately walk" and the "eye-blaze", where the pupil of the eye constricts to reveal the edge of the iris. (Dell Latitude D505 battery) Allopreening is used by the pair to help maintain the bond. Cooperative breeding, where birds other than the breeding pair help the pair raise the young and is common in some bird families, is extremely rare in parrots, and has only unambiguously been demonstrated in the Golden Parakeet (which may also exhibit polyamorous, or group breeding, behaviour with multiple females contributing to the clutch). (Dell Latitude D510 battery)
The vast majority of parrots are, like this Blue-winged Parrotlet, cavity nesters.
Only the Monk Parakeet and five species of Agapornis lovebird build nests in trees, and three Australian and New Zealand ground parrots nest on the ground. All other parrots and cockatoos nest in cavities, either tree hollows or cavities dug into cliffs, banks or the ground. The use of holes in cliffs is more common in the Americas. Many species will use termite nests(Dell Latitude D520 battery), possibly to reduce the conspicuousness of the nesting site or to create a favourable microclimate. In most cases both parents will participate in the nest excavation. The length of the burrow varies with species, but is usually between 0.5–2 m (1.6–6.6 ft) in length. The nests of cockatoos are often lined with sticks, wood chips and other plant material. In the larger species of parrot and cockatoo the availability of nesting hollows may be limited(Dell Latitude D600 battery), leading to intense competition for them both within the species and between species, as well as with other bird families. The intensity of this competition can limit breeding success in some cases. Some species are colonial, with the Burrowing Parrot nesting in colonies up to 70,000 strong. Coloniality is not as common in parrots as might be expected, possibly because most species adopt old cavities rather than excavate their own. (Dell Latitude D610 battery)
The eggs of parrots are white. In most species the female undertakes all the incubation, although incubation is shared in cockatoos, the Blue Lorikeet, and the Vernal Hanging Parrot. The female remains in the nest for almost all of the incubation period and is fed both by the male and during short breaks. Incubation varies from 17 to 35 days(Dell Latitude D620 battery), with larger species having longer incubation periods. The newly born young are altricial, either lacking feathers or with sparse white down. The young spend anything from three weeks to four months in the nest, depending on species, and may receive parental care for several months thereafter. (Dell Latitude D630 battery)
As typical of K-selected species, the macaws and other larger parrot species have low reproductive rates. They require several years to reach maturity, produce one or very few young per year, and do not necessarily breed every year.
Intelligence and learning
Sun Conure demonstrating parrots' puzzle-solving skills
Studies with captive birds have given insight into which birds are the most intelligent. While parrots are able to mimic human speech, studies with the African Grey Parrot have shown that some are able to associate words with their meanings and form simple sentences (Dell Latitude D800 battery) (see Alex and N'kisi). Along with crows, ravens, and jays (family Corvidae), parrots are considered the most intelligent of birds. The brain-to body size ratio of psittacines and corvines is actually comparable to that of higher primates. One argument against the supposed intelligent capabilities of bird species is that birds have a relatively small cerebral cortex, which is the part of the brain considered to be the main area of intelligence in other animals(Dell Latitude D810 battery). However, birds use a different part of the brain, the medio-rostral neostriatum / hyperstriatum ventrale, as the seat of their intelligence. Not surprisingly, research has shown that these species tend to have the largest hyperstriata, and Dr Harvey J. Karten, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, who studied bird physiology, has discovered that the lower part of the avian brain is functionally similar to that in humans(Dell Latitude D820 battery). Not only have parrots demonstrated intelligence through scientific testing of their language-using ability, but some species of parrot such as the Kea are also highly skilled at using tools and solving puzzles.
