7. The Black Palm Is the Panda of Parrots
Native to rainforests in the South Pacific, the black palm cockatoo is one of the most difficult birds to breed and raise in captivity. Chicks often ᴅɪᴇ around one year of age—even wild pairs have difficulty successfully rearing chicks. The causes for their reproductive troubles are stɪʟʟ unknown but may be related to their photosensitive skin, which reacts to natural sunlight.
8. Polly Wants Mutton, Too
Many parrots are omnivores and wɪʟʟ eat pretty much anything—fruit, seeds, nuts, insects and even meat. Some species, like the rainbow-colored lories and lorikeets of the South Pacific, feed almost exclusively on nectar with brush-tipped tongues, though recently even these birds were seen eating meat at feeding stations in Australia. In New Zealand, native kea (Nestor species) were first observed ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋing and ᴋɪʟʟing sheep in 1868 and were ᴘᴇʀsᴇᴄᴜᴛed as sheep-ᴋɪʟʟers until 1986, when they were granted protected status.
9. Parrot Feathers Contain Antibacterial Pigments
A parrot’s brɪʟʟiant plumage has a special defense against ᴅᴀᴍᴀɢe: Psittacofulvins, a bacteria-resistant pigment that only parrots are known to produce, give the birds’ feathers their red, yellow and green coloration. In a 2011 study in Biology Letters, researchers exposed different colors of feathers to a feather-ᴅᴀᴍᴀɢing bacteria strain and found that the pigments helped protect the glorious plumage from degradation.
10. Parrots Usually Match Their Mates
With a couple of notable exceptions, males and females of most parrot species look virtually identical. It takes a keen eye—and usually a lab test—to tell a boy bird from a girl bird. But some species, like the Solomon Island eclectus (Eclectus roratus), are so different that for many years people thought they were distinct species of birds. Males are bright emerald green with flame-colored beaks, while females top off their crimson and royal blue ensembles with black beaks and a bright scarlet head.
11. A Parrot-Proof Tracker Is on the Horizon
Little is known about wild parrot behavior, in part because the canopy-dwelling birds are hard to see and follow. Also, GPS-tracking stuᴅɪᴇs of parrots are extremely uncommon, since the birds are adept at removing foreign objects from their boᴅɪᴇs. But a 2015 study published in The Auk might help scientists better track these elusive animals. By encasing GPS trackers in bite-proof plastic, the researchers were able to track a group of keas in New Zealand without any obvious ɪʟʟ effects on the birds.
12. A Third of the World’s Parrots Face ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛion
Due to a combination of habitat ᴅᴇsᴛʀuction and persistent ᴘᴏᴀᴄʜing for the pet trade, more species regularly land on the IUCN Red List of ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛened Species. A November study, for instance, found that logging has decimated 99 percent of the African grey (Psittacus erithacus) population in Ghana, ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛening wild numbers of one of the most iconic parrot species.
13. Some Parrots Migrate
Though most species occupy a home range throughout the year, the swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) and the orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) are known to migrate each year across the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania. Both species are critically enᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀed.
14. Parrots Taste With the Tops of Their Beaks
Though parrots do have some taste glands at the backs of their throats, most of their 300 or so taste buds are located on the roofs of their mouths. Compared with the 10,000 taste buds in a human mouth, the birds’ palate may not seem like much, but parrots do show definite preferences for certain foods.