One bird comes to mind when it features striking colors and the ability to learn human speech - parrots. You may already hold an image in your mind, but you'd be surprised to know the various types of parrots.
With over 400 unique species, parrots live in different habitats, ranging from South America's rainforests to Australia's urban landscapes. Scroll further to distinguish our top 15 favorite species.
Related read: Parrot Facts.
Parrots, scientifically known as Psittaciformes, belong to a distinct order within the Aves class or types of birds. This order branches into three superfamilies: Psittacoidea (true parrots), Cacatuoidea (cockatoos), and Strigopidae (New Zealand parrots).
It further subdivides into 101 genera, which encompass around 410 different parrot species. From the vibrant macaw parrots to the impressive African Greys, this diverse group exhibits various sizes, shapes, and behaviors.
Uniformly characteristic of all parrots are their robust bodies, stout hooked beaks, and multicolored plumage. They also have exceptional cognitive abilities, especially in vocal mimicry, like crows.
Parrots share a longstanding relationship with humans, offering both positives and negatives. On the upside, parrots provide companionship, with their sociable nature adding to human emotional well-being.
However, this interaction also has significant downsides. Their appeal as domestic pets by some has led to overexploitation, triggering a decline in their wild populations. Deforestation and habitat loss compound this problem, underlining humans' negative impact on parrot survival.
In this list, we share our top 15 favorite parrot species and genera, highlighting their distinguishable features and critical conservation status.
African Grey Parrots or the Congo African Greys showcase grey plumage accentuated by a red tail. Commonly dwelling in the rainforests of West and Central Africa, these birds favor dense forest regions but can also adapt to mangroves and savannahs.
They also have extraordinary problem-solving abilities. They can outperform 5-year-old toddlers on some cognitive tasks1.
Moreover, our first type of parrot formerly had the Timneh African Grey as a subspecies. A genetic and morphological study proves their difference. Now, both are separate species but under the same genus.
Sadly, African Greys are endangered due to habitat destruction and illegal pet trade2.
Amazon Parrots are one of the genera native to the New World. They have a striking appearance with vibrant green feathers and other colorful patches in shades of red, blue, and yellow that vary depending on the species.
Their habitat ranges from South America to Mexico and the Caribbean, where they have made their homes in various locations, including rainforests, woodlands, savannas, and semi-desert regions.
Unfortunately, there are a handful of species under this genus that are critically endangered or endangered due to habitat loss and excessive hunting.
For example, with less than 50 individuals, the IUCN declared the Puerto Rican Parrot species critically endangered in 20204 due to habitat loss, predation, parasites, and hunting.
Budgerigars, commonly known as budgies or parakeets, are small parrots from the dry terrains of Australia. They have vibrant feathers, compact size, and friendly dispositions.
Wild budgies feature a beautiful combination of green and yellow feathers with black specks. However, human intervention has resulted in the selective breeding of Budgies in various colors, including blues, greys, and even pristine whites.
Budgies are social creatures and can form strong bonds with humans to the point where they mimic human speech.
Likewise, budgies are natural granivores, feeding on seeds in the wild. Meanwhile, in captivity, they enjoy a variety of fruits, vegetables, and nutritionally balanced pellets.
Cockatiels are small parrots known for their unique personalities, originating from Australia. They have crested heads and bright orange patches on their cheeks.
They are adaptable creatures in various habitats, from Australian bushlands to wetlands, though they prefer areas close to water.
Despite their small size of around 12 to 13 inches, they often gather in large flocks, with some flocks comprising hundreds of birds.
Cockatiels are monogamous creatures, showing loyalty to their partners and young. Parenting is a shared responsibility, with male and female cockatiels caring for their offspring.
They can also mimic various sounds, including human speech and everyday household noises.
This talent and their social and friendly nature make them popular pet parrots.
Cockatiels are available in different colors, but wild ones are typically grey. However, selective breeding in captivity has resulted in various color variations, from lutino to pied and pearl.
Cockatoos are native to the Australasian region, which includes Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They can live in dense rainforests, eucalyptus groves, open savannahs, and urban areas.
They have unique crests and strong, curved beaks that can crack open hard nuts and seeds, which are their preferred food.
The common cockatoos are not as colorful as other parrots, with their simple plumage of white, black, or grey. Meanwhile, other subspecies, like the Galah and Black Palm Cockatoo, display pink, red, or orange splashes.
Cockatoos perform loud and piercing calls that are audible for miles. These vocalizations are essential for communicating with other flock members, alerting them to danger, or attracting a mate. They also form lifelong bonds with their mates, often engaging in affectionate behaviors such as mutual preening and feeding.
In captivity, they can live up to 70 years. However, in the wild, many birds fall prey to predators or diseases. Unfortunately, out of the 21 species under this genus, there are two critically endangered species, the Philippine Cockatoo and Yellow-Crested Cockatoo.
If you like this type of parrots as pets, remember they require high attention and mental stimulation. Failure to provide these may result in destructive behavior. Therefore, if you are a first-time parrot owner, you must be prepared to commit to a lifetime of care and companionship.
Conures have over 40 species. One of them is the Patagonian conure, known as the burrowing parrot. This medium-sized colorful parrot lives mainly in the grassland cliffs of Central and South America, making burrows and nests.
Its colors are yellow, olive-green, and red-orange; the olive-brown feathers at the top of its head turn charcoal-grey down the back. These active birds are skilled climbers and can often hang from tree branches.
Their diet consists mainly of fruits, seeds, and insects. Their beak is strong enough to crack open seeds and nuts and help them climb.
Experienced parrot owners give them substantial attention and stimulation to avoid destructive behaviors.
