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Holiday Connections – Parrots of Snowy Places, Christmas Colors and Christmas Island

Eclectus Male and FemaleI got the idea for this article after reading an interesting note in George Sommers’ wonderful Boston Bird and Fish Examiner column.  I’ve covered, in other blog articles, many of the birds he mentions, and thought I’d take the opportunity to expand a bit on “Christmassy” parrot themes here.

Parrots in the Snow?

Although parrots reach their greatest diversity in warm and tropical locales, a surprising number deal with snow and sub-freezing temperatures in their native habitats.  Best known among these is New Zealand’s odd (make that “bizarre”!) Kea.  Keas are quite at home at high altitudes, and have been seen to roll about in the snow like sawed-off little tykes on a school “snow day” (please see video below).

The Quaker or Monk Parrot ranges into southern Argentina, where cold winters are typical.  This, and its communal nesting/roosting behavior, has enabled introduced populations to thrive year-round in NYC, Chicago and cities that experience frigid winters.  Ringneck Parakeets, which hail from South Asia, fare less well in NYC but still manage to hold on in small numbers.

Thick-Billed Parrots once foraged on snow-capped mountains in Arizona and elsewhere in the American Southwest, shocking early explorers with their “tropical plumage”.  The species is now following in the footsteps of the US mainland’s only other native parrot, the extinct Carolina Parakeet, but rescue efforts are in progress.

Green RosellaTasmania’s Green Rosella, the world’s largest, is sturdy enough to forage while being buffeted by the snowstorms that often sweep across the island’s southwestern corner.  Bright colors lend it a “tropical air”, but aviculturists find it the perfect choice for outdoor aviaries in temperate regions.

You can read more about each of these parrots in the articles linked below.

Clad in Christmas Colors

If red and green are Christmas’ colors, then the Eclectus Parrot is the holiday’s flagship bird.  Males are what can only be described as “neon green”, while the females are brilliant red.  Pairs I cared for at the Bronx Zoo were always thought by visitors to be of different species from one-another Unlike many of the opinions I was privy to over the years – i.e., said of a Malayan Tapir: “Son, that’s a Giant Ground Sloth” – this one was reasonable!

Some very interesting theories have been put forth to explain the Eclectus Parrot’s extreme sexual dimorphism…please see the article below for details.

Christmas Island’s Parrot

To those who associate Christmas with snow and cold weather, there is nothing “Christmassy” about the island which bears the holiday’s name.  Nestled in the Indian Ocean between Australia’s west coast and Indonesia, Christmas Island is a tropical haven with quite a unique natural history.

Although not well-known to other than dedicated parrot enthusiasts, the island’s sole parrot, the Kuhl’s or Ramitara Lorikeet, is critically endangered and in need of more attention from the conservation community.

KeaBetter known are the Christmas Island land crabs, which, much like Darwin’s finches, have evolved to fill niches left open by the absence of competitors.  The annual breeding migration of millions of scarlet crabs, one of the invertebrate world’s most amazing spectacles, is sometimes featured on nature-oriented TV shows.

Further Reading

Amazing Kea video – extreme intelligence in an extreme habitat.

Eclectus Parrots

Thick-Billed Parrots

Parrot Conservation in the SW Pacific 

Green Rosellas and other Oddities

More Christmas Parrot fun facts from the Boston Bird and Fish Examiner.


Eclectus male and female image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Doug Jansen
Green Rosella image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Sammy Sam
Kea image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Michael Harsch


  1. avatar

    Tip o’ the hat to Frank for his tip o’ the hat to me! Frank has been an invaluable source of info for my own articles, and my weekly articles can be checked out in examiner.com boston under PETS – and if you live in southeastern Mass., the “Pet Gazette”!
    -George Sommers

  2. avatar

    Hello George, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest and the kind words. I enjoy your articles immensely and am happy to see you are providing valuable info to your readers as well. I’m in the process of revising my blog roll and will add your web address.

    Good luck, enjoy, and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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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