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Small Birds Are Parrots Too!

You might not think the small birds aren't as fun as the big parrots, but these little guys pack all the fun of the big birds in a little bird body.

Diane Grindol

Cockatiels are one of the best whistling and singing parrots out there.

If you own a small bird, such as a budgie or cockatiel, and have ever considered attending a parrot conference, your first thought might be that you would be in the wrong place. Wrong! Our small birds are parrots, too. They might be small, but they are every bit as much of a parrot. And you’re in good company. Thousands, if not millions, of small parrots share our homes across this country.

So how do we known are small birds are parrots?

The Beak Says It All: Our small birds fit the bill so to speak when it comes to classifying them properly as parrots. Look at your bird. The budgie, cockatiel, lineolated parakeet, parrotlet, lovebird or Bourke’s parakeet all have the characteristic downward-curved hooked upper beak ("hookbill”), which allows it to eat seeds. The only difference is that larger hookbills have larger beaks to break open hard nuts, while our smaller hookbills have small beaks to eat seeded grasses.

Peach-faced lovebirds

Lovebirds are a bird native to Africa, and they are a popular pet bird.

Toes Do Tell: Another characteristic of parrots is zygodactyl toes. A parrot has four toes, two of which point forward and two point back. This is true of your budgie or lovebird, and every cockatoo and Amazon parrot you see; they’re all parrots. In the wild, parrots also lay white eggs in dark recesses, often holes in trees. For companion parrots, breeders provide wooden nest boxes to simulate the holes of trees; or, in our homes, our birds improvise and crawl into dark spaces to prepare a "nest” or to lay eggs.

Helpless As Chicks: Parrots have altricial young, needing nurturing from their parents. Parrots don’t have cute babies! Their chicks look like they aren’t quite finished when hatched. Their wings are still useless buds, their feet don’t support their weight and their eyes are closed for the first couple weeks. They might have some downy fuzz to cover them, but there are no feathers for a while. Contrast that with the precocial young of chickens or quail, which can run about and locate food to eat on their own within hours of hatching.

Talk The Talk: Parrots can talk, which makes them different from other pets and from most other birds. A male budgie, in fact, is one of the parrots very likely to talk and to develop an extensive vocabulary. The talking ability of other small parrots vary, but talking is one of the traits that links our small parrots with larger ones.

When you have the chance to learn about large parrots from a parrot behavioral consultant, biologist, avian veterinarian or bird breeder, don’t feel excluded. Listen closely since you’re keeping and interacting with a parrot, too.

Want to learn more about small birds?

Bird Cages For Small Parrots
Pet Small Bird Nesting Habits


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Posted: April 30, 2014, 12:00 a.m. PDT

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Small Birds Are Parrots Too!

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Reader Comments
Thank you so much for the wonderful article. I have had budgies my whole life. They are sweet, smart, great little parrots. Thank you again Diane for pointing out how great small parrots are.
Small Parrots rule !!
Kathy, Riverside, CA
Posted: 5/19/2015 2:10:48 PM
My Senegal has a large vocabulary and has trained us well.
Paul, Wilmette, IL
Posted: 5/13/2014 10:35:28 PM
I love small parrots. I've had cockatiels for years and now have a quaker as well.
Cheryl, International
Posted: 5/13/2014 5:32:48 PM
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