Parrots reproduce after finding a suitable mate. Reproduction in parrots is stimulated by climate changes that lead to hormonal and personality changes. This behavior begins during the mating season.
Parrots breed sexually and lay eggs to reproduce. After copulation, eggs are formed and fertilized inside the female before being deposited in the nest. The onset of the mating season, nesting, and egg-laying process varies based on the parrot’s habitat, diet, and species. 75% of parrots are sexually monomorphic or have no outward physical differences between the sexes. Likewise, most parrots are monogamous, choosing one mate for life.
Parrots choose their mates based on their plumage, courting rituals, and color. Male parrots even use a complex series of walks and dances to impress females. Once they’re paired up, the couple will develop a nest and then breed. Parrots reproduce 1-3 times a year, depending on their species. They will avoid laying eggs if they cannot find a mate, if the environmental conditions aren’t right, or they can’t make a nest.
Parrot Reproduction Process
Parrots reproduce by laying eggs. The exact mating process, however, is a long and complex routine that involves:
- Attracting a mate
- Creating a nest
- Fertilizing the eggs
- Laying the eggs
- Incubating the eggs
- Tending to the offspring
This process can take several months to begin and then complete. Because of their long lifespans, some parrots will do this dozens of times over the course of several decades. Unlike some bird species, however, parrots are generally monogamous. This ensures they pick one mate to share this long and detailed process with.
Parrots breed based on environmental conditions. In particular, this happens at the beginning of the spring season. With the onset of hotter months, most species discover their natural food sources ample, making it a great time to start a family.
Do Parrots Reproduce Sexually Or Asexually?
Nearly all birds reproduce sexually, parrots included. Only a small number of birds are capable of making a new generation all on their own. For example, some types of domestic chickens and turkeys have reproduced asexually. Even in these cases, it’s a rare and limited situation.
Instead, parrots use copulation between a male and female of their species. This begins with courtship behavior, where a male attracts a female. The availability of a nest is a big factor to make female parrots more receptive to a male.
Eggs are fertilized through the breeding process. The two adults then take it upon themselves to prepare, maintain, and protect the nest where their eggs are kept.
Parrots’ Reproductive Anatomy:
Most parrots are sexually monomorphic. This means they have few if any, physical indicators of their sex. Males and females will look identical in coloring, size, and shape. Only their internal organs will indicate if they are biologically male or female, and that’s difficult for most people to see without a professional examination.
Unlike mammals, male parrots lack a penis. Instead, they have a small dot that serves as their cloaca. Interestingly, both male and female parrots have a cloaca. This is the primary organ used in breeding by parrots.
Cloaca is an internal, chamber-like opening. The male parrot releases sperm from its testes through this opening, while the female releases the ovum from its ovaries. This opening also serves other purposes, namely:
- Urinary expulsion
At the onset of mating season, the cloaca of both male and female parrots will swell outside of their bodies. This prepares them for breeding.
Male Parrot Reproductive System
The male reproductive system of parrots includes different ducts, testes, and sperm. The reproduction process begins in a male parrot’s seminiferous tubules. These are essentially coiled tubes, present in the testes of all birds.
These tubes have an outer wall or membrane, which contains cells that produce sperm. Once produced in the tests, the sperm is transported to the cloaca through a deferent duct. This duct exists like a narrow string at first, but it widens as it enters a small structure in the cloaca. This structure is much like the mammalian penis.
Female Parrot Reproductive System
In a parrot, the reproductive system of the female contains an ovary, yolk, and oviduct. Like many other avian species, only the left ovary is functional. As an embryo, female parrots contain two ovaries. However, only one develops and becomes functional.
After the ovulation period, an ovum is created as the first stage of an egg. It will then enter the oviduct, which has further parts. These include the:
- Shell gland
Each of these plays a separate role in egg production.
How Do Parrots Mate?
Parrots do not mate in cold environments. During the springtime, temperature changes go hand in hand with changes to light intensity. These trigger the urge in parrots to reproduce. It begins with:
During mating season, a sexually mature parrot’s body releases certain hormones. These include prolactin and corticosterone. These activate many functions across the parrots’ bodies, but the most important will be in the cloaca.
