Lories, Parakeets, Macaws and Parrots (Psittacidae)
The taxonomic order PSITTACIFORMES (pronounced sit-uh-suh-FORM-eez) is composed of three families; the cockatoos, New Zealand parrots such as the Kea, and parakeets and parrots.
The Psittacidae (pronounced sit-UH-suh-dee), a family of nearly worldwide occurrence, includes three hundred and forty-eight species of parrots and parakeets in seventy-seven genera.
Fifty-four species of parrots and parakeets in fifteen genera have been recorded in North America (including two extinct species, the Carolina Parakeet and Cuban Macaw).
Lories, parakeets, macaws and parrots are known for their distinctive bill shape, intelligence, and popularity as pets. The Yellow-headed Parrot is especially popular in this regard as it readily learns to repeat human speech. Unfortunately, this trait has made it such a popular cage bird that wild populations have become highly endangered because of capture for the pet trade.
Lories, parakeets, macaws and parrots are medium to large in size while parakeets are generally smaller. Although all share a short, sharply decurved bills, and have fairly short legs with strong “zygodactyl” toes (two facing forward and two facing backward), the overall shape of these birds differs considerably among groups. For example, the macaws and parakeets sport long, pointed tails and wings, while most of the parrots have square-shaped, short or medium length tails and fairly broad wings.
Lories, parakeets, macaws and parrots are colorful birds with predominately green plumage. Red and yellow patches are often found on the heads, wings, and tails, while some species also have blue or gray coloration.
In the United States and Canada, most members of this family occur as populations that escaped from captivity. Most of these persist in cities with mild climates and fruiting plants (many of which are also introduced species) that provide them with food. Wild parrots and parakeets from Mexico may be found in populations of Red-crowned and Green Parakeets in southern Texas, and occasional vagrant Thick-billed Parrots in the pine forests of southern Arizona and New Mexico.
In North America, lories, parakeets, macaws and parrots are non-migratory.
Lories, parakeets, macaws and parrots are highly social birds typically occurring in flocks. They form strong pair bonds with individual pairs often discernible even when associating with other birds. Members of this family use their strong bills to crack open seeds and feed on fruits. When searching for fruiting and seeding trees, parrots and parakeets fly high overhead, giving frequent screeching vocalizations. Upon flying into a tree, though, they go quiet and seem to “disappear” as their green plumage blends in with the foliage.
Several members of this family are endangered in various parts of the world due to habitat loss and capture for the pet trade. The Red-crowned Parrot falls into this category; although not threatened in Texas, it is highly endangered in Mexico.
The only two naturally occurring members of this family found north of Mexico were the Carolina Parakeet and the Thick-billed Parrot. Despite an astonishingly large population, the parakeet went extinct due to over-hunting and the parrot was extirpated in North America in the early twentieth century because of both hunting and habitat loss. Despite reintroduction efforts, the Thick-billed Parrot hasn’t been able to reestablish itself in Arizona, and Mexican populations of this species remain threatened by habitat loss.