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can different types of parrot mate?

Can Parrots Crossbreed? (Hybrid Parrots)

(Last Updated On: May 4, 2023)

All parrots share some of the same DNA, but that doesn’t mean all species can interbreed. While parrots don’t have to 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, all macaws in the Ara genus or lovebirds (Agapornis sp) can crossbreed.

Parrots in the same family but in different genera can occasionally interbreed, like cockatoos and cockatiels. Unfortunately, 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 different.

Can Different Types of Parrot Mate?

The term ‘parrot’ describes any bird in the taxonomical order Psittaciformes.

Macaws, Amazons, lovebirds, cockatoos, and parakeets are all examples of parrots. They share similarities, including strong, curved beaks (hookbills) and an upright stance.

It was once thought that animals could only breed with members of the same species, but this isn’t always true. Provided the 2 species are genetically similar, they may be able to reproduce.

So, 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 2 birds are. They must share sufficient DNA for the sperm and egg to combine and develop successfully.

It also depends on whether the birds would be inclined to mate. Parrots physically distinct from one another are less likely to breed because they won’t recognize each other as potential partners.

The most common parrot hybrids result from species within the same genus. For example, most lovebird species (Agapornis sp.) are similar enough to interbreed.

Some parrots are similar enough to breed despite belonging to different genera, like cockatoos and cockatiels. Usually, the 2 parrots must belong to the same taxonomical family.

What Is a Hybrid Parrot?

A hybrid parrot has parents from 2 different species.

Although hybrid parrots are extremely rare in the wild, they’re fairly common in captivity due to captive parrots having fewer choices of mating partners.

Wild parrots live in large groups called flocks. According to The Condor, parrot flocks may contain more than 50 birds of the same species, giving each individual a range of potential mating partners.  

However, a parrot’s only companion in captivity could be 1 bird. Naturally, they may attempt to mate if they’re of the opposite sex, even if they wouldn’t be each other’s first choice in the wild.

Some common hybrid parrots have been given names for easy 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 is the product of a cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) mating with a galah cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapilla).

A hybrid parrot usually looks like a mixture of its parents. For example, ruby macaws usually have a combination of yellow and green feathers on their wings. The green color comes from the green-winged macaw parent, whereas the yellow pigment is from the scarlet macaw.

A parrot with parents of the same species, but different color variations, 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.

can parrots mate with other birds?

Are Hybrid Parrots Fertile?

Some crossbreeds within the animal kingdom are infertile. For example, mules (the product of a male donkey and a female horse) can’t produce offspring. Is the same true for parrots?

The answer isn’t straightforward, as 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. One example is the Catalina macaw, a cross between the scarlet macaw and the blue and gold macaw. Catalina macaws can breed with other Catalina macaws, producing the second generation of hybrids.

They can also breed with other macaw species, including hybridizing different species. However, sterility increases with each subsequent generation, and a third-generation hybrid macaw is likelier to be sterile.

Other parrot crossbreeds may be infertile from the first generation. They may also be prone to health issues and early mortality.

The sun conure x green cheek conure hybrid is frequently born with health problems and malformations, often dying before adulthood. If they reach adulthood, they’re almost always sterile.

Can Parrots Mate with Other Birds?

You may wonder if parrots interbreed with other bird and parrot 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 offspring.

Most parrots wouldn’t view a different parrot species as a potential mate, let alone a non-parrot. Each parrot has species-specific courtship behaviors, colors, and mating calls.

If a parrot managed to mate with another bird species, it wouldn’t produce 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. So, their DNA couldn’t combine successfully to create viable offspring.

If the female laid an egg, it would likely be infertile and wouldn’t develop or hatch.

Which Parrot Species Can Interbreed?

There are about 398 species of parrot, which are split into 5 taxonomical families. Combined, each of these parrot families contains 92 different genera.

Most wild parrots haven’t been observed breeding with any parrot outside of its species group.

However, there are rare exceptions. For example, according to Behavior, galah cockatoos and Major Mitchell’s cockatoos have been observed interbreeding in the wild.

Both parent parrots must usually belong to the same genus to produce hybrid offspring. Parrots in the same genus, called “sister species,” are closely related and share much of the same DNA.

Some parrots can also breed with parrots in a different genus if they belong to the same family. The following parrot compatibility chart lists some parrot species that can interbreed:

Parent #1Parent #2Hybrid 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 possible hybrids, e.g., Caloshua macaw (blue and gold macaw x hyacinth macaw).
Conure (Aratinga sp.)Conure (Aratinga sp.)Popular 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 are possible, e.g., green-cheeked conure x crimson-bellied conure.
Conure (Pyrrhura sp.)Conure (Aratinga sp.)Some hybrids have been reported, including green-cheeked conure x sun conure; however, 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, though hybrids may be infertile.

If a female parrot has laid eggs, you may assume it has mated with a male. However, female parrots often lay unfertilized eggs that don’t develop into chicks.

The presence of a male parrot and certain 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 groups.

Can Lovebirds Interbreed?

Lovebirds are small parrots belonging to the genus Agapornis. There are nine 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 usually 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. Some 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 also 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 also interbreed with one another and with 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 several different genera. The most common conures kept as pets belong to the genera Aratinga and Pyrrhura.

Some people refer to conures as ‘parakeets.’ This term can also refer to several other species of parrots, including budgerigars. This leads some people to ask if conures can breed with budgies.

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.

Some conures and budgies may try to mate with one another, but they’ll never produce viable offspring.

Different conure species can interbreed with one another, but both parents must belong to the same genus for their chicks to be healthy. Hybrids between the Aratinga and Pyrrhura species often have health problems and birth defects and die before adulthood.

can parrots of different species breed?

Can Cockatiels Breed With Cockatoos?

The name ‘cockatoo’ refers to parrots in the Cacatuidae family, of which there are 21 known species. Not all cockatoos are kept as pets, but some of the most popular cockatoos include:

  • Citron cockatoo.
  • Sulphur-crested cockatoo.
  • Salmon-crested cockatoo.
  • Umbrella cockatoo.
  • White cockatoo.
  • Galah cockatoo.
  • Cockatiel.

The cockatoo family is among the only parrot families where birds regularly interbreed in the wild. For example, wild sulphur-crested cockatoos have been found to interbreed with long-billed corellas.

Cockatoos can even crossbreed outside of their genus. For example, cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) can breed with galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla), and the resulting offspring is called a galahtiel.

Can a Quaker Parrot Mate With a Cockatiel?

Quaker parrots, also called 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 various U.S. states, including 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 and keeping them as pets may be illegal.

Quaker parrots are small parrots (about 11-12 inches long), similar in size to cockatiels (about 12-13 inches long) and conures. They can’t breed because they belong to different taxonomical families.

Quaker parrots haven’t been shown to crossbreed with any other parrot species.