Learning in early life is apparently important to all parrots, and much of that learning is social learning. Social interactions are often practised with siblings, and in several species creches are formed with several broods(Dell Latitude D830 battery), and these as well are important for learning social skills. Foraging behaviour is generally learnt from parents, and can be a very protracted affair. Supra-generalists and specialists are generally independent of their parents much quicker than partly specialised species which may have to learn skills over a long period of time as various resources become seasonally available(Dell Latitude 2100 battery). Play forms a large part of learning in parrots; it can be solitary, and related to motor skills, or social. Species may engage in play fights or wild flights to practice predator evasion. An absence of stimuli can retard the development of young birds, as demonstrated by a group of Vasa Parrots kept in tiny cages with domesticated chickens from the age of 3 months; at 9 months these birds still behaved in the same way as 3 month olds, but had adopted some chicken behaviour. (Dell Latitude 2110 battery) In a similar fashion captive birds in zoo collections or pets can, if deprived of stimuli, develop stereotyped behaviours and harmful behaviours like self plucking. Aviculturists working with parrots have identified the need for environmental enrichment to keep parrots stimulated.
Sound imitation and speech
Main article: Talking bird
See also: Animal language
Video of an Orange-winged Amazon saying "Hello" having been prompted by some people
Many parrots can imitate human speech or other sounds. A study by Irene Pepperberg suggested a high learning ability in an African Grey Parrot named Alex(Dell Latitude E4300 battery). Alex was trained to use words to identify objects, describe them, count them, and even answer complex questions such as "How many red squares?" with over 80% accuracy. N'kisi, another African grey, has been shown to have a vocabulary of approximately a thousand words, and has displayed an ability to invent as well as use words in context and in the correct tense(Dell Vostro 1310 battery).
Parrots do not have vocal cords, so sound is accomplished by expelling air across the mouth of the bifurcated trachea. Different sounds are produced by changing the depth and shape of trachea. African Grey Parrots of all subspecies are known for their superior ability to imitate sounds and human speech. This ability has made them prized as pets from ancient time to the present(Dell Vostro 1320 battery). In the Masnavi, a writing by Rumi of Persia, AD 1250, the author talks about an ancient method for training parrots to speak.
Although most parrot species are able to imitate, some of the Amazon parrots are generally regarded as the next-best imitators and speakers of the parrot world. The question of why birds imitate remains open, but those that do often score very high on tests designed to measure problem solving ability. Wild African Grey Parrots have been observed imitating other birds. (Dell Vostro 1510 battery)Most other wild parrots have not been observed imitating other species.
The journal Animal Cognition stated that some birds preferred to work alone, while others like to work together as with African Grey Parrots. With two
Relationship with humans
Video of a Blue-fronted Amazon mimicking a human laughing
Humans and parrots have a complicated relationship. Economically they can be beneficial to communities as sources of income from the pet trade and are highly marketable tourism draws and symbols. But some species are also economically important pests, particularly some cockatoo species in Australia(Dell Vostro 2510 battery). Some parrots have also benefited from human changes to the environment in some instances, and have expanded their ranges alongside agricultural activity, but many species have declined as well.
There exist a number of careers and professions devoted to parrots. Zoos and aquariums employ keepers to care for and shape the behaviour of parrots. Some veterinarians who specialise in avian medicine will treat parrots exclusively(Dell Vostro 1014 battery). Biologists study parrot populations in the wild and help to conserve wild populations. Aviculturalists breed and sell parrots for the pet trade.
Tens of millions of parrots have been removed from the wild, and parrots have been traded in greater numbers and for far longer than any other group of wild animals. Many parrot species are still threatened by this trade as well as habitat loss, predation by introduced species, and hunting for food or feathers. Some parrot species are agricultural pests, (Dell Inspiron 1410 battery) eating fruits, grains, and other crops, but parrots can also benefit economies through birdwatching based ecotourism.
