Scarlet macaw, Costa Rica
© Harry Collins/Getty Image
The parrot’s striking display of bright colours makes them the star attraction of the animal kingdom. 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. And 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 imitate human speech.
The scarlet macaw, pictured here in flight in Costa Rica, is found from southern Mexico to Bolivia. Prized for their bright colours, macaws have been bred by people for centuries. They are among the largest parrot species, growing to between 81 to 96 centimetres 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 grooming their chicks and each other in an impressive display of affection.