Parrots take care of their offspring throughout their early developmental stages. Like humans and other large primates, most parrots are a K-strategist species.
For this reason, they have a low reproductive rate, only producing a clutch of about 2-4 eggs. This means they must protect and rear their young until they can fend for themselves.
In the first stage of development, parrots care for their young by incubating their eggs. The humidity is carefully monitored, and the eggs are slowly rotated.
Once the eggs have hatched, the parents will get the chicks to move around, defecate, and accept food. The adult parrots feed their chicks by regurgitating food mashed and palatable for soft beaks.
Once the chicks have grown, the parents will teach them to fly so they can leave the nest.
Do Parrots Care for Their Babies?
From the hatching stage to weaning, one of the parents will stay with the chicks constantly because they depend on their parents for sustenance and protection.
Until they’re weaned, the chicks will die without parental intervention. Even once the fledglings eat independently and learn to fly, they’ll stay with their parents to learn new skills.
This raises the chances of young parrots’ long-term survival. Depending on the species, the chicks may not become independent for months.
How Do Parrots Protect Their Young?
According to the University of Queensland, nest predation is among the main dangers to parrots because many animals eat their eggs and chicks, including the following:
Parrots reproduce slowly, so they can ill afford to lose their offspring. Instead, they take the time to guard, teach, and nurture their chicks to independence. This is accomplished by:
Adult parrots modify their behaviors to safeguard their nests from predators.
According to Bird Talk Magazine, it’s common for loud species to become quieter and prioritize staying covert while they have chicks.
For example, parakeets chatter while on the ground and feeding. However, when they’re about to return to the nest, they’ll go near-silent.
Checking for Danger Before Returning To The Nest
A parent will perch on a tree 30-60 feet away when visiting the nest. Here, they’ll survey the area for several minutes. Once it’s safe, they’ll descend through tropical vegetation to reach the chicks.
If a predator is following or stalking them, this ensures it can’t be led to the chicks.
Surveying The Area Before The Offspring
Parents will check for possible dangers after their chicks have learned to fly. Parents will swoop down and check the area before landing when teaching their chicks to forage.
This ensures they can spot predators before their offspring arrive and face the danger. Parrot flocks may do this even for fledglings that aren’t their own.
Warning Calls from The Flock
The entire flock will remain on high alert to protect the new offspring. Should a raptor fly close to a nest, all flock members will produce alarm calls.
Chicks are so valuable to parrots that other bonded pairs may adopt eggs or chicks. One female or two mated parrots occasionally take over if the original parents have died or can’t care for the offspring.
Other bird species would ignore the abandoned chicks or attack them while vulnerable.
How Do Parrots Raise Their Young?
Once the eggs have been laid, the parrots will tend to their young. It’ll take 2.5-4 weeks for the eggs to hatch. During this time, both parents will be dedicated to their care.
Usually, the female will stay in the nest to incubate the eggs and keep them warm. This allows the eggs to develop, safeguarding them against outside dangers or the elements.
Predators must contend with an angry parent if they come near. Likewise, wind, rain, and temperature changes won’t affect the developing eggs.
If one parent sits on the eggs full-time, the other will forage for food. Then, it’ll return with food in its crop to regurgitate for the other.
Maintaining The Eggs
The parents won’t just sit on their nest for 4 weeks straight. They also work to maintain the eggs by:
- Turning them once an hour.
- Checking for bugs.
- Removing any bad eggs.
In particular, turning the eggs is crucial because it helps the egg maintain a uniform temperature and prevents the baby bird inside from sticking to the membrane.
Parrots will also wet down their feathers and balance the humidity level for their eggs.
Cleaning And Prodding The Chick
Once the chick hatches from its shell, it’s a nestling. At this stage, it’s naked, blind, and (in most species) deaf. It’ll be unable to move, so the parents will:
- Prod the chick to move it around the nest.
- Clean any extra debris from eggs or poop out of the way.
- Rub its posterior to encourage defecation.
Some types of parrots will immediately feed their hungry nestlings once they hatch.
Others, like the cockatiel, will wait 8-12 hours because the chicks still rely on their yolk sac and consume it to build their immune system.