Pet Cuban Amazons in Cuba
Further information: Companion parrot
Parrots are popular as pets due to their sociable and affectionate nature, intelligence, bright colours, and ability to imitate human voices. The domesticated Budgerigar, a small parrot, is the most popular of all pet bird species. In 1992 the newspaper USA Today published that there were 11 million pet birds in the United States alone, many of them parrots(Dell Vostro 1014N battery). Europeans kept birds matching the description of the Rose-ringed Parakeet (or called the ring-necked parrot), documented particularly in a first century account by Pliny the Elder. As they have been prized for thousands of years for their beauty and ability to talk, they have also often been misunderstood. For example, author Wolfgang de Grahl discusses in his 1987 book The Grey Parrot that some importers allowed parrots to drink only coffee while they were being (Dell Vostro 1015 battery)shipped by boat considering pure water to be detrimental and believing that their actions would increase survival rates during shipping. (Nowadays it is commonly accepted that the caffeine in coffee is toxic to birds.)
Pet parrots may be kept in a cage or aviary; though generally, tame parrots should be allowed out regularly on a stand or gym. Depending on locality, parrots may be either wild caught or be captive bred, though in most areas without native parrots(Dell Inspiron 1088 battery), pet parrots are captive bred. Parrot species that are commonly kept as pets include conures, macaws, Amazons, cockatoos, African Greys, lovebirds, cockatiels, Budgerigars, Eclectus, Caiques, parakeets, Pionus and Poicephalus. Species vary in their temperament, noise level, talking ability, cuddliness with people, and care needs, although how a parrot has been raised usually greatly affects its personality(Dell Vostro A840 battery).
Parrots can make excellent companion animals, and can form close, affectionate bonds with their owners. However they invariably require an enormous amount of attention, care and intellectual stimulation to thrive, akin to that required by a three-year-old child, which many people find themselves unable to provide in the long term. (Dell Vostro A860 battery)Parrots that are bred for pets may be hand fed or otherwise accustomed to interacting with people from a young age to help ensure they will be tame and trusting. However, parrots are not low maintenance pets; they require feeding, grooming, veterinary care, training, environmental enrichment through the provision of toys, exercise, and social interaction (with other parrots or humans) for good health(Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 battery).
Some large parrot species, including large cockatoos, amazons, and macaws, have very long lifespans, with 80 years being reported and record ages of over one hundred. Small parrots, such as lovebirds, hanging parrots, and budgies have shorter life spans of up to 15–20 years. Some parrot species can be quite loud, and many of the larger parrots can be destructive and require a very large cage(SONY PCG-5G2L battery), and a regular supply of new toys, branches, or other items to chew up. The intelligence of parrots means they are quick to learn tricks and other behaviours—both good and bad—that will get them what they want, such as attention or treats.
The popularity, longevity, and intelligence of many of the larger kinds of pet parrot has led to many birds needing to be re-homed during the course of their long lifespans(SONY PCG-5G3L battery). A common problem is that large parrots which are cuddly and gentle as juveniles will mature into intelligent, complex, often demanding adults that can outlive their owners. Due to these problems, and the fact that homeless parrots are not euthanised like dogs and cats, parrot adoption centres and sanctuaries are becoming more common(SONY PCG-F305 battery).
Scarlet Macaw riding a tricycle at a show in Spain
Parrot species are found in most zoos, and a few zoos participate in breeding and conservation programs. Some zoos have organized displays of trained parrots and other birds doing tricks.
Main article: International parrot trade
10,000 Hyacinth Macaws were taken from the wild for the pet trade in the 1980s.
The popularity of parrots as pets has led to a thriving—and often illegal—trade in the birds, and some species are now threatened with extinction(SONY PCG-5J1L battery). A combination of trapping of wild birds and damage to parrot habitats makes survival difficult or even impossible for some species of parrot. Importation of wild caught parrots into the US and Europe is illegal.
The trade continues unabated in some countries. A report published in January 2007 presents a clear picture of the wild-caught parrot trade in Mexico(SONY PCG-5J2L battery), stating: "The majority of parrots captured in Mexico stay in the country for the domestic trade. A small percentage of this capture, 4% to 14%, is smuggled into the USA."
