Parrots are birds of all colors that usually originate from a warm habitat — think rainforests, grasslands, savannas, semi-arid regions, and even islands. A few species buck this trend and prefer colder climates, such as the Kea parrot, which inhabits the alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. Parrots are so much more than the stereotypical pirate “accessory” often portrayed in movies, books and other media. Most parrots are wild, but people began keeping some species as companions long ago. In fact, the San Diego Zoo website states that the first written account of a captive parrot dates from 400 B.C. These amazing avian companions now span the globe, living in the hearts and homes of people everywhere.

Parrots are not mammals. Their scientific classification puts them in the class Aves, order Psittaciformes, and the family Psittacidae. Parrots are sometimes called Psittacines. More than 350 species of parrots exist today. Add in the different varieties/mutations among the species, and what you have is quite a lot of parrots!To be classified as a parrot, a bird must have a curved beak. This is why they are sometimes called hookbills. They must also have zygodactyl feet, which means that each foot has four toes with two facing forward and two facing backward; a bit like the opposable thumb and fingers of humans. This gives parrots the ability to manipulate things so well with their feet.Although canaries, finches, doves, toucans, chickens, and other birds are kept as companions, these species are not parrots. These species are classified in orders other than the Psittaciformes of parrots.Companion parrots vary in size from some of the small 5-inch lovebirds to the large macaws, some of which can be 40 inches long, head to tail. Colors also vary by species. Some parrots sport numerous colors, such as the lories, while others wear two or only one color, such as Vasa parrots. And sometimes the male and female of a species look completely different, such as the Eclectus.Pet birds are very different from pet dogs or pet cats. These special souls bring a new dynamic into the lives of those who share their homes with them. To live with a parrot is a journey of discovery about these feathered friends and yourself.