Hamilton Zoo celebrates World Parrot Day
Posted 31 May 2021
HAPPY WORLD PARROT DAY!
Now in all fairness we and our bird keepers love our parrots EVERY DAY of the year, but 31 May is the official day worldwide when we come together to celebrate the 350+ species of parrot in all their colourful, vibrant and highly intelligent glory. It is all about raising awareness about our feathered friends, and what we can do to help conserve parrots and their habitats.
Here at Hamilton Zoo we have a diverse range of birds that make up our parrot whaanau. This includes our precious natives such as: kea, kākā, Antipodes parakeet, and our kakariki (Yellow-crowned parakeet and red-crowned parakeet) as well as our exotic species. In our South American Aviary we have our scarlet macaw, blue-and-yellow macaw, sun conure, and maroon-bellied conure. The Australian Aviary is home to the Galah, Princess parrot, Australian King parrot, and Musk lorikeet. Finally our Indo-Pacific Aviary is home to the stunning Eclectus parrot and Moustached parakeet
Thanks to Team Leader of Birds, Grant, for creating this stunning video of some of our parrots at Hamilton Zoo.
Here some interesting, we think so anyway, parrot facts (get ready to pull these out at your next quiz night). Not all parrots are tropical. Of the known species of parrots, most live in the tropical and subtropical regions; However some parrots break that geographic mould including our very own New Zealand kea who resides in our alpine regions (waiting for a tourist caravan to pull apart if given half a chance) and nest in ground burrows.
Parrot toes are zygodactyl. Like most other birds, parrots have four toes per foot; However instead of the usual three-in-front-one-behind arrangement, parrot toes are configured for maximum grip: two in front and two behind, like two pairs of opposable thumbs. Combined with beaks that can crack the world’s toughest nuts, their unique feet make them formidable eaters, not to mention fantastic climbers.
Parrots usually match their mates. With a couple of notable exceptions, males and females of most parrot species look almost identical. But some species, like the Solomon Island Eclectus, are so different that for many years people thought they were each a different species of birds. Males are bright emerald green with flame-coloured beaks, while females are crimson and royal blue, with black beaks and a bright scarlet head.
They know how to imitate us. Parrots are generally famous for being chatty and way back in 1995 one particular parrot called Puck made the Guinness Book of World Records for his vocabulary skills, he could recall 1,728 words!
Parrots are highly intelligent, including our very own kea. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has recorded instances of kea: locking a mountaineer inside the toilet at a tramping hut, learning to use tools to set off a stoat trap to get the eggs, as well as hiding behind a hiker when being attacked by magpies (letting them fend off the birds).
Parrots may outlive us. Many parrots can live as long as humans, if not longer! Species like macaws and cockatoos are known to live for between 35 and 50 years. Cookie, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, resided at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago until the age of 88. Poncho, a Green-winged macaw, is 92, and Charlie, a Blue-and-gold macaw, is 114yrs of age (he was previously owned by Winston Churchill!).
A third of the world's parrots face extinction. Due to a combination of habitat destruction and persistent poaching for the pet trade, more species regularly land on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. This includes our very own kea who is endangered and kākāpō who is critically endangered.