Female parrots choose mates based on healthy plumage, vibrant colors, and elaborate walks and dances. The courting ritual concludes with the male regurgitating food for the female.
Once two parrots have paired up, they’ll find a suitable cavity nest (usually tree cavities) and breed. Most parrot species are monogamous, choosing one mate for life or at least for the breeding season.
Parrots breed sexually and are oviparous (egg-layers), reproducing 1-3 times annually. Birds don’t give birth to live young, so they’re not viviparous like most mammals.
After copulation, eggs are formed and fertilized inside the female before being laid. Then, the female will incubate the eggs for up to 28 days until they hatch.
Parrot Reproduction Process
The mating and reproduction process of parrots is as follows:
- Attracting a mate.
- Bonding together.
- Finding a cavity nest.
- Fertilizing the eggs.
- Laying the eggs.
- Incubating the eggs.
- Caring for their chicks.
Due to long lifespans, some parrots will repeat this process regularly over several decades. Unlike many bird species, parrots are usually monogamous. The most well-known example of this is lovebirds.
Parrots breed based on environmental conditions, usually 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?
Parrots reproduce sexually, so copulation occurs between males and females of the same species.
A female may still lay unfertilized eggs if conditions are right (light, temperature, food, etc.), even if she doesn’t have a mate. Of course, unfertilized eggs will never hatch.
Parrots’ Reproductive Anatomy
About 75% of parrots are sexually monomorphic, with few physical indicators of their gender.
Males and females usually look identical in color, size, and shape. So, only their internal organs tell us if they’re biologically male or female.
Unlike mammals, male parrots lack a penis, but both males and females have a cloaca, which is the sex 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.
The cloacal opening is also used for releasing urine and digestive waste.
At the start of the mating season, male and female parrots’ cloaca will swell outside their bodies.
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, which are essentially coiled tubes found in the testes of all birds.
Seminiferous tubules have an outer wall or membrane containing cells that produce sperm. Once produced in the tests, the sperm is transported to the cloaca through the deferent duct.
Female Parrot Reproductive System
The female reproductive system contains an ovary, yolk, and oviduct. Only the left ovary is functional. Female parrots contain 2 ovaries as an embryo, but only 1 develops and becomes functional.
After ovulation, an ovum is created as the first stage of the egg. It’ll enter the oviduct, which has other parts, including the following:
- Shell gland.
Each of these performs a specific function in egg production.
How Do Parrots Mate?
Parrots don’t mate in cold environments. During the spring, temperature changes occur at the same time as changes in light intensity. These trigger parrots’ desire to reproduce. It begins with:
A sexually mature parrot’s body releases hormones during mating season, like prolactin and corticosterone. These activate many functions, but the most important is the cloaca.
At this point, the cloaca will swell, so the parrots will show more interest in one another and begin entering a courtship routine. So, males will walk, dance, bob their heads, 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 for mating is species-dependent. However, it usually involves the male balancing himself over the female while 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 ‘kissing’ may last less than a second, but the sperm is transferred quickly.
The balancing act will continue for several more seconds, where the parrots may rub against one another, peck at each other, and display other affectionate behaviors.
Within a short time, the male will dismount because the mating process has been completed.
How Do Parrots Attract A Mate?
Parrots enter an elaborate courting phase. Here, they identify, select, and woo their preferred partner.
The male will seek to woo the female to prove they’re in good health (for the genetics of their offspring) and can provide food and nourishment.
Some of the most iconic wooing tactics employed by males include:
- Stately stroll.
- Eye blaze.
Females are only attracted to males at a certain time of the year and are very selective. The propagation of the species relies on only the strongest and healthiest males passing on their genetics.
Parrot Mating Behavior
Most parrot species are monogamous, so they’ll choose their partner early in life, shortly after reaching sexual maturity.
If the two parrots can reproduce, they’ll usually remain with one breeding-age mate for their entire lives. As a minimum, 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 to mate, which could be the reason for the gender-specific colors of the Eclectus species.
Some parrots will even adopt the abandoned chicks or eggs of other pairings.
According to Parrots Journal, a brightly-colored parrot with healthy feathers will find a mate more easily than a parrot with dull and lifeless feathers. Parrots also attract mates based on their:
- Physical size and stature.
- Feather quality.
- Food regurgitation.
- Ultraviolet shadowing.
For female parrots, brightly-colored mates have the following qualities:
- Greater immunity to illness and disease.
- Better able to protect them from harm.
- Superior food providers.
In addition to physical appearance, parrots select a mate based on showmanship skills. The more elaborate the wooing dance, the more likely it’ll be selected.
Parrots choose each other based on the sounds they make. A female may show more interest if a male has a strong and loud singing voice. Other parrots with hoarse or weak voices may be ignored.
This ties in closely with a parrot’s ability to mimic sounds. For example, females from the budgerigar species choose a mate that sounds similar to her.
Do Parrots Lay Eggs or Give Birth?
Parrots are oviparous and incapable of live birth. Instead, parrots reproduce by laying eggs.
