The true parrots are about 330 species of bird belonging to the superfamily Psittacoidea, one of the three superfamilies in the biological order Psittaciformes (parrots). The others superfamilies are the Cacatuoidea (cockatoos) and New Zealand Strigopoidea which are also parrots, but not classified as true parrots. True parrots are more widespread than cockatoos, with species in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and eastwards across the Pacific Ocean as far as Polynesia.
The true parrot family formerly were often considered to contain two subfamilies, the Psittacinae (typical parrots and allies) and the Loriinae (lories and lorikeets). However, today these two groups are ascribed full family status, being called Psittacidae and Loriidae.
Like most parrots the Psittacidae are primarily seed eaters. There is some variation in the diet of individual species, with fruits, nuts, leaves and even insects and other animal prey being taken on occasion by some species. The lorikeets are predominately nectar feeders; many other parrots will drink nectar as well. Most Psittacidae are cavity nesting birds which form monogamous pair bonds.
They have a beak with a characteristic curved shape, the jaw with a mobility slightly higher than where it connects with the skull, and a generally upright position. They also have a large cranial capacity and are one of the most intelligent bird groups. They live in tropical areas, are good fliers and skillful climbers on branches of trees.
The Parrots are distributed throughout the Southern Hemisphere on the planet, covering many different habitats, from the humid tropical forests to deserts of the inside of Australia, including India, the Southeast Asia and West Africa, and one species, now extinct, in the United States (the Carolina parakeet). However, the larger populations are native to Australasia, South America and Central America.
Many species are classified as endangered. Trapping wild parrots for the pet trade, as well as hunting, habitat loss and competition from invasive species, has diminished wild populations, with parrots being subjected to more exploitation than any other group of birds. This combination of factors extirpated the species from most of its range from the early years of the 20th century. Of the animals removed from the wild to be sold, very few survive during capture and transport, and those who do often die from poor conditions of captivity, poor diet and stress. 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.
Scientist Irene Pepperberg has published work on the learning capacity of an African grey parrot named Alex, which she documented as having the ability to use words to identify objects, describing, counting, and even answer complex questions, such as "How many red squares are there?" (with an accuracy of 80%). However, some researchers argue that parrots merely repeat words without thought of meaning.
- Subfamily Psittacinae: Two African genera, Grey Parrot and Poicephalus
- Subfamily Arinae
- Subfamily Psittrichasinae: One species, Pesquet's Parrot
- Subfamily Coracopsinae: One genera with several species.
- Subfamily Platycercinae
- Subfamily Psittacellinae: 1 genus (Psittacella) with several species.
- Subfamily Loriinae
- Subfamily Agapornithinae: 3 genera
- Subfamily Psittaculinae
- Bruce Thomas Boehner - Parrot Culture. Our 2,500-year-Long Fascination with the World's Most Talkative Bird (2004)
- Snyder, N; McGowan, P; Gilardi, J; & A Grajal (2000), Parrots: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, 2000-2004. Chapter 1. vii. IUCN ISBN 2-8317-0504-5. Chapter 1. vii.
- Snyder, N; McGowan, P; Gilardi, J; & A Grajal (2000), Parrots: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, 2000-2004. Chapter 1. vii. IUCN ISBN 2-8317-0504-5. Chapter 2. page 12.
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- de Kloet, RS; de Kloet SR (2005). "The evolution of the spindlin gene in birds: Sequence analysis of an intron of the spindlin W and Z gene reveals four major divisions of the Psittaciformes". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36: 706–721. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.03.013. PMID 16099384.
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