You wake up one morning and there is an egg in your parrot cage – but wait! How is that possible? You have a single female parrot with no male in sight. How on earth is she having babies? Well, she’s not. While seeing an egg in a single female’s cage may be shocking, it’s actually completely normal. No, it doesn’t mean she’s having babies. It’s just her way of adapting to changing seasons and light patterns (we’ll talk more about this later). But if it’s possible for a female to lay eggs without being pregnant then how do you know she is actually pregnant?
First off, it’s important to note that female parrots don’t actually get “pregnant”. Rather, they lay eggs which will either be fertilized or not fertilized. If fertilized, they go through an incubation period and can hatch into chicks. Eggs that are not fertilized by a male partner will not hatch into chicks.
Today we’ll look deeper into the topic of parrot “pregnancy”. We will also discuss other questions like:
- When is a good time to mate my parrots?
- What does mating look like in parrots?
- How is it possible for a female to lay an egg without being pregnant?
- What does the gestation and birth period for a parrot look like?
And so much more! So let’s not waste another minute:
What does mating look like in parrots?
Unlike most mammals, male parrots don’t have a penis. In return, mating doesn’t look quite the same as it does with other mammals.
Rather, males have a small hole much the same as the females. In order to mate, the male parrot climbs on top of the female parrot.
During the mating period you might see a variety of behaviors like wing flapping that appear aggressive, but are completely normal.
Don’t worry, your female parrot is not being hurt – the male is just trying to keep his balance!
When are my parrots most likely to mate?
Unlike humans, parrots don’t mate all year round. Rather, they have a particular mating season. Most often, mating season for parrots and other birds is in spring when the weather is starting to become a little warmer. When the snow starts to turn into rain and the birds start to sing, you can be pretty certain that mating season is upon you.
With that being said, the mating period for parrots doesn’t last long. If you are looking to breed your parrots, you’ll want to be sure you catch them during the right time.
Mating season only lasts one to two weeks for parrots. If you don’t mate them during this time, you might have to wait another year.
In fact, aside from the small 1-2 week period that is mating season, a parrot’s reproductive organs shrivel to almost nothing. During mating season, they puff up to almost 10 times their non-breeding size!
Furthermore, if you want to breed your parrots it’s also important to know that parrots are a generally monogamous species.
This means that they mate with one partner for life. In return, if you have mated your male parrot before, you probably won’t have any luck mating them with a new female.
Signs of Mating Season
Aside from the change in weather, parrots will also exhibit signs that will tell you it’s mating season. These signs are generally a result from their changing hormones. Parrots that were once meek and mild mannered may appear to go through a “teenager” phase where they start acting strange and acting out. Don’t worry, once mating season is over their behavior will go back to normal.
With that being said, during this one to two week time period you may notice that your parrot:
- Is biting more often than normal
- Displays signs of affection (wing flapping, tail wagging, etc)
- Becomes more territorial
- Won’t stop screaming
- Plucks at their feathers (especially female parrots)
Note that this behavior may occur regardless of whether there is a parrot of the opposite sex nearby or not. Even birds from single-parrot homes will undergo these hormonal changes. And unfortunately, there is nothing that you can do to prevent it. Just be patient and their crazy behaviors will soon pass.
How does a female become pregnant? What is the gestation period?
Okay – a lesson in parrot anatomy. We’ve already discussed how a male and female parrot mate, but what does it actually take for a female to get pregnant?
If your parrots are successful at mating, this is what happens: First, the ovum that is attached to the yolk of the egg is sucked into the oviduct and fertilized. It’s unknown exactly how long this process takes in parrots, but in chickens it’s only about 18 minutes. Next, the ovum travels down a tube and into the “magnum”. This is where the white of the egg is produced. Finally it travels into the uterus where the shell is created. All in all, the entire process of creating an egg lasts about 20 hours.
Does that mean that parrots are only pregnant for less than a day? Well, yes and no. It takes less than 24 hours for a parrot to lay an egg. But if you want to get technical, parrots don’t actually get “pregnant”. Rather, they lay eggs and then incubate them. What does this mean?
Let’s talk about incubation:
Incubation is the process during which the embryo develops within the egg. With the right temperature and the right conditions, an egg can hatch into a baby parrot. In the wild, parrots incubate their own eggs but many breeders incubate eggs in incubators to make sure the conditions are right.
During the incubation phase the yolk inside of the egg provides everything that the chick needs to feed, while the white of the egg protects the chick and helps them grow. The egg itself is strong enough to support the weight of the parrots during the incubation period, but brittle enough that the chick can hatch on it’s own when the time is right.
While incubation varies from species to species, most parrots will lay between 2-8 eggs at a time. They require between 18-30 days of incubation. In the wild, male and female parrots will take turns incubating (or sitting on) the eggs.
My single female parrot laid an egg – how is that possible?
As we just mentioned, female parrots don’t really get “pregnant”. Rather, they lay eggs. And though it may be shocking to first time parrot owners, females will lay eggs during breeding season regardless of whether or not there is a male present. With that being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the egg contains a baby bird.
During mating season as the weather and lighting patterns begin to change, the endocrine system releases hormones that tell a female to produce an egg. As mentioned above, it only takes about 24 hours for a female to lay an egg. All female parrots will do this. But if it is not fertilized by a male, it will not hatch into a chick. Rather, these eggs simply release as the vessel that could have developed into a chick had they been fertilized.
How do I know if my female is “pregnant”?
Because female parrots don’t actually get “pregnant”, you won’t actually know by looking at them. Unlike humans, you aren’t going to see their belly bulge. With that being said, you can watch for signs that will tell you mating season is upon you. If your female parrot is acting differently than normal and spring is near, she may be getting ready to lay an egg.
Again, this doesn’t mean that she is “pregnant”. If the egg has not been fertilized by a male, it won’t hatch into a chick. If the female has mated with a male, there is a possibility that the egg has been fertilized and could become a chick.
The question then is not “how do I know my parrot is pregnant?”, but “how do I know if the egg is fertilized”?
The best way to tell if an egg is fertilized is to take the candle test. Hold the egg (very gently) up to a warm candle. If you can see through the egg, it’s probably not fertilized. If the egg appears more opaque (you can’t see through it), there’s a good chance it has been fertilized and could hatch into a chick if the conditions are right.
In conclusion, female parrots don’t actually get pregnant. Rather, they hatch eggs that are either fertilized or unfertilized. Obviously, a male parrot is required for the fertilization process to take place, but don’t be surprised if your female lays eggs even if she is a lone ranger!