The scale of the problem can be seen in the Tony Silva case of 1996, in which a parrot expert and former director at Tenerife's Loro Parque (Europe's largest parrot park) was jailed in the United States for 82 months and fined $100,000 for smuggling Hyacinth Macaws. (SONY PCG-5K2L battery) (Such birds command a very high price). The case led to calls for greater protection and control over trade in the birds. Different nations have different methods of handling internal and international trade. Australia has banned the export of its native birds since 1960. The United States protects its only native parrot through its Endangered Species Act, and protects other nations' birds through its Wild Bird Conservation Act(SONY PCG-5L1L battery). Following years of campaigning by hundreds of NGOs and outbreaks of avian flu, in July 2007, the European Union halted the importation of all wild birds with a permanent ban on their import. Prior to an earlier temporary ban started in late October 2005, the EU was importing approximately two million live birds a year, about 90% of the international market(SONY PCG-6S2L battery): hundreds of thousands of these were parrots. There are no national laws protecting feral parrot populations in the U.S. Mexico has a licensing system for capturing and selling native birds (though the laws are not well enforced).
Moche Parrot. 200 A.D. Larco Museum Collection Lima, Peru
Parrots have featured in human writings, story, art, humor, religion and music for thousands of years. From the Roman poet Ovid's "The Dead Parrot"(Latin) (SONY PCG-6S3L battery), (English) to Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch millennia later, parrots have existed in the consciousness of many cultures. Recent books about parrots in human culture include Parrot Culture.
In ancient times and current, parrot feathers have been used in ceremonies, and for decoration. The "idea" of the parrot has been used to represent the human condition in medieval literature such as the bestiary. They also have a long history as pets(SONY PCG-6V1L battery).
In Polynesian legend as current in the Marquesas Islands, the hero Laka/Aka is mentioned as having undertaken a long and dangerous voyage to Aotona in what are now the Cook Islands, to obtain the highly prized feathers of a red parrot as gifts for his son and daughter. On the voyage a hundred out of his 140 rowers died of hunger on their way(SONY PCG-6W1L battery), but the survivors reached Aotona and captured enough parrots to fill 140 bags with their feathers. By at least some versions, the feathers were plucked off living parrots without killing them.
Currently parrots feature in many media. There are magazines devoted to parrots as pets, and to the conservation of parrots. Fictional films include Paulie and Rio, and documentaries include The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill(SONY PCG-7111L battery).
Parrots have also been considered sacred. The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped birds and often depicted parrots in their art.
Parrots are used as symbols of nations and nationalism. A parrot is found on the flag of Dominica. The St. Vincent parrot is the national bird of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a Caribbean nation.
Parrots are popular in Buddhist scripture and there are many writings about them. For example, Amitābha once changed itself into a parrot to aid in converting people(SONY PCG-71511M battery). Another old story tells how after a forest caught fire, the parrot was so concerned it carried water to try and put out the flames. The ruler of heaven was so moved upon seeing the parrot's act, that he sent rain to put out the fire. In Chinese Buddhist iconography, a parrot is sometimes depicted hovering on the upper right side Guan Yin clasping a pearl or prayer beads in its beak(SONY PCG-6W3L battery).
Sayings about parrots colour the modern English language. The verb "parroting" can be found in the dictionary, and means "to repeat by rote." There are also clichés such as the British expression "sick as a parrot"; although this refers to extreme disappointment rather than illness, it may originate from the disease of psittacosis which can be passed to humans. (SONY PCG-7113L battery) The first occurrence of a related expression is in Aphra Behn's 1681 play The False Count.
Main article: Feral parrots
Feral Red-masked Parakeets in San Francisco. The population is the subject of the book and film The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.
Escaped parrots of several species have become established in the wild outside their natural ranges and in some cases outside the natural range of parrots. Among the earliest instances were pet Red Shining-parrots from Fiji which established a population on the islands of southern Tonga(SONY PCG-7133L battery). These introductions were prehistoric and Red-shining Parrots were recorded in Tonga by Captain Cook in the 1770s. Escapees first began breeding in cities in California, Texas and Florida in the 1950s (with unproven earlier claims dating back to the 1920s in Texas and Florida). They have proved surprisingly hardy in adapting to conditions in Europe and North America(SONY PCG-7Z1L battery). They sometimes even multiply to the point of becoming a nuisance or pest, and a threat to local ecosystems, and control measures have been used on some feral populations.