If the parents begin feeding, they’ll regurgitate food from their crops into the chicks’ waiting mouths.
Forming A Bond
A baby parrot will open its eyes after a few days. At this point, the chick will imprint on its mother or father and begin recognizing them. This action develops a bond of trust between the offspring and parents, which is crucial to the nestling’s social development.
According to The Italian Journal of Animal Science, unweaned or hand-reared African greys will imprint on their owners. Unfortunately, this has negative side effects, such as sexual frustration, jealousy, and feather plucking. The study found that 70% of the male chicks had these issues.
Monitoring, Feeding, And More Cleaning
The parents will stay in the nest for the next several weeks to supervise.
They’ll clean the space and watch for predators. The parents may scream, attack, claw, and bite if any dangers are identified to drive off the threats.
Once they’re 5 weeks old, most baby parrots can break down their food. However, parents will still offer meals, as the chicks can’t fly and forage for food.
Teaching Chicks to Fly
A chick becomes a fledgling at 10-12 weeks of age. At this stage, the chicks will be moving around freely. Since they have a full set of feathers, the parents will encourage them to leave the nest. Here’s how:
- The parents will fly out and return as a demonstration.
- They’ll nudge each chick toward the edge and encourage them to flap.
- If the parents need to be heavy-handed, they may push the chick out.
Parents won’t leave chicks to their fate, even after the first week of flying. Instead, they’ll provide food until the fledglings pick up foraging skills.
According to Texas A&M University, most knowledge needed for survival, socialization, and reproduction is gained during the weaning period before sexual maturity.
For this reason, parrots will care for their young for weeks. During this time, the chicks will be monitored and protected by their parents and flock until they reach the reproductive stage.
Learning Survival Skills
Once the offspring are skilled at flying, the parents teach more complex skills. The babies will come along to forage and explore the area with the flock.
Aside from the parents, older flock members play a role in the development process. Over the next few weeks, the offspring will learn how to:
- Tell the difference between healthy and toxic food.
- Locate water.
- Defend territories.
- Recognize and avoid predators.
- Make warning calls and homing calls.
Once they’re educated and have reached sexual maturity, the training is over.
How Do Parrots Feed Their Babies?
Before feeding their chicks, parrots break the food into pieces. Then, food is swallowed and travels down the throat, where it’s stored in the crop.
The crop partially digests the food, turning hard seeds, vegetables, and fruit into mush. This mixture is regurgitated and fed to the baby chicks from the beak.
It’ll be coated in crop milk, a secretion from the parent’s crop lining. This fortifies the chick’s immune system and provides extra nutrients.
In most parrot species, females and males produce crop milk. However, some species don’t, leaving only the female to provide this early-stage supplement.
After the first few days, parents mix it with adult food to move chicks away from crop feeding.
What Do Parrots Feed Their Babies?
Newly hatched chicks have underdeveloped beaks, so their mother or father will only feed them mushy ground-up crop food.
How Often Do Parrots Feed Their Babies?
Baby parrots have large appetites and fast-paced metabolisms. Consequently, they’re fed day and night for the first week.
Both parents share responsibilities at each stage; one tends to the chicks’ needs, while the other forages for food. One may monitor the chicks at night while the other handles the daylight hours.
How Long Do Baby Parrots Stay With Their Mother?
A baby parrot will stay with its mother until fully fledged and weaned. The timeline varies, depending on the species. For example, macaws and cockatoos tend to their young for 12-18 months.
Smaller parrot species have usually fledged, weaned, and left the nest within 8-10 weeks. Similarly, an Amazon parrot shows its independent nature after 4 months.
This early period plays a significant role in the development of the following:
- Digestive systems.
- Immune systems.
- Motor skills.
Forced weaning by breeders or owners can have a negative impact, leading to behavioral problems.
According to Veterinary Clinics of North America Exotic Animal Practice, macaws incessantly beg for food. Forced weaning has also led to phobic behavior and prolapse syndrome in African greys and cockatoos.
Parrots care for their young by feeding, supervising, and protecting their chicks.