Even in captivity, parrots are always on the lookout for danger. Your parrot may appear skittish and easily scared of sudden movements or noises, perceiving these as potential threats.
Parrots are prey animals that encounter predators that want to kill them and their chicks.
Natural predators of parrots are hawks, owls, eagles, bats, snakes, big cats, and monkeys. Parrots are also hunted by feral cats, rats, and sugar gliders.
Humans kill parrots for food, capture them for the pet trade, and reduce their numbers for pest control.
To survive, parrots have developed ways to defend themselves. Their colorful plumage serves as camouflage, and they’re willing to bite predators with their sharp beaks.
Parrots can find safety in numbers with a flock’s assistance, appointing sentries to warn of danger. At the first sign of a threat, all parrots will take to the air.
What Type of Animal Eats Parrots?
When it comes to the animal kingdom, parrots are fearful of:
- Other birds: These include raptors and birds of prey.
- Big cats: They can climb trees and catch parrots.
- Primates: They share trees with parrots and may see them as a meal.
- Reptiles: They can scale trees or catch a parrot on the ground.
- Rodents: They can harm eggs, chicks, and small adult parrots.
A parrot’s most dangerous predators are found in the sky.
Parrots are exceptional fliers that can soar over long distances and take to the air with impressive speed. However, they don’t have the same maneuverability or speed as hawks and eagles.
The type of raptor that hunts parrots depends on the parrot’s size. Smaller birds, like parakeets and parrotlets, are most likely to fall prey to raptors. Meanwhile, larger parrots like macaws are less vulnerable.
Their ability to fly gives parrots an advantage over non-flying mammals. However, some still manage to catch them. Big cats, snakes, and monkeys can still:
- Climb trees and ambush them
- Snatch parrots when they land for food or water
- Take parrots’ eggs or chicks from nests
Predators That Eat Parrots
Predators that target adult parrots need size, speed, and strength.
After all, a macaw has a bite force of over 350-400 psi. Large parrots may be over 3 feet and boast an impressive 16.7-inch wingspan. At top speed, certain parrots can even soar at 50 mph.
Any predator needs to catch the parrot and fight it into submission. So, adult parrots are less likely to fall victim to rats, bats, or snakes. Instead, they’re threatened by big cats, eagles or hawks, and monkeys.
What Eats Parrots’ Eggs?
Adult parrots not only have to protect themselves from predators but also their eggs. Many predators target undefended nests or scare off the parents to gain access.
Eggs will be an easy source of protein and other nutrients. Even newly hatched chicks or juveniles will be a snack for smaller birds or mammals.
Parrots’ eggs and chicks are at greater risk from animals like snakes and rats. These creatures can sneak in undetected. If they’re lucky, the eggs won’t be as closely guarded, and they can get a meal.
However, parrots are protective of their young and monitor the nest almost 24/7.
So, predators will do their utmost to scare off the parents through hissing, biting, or aggressive posture. If the adult parrot backs away, these smaller predators may eat parrots’ chicks and eggs.
What Predators Do Parrots Have?
The above classes of predators pursue parrots. However, certain predators hunt parrots more often, making them a primary food source.
Here are the main hunters of parrots in the wild:
Although many eagles eat parrots, the primary hunters are:
- Black and white hawk eagles
- Harpy eagles
These eagles are fast, have powerful talons, and can strike with impressive force in the air.
The harpy eagle is one of the largest raptors, using its size to contend with the resistance its prey offers. According to Tropical Conservation Science, harpy eagles prey on 102 species, including hyacinth macaws.
Hawks are more interested in hunting smaller parrots, like parakeets and parrotlets. They also favor the thick-billed parrot, which is green and red, found in Mexico and the southwestern United States.
According to The Condor, the natural predators of thick-billed parrots are goshawks and red-tailed hawks. Despite being medium-sized, the thick-billed parrot can be taken down by their powerful talons.
Falcons are skilled at hunting small animals and birds. They possess intelligence, vision, and the ability to dive toward prey at break-neck speeds, which gives them an advantage over parrots.
According to Ecology, aplomado falcons kill green-rumped parrotlets and other parrots of a similar size. They can attack them in trees or crash into them with great speed in mid-air.
Owls are nocturnal and hunt small rodents, so they’ll avoid large parrots. However, they’ll eat parrot eggs and chicks if the opportunity arises.
The Puerto Rican screech owl is a raptor found in the same forests as the Puerto Rican parrot.
Since this owl is half its size, it’s not a major threat to adult parrots or the nests during the day. Instead, it seeks out nests at night, using its excellent night vision to take chicks and eggs.
Some large bats hunt parrots, especially the false vampire bat. As false vampire bats are the largest bat in the New World, they can catch small parrots.
The false vampire bat is nocturnal, whereas tropical parrots are diurnal. So, bats hunt parrots as they sleep and carry their catch on their backs to their roost.
Big cats are good at hunting parrots due to their claws, ability to climb, and lightning-quick reflexes. While any big cat that shares a habitat with parrots may eat them, the most common parrot hunters are:
Their body weight, agility, claws, and jaws make quick work of parrots. You may find them scaling trees to seek out parrots or catching parrots on the ground.