Threats and conservation
A mounted specimen of the Carolina Parakeet, which was hunted to extinction
Community-based conservation has helped arrest the decline of the endangered Ouvea Parakeet
Many parrot species are in decline, and several are extinct. Of the 350 or so living species, 130 are listed as near threatened or worse by the IUCN of which 16 are currently considered Critically Endangered. (SONY PCG-7Z2L battery) There are several reasons for the decline of so many species, the principal threats being habitat loss and degradation, hunting and, for certain species, the wild-bird trade. Parrots are persecuted because, in some areas, they are (or have been) hunted for food and feathers, and as agricultural pests. For a time, Argentina offered a bounty on Monk Parakeets (an agricultural pest), resulting in hundreds of thousands of birds being killed, though apparently this did not greatly affect the overall population. (SONY PCG-8Y1L battery)
Capture for the pet trade is a threat to many of the rarer or slower to breed parrots. Habitat loss or degradation, most often for agriculture, is a threat to many species. Parrots, being cavity nesters, are vulnerable to the loss of nesting sites and to competition with introduced species for those sites. The loss of old trees is a particular problem in some areas(SONY PCG-8Y2L battery), particularly in Australia where trees suitable for nesting need to be centuries old. Many parrots occur only on islands and are vulnerable to introduced species such as rats and cats, as they lack the appropriate anti-predator behaviours needed to deal with mammalian predators. Controlling such predators can help in maintaining or increasing the numbers of endangered species. Insular species, which have small populations in restricted habitat, are also vulnerable to unpredictable events such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions(SONY PCG-8Z2L battery).
There are many active conservation groups whose goal is the conservation of wild parrot populations. One of the largest is the World Parrot Trust, an international organisation. The group gives assistance to worthwhile projects as well as producing a magazine and raising funds through donations and memberships, often from pet parrot owners(SONY PCG-8Z1L battery). They state they have helped conservation work in 22 countries. On a smaller scale local parrot clubs will raise money to donate to a conservation cause. Zoo and wildlife centres usually provide public education, to change habits that cause damage to wild populations. Recent conservation measures to conserve the habitats of some of the high-profile charismatic parrot species has also protected many of the less charismatic species living in the ecosystem. (SONY PCG-7112L battery)A popular attraction that many zoos employ is a feeding station for lories and lorikeets, where visitors feed small parrots with cups of liquid food. This is usually done in association with educational signs and lectures.
Several projects aimed specifically at parrot conservation have met with success. Translocation of vulnerable Kakapo, followed by intensive management and supplementary feeding, has increased the population from 50 individuals to 123. (SONY PCG-6W2L battery) In New Caledonia the Ouvea Parakeet was threatened by trapping for the pet trade and loss of habitat. Community based conservation, which eliminated the threat of poaching, has allowed the population to increase from around 600 birds in 1993 to over 2000 birds in 2009.
At present the IUCN recognises 19 species of parrot as extinct since 1600 (the date used to denote modern extinctions). This does not include species like the New Caledonian Lorikeet which has not been officially seen for 100 years yet is still listed as critically endangered(SONY PCG-5K1L battery).
Trade, export and import of all wild-caught parrots is regulated and only permitted under special licensed circumstances in countries party to CITES, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, that came into force in 1975 to regulate the international trade of all endangered wild caught animal and plant species(SONY VGP-BPS11 battery). In 1975, 24 parrot species were included on Appendix I of CITES, thus prohibiting commercial international trade in these birds. Since that initial listing, continuing threats from international trade led CITES to add an additional 32 parrot varieties to Appendix I. All the other parrot species are protected on Appendix II of CITES. In addition, individual countries may have laws to regulate trade in certain species(SONY VGP-BPL11 battery).