At this point, their cloaca will swell. The parrots will also show more interest in one another, and they will begin moving in a courtship routine. For example, they will appear to dance, bob, and even flutter their wings.
Once the flirtation is complete, parrots tend to exhibit “cloacal kissing.” This happens when the male arches his back and rubs his cloaca against that of the female.
The position used by parrots for mating will vary, depending on the species. However, it usually involves the male parrot balancing himself on top of the female. At this moment, the female parrot exposes her cloaca by moving her tail feathers to the side.
This is when the male deposits his testes into the female. In this process, the male releases his sperm into the female. The act of copulation thus begins and ends.
The ‘kissing’ may last less than a second. However, the sperm is transferred more quickly than you’d expect.
The physical balancing act will continue for several more seconds, where the parrots may rub against one another, peck at each other, and display other behavior. Within a short amount of time, though, the male will dismount, and mating is finished.
How Do Parrots Attract A Mate?
Parrots do not choose their mates at random. In fact, they participate in a long and complicated ‘dating’ phase. Here, they identify, pick, and try to woo their hopeful partner. Several factors contribute to attracting a mate for parrots, including:
- Availability of food in the nest
Before properly bonding with their mate, male parrots will often display a ‘wooing show.’ This is designed to prove how attractive and effective they would be as a mate. Then, the female will hopefully choose that particular male from a wide collection of other males in the flock. Some of the most iconic ‘wooing’ tactics include the:
- Stately stroll
- Eye blaze
Female parrots are attracted to males only at a certain time of the year. They are also far choosier about their partners than males.
Parrot Mating Behavior
Most parrot species are monogamous. They will choose their partner early in life, shortly after reaching sexual maturity. If allowed, they will remain with just one breeding mate for their entire lives, even during non-breeding seasons. Should this partner die, the parrot may refuse to take another mate.
With that said, bonded parrots may also choose to breed with other parrots, depending on their availability. According to Watchbird, Eclectus parrots are the most common polygamist. This means that both male and female parrots can have more than one mate or ‘lover’ throughout their lives.
Female Eclectus parrots mate with numerous mates in exchange for food. Similarly, males visit multiple nests for the mating process. This unusual practice can be the reason for the distinctive coloring in Eclectus species.
However, most parrots still prefer the company of their mate. Some even choose to adopt abandoned chicks or eggs together.
Bright Colored Parrots Get Mates Easily
According to Parrots Journal, parrots with bright colors tend to find partners more easily than dimly colored parrots. For example, ones with bright reds, blues, greens, and even purples will spend a shorter amount of time choosing a mate. Parrots also attract mates based on their:
- Amount of feathers
- Ability to regurgitate food
- The amount of ultraviolet shadowing that’s perceived on them
This isn’t just a matter of taste, either. In a parrot’s world, bright-colored mates are seen as having:
- Good parental capabilities
- More immunity to diseases
- Good health, as seen by their vibrant colors
Of course, these intelligent birds aren’t without their own personalities. In addition to ‘looks,’ parrots decide on their ideal mate based on showmanship skills. The more elaborate the wooing dance, the more likely a parrot is to be chosen by a mate—personality and charm count, even to birds.
Vocalization Helps Parrots Mate
In that vein, parrots choose each other based on their sounds. If a male has a strong and loud singing voice, he may get picked by a female right away. Other parrots that have hoarse or weak voices tend to be left ignored.
This ties in closely with a parrot’s ability to mimic. A female from the budgerigar species will be known to choose a mate that sounds like her.
Do Parrots Lay Eggs or Give Birth?
Parrots are not capable of live birth. Instead, they reproduce by laying eggs. The eggs will develop inside of the female for a short time after copulating with a male. After this, they will be laid in a nest that’s created by both of the parents.
The nesting process usually takes place long before the two parrots mate. Both parents will need to create a space where the eggs can be laid, incubated, and cared for. In the wild, most parrots like to build nests high up in trees. Others may nest in cave tunnels, tree holes, and even cavities in the rocks.
