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Most parrots lay their eggs within holes in trees, using little if any nesting material.
Lovebirds build true nests. Females wedge dried grasses and other nesting material into the feathers of their rumps for transport to the nest site.
Monk parrots build huge, communal stick nests. Escaped pets have established large colonies in NYC. At the Bronx Zoo I cared for a group that built a nest in their outdoor exhibit – their calls attracted free-living monk parrots, which added sticks to the exhibit roof, eventually forming an extension to the nest within the exhibit.
Golden-shouldered parrots (Australia) evacuate nests within terrestrial termite mounds, while New Guinea’s buff-faced pygmy parrot does the same in arboreal termite nests. It is assumed that the insects confer a degree of protection to nesting birds, although why they do not attack the parrots is unknown. The eggs may also benefit from the stable temperatures maintained within the mounds.
The Patagonian conure burrows into riverbanks and cliffs to a depth of 10 feet or more when nesting. Those I kept at the Bronx Zoo would not breed until provided with artificial burrows.
Ground parrots (Australia) nest in depressions below grass clumps.
Peach-faced lovebirds (East Africa) nest colonially – often commandeering the intricately woven nests of weaver finches after driving out the rightful owners.
The rock parrot is surely the oddest of all when it comes to egg-laying. Its nests have only been found below rocks, just above the high tide mark along the South Australian coast.
Breeding and Courtship
Most parrots form monogamous pair bonds that may last a lifetime. New Zealand’s kakapo and kea, however, are polygamous.
The nocturnal kakapos are the only parrots to display in leks – females choose mates from groups of males which gather in one place to compete with loud, booming calls. In contrast to other parrots, male kakapos provide no care to the young.
Courting parrots utilize a behavior known as the “eye blaze”, in which the brightly colored iris expands in size.
Male and female parrots are often indistinguishable from one another. Male Australian king parrots, however, are scarlet in color while the females are bright green. Male and female eclectus parrots differ so much in appearance that they were long thought to be separate species – males are emerald green with scarlet flanks and under-wings, while females are crimson red with violet-blue bellies.
The IUCN Red Data Book lists 18 species of parrot as extinct, 32 as endangered, 17 as critically endangered and 82 as either vulnerable or threatened.
The spix macaw is likely extinct in the wild (although it survives in captivity) and the glaucous macaw has only been sighted twice in the 20th century. The flightless kakapo, threatened by introduced rats, cats and stoats, likely numbers less than 100 in its native New Zealand.
An article examining the relationship between natural and pet parrot behavior is posted at:http://www.realmacaw.com/pages/parrbehav.html