Last Updated on: 21st November 2023, 09:37 am
All parrots share some of the same DNA, but that doesn’t mean all species can interbreed. While parrots needn’t be the same species to produce offspring together, they must be closely related.
Most parrots can only interbreed if they belong to the same genus. For example, macaws in the Ara genus or lovebirds (Agapornis sp) can crossbreed.
Parrots in the same family but in different genera occasionally interbreed, like cockatoos and cockatiels. However, hybrid parrot chicks aren’t always healthy.
If 2 parrots belong to different taxonomical families, they can’t interbreed. For example, conures can’t breed with budgies because they’re too genetically distinct.
Can Different Types of Parrots Mate?
The term ‘parrot’ defines birds in the taxonomical order Psittaciformes.
Macaws, Amazons, lovebirds, cockatoos, and parakeets are all parrots. They share similarities, including curved beaks (hookbills) and an upright stance.
It was thought that animals could only breed with members of their species, but this isn’t always true. Provided the species are genetically similar, they may be able to reproduce.
Can parrots of different species breed? Yes, but not all species.
The success of an interspecies pairing depends on how genetically and physically similar the birds are. They must share sufficient DNA for the sperm and egg to develop.
It also depends on whether the birds are inclined to mate. Parrots physically distinct from one another are less likely to breed because they won’t see each other as potential partners.
The most common parrot hybrids result from species within the same genus. For example, most lovebird species (Agapornis sp.) can interbreed.
Some parrots are similar enough to breed despite belonging to different genera, like cockatoos and cockatiels. Usually, they must belong to the same taxonomical family.
What Is A Hybrid Parrot?
A hybrid parrot has parents from different species.
Although hybrid parrots are rare in the wild, they’re relatively common in captivity due to captive parrots having fewer choices of mating partners.
Wild parrots live in flocks. According to The Condor, parrot flocks may contain more than 50 birds of the same species, giving each individual a choice of mating partners.
A parrot’s companion in captivity could be 1 bird. They may mate if they’re of the opposite sex, even if they wouldn’t usually be each other’s first choice.
Some hybrid parrots have been given names for identification, such as:
- The ruby macaw crosses the scarlet macaw (Ara macao) and the green-winged macaw (Ara chloropterus).
- The Sunday conure hybridizes the sun conure (Aratinga solstitialis) and the jenday conure (Aratinga jandaya).
- The galahtiel results from a cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) mating with a galah cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapilla).
A hybrid parrot looks like a mixture of its parents.
For example, ruby macaws have a combination of yellow and green feathers on their wings. The green color is from the green-winged macaw parent, whereas the yellow is from the scarlet macaw.
A parrot with parents of the same species but different colors isn’t a hybrid.
For example, if a green Quaker parrot mated with a blue Quaker parrot, its chicks wouldn’t be hybrids. They’d still be pure Quaker parrots but may carry genes for different color mutations.
Are Hybrid Parrots Fertile?
Some crossbreeds are infertile. For example, mules can’t produce offspring.
Is the same true for parrots? It depends upon which species have interbred. Many parrot hybrids are infertile, but others can produce young.
Macaws in the Ara genus can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
The Catalina macaw, a cross between the scarlet macaw and the blue and gold macaw, can interbreed. Catalina macaws can breed with other Catalinas, producing a second generation of hybrids.
They can also breed with other macaw species, hybridizing different species. Sterility increases with each subsequent generation, and a third-generation hybrid macaw is likelier to be sterile.
Other crossbreeds may be infertile from the first generation or prone to health issues and early mortality.
The sun conure x green cheek conure hybrid is frequently born with health issues and malformations, often dying before adulthood. If they reach adulthood, they’re usually sterile.
Can Parrots Mate with Other Birds?
You may wonder if parrots interbreed with other bird species. For example, can budgies and canaries breed? Unsurprisingly, the answer is no.
Parrots can only breed with other parrots in the same taxonomical family. Other birds, like canaries, are too genetically different from parrots to produce viable offspring.
Most parrots won’t view a different parrot species as a potential mate, let alone a non-parrot. Each parrot has species-specific courtship behaviors, colors, and vocalizations.
If a parrot managed to mate with another bird species, it wouldn’t produce viable offspring because its reproductive cells (sperm and egg) would be too genetically different.
For example, a canary has 40 chromosomes, while budgerigars only have 26.
Which Parrot Species Can Interbreed?
There are about 398 parrot species, which are split into 5 taxonomical families. Combined, each of these parrot families contains 92 genera.
Most wild parrots don’t breed outside of their species. However, there are some rare exceptions. According to Behavior, galah and Major Mitchell’s cockatoos may interbreed in the wild.
Both parents usually belong to the same genus to produce hybrid offspring. Parrots in the same genus, “sister species,” are closely related and share similar DNA.
Some parrots can also breed with parrots in a different genus if they belong to the same family.
