Parrots reproduce after finding a suitable mate. Reproduction in parrots is stimulated by climatic 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 laid in the nest. 75% of parrots are sexually monomorphic or have no outward physical differences between the sexes. Also, most parrots are monogamous, choosing one mate for life.
Parrots choose their mates based on their plumage, courting rituals, and colors. Male parrots perform walks and dances to impress females. Once two parrots have paired up, the couple will find a suitable cavity nest (or nesting box, if in captivity) and breed. Parrots reproduce 1-3 times a year, depending on their species.
Parrot Reproduction Process
The mating process involves:
- Attracting a mate
- Bonding together
- Finding a cavity nest
- Fertilizing the eggs
- Laying the eggs
- Incubating the eggs
- Caring for their chicks
This process can take several months. Because of their long lifespans, some parrots will do this dozens of times over several decades. Unlike some bird species, parrots are usually monogamous.
Parrots breed based on environmental conditions. In particular, breeding happens at the beginning of spring. Most species find that natural food sources are ample, making it the ideal time to reproduce.
Do Parrots Reproduce Sexually Or Asexually?
Almost all birds reproduce sexually, parrots included.
Copulation takes place between a male and female of the same species. This begins with courtship behavior, where the male attracts the female. The availability of a nest makes the female more receptive to the male.
If a female doesn’t have a mate, she may still lay unfertilized eggs.
Eggs are fertilized through the breeding process. The two adult parrots 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’re biologically male or female, and they’re difficult for most people to see.
Unlike mammals, male parrots lack a penis. 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.
The cloaca is an internal, chamber-like opening. The male releases sperm from its testes through this opening, while the female releases the ovum from her ovaries. This opening also serves other purposes:
- 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
The reproductive system of the female contains an ovary, yolk, and oviduct.
Like many 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 enter the oviduct, which has other parts. These include the following:
- Shell gland
Each of these plays a separate role in egg production.
How Do Parrots Mate?
Parrots don’t mate in cold environments. During the springtime, temperature changes go hand in hand with changes in light intensity. These trigger parrots’ urge to reproduce. It begins with:
A sexually mature parrot’s body releases certain hormones during mating season, such as 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 show more interest in one another and begin entering a courtship routine. So, they will appear to dance, bob, and flutter their wings.
Once the flirtation is complete, parrots exhibit “cloacal kissing.” This happens when the male arches his back and rubs his cloaca against the female.
The position used by parrots for mating will vary, depending on the species. However, it usually involves the male balancing himself on top of the female. The female exposes her cloaca by moving her tail feathers to the side.
This is when the male deposits his testes into the female. During this process, the male releases his sperm into the female. The act of copulation begins and ends.
The ‘kissing’ may last less than a second. However, the sperm is transferred more quickly than you’d expect.
The balancing act will continue for several more seconds, where the parrots may rub against one another, peck at each other, and display other behaviors. Within a short amount of time, the male will dismount and the mating is finished.
How Do Parrots Attract A Mate?
Parrots don’t choose their mates at random. They participate in a long and complicated ‘dating’ phase. Here, they identify, pick, and woo their partner.
Several factors contribute to attracting a mate for parrots, including:
- Availability of food
Before bonding with their mate, males 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 choose that male from a wide collection of others in the flock.
Some of the most iconic ‘wooing’ tactics include:
- Stately stroll
- Eye blaze
Females are only attracted to males at a certain time of the year and are choosier about their partners than males.
Parrot Mating Behavior
Most parrot species are monogamous. They’ll choose their partner early in life, shortly after reaching sexual maturity.
If the two parrots can reproduce, they’ll remain with just one breeding mate for their entire lives. At the very least, they’ll stay together for the breeding season.
However, bonded parrots may also choose to breed with other parrots. According to Watchbird, Eclectus parrots are the most common polygamist.
Female Eclectus parrots mate with numerous mates in exchange for food. Similarly, males visit multiple nests for the mating process. This can be the reason for the distinctive coloring in the Eclectus species.
Some parrots will adopt the abandoned chicks or eggs of other pairings.
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 less time choosing a mate.
Parrots also attract mates based on their:
For parrots, brightly-colored mates are seen as having:
- Good parental capabilities
- More immunity to diseases
- Good health
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.
Parrots choose each other based on their sounds. If a male has a strong and loud singing voice, a female may show more interest. Other parrots with hoarse or weak voices may 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 similar to her.
