Parrots: A Riot of Sound and Color

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Some of the most famous examples of birds from the tropical rainforests of the Amazon include species of neotropical parrots. Macaws formulate 6 different genera of parrots and are often classified by their large size, big beaks, and brilliant colors. the Blue-and-Yellow, Scarlet, and Military Macaw are some of the most recognizable species of Macaw due to their bright colors and breeding programs in zoos. These animals can often live up to 50 years old in captivity, yet less is known about their histories in the wild.

Of the 14 species that are found in the Amazon region, 9 of these species are vulnerable, if not critically threatened. The Spix Macaw only survives through 73 individuals in a captive breeding program in Brazil. Habitat loss is the main threat to macaw populations, but the international animal tad also reduces the numbers in the wild, as these birds command high prices.

Parrots and parakeets are also found throughout the forest of the Amazon. They can also be found through the Caribbean and Central America. Generally smaller than macaws, parrots can be seen flying in large flocks, at times up to 100 individuals. [1] Parrots, like Macaws, can imitate human speech patterns and other sounds that they hear. These birds are often very intelligent. Studies with the African Grey Parrot, although not found in the Amazon, indicate that these birds can be as intelligent as a four year old child. [2] Similar intellectual capabilities are thought to exist in parrots in the Amazon as well. The family, Ramphastidae, better known as Toucans, are other colorful bird species found in the Amazon. They are best known for their colorful beaks, shaped particularly for consuming tropical raw fruit. Studies on the Toco Toucan have shown that the large bill of a toucan may essentially serve as  a heat regulation mechanism that can cool the animal. [3]

Colorful parrot-like birds are not the only birds in the Amazon. Due to the many different habitats within the Amazon as a whole, many different bird types have evolved. Birds of prey such as hawks and eagles are common in the mountainous Andes, although the Harpy Eagle can be found in the lowlands. The Harpy is the largest bird of prey throughout the South and North America. The Talons of Harpy may reach 5 inches long, and exert enough force to capture some very large prey; Harpy eagles have been known to attempt to capture large howler monkeys. [4] Conservation preserves are the best hope for Amazonian birds, but the cessation international pet trade will help ease hunting pressure on some of the more colorful and brilliant species found within the rainforests.



1.)   Gilardi JD, Munn CA (1998) Patterns of Activity, Flocking, and Habitat Use in Parrots of the Peruvian Amazon. The Condor, 100 (4), 641-653.

2.)   Pepperberg IM (1999) The Alex Studies. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

3.)   Tattersall GJ, Andrade DV, Abe AS (2009) Heat Exchange from the Toucan Bill Reveals a Controllable Vascular Thermal Radiator. Science, 325, 468.

4.)Eason P (1989) Harpy Eagle attempt predation on adult howler monkey. The Condor, 91, 469-470.

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