Parrots are birds with multicolored feathers. They belong to the Psittaciformes order of birds and come from the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, Oceania and Latin America. “True” parrots belong to the Psittacinae subfamily. Cockatoos belong to another family of the same order. The smallest parrots are just over eight centimeters long, while the largest measure more than one meter long. Parrots have pointed, hooked beaks. Their upper mandibles are hinged to the skull and move independently, allowing the bird to grab hold of large objects with its beak.

Their feet have four toes. Two face forward and two backward, allowing parrots to grip branches firmly and climb trees with dexterity. But when walking along a flat surface, parrots’ movements appear clumsy and unsteady. They can make an astonishing variety of sounds. Parrots can imitate the calls of other animals and sometimes the human voice. African gray parrots are particularly talented at echoing human speech. Parrots never stray far from their nests. They are more active in the daytime, when they look for food. Their diets include fruit and seeds with husks. A parrot holds seeds with one foot and breaks them open with its beak. Parrots can also use their long tongues to suck up liquids. Parrots live in large flocks that they leave only during mating season.

Couples mate for life. After mating, female parrots lay two to eight eggs. They carve cavities out of tree trunks with their beaks and lay their eggs inside. South American Monk parakeets are an exception. They build large communal nests shared by dozens of couples. Female parrots incubate their eggs for five weeks. The male’s tasks are to provide food and to protect the nest from predators. Newborn parrots are blind and featherless. Young parrots become independent when they are about a month and a half old. Some species immediately abandon the nest, while others remain in the nest a few more weeks. Thanks to their brightly colored plumage and ability to imitate the human voice, parrots have fascinated people since ancient times.

Alexander the Great introduced parrots to Europe in 327 BC, importing them from Asia. Along with dogs and cats, parrots are now one of the most common pets in the world. If a person is said to be “parroting” someone or something, it means he is repeating something without thinking or understanding what he is saying.
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