This compatibility chart lists parrot species that can interbreed:
|Parent #1||Parent #2||Hybrid offspring|
|Macaw (Ara sp.)||Macaw (Ara sp.)||Many possible hybrids, e.g., harlequin macaw (blue and gold macaw x green-winged macaw).|
|Macaw (Ara sp.)||Hyacinth macaw (Andorhynchus hyacinthinus)||Several hybrids, e.g., Caloshua macaw (blue and gold macaw x hyacinth macaw).|
|Conure (Aratinga sp.)||Conure (Aratinga sp.)||Hybrids within this genus include the Sunday conure (jenday x sun conure) and the nansun conure (nanday x sun conure).|
|Conure (Pyrrhura sp.)||Conure (Pyrrhura sp.)||Various combinations, e.g., green-cheeked conure x crimson-bellied conure.|
|Conure (Pyrrhura sp.)||Conure (Aratinga sp.)||Some hybrids, including green-cheeked conure x sun conure. Chicks often have health problems.|
|Cockatoo (Cacatuidae family)||Cockatoo (Cacatuidae family)||Various possibilities within the family, including the galahtiel (galah cockatoo x cockatiel).|
|Lovebird (Agapornis sp.)||Lovebird (Agapornis sp.)||All species in this genus can interbreed, although hybrids may be infertile.|
If a female parrot has laid eggs, you may assume it has mated with a male. Female parrots often lay unfertilized eggs that don’t develop into chicks.
The presence of a male parrot and specific environmental conditions may trigger the production of egg-laying hormones, even if they’re different species.
If 2 cross-species parrots have mated, the eggs likely won’t be fertile. They’ll only develop into chicks if the 2 parents belong to closely related species.
Can Lovebirds Interbreed?
Lovebirds are small parrots belonging to the genus Agapornis.
There are 9 species of lovebird:
- Black-collared lovebirds.
- Black-cheeked lovebirds.
- Black-winged lovebirds.
- Fischer’s lovebirds.
- Grey-headed lovebirds.
- Lilian’s lovebirds.
- Peach-faced lovebirds.
- Red-headed lovebirds.
- Yellow-collared lovebirds.
All species of lovebirds are genetically similar enough to interbreed. However, not all interspecies lovebird pairings result in fertile offspring.
Some lovebirds have prominent white rings around their eyes, and others don’t. The “eye-ring” species include Fischer’s lovebirds, yellow-collared lovebirds, Lilian’s lovebirds, and black-cheeked lovebirds.
When one eye-ring species mates with another, their chicks are usually fertile and healthy. However, when an eye-ring species mates with a non-eye-ring species, the resulting hybrids are typically infertile.
Can Macaws Interbreed?
There are 17 extant (living) macaw species belonging to 6 genera.
The most popular macaws kept as pets belong to the genus Ara; this genus includes blue and gold macaws, scarlet macaws, and green-winged macaws, among others.
All macaw parrots in the genus Ara (8 extant species) can interbreed. There are 28 possible hybrid combinations among Ara macaws. Examples include:
- Miligold macaw (military macaw x blue and gold macaw).
- Buffwing macaw (Buffon’s macaw x green-winged macaw).
- Maui sunset macaw (red-fronted macaw x blue and gold macaw).
While most hybrid macaws occur in captivity, they have been discovered in the wild.
According to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, a scarlet macaw x great green macaw hybrid was discovered in a Costa Rican wildlife rehabilitation center.
Hybrid macaws can interbreed with one another and other macaw species.
For example, a starlight macaw is a cross between a scarlet macaw and a miligold hybrid. Hybrid Ara macaws are usually fertile up until the third generation.
Hyacinth macaws (Andorhynchus hyacinthinus) can also breed with Ara species. Although they belong to different genera, they are genetically similar enough to produce offspring.
Can Conures Breed with Budgies?
Conures are small-to-medium-sized parrots belonging to different genera. The most common conures belong to the Aratinga and Pyrrhura genera.
Some refer to conures as ‘parakeets.’ This term can also refer to several other parrot species, including budgerigars. This leads people to ask if conures and budgies can breed.
Although budgies and conures are nicknamed ‘parakeets,’ they belong to parrot families (Psittaculidae and Psittacidae, respectively), which means they’re too genetically distinct for interbreeding.
Different conure species can interbreed, but the parents must belong to the same genus for their chicks to be healthy. Hybrids between the Aratinga and Pyrrhura species have birth defects and die early.
Can Cockatiels Breed with Cockatoos?
The name ‘cockatoo’ refers to parrots in the Cacatuidae family, of which there are 21 known species.
Some of the most common cockatoos include:
- Citron cockatoos.
- Sulphur-crested cockatoos.
- Salmon-crested cockatoos.
- Umbrella cockatoos.
- White cockatoos.
- Galah cockatoos.
The cockatoo family is among the few families where birds regularly interbreed in the wild. For example, wild sulphur-crested cockatoos interbreed with long-billed corellas.
Cockatoos can crossbreed outside of their genus. For example, cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) can breed with galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla). The offspring are called a galahtiel.
Can A Quaker Parrot Mate with A Cockatiel?
Quaker parrots (monk parakeets) are true parrots belonging to the genus Myiopsitta.
Although native to subtropical parts of South America, wild populations have been introduced to North America. They can be found in U.S. states like New York, Texas, and Wisconsin.
These introduced populations resulted from pets escaping or being set free. Some states, like Hawaii, ban the breeding of Quaker parrots. Keeping them as pets may be illegal.
Quaker parrots are small parrots (11-12 inches long), similar in size to cockatiels (12-13 inches long) and conures. However, they can’t breed because they belong to different taxonomical families.
Quaker parrots haven’t been found to crossbreed with other bird species.