Do Parrots Lay Eggs or Give Birth?
Parrots aren’t 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’ll be laid in a cavity nest that’s found/created by both parents.
Both parents will create a space where eggs can be laid, incubated, and cared for. Most parrots prefer to build nests high up in trees, cave tunnels, tree holes, and cavities in rocks.
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. The male Eclectus will be 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.
How Are Parrot Eggs Fertilized?
After mating, sperm travels inside of the female and meets up with the ovum. Here, the complex process of developing into eggs begins.
Here are 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. The release of ovum (or ova) is known as ovulation.
- Oviduct begins creating the shell. The oviduct is a tube-like structure. It’s responsible for producing some of the egg white, shell membrane, and the egg shell around the yolk.
- Egg white creation. 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 provides more albumen and adds to the shell membrane.
- Shell is created. Shell glands provide 40% more egg white and are responsible for creating the egg shell.
- Egg is laid. The egg reaches the cloaca where it is expelled. This process is called oviposition.
This entire process takes about 24-26 hours. However, it will be heavily influenced by light exposure. Normally, ovulation in females begins during the day before 3 PM.
How Many Eggs Do Parrots Lay At A Time?
Since parrots belong to the K-strategist species, they lay a clutch of eggs once or twice per year. Each clutch consists of 2-8 eggs, depending on the species.
Amazon parrots produce 4 eggs at the most, while Australian parakeets lay around 4 to 6 eggs per clutch. Parrots don’t normally lay all their eggs at once. For example, budgies lay 1 egg a day until their full clutch is complete.
Parrot Egg Hatching Time
It takes 18-30 days for an egg to hatch. A female is left with the task of incubating her eggs. The bonded male is charged with gathering food and keeping the mother sustained while caring for her young.
In some cases, the male and female will take turns. Depending on the species, the male may 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?
Parrots don’t usually lay unfertilized eggs, but it does happen.
If a female doesn’t have a mate, she’ll not need to lay eggs. Even when 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.
Parrots are influenced by light. The mating season is usually triggered by light differences resulting from changing seasons. While in captivity, parrots are exposed to more light, 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 parrot lays more eggs in a clutch or starts laying eggs out of season.
The reasons for this include:
- Environmental changes
- Poor diet
- Absence of a mate
- 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 very stressful for the birds.
The eggshell is primarily made from calcium, which comes from the female’s body. Excessive egg laying can deplete her calcium resources, which can lead to hypocalcemia.
This condition can lead to muscle or body dysfunction or egg binding. If the egg cannot leave the female’s body, it can strain her, lead to seizures, cause tears, and even result in death.
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, she will limit her egg-laying to a normal amount.
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 and love birds, this is about 10 years of age.
Most parrots will produce one lot of chicks per year. If they don’t 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 the following:
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 them 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 independently. They won’t keep mating, even if the conditions are right.
Seasonal nesters include:
- Australian parrots
- Amazon parrots
Some parrot species reproduce throughout the year, irrespective of the weather 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 cold. In domestic settings, these nesters may be encouraged to lay eggs full-time. They only need to be fed a healthy diet with plenty of calcium.
Females will produce smaller clutches with fewer eggs hatching. For example, when cockatoos nest continuously, their chicks are much smaller. The females may 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 fled from their nest and integrated with the flock. This happens right after the juvenile phase and is kicked off by puberty.
The parrot will experience a rush of hormones as its body changes and prepares its reproductive capabilities. It takes around 2-4 years for a medium-sized parrot to reach mating age, while larger parrots mature after 3-6 years.
The way that parrots identify and choose mates and eventually reproduce will depend on:
Young parrots that are raised in a flock will mature more quickly than captive parrots.
Likewise, if the parrot is allowed to choose its 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, it may delay or refuse to sexually mature.
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 aren’t present, the parrot may take longer.
In some cases, the parrot may even imprint and sexually bond with its owner. It will court its human companion and be confused about why its advances are rejected.
Parrots that are well-fed mature sexually at a faster rate. Their bodies go through the hormonal changes more smoothly and will be better prepared to create chicks.
Breeders often acquire young parrots and offer them a varied and balanced diet. A parrot can reach sexual maturity in 2-3 years. In comparison, parrots fed pellets may not reach their mating age until 4 years of age.
Parrots have a complex way of reproducing. They have unique courting rituals, reproductive organs, and some mate for life. This allows them to create a new generation that is strong and well-equipped to begin the process themselves.