Different species require different breeding spaces. For example, cockatiels prefer to use a confined space. Others like using wide, open spaces that give them room to perform complicated mating rituals.
How long it takes to build this nest and how long the parrots safeguard it will depend on the species. According to the Journal of Zoology, Eclectus parrots are very guarded about their nests. They’re also very pre-emptive. A female Eclectus will protect her nest for 9 months each year and not leave the nest during the breeding months. To help, the male Eclectus will become responsible for delivering food.
Similarly, the burrowing parrots of Argentina occupy their nests for 1-2 months before laying eggs. Once their offspring fledge and can rely on themselves, the parents will leave the nest and continue with their lives.
How Are Parrot Eggs Fertilized?
After mating, sperm travels inside of the female parrot and meets up with the ovum. Here, the complex process of developing into full eggs begins.
That’s made possible because of a female parrot’s complex reproductive system. Let’s explore the fertilization stages:
- Ovum develops inside the ovary. It takes around 10 days for the yolk to develop from a small to large size. Once matured, it’s released into the oviduct. This release of ovum (or ova, when singular) is known as ovulation.
- Oviduct begins creating the shell. The oviduct is a tube-like structure. It is responsible for producing some of the egg white, shell membrane, and the egg shell itself around the yolk.
- Egg white is created. The released yolk is passed over to the magnum inside of the oviduct by the infundibulum. The magnum secretes 40% of the egg white, or albumen.
- Shell membrane is created. The isthmus inside the oviduct is responsible for providing more albumen and adding to the shell membrane.
- Shell is created. Shell glands then provide 40% more egg white and are responsible for creating the final egg shell.
- Egg is laid. The egg then reaches the cloaca where it is expelled. This process is called oviposition.
This total process takes about 24-26 hours. However, it will be dramatically influenced by light exposure. Normally, ovulation in females begins during the day before 3 p.m.
How Many Eggs Do Parrots Lay At A Time?
Since parrots belong to the K-strategist species, they lay a clutch once or twice a year. Each clutch consists of 2-8 eggs, which also depends on the parrot species.
For instance, Amazon parrots are known to produce 4 eggs at the most. In contrast, Australian parakeets lay around 4 to 6 eggs per clutch.
Parrots usually don’t lay all their eggs at once. For example, budgies will lay about one egg a day until their full clutch is complete.
Parrot Egg Hatching Time
In general, it takes 18 to 30 days for an egg to be hatched. Typically, a female is left with the task of incubating the eggs. The bonded male is then charged with gathering food and keeping the mother sustained while caring for the young.
In some cases, though, the male and female will take turns. Depending on the species, the male will even take the dayshift and warm the eggs while the female incubates them throughout the night. Both parrots will then forage for food and return with extra to feed their mate.
Do Parrots Lay Unfertilized Eggs?
In general, parrots do not lay unfertilized eggs. If a female does not have a mate, she will not need to lay eggs. Even if she’s bonded with another parrot, she may refuse to lay eggs if there isn’t a suitable nest. If all other factors are in place, she may still be unable to create eggs when the environment is too cold or warm.
Most of all, parrots are influenced by light. After all, mating season is usually triggered by light differences resulting from changing seasons. While in captivity, parrots are exposed to more lights, disrupting their natural cycle of reproduction.
An increase in light exposure may stimulate hormones in parrots, causing them to lay eggs. Similarly, birds in captivity may imprint on their owner. This can lead to egg production, but most will not be contained in a proper shell. In some cases, it will even lead to chronic or excessive egg-laying. This is most commonly dangerous in:
- Love birds
- Amazon parrots
This happens when a bird starts to lay more eggs in a clutch or starts laying eggs out of season. The reasons for this can vary, including:
- Environmental changes
- Poor diet
- The absence of a mate
- Serious health conditions
How Often Do Parrots Breed?
Most parrots will only breed and reproduce once a year. However, depending on the species, they may breed up to 3 times a year. The smaller the parrot is, and the shorter its lifespan, the more likely it is to reproduce often.
With that said, it’s unhealthy for a female parrot to lay eggs more than 3 times a year. That’s because egg-laying is quite stressful for the birds.
