There are approximately 393 species of parrot and 92 genera, typically found in tropical or subtropical regions.
There are three families of parrot, true parrots, cockatoos and New Zealand parrots.
Have you ever asked yourself whether parrots can mate with other birds?
Is it wise to crossbreed these birds?
Let’s dive in and find out.
The answer is yes and no. Yes parrots can breed with other types of parrot, but parrots breeding with other types of bird that have too wide of a genetic gap is not possible.
Crossbreeding can and does occur.
It is sometimes called hybridization.
There is a caveat, however.
Crossbreeding typically occurs between birds of the same genus.
For example, the Catalina macaw is a cross bread of a blue-and-gold macaw and a scarlet macaw- two different species which are of the same genus.
Conures can breed with macaws and cockatoos can breed with cockatiels.
Nevertheless, it is possible for birds of a different genus to breed but is very rare.
It most often occurs in lorikeets and Lories.
Still, if there is too wide a genetic gap between species it is not possible to interbreed.
Hybridizing parrots can lead to genetic defects as it narrows the gene pool.
So, if you attempt it, you should do so with care.
Parrots even occasionally crossbreed in the wild, if they are closely enough related to the other bird.
That is to say, if they are in the same genetic range as their chosen mate, they can sometimes produce fertile offspring.
Which parrots can mate with other birds?
Lovebirds can mate with one another and are able to have fertile offspring, as can parrot finches.
All parrots in the Neophema genus can crossbreed with each other.
It is rare but a Bourke’s parrot can also mate with Neophema parrots.
Plum-headed parakeets can mate with blossom-headed parakeets and Indian ringneck parrots, as well as with mustached parakeets and Malabar parakeets, to give just a few examples.
What is more, many of these hybrids can have fertile offspring, although this can narrow the gene pool.
Australian lorikeets of similar size can also mate with each other, but their offspring are usually infertile.
Some lorikeets that can crossbreed include musk lorikeets, rainbow lorikeets and Red-collared lorikeets.
In order for crossbreeding to occur, animals need to be of the same family and it is more common amongst parrots of the same genus.
Should you hybridize or crossbreed parrots?
There are two main side effects of hybridizing parrots; outbreeding depression and hybrid vigor.
Outbreeding depression refers to how the breakup and narrowing of the gene pool can lead to less fitness in hybrids.
Hybrid vigor, by contrast, describes how hybridization can lead to stronger animals that are long-lived.
Thus, many may consider buying or breeding hybrids as a good option, because hybrid vigor makes them healthier and stronger.
This is still the most common side effect of hybridizing parrots, but people should bear in mind that outbreeding depression is possible.
What are the benefits of hybridizing and crossbreeding parrots?
So, what are some of the advantages of hybridizing parrots?
It is a good way to ensure that favorable traits are passed on through the generations and promote the survival of endangered species.
Crossbreeding is the idea that you breeding with the intent to create offspring which shares the traits of both parents.
Crossbreeding in parrots can create very attractive, long-lived parrots which can make for fantastic pets.
Some, though not all, crossbreeds are even fertile and healthier than other parrots.
It is worth noting that not all crossbreeds of parrot will be healthier and stronger than other parrots.
Crossbreed can sometimes help to eliminate certain diseases.
What are the disadvantages of crossbreeding parrots?
Too much crossbreeding can result in less diversity in a species, and you do not have any control over potential genetic mutations.
Less genetic diversity could be that if a particular disease affects birds with a given gene, it could make parrots with that gene more vulnerable to that disease and at risk of being wiped out.
Crossbreeding could potentially cause animals discomfort if breeders are trying to encourage particular traits.
This is because by promoting specific traits and characteristics they may inadvertently reproduce traits that may damage the animal’s health, or impair them in some way.
For example, you could accidentally give a bird poorer eyesight.
In the same way, you can sometimes cause a breeding depression, which means the parrots could be weaker, less fit parrots.
Also, as people are usually breeding species in order to promote a particular trait, they can, in fact, have an impact of the evolution of a species.
Some genes can be lost in crossbreeding, and once genes disappear from the gene pool, it is difficult to bring them back.
Therefore, those who attempt to crossbreed species of parrot should do so with care.
Are the offspring of crossbreeding parrots fertile?
Some hybrid and crossbreeds are more successful in this regard than others.
Some say that a ‘successful’ hybrid is typically one that can reproduce.
In the wild, crossbreeds of birds-of-paradise have been reported to produce fertile young, along with waterfowl and hummingbirds.
The debate about crossbreeding
There is a fierce debate about the ethics of crossbreeding.
It is true that natural hybridization occurs in the wild and is considered a good thing by many biologists as it is thought that this kind of hybridization is crucial for the development of new species.
However, hybridization and crossbreeding in captivity is opposed by many conservationists.
Many ask themselves, for instance, whether it is ethical to crossbreed parrots just to make them more attractive or produce parrots which display captivating colors.
People may even crossbreed parrots in order to promote longer life.
How, why and whether humans choose to intervene in the process of crossbreeding and hybridization for their own ends remains a contentious issue.
Popular parrot crossbreeds
Some of the most popular parrot crossbreeds are Macaw hybrids. Here are a few examples.
These are very intelligent, responsive birds, a crossbreed of scarlet macaws and Catalonia macaws.
They need lots of stimulation and socialization but can be really great pets.
They can make a very affectionate and tame pet.
These are a crossbreed of the blue and gold macaw and the green wing macaw.
They are characterized by their calmness and placid natures.
They can also make for very affectionate pets.
These birds are very intelligent and respond well to training.
If you want to teach your parrot to do tricks, this is the pet for you.
They are social birds so need a lot of stimulation and need time to bond with their owner.
If you are prepared to give them plenty of time and attention they can be perfect pets.
Be warned, though, that they can become destructive if ignored or neglected.
In conclusion, then, it is possible for parrots to mate with other birds.
Typically though, this only occurs among birds of the same genus and those close enough to each other on the genetic spectrum.
There is some debate in the avian community and parrot owners as to whether it is ethical to crossbreed parrots in captivity to make them more attractive or live longer.
We have detailed some of the main advantages and disadvantages of hybridization, in case you are wondering if you should buy a hybrid parrot.
If you’re unsure, seek advice from experts.
It is true, however, that some crossbreeds can make for perfect pets if they are given the attention and stimulation they need.
So, if you are the proud owner of a crossbreed or not, go and spend some quality time with your feathery friend.
Your parrot will thank you.