Some of my favorite birds are parrots. They are remarkably colorful and intelligent. Their behavior in the wild is wonderful to watch and to hear. In captivity their behavior makes them interesting playmates that can learn to sing and speak. This blog is an introduction to an extended discussion on parrots and later, other bird species. I would like to introduce some of them to you. This may help you to understand the birds in Florida. 

While in Central America I watched flocks of parrots raucously flying through the rain forests of the Osa Peninsula, National Conservancy of Costa Rica and in ruins of the Mayan city of Tikal in Honduras. I watched them fly through the forests and among the Mayan pyramids. They typically inhabit climates that are warm or temperate to tropical. I have even seen non-indigenous green parrots flying between the buildings of South Miami Beach here in Florida. Characteristics to look for include hooked beaks and two pair of opposing toes in each of their claws (zygodactyl feet). These two types of invasive birds are Monk parakeets and the Red Crowned Amazon. The only native to Florida is now extinct.

The various types of parrots include:

Parrots (Psittaciformes)- a generic term usually applied to a variety birds of three families; Strigopoidea, Psittacoidea and Cacatuoidea. These comprise:

  • Macaw – a large bird long living bird with rainbow color feathers
  • Amazon – a large, usually green body with yellow head and crest
  • Lorikeet – small to medium size similar to parakeet but longer tail and more colorful plumage
  • Parakeet – a small bird frequently kept as domestic pets with a variety of pastel colors
  • Cocatoo – a medium size bird with prominent crests and curved bills, less colorful than that of other parrots, often with colored accents in the crest, cheeks or tail. 
  • Budgerigar – a member of the Lori family with green, yellow and black coloration
This feral scarlet macaw was feeding in the costal rain forest of the Osa peninsula of Costa Rica. It was one of about 14 birds in the flock and was feeding on the fruit of the tree. The heavy beak was able to crush the fruit with modest effort. 
Another scarlet macaw of the same flock eating upside down. The prehensile claws allow remarkable gymnastic holds as it feeds. This group was quite noisy as they were feeding and flying about in the midafternoon of a spring day.
This scarlet macaw was sitting on a fence surrounding a bird shelter in the forest just outside of the Mayan pyramid site in Copan Honduras. The color and pattern seems identical to those in Costa Rica.
Here is the difference between our friends in Copan and Osa. The birds in Osa are free ranging and are not at immediate risk. Those at Copan, although they are free ranging, are at risk and are promoted with food and nests that protect them. The blue plastic barrel fastened to a tree as shown in the photo was modified for their use. It provides lots of protection from predators. 
These beauties are caged in the Naples Zoo and are very well cared for. They are of two different families, a Blue and Yellow African and a Scarlet Macaw. They are engaged in mutual preening. This type of behavior may promote hormonal induced mating behavior***. I have never seen them fly. Often times captive parrots are rescued and can’t or forget how to fly.

Parrots are noted for their longevity and in captivity may live for 80 years. They are remarkably intelligent with large vocabularies* and apparent logical skills. They are able to use tools and to solve problems**.

Greg Bush brings a variety of his birds to the Wonder Gardens. He is a great resource for the visitors who may hold his birds and learn about their behavior, habitats and keeping these wonderful birds in captivity. He also spoke about the possible predation and need for protection from native passing Osprey and Hawks while they are out of their cages. Don’t pet the parrot down the back, tail feathers or under the wings unless you want frustrated parrot behavior***. We may visit Greg’s home to see his friends in the future.

* Péron F, Rat-Fischer L, Lalot M, Nagle L, Bovet D. Cooperative problem solving in African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus). Anim Cogn. 2011 Jul;14(4):545-53. doi: 10.1007/s10071-011-0389-2. Epub 2011 Mar 8. PMID: 21384141.

** Bates M., Problem-Solving Parrots Understand Cause and Effect, Science Oct,17,2013

*** Borroughs D, Hormonal Behavior in Parrots,

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#parrot #Costa Rica #Honduras #Osa #Copan #captive #feral #zygodactyl feet #beak #parrot behavior


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