The eggs will develop inside the female for a short time after copulating with a male. After this, they’ll be laid in a cavity nest found and selected by both parents.
Both parents will find a nest where eggs can be laid, incubated, and cared for. Most parrots prefer nests high up in trees, cave tunnels, tree holes, and cavities in rocks.
According to the Journal of Zoology, Eclectus parrots are guarded about their nests. A female Eclectus will protect her nest for 9 months each year and won’t leave during the breeding months.
Similarly, the burrowing parrots of Argentina occupy their nests for 1-2 months before laying eggs. Once their offspring fledge and can survive alone, the parents will leave the nest.
How Are Parrot Eggs Fertilized?
After mating, sperm travels inside the female and reaches the ovum. Here, the complex process of developing into eggs begins. Here are the fertilization stages:
- Ovum develops in the ovary. Yolk development takes 10 days; once matured, it’s released into the oviduct (ovulation).
- Oviduct creates the shell. The oviduct is a tube-like structure responsible for producing some of the egg white, shell membrane, and the egg shell around the yolk.
- Egg white creation. The infundibulum passes the released yolk to the magnum inside the oviduct, and the magnum secretes 40% of the egg white or albumen.
- Shell membrane creation. The isthmus inside the oviduct provides more albumen and adds to the shell membrane.
- Shell creation. Shell glands provide 40% more egg white and create the eggshell.
- Egg-laying. The egg reaches the cloaca, where it’s expelled by oviposition.
Depending on light exposure, this process takes about 24-26 hours. Normally, ovulation in females begins during the day before 3 pm.
How Many Eggs Do Parrots Lay At A Time?
Since parrots are a K-strategist species, they lay a clutch of eggs 1-3 times yearly. Each clutch normally consists of 2-6 eggs, depending on the species.
Senegal parrots and sulphur-crested cockatoos produce 2-4 eggs, lovebirds produce 4-6 eggs, Indian ring-necked parakeets produce 3-5 eggs, and hyacinth macaws produce 2 eggs.
Parrots don’t lay all their eggs at once, laying 1 egg every 24 hours.
Parrot Egg Hatching Time
It takes 18-28 days for an egg to hatch, with the female left to incubate her eggs.
The incubation period is 27 days for Senegal parrots, 22-25 days for lovebirds, 23 days for Indian ring-necked parakeets, and 26-29 days for hyacinth macaws.
The bonded male is charged with gathering food and sustaining the mother while caring for her eggs.
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 overnight.
Both parrots will forage for food and return with extra to feed their mate.
Do Parrots Lay Unfertilized Eggs?
Wild parrots don’t lay eggs without a mate, but it happens regularly in captivity.
The mating season is triggered by light from the changing seasons, which signals to a parrot that the rainy season is approaching and food will soon be abundant.
While in captivity, parrots get more light, warmer temperatures, nesting areas, and food, triggering their hormones and causing egg-laying, even if a male isn’t present.
How Often Do Parrots Breed?
Most parrots only breed and reproduce once a year.
However, they may breed up to 3 times a year, depending on the species. The smaller the parrot is and the shorter its lifespan, the more likely it is to reproduce often.
However, it’s unhealthy for a female parrot to lay eggs more than 3 times a year because egg-laying is very stressful and resource-intensive.
The eggshell primarily consists of calcium. If dietary calcium is insufficient, it’s taken from the body. Excessive egg-laying will deplete her calcium resources, which can lead to hypocalcemia.
This condition can lead to muscle/body dysfunction and egg binding (dystocia). The female can become egg-bound if the egg can’t leave the body because it’s malformed and misshapen.
How Long Do Parrots Reproduce?
Some parrots lay eggs throughout their lives, while others stop reproducing once they reach a certain age. For species like cockatiels and love birds, egg-laying stops at about 10 years of age.
Most parrots produce 1 clutch of eggs annually. If the clutch is non-viable, they’ll mate again. The parents may wait until the next mating season or reproduce now. This depends on the following factors:
Most wild parrot species are seasonal nesters, so they breed in the spring. However, pet parrots have no defined mating period because they live in a controlled environment.
As the weather warms up, hormone levels increase in the parrots, and the daylight hours become longer. This triggers the right signals in a parrot, encouraging them to breed now.
Parrots that are seasonal nesters include:
- Australian parrots.
- Amazon parrots.
Some parrot species reproduce throughout the year, irrespective of the weather, including:
- Cockatoos from the Cacatua alba sub-species.
- Eclectus parrots, specifically from the Eclectus roratus species.
- Sun conures.
They usually stop breeding when the weather is too hot or cold but can become chronic egg layers.
When Do Parrots Reach Mating Age?
All parrots reach mating age once they’ve left their nest and integrated with the flock. This happens after the juvenile phase and is initiated by puberty.
Hormones will be released as the parrot’s body changes and prepare for reproduction. It takes around 2-4 years for a medium-sized parrot to reach mating age, while larger parrots mature after 3-6 years.