The eggshell is primarily made from calcium, which comes from the female’s body. Excessive egg laying can deplete all the calcium resources, which can lead to hypocalcemia.
This condition may lead to muscle or body dysfunction, or worse yet: egg binding. If the egg cannot leave the female’s body, it can strain her, lead to seizures, cause tearing in the vagina, and even result in death.
The good news is, most parrots know better than to lay more eggs than they can handle. In the wild, parrots will devote themselves to raising their young instead of mass-producing a new generation. As long as your parrot isn’t dealing with a health issue, it will limit its egg-laying to a normal amount. If the conditions aren’t perfect, it may not lay eggs at all.
How Long Do Parrots Reproduce?
Some parrots can lay eggs until the natural end of their lives. Others will wane and then stop reproducing once they reach their twilight years. For species such as cockatiels, budgies, and love birds, this is around 10 years of age.
Before this time, most parrots will have one set of chicks a year. If they do not lay a viable clutch, and none of the offspring hatches, they will try again. The parents may wait until the next mating season, or they may reproduce right away. This depends on if they are:
Most parrot species are seasonal nesters. They breed in the late winter and early springtime. As such, the mating period lasts between February and March in the northern hemisphere.
As the weather begins to warm up, hormones increase in the parrots’ bodies, and the daylight hours become longer. This triggers all the right signals in a parrot and encourages it to breed during this time.
Parrots are very restrictive about their breeding season, which lasts for about 2-3 weeks. For example, if springtime lasts longer than expected, parrots will finish their mating cycle and continue to the next stage on their own. They won’t keep mating, even if the conditions are right. Seasonal nesters include:
- Australian parrots
- Amazon parrots
Some parrot species reproduce throughout the entire year, irrespective of the conditions. These include:
- Cockatoos from the cacatua alba sub-species
- Eclectus parrots, specifically from the eclectus roratus species
- Sun conures
However, they stop when the weather is too hot or too cold. In domestic settings, these nesters may be encouraged to lay eggs full-time. They only need to be fed a diet full of balanced nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and sufficient calcium.
This has downsides, though. Females will produce smaller clutches with fewer eggs actually hatching. As an example, when cockatoos nest continuously, their chicks are much smaller. The females may also become irresponsible parents and refuse to care for their young.
When Do Parrots Reach Mating Age?
All parrots will reach mating age once they’ve fledged from their nest and have integrated with the flock. This happens right after the juvenile phase and is kicked off by puberty.
The parrot will endure a rush of hormones as its body changes and prepares its reproductive capabilities. The age at which this happens depends on the parrots:
It takes around 2 to 4 years for a parrot to reach mating age. This takes place between 2-4 years for medium-size parrots, while large-size parrots mature between 3-6 years.
Parrots need to make this transition carefully. The way they identify mates, choose mates, and eventually reproduce will depend on:
Young parrots that are raised in a flock will mature more quickly than parrots held in captivity. Likewise, if the parrot is allowed to choose its own mate, it will reach sexual maturity without delay. If it’s forced to pair with a mate, such as when you introduce one new parrot to its cage and no other options, it may delay or refuse to sexually mature.
This is because parrots rely on social interaction to reach mating age. They will learn from other members of the flock how to:
- Choose mates
- Enact courting rituals
- Breed and protect eggs
- Interact with their mate
If these factors are not present, the bird may take longer to get the idea. In some cases, the parrot may even imprint and sexually bond with its owner instead. It will then try to court its human companion and be confused about why its advances are rejected.
Parrots that are well-fed tend to mature sexually at a faster rate. Their bodies will go through the hormonal changes more smoothly and be better prepared to create chicks.
For example, breeders often acquire young parrots and offer them a varied and balanced diet. In these conditions, a parrot can reach sexual maturity in 2-3 years. In comparison, parrots given simple pellets or seeds may not reach their mating age until 4 years of age.
Parrots have an interesting and complex way of reproducing. They have unique courting rituals, reproductive organs very unlike our own, and even mate for life. This allows them to create a new generation that is strong and well-equipped to begin the process themselves.