All types of parrots share some of the same DNA. However, this doesn’t mean that all parrot 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 can crossbreed, as can all lovebirds (Agapornis sp.) Parrots in the same family, but different genera, can also occasionally interbreed (such as cockatoos and cockatiels). Hybrid parrot chicks aren’t always fertile or healthy.
If your two parrots belong to different taxonomical families, they cannot interbreed. Conures can’t breed with budgies, for instance, because they are too genetically different. They may attempt to mate, but they won’t produce hybrid chicks.
Can Different Types of Parrot Mate?
The term ‘parrot’ describes any bird that belongs to the taxonomical order Psittaciformes. Macaws, Amazons, lovebirds, cockatoos, and parakeets are all examples of parrots. They all share certain similarities, including having strong, curved beaks and an upright stance.
It was once thought that animals could only breed with members of the same species. However, we know now that this isn’t strictly true. Provided that the two types of parrots are genetically similar enough, they may be able to reproduce.
So, can parrots of different species breed? The answer is yes, but not all species. The success of an interspecies pairing depends on how genetically and physically similar the two birds are. They must share enough of the same DNA for the sperm and egg to combine and develop successfully.
It also depends on whether the birds would be inclined to mate. Parrots that are physically distinct from one another are less likely to breed. This is because they won’t recognize each other as a potential partner or try to mate with them.
The most common parrot hybrids are the products of species within the same genus. For example, most species of lovebird (Agapornis sp.) are similar enough to interbreed.
Some parrots are similar enough to breed despite belonging to different genera, such as cockatoos and cockatiels. In general, the two parrots must at least belong to the same taxonomical family.
What Is a Hybrid Parrot?
A hybrid parrot is a parrot whose parents are two different species. Although hybrid parrots are extremely rare in the wild, they’re fairly common in captivity. This is mainly due to captive parrots being lonely and having less choice of who to mate with.
Wild parrots live in large groups called flocks. According to The Condor, parrot flocks may contain more than 50 birds of the same species. This gives each individual a huge range of parrots to choose a mate from.
However, in captivity, a parrot’s only companion may be one other bird, which may be a different species. It’s natural that they may attempt to mate with each other if they are of the opposite sex.
Some particularly common hybrid parrots have been given names for easy identification. For example:
- The ruby macaw is a cross between the scarlet macaw (Ara macao) and the green-winged macaw (Ara chloropterus)
- The Sunday conure is a hybridization of 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 two parents. Ruby macaws, for instance, typically have a combination of yellow and green feathers on their wings. The green coloration 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 chick would not be a hybrid. It would still be a pure Quaker parrot, though it may carry genes for different color mutations.
Are Hybrid Parrots Fertile?
Some crossbreeds within the animal kingdom are infertile. For example, mules (the product of a male donkey and female horse) cannot 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 many others can produce young.
For example, 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 a second generation of hybrids.
They can also breed with other macaw species, including hybridizations of different species. However, sterility increases with each subsequent generation. A third-generation hybrid macaw has a high chance of being sterile.
Other parrot crossbreeds may be infertile from the first generation. They may also be prone to health issues and early mortality.
For example, sun conure x green cheek conure hybrids are frequently born with health problems and malformations. They often die before they reach adulthood. If they do reach adulthood, they’re almost always sterile.
Can Parrots Mate With Other Birds?
You may be wondering: can parrots interbreed with other bird species as well as other parrot species? For example, can budgies and canaries breed?
The answer is no. Parrots can only breed with other parrots in the same taxonomical family. Other pet birds, like canaries, are too genetically different from parrots to produce offspring with them. This applies even if they’re of a similar size or color.
Most parrots wouldn’t view a different parrot species as a potential mate, let alone a non-parrot. This is because each parrot has species-specific specific courtship behaviors, colors, and mating calls.
If a parrot did manage to mate with a non-parrot, it wouldn’t be able to produce offspring. Their reproductive cells (sperm and egg) would be too genetically different.
For example, a canary has 40 chromosomes, according to Genome Biology. However, budgerigars only have 26 chromosomes. So, their DNA wouldn’t be able to combine successfully to create viable offspring. If the female laid an egg, it would most likely be infertile and would not develop or hatch.
Which Parrot Species Can Interbreed?
There are approximately 398 species of parrot, which are split into 5 taxonomical families. Combined, each of these parrot families contains 92 different genera.
The majority of wild parrots haven’t been observed breeding with any parrot outside of its species group. There are rare exceptions, however. For example, according to Behavior, galah cockatoos and Major Mitchell’s cockatoos have been observed interbreeding in the wild.
Hybrids are much more common among parrots in captivity. To produce hybrid offspring, both parent parrots usually must belong to the same genus. Parrots in the same genus, sometimes 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 of the most popular 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 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 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 your parrot has laid an egg, you may assume it has mated with one of your other parrots. However, female parrots often lay unfertilized eggs that don’t develop into chicks. The presence of a male parrot may trigger the production of egg-laying hormones, even if they’re different species.
If your two cross-species parrots have mated, the eggs likely won’t be fertile. They’ll only develop into chicks if the two 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 lovebird
- Black-cheeked lovebird
- Black-winged lovebird
- Fischer’s lovebird
- Grey-headed lovebird
- Lilian’s lovebird
- Peach-faced lovebird
- Red-headed lovebird
- Yellow-collared lovebird
All species of lovebird 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 eye-ring species, 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) species of macaw, 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 altogether) 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. Though 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 kinds of conures kept as pets are those belonging 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 (budgies). This leads some people to wonder whether conures can breed with budgies.
Although budgies and conures are both nicknamed ‘parakeets,’ they belong to different parrot families (Psittaculidae and Psittacidae, respectively). This means they are too genetically distinct to interbreed. Some conures and budgies may try to mate with one another; however, they will never produce viable offspring.
Different species of conure can interbreed with one another. However, both parents must belong to the same genus for their chicks to be healthy. Hybrids between Aratinga species and Pyrrhura species often have health problems and birth defects and die before adulthood.
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 pet cockatoos include:
- Citron cockatoo
- Sulphur-crested cockatoo
- Salmon-crested cockatoo
- Umbrella cockatoo
- White cockatoo
- Galah cockatoo
The cockatoo family is one of the only parrot families in which birds regularly interbreed in the wild. For example, wild sulphur-crested cockatoos have been demonstrated to interbreed with long-billed corellas in the wild.
Cockatoos can even cross-breed outside of their own genus. For example, cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) can breed with galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla). 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. Though they are 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 are a result of pets escaping or being deliberately set free. Because they are introduced, they are often classified as a pest or an invasive species. Most states ban the breeding of Quaker parrots. In some areas, it’s against the law to keep them as pets at all.
Quaker parrots are small parrots, similar in size to cockatiels and conures. However, they cannot breed with either species, as they belong to different taxonomical families. Quaker parrots haven’t been proven to crossbreed with any other species of parrot to date.