The Eclectus Parrots live in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, northeastern Australia, and the Maluku Islands. They have a striking appearance and strong sexual dimorphism. Males sport green plumage, and females have red and purple plumage.
Interestingly, the feathers on these colorful parrots have a unique structure that is more hair-like than typical feathers.
Female Eclectus Parrots have an unusual breeding cycle, spending up to 11 months of the year nested. Like most parrots, they can also mimic human words and display problem-solving skills that suggest a high level of cognitive complexity. This has made them a popular choice for a pet bird.
Due to their unique digestive system, these parrots need a specialized diet of high-fiber foods to function optimally.
While they are delightful to have as pets, their wild populations are vulnerable to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Therefore, it is vital to support conservation efforts to protect these birds.
Lovebirds are small parrots native to Africa and Madagascar. They have colorful feathers and live in various habitats, including woodlands, savannas, and mountain ranges.
These types of parrots often form pairs and sit together quietly. In the wild, they are typically found in large and noisy flocks.
Regarding nesting, Lovebirds are territorial birds that often build their nests in tree holes or rock crevices. Female Lovebirds lay three to six eggs carefully tended to for 22 to 25 days.
Macaws are medium-sized parrots indigenous to the rainforests and grasslands of Central and South America. These birds have vividly colored feathers, from the Hyacinth Macaw colored blue to the Scarlet Macaw donning the primary colors.
They perform distinctive calls and squawks, their primary communication mode. These sounds can travel long distances, and the birds use them for various purposes, including mating calls and marking their territory.
Out of the 19 species under this genus, the recent assessments in the last four years have not been good news for six species. IUCN categorized four Macaws to be critically endangered: Glaucous Macaw, the Blue-throated Macaw, the Red-fronted Macaw, and the Great Green Macaw.
In 2019, the Spix’s Macaw, also called the Little Blue Macaw3, is believed to be extinct in the wild. In 2021, the colorful Cuban Macaw became officially extinct. The common reasons for these declining populations are habitat loss and bird trade.
Read more: Macaw Facts.
Living in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon, the Red-fan Parrot, or the Hawk-Headed Parrot, boasts vibrant hues of red, blue, and green and stands out in a crowd.
They have a "fan-shaped" crest and a spectacular array of red and blue feathers, extending up to 5 inches when raised.
When disturbed, these parrots become pretty expressive. They flare out their striking crest, thus changing their otherwise friendly appearance into an intimidating spectacle. They also emit a loud, raucous call, further emphasizing their displeasure.
The Pionus Parrots are medium-sized birds found in Central and South America. This type of parrot has a square tail and red undertail cover. The color of its body differs per species. For example, the Blue-headed Pionus exhibits blue and green hues, while Maximilian's Pionus features muted earth tones.
When threatened or excited, the Pionus Parrot also releases a musky odor and a snorting sound.
Moreover, this genus is calm and composed, which sets them apart from their boisterous cousins like the Amazon parrots. So, if you like quieter, colorful birds, this type of parrot is a delight.
The Quaker Parrot or the Monk Parakeet stands out with its vibrant green coat of feathers and grey accents on their foreheads, throats, and chests.
This medium-sized bird builds intricate, multi-chambered stick nests, which they use to breed colonially. It can go as big as five feet throughout the years.
Originally from South America, Quaker Parrots have become cosmopolitan creatures, thriving in bustling cities worldwide. Aside from placing their nests in their forest habitats, they can also do it in structures such as utility poles and silos.
With early training, they can amass a sizeable vocabulary consisting of various chirps, squawks, and even human words.
The Senegal Parrots are small birds native to savannah woodlands and forests of West Africa. They measure only 9 to 10 inches and are known for their tri-color pattern, with a grey head, green back and wings, and a yellow and orange belly.
They also have a relative, Meyer's Parrot or the Brown Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri), with a grey hue spread throughout its head and most of its upper part.
Despite its intense looks, this type of parrot is intelligent and playful, with a curious nature. They are also not as chattier than their relatives, making them the perfect companions in a quiet neighborhood
The Sun Parakeet, or Sun Conure, is a small bird from the tropical regions of South America. Their lively chatter is audible in various habitats, such as the dry savanna, coastal mangroves, and humid lowland forests.
The upper body of the bird is adorned with a mix of yellow, orange, and red, while the lower body features shades of green and blue.
Sun Conures are sociable and affectionate, forming close-knit communities with other birds. When separated from the group, they let out a high-pitched voice to reconnect with the flock.
Unfortunately, they are now endangered due to high demand in the pet trade.
The Buff-faced Pygmy Parrots stand out with their olive-green body, bright yellow tail, and buff-colored face, earning it its name. They are also one of the smallest parrots, measuring about 3.5 inches long.
Found in Papua New Guinea and West Papua, Indonesia, our last type of parrot prefers densely vegetated habitats, thriving high in the forest canopy.
Overall, the parrot world is truly diverse, with various colors and unique behaviors. Hopefully, this feature deepens your respect for these amazing birds. Now, more than ever, the responsibility is on us.
Let's take better care of their habitats and think responsibly before choosing one as a pet. Their survival depends on our actions.
Pepperberg, I. M., Gray, S. L., Mody, S., Cornero, F. M., & Carey, S. (2019). Logical reasoning by a Grey parrot? A case study of the disjunctive syllogism, Behaviour, 156(5-8), 409-445.
BirdLife International. (2021). Psittacus erithacus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T22724813A154428817.
BirdLife International. (2019). Cyanopsitta spixii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T22685533A153022606.
BirdLife International. (2020). Amazona vittata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T22686239A179276011.