Monday, December 19, 2005

More about the World of Parrots

• Descended from dinosaurs. Some are thought to have lived in the same areas of South America for a million years.
• 350 known species in the world.
• Among the smartest of birds, along with crows, jays and mynah birds. The average parrot tests at the level of primates and can learn to speak with comprehension. Alex, an African Grey parrot, is a longtime subject of Dr. Irene Pepperberg at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Alex has learned to read phonetically and can count.
• They mate for life. Will come when they hear one of their flock in trouble – this is often how many are caught by poachers.
• The larger the parrot, the longer the lifespan. Large macaws can live to more than 100, while a budgie can live into its 20s. An Amazon can live to 70.
• They’re destructive, and are able to exert hundreds of pounds of pressure with their can-openerlike beaks. Large birds can chisel at walls, and can quickly turn broomsticks, furniture, even kitchen cabinets into toothpicks.
• Largest is a Hyacinth macaw with a 4-foot wingspan and a beak-to-tail length of 3 feet.
• Smallest are pygmy parrots, which measure 3.6 inches long and are found only in New Guinea and nearby islands.
• Heaviest are the male Kakapo at 61/2 pounds. Flightless, they live in New Zealand and are highly endangered, with only 62 Kakapos left in the wild.
• More presidents have had birds than cats as pets. William McKinley appointed his parrot, named Washington Post, the official White House greeter.

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