One of my favorite facts about birds is that they evolved long ago from dinosaurs.
But how far have they strayed from their predatory roots?
Some birds, called birds of prey, are still lethal hunters.
But what about parrots?
This article explains whether parrots are birds of prey.
Parrots are not birds of prey. They have some similar features to birds of prey, but they do not eat large animals and eat mostly grains and fruits.
In this article, we’ll cover what a bird of prey is, the evolution of parrots and birds of prey, and much more! So, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What is a bird of prey?
A bird of prey is a species of bird that mainly hunts and eats other animals that are large in comparison to the hunter.
Birds of prey are known in Latin as raptors, which means “to take by force”.
What classifies a bird of prey?
There are lots of physical features that scientists use to classify which birds are birds of prey.
Scientists can also study the DNA of different groups of birds to see how similar their genes are and how closely related the different species are.
Birds of prey have many things in common with each other:
They have keen eyesight to spot food from an unthinkable distance, for example, buzzards can detect their prey from three kilometers away.
Birds of prey also have strong feet with curved claws called talons which they use to grasp or kill their prey.
Finally, they have powerful, curved beaks which help them to tear up their food into manageable chunks.
What are the types of birds of prey?
Birds of prey are split into two groups: diurnal birds of prey, which hunt during the daytime, and nocturnal birds of prey, which hunt at night.
The diurnal birds of prey include hawks, eagles, buzzards, harriers, kites, vultures, ospreys, falcons, and the secretary bird.
The nocturnal birds of prey are composed of the owls, a group made up of over 200 species.
We can also classify birds of prey by looking at their genetic code to find out how closely related different types of birds are.
Evolutionary history is long and complex, and sometimes looking at genetic relationships can uncover surprising family histories.
Some animals that look very similar are not closely related at all, and some closely related species turn out nothing like each other (I’m sure we all have examples of this in our own families).
One of these surprising relationships concerns parrots.
Without looking at genetic family trees, you would be unlikely to suspect that formidable predators like falcons are, in fact, more closely related to our colorful companions than they are to other birds of prey, such as hawks and eagles.
So, despite looking dazzlingly different, parrots and falcons are like long-lost cousins in the family tree of evolutionary history.
Why are parrots not birds of prey?
You can see, then, that parrots are in a confusing position, there is a blurred line between what is a bird of prey and what isn’t.
Traditionally, parrots are not classified as birds of prey.
But they do eat some animals, they have hooked bills much like other birds of prey and their genetic code is closely related to that of falcons.
So why are parrots not birds of prey? The next few paragraphs will explain.
What do parrots eat?
The exact diet of your parrot will depend on what specific species of parrot you have.
The diet of pet parrots will also probably be slightly different from the diet parrots have in the wild.
In the wild, parrots love to eat a wide variety of grains and seeds.
They collect them from forests and valleys, as well as farmer’s fields.
Some parrots also eat the shoots of plants.
They like young greens best because they contain the most vitamins.
Of course, parrots tuck into large quantities of fruits and berries too.
Which fruits they eat depends on where they live, but their diet can include, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, kiwis, pineapples, and mode.
Wild parrots sometimes turn to butterflies, small insects, and spiders when fruit is scarce.
However, this is not considered a staple part of their diet, which is why they are not birds of prey.
Parrots do not hunt for relatively large animals.
At home, pet parrots eat grain mixtures as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Why do parrots have hooked bills?
Like falcons and other birds of prey, parrots have powerful, hooked bills.
Unlike birds of prey however, they don’t use them to tear at the flesh of prey.
So, what is their hooked bill for?
Parrot’s beaks are shorter than the beaks of birds of prey.
This makes them perfect for deftly cracking open nuts and peeling the tough skins of some fruits.
Parrots also use their hooked bills for vocalizing, grooming, climbing, playing, caring for young and as part of their mating rituals.
Are parrots predators or prey?
While parrots do sometimes eat insects and spiders in the wild, they are not really considered predators.
They are, however, prey animals.
This means predators are looking to make them into their dinner.
This has a significant impact on the behavior of captive parrots.
They are constantly alert, and have a fight or flight response to things they see as threatening.
They have an especially rapid response to sudden movements from above or behind them.
Which animals eat parrots?
In their diverse, tropical habitats, there are many predators that parrots must be on the lookout for.
The most common predators of parrots are birds of prey (especially hawks), snakes, cats such as jaguars, monkeys and bats.
Evolutionary history is one complicated family tree, and parrots perch on branches very close to birds of prey.
Parrots have some similar features to birds of prey, such as hooked bills.
However, they don’t use them to hunt large animals, which means they can’t be classed as birds of prey.
This article has explained what birds of prey are, why parrots are not birds of prey and has outlined some of the predators of parrots.