Scarlet macaw in Costa Rica
© Harry Collins/Getty Image
This clever bird passes with flying colors. World Parrot Day
World Parrot Day was started in 2004 and is celebrated every May 31 to bring attention to the birds' plight in the wild. These long-lived, charismatic, intelligent, loyal, and affectionate creatures are threatened by habitat loss, competition from invasive species, and trapping for the pet trade. Indeed, the qualities that make them darlings of the animal world also make them attractive as pets for people.
There are nearly 400 species of parrots, divided into three superfamilies: true parrots, cockatoos, and New Zealand parrots. Most live in tropical or subtropical regions. A quarter to a third of all wild parrot species are threatened with extinction. As many as 50 million parrots live in captivity, where they can live as long as humans. Along with crows, ravens, and magpies, parrots are among the most intelligent birds and are well known for being able to mimic human speech.
The scarlet macaw, pictured here in flight in Costa Rica, is found from southern Mexico to Bolivia. It has disappeared from some places because of habitat destruction or capture for the parrot trade, but in other areas it remains widespread. Prized for their bright colors, macaws have been bred by people for centuries. They are among the largest of parrot species, growing to almost 3 feet long, mostly because of their tail feathers, a trademark of the scarlet macaw. They prefer to live in tall deciduous trees and near rivers. They tend to mate for life and share in the duties of caring for their young, taking turns preening their chicks and each other in an impressive display of affection.