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Did Parrots Help Columbus Find His Way to America?

Amazon Parrot

The beauty, intelligence and talking abilities of parrots have long endeared them to us as pets. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all kept parrots, and seemed to hold them in high regard.

An oft-repeated story suggests that parrots, most likely one of the Amazons, may have figured prominently in the history of the New World as well. Legend has it that, after over 2 months of sailing through featureless seas, the crew of Columbus’ ship Pinta was ready to mutiny. The ship’s captain, Mr. Pinzon, advised Columbus to continue westward, as he had observed “forest birds” flying in that direction. Upon landing on San Salvador, Columbus observed the green birds seen by Mr. Pinzon in the huts of the people living there.

Some time later, tame parrots roosting near villages on several Caribbean islands were also said to have warned the residents of the approach of the Spanish conquistadors. The journals of generals Hojida and Nicuso show that in at least one case (Yuibaco, 1509) the villagers, relying upon their pets’ warning calls, were able to escape into the forest.


An account of Columbus’ observations of parrots in the West Indies, drawn from his journals, is posted at:


  1. avatar

    I am a bird lover myself. I am currently owned by 3 of them. Thanks for post. I totally believe that this could of happened since those of us with birds know about warning calls..lol.

  2. avatar
    Frank Indiviglio

    Hello Lisa,

    Thanks for your kind words and interest. I agree with you that it is a quite believable story.

    As you may know, geese have long been used as “watchdogs” as well – a pair kept near where my family had a summer home were very quick to alert their owners of strangers, yet paid no attention to neighbors. Guinea fowl are also very alert and, in times when free-ranging chicken flocks were more common on farms, were often kept as hawk/fox sentries (chickens usually pay more attention to food than predators!).

    Enjoy your birds and thanks again for your comment.

    Best regards, frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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