However, even jaguars and ocelots can’t depend on macaws as a primary food source since they’re difficult to catch. Parrots will take to the air and get out of range.
Monkeys are a less common predator. Even so, these primates will seek out and eat parrots. As omnivores, they know that parrots are a good source of protein, fats, and other nutrients.
Monkeys have strong grips, are dexterous, and live in trees. Their flexible bodies make it easy for them to sneak up on parrots.
Snakes hunt parrots on occasion. Unlike birds of prey, snakes can’t attack parrots while flying. Instead, they seek out parrots in trees.
Large snakes like pythons and boa constrictors spend time above the ground, where they can stealthily creep up behind a parrot while resting on a branch.
Then, they’ll strike with their powerful jaws, causing significant damage, and coil around the parrot. Once captured, there’s no escape.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest snake exceeded 32 feet. This means that large parrots, like the macaw, are just as vulnerable as small parrotlets.
The pet trade, pest control, and poaching are the three biggest threats humans pose to this species. However, some people hunt them for food, such as the Machiguenga tribespeople at Rio Manu in Peru.
According to Acta Ethologica, the parrots of Rio Manu are well aware that residents are predators. The researchers were more likely to be ignored by parrots than the Machiguenga tribespeople. The locals hunt parrots for food, feathers, and the pet trade.
Humans kill parrots because they’re seen as pests, raiding crops in areas that rely on agriculture. For example, burrowing parrots are classified as agricultural pests in Argentina.
Measures have been taken to cull their population, including:
- Shooting parrots
- Poisoning nests
- Setting out poisonous bait
- Destroying roosting trees
- Destroying nesting habitats
What New Predators Prey On Parrots?
Over time, parrots have adapted and evolved to avoid their natural predators, allowing them to sustain their species and thrive. However, many types of parrots remain on the endangered species list, and almost 50% of parrot species are endangered.
That’s because new predatory mammals have been introduced to their environment by humans, and parrots lack adaptations to deal with these new predators.
Feral Cats and Rats
Feral cats and rats are responsible for driving many parrot species to extinction.
When ships from the Old World sailed to the native habitat of parrots in the New World, they brought cats and rats with them, introducing invasive species into new environments.
Stealthy and dexterous, feral cats can better hunt down adult parrots. In contrast, intelligent and agile rats can snatch up eggs and chicks.
Puerto Rican Parrots
Feral cats and rats pose a danger to the Puerto Rican parrot. According to Ecological Economics, the wild population consists of only 30-40 parrots.
They already have some natural predators, such as red-tailed hawks and pearly-eyed thrashers. However, they’re currently endangered due to the introduction of predators such as:
- Black rats (ship rats)
- Feral cats
- Indian mongooses
The kakapo is a unique, flightless, nocturnal parrot native to New Zealand.
It’s large and heavy, even bigger than a macaw, despite the latter being the world’s largest parrot. Instead, the kakapo is hailed as the world’s heaviest parrot.
The kakapo used to roam New Zealand in significant numbers. However, ships from the Old World came to New Zealand and brought cats. The adult kakapos were more susceptible to predation by feral cats because they weren’t well-adapted to dealing with cats.
Kakapos’ natural response to predators is to freeze when startled. This enables them to blend in with their environment since their main predators are eagles, who hunt by sight. However, cats hunt by smell, and kakapos have a natural musty-sweet odor, which makes them easy to find when they freeze.
In 2010, there were only 54 Kakapos left in the wild. According to Bird Conservation International, all the survivors were moved because feral cats hunted them.
They now live on four islands off the coast of New Zealand that don’t have any cats. Here, the adults were surviving, but the new chicks weren’t so lucky.
It’s suspected that the chicks were dying due to starvation or predation by Polynesian rats. Currently, Kakapos are monitored and protected by conservationists. The adult population increased to 209 in 2020.
The sugar glider is a small possum native to mainland Australia. The sugar glider was introduced to Tasmania, an island south of mainland Australia.
Sugar gliders have been hunting the swift parrot. This is an endangered Australian parrot that breeds in Tasmania in the summer and migrates to the Australian mainland to forage.
According to Biological Conservations, sugar gliders killed 50.9% of nesting female swift parrots while incubating eggs. For this reason, the swift parrot population is declining rapidly.
How Do Parrots Protect Themselves from Predators?
Since parrots are prey animals, they have developed traits to enable them to survive, including:
- Primary Defenses: Adaptations in their appearance or behavior decrease the likelihood of a predator noticing them in the first place.
- Secondary Defenses: Should they be noticed, their defenses enable the parrot to escape safely.
Bright Colorful Plumage
Colorful plumage serves as camouflage, even when the colors are very bright. Green is one of the best colors for hiding in a forest, which is why many parrots are green or have green highlights.
Other common colors, such as orange, yellow, and red, blend well in tropical forests. After all, plants, leaves, and fruit often brandish these colors. Parrots native to rainforests, like macaws, cockatoos, and parakeets, are the most colorful birds to fit in with their environments.
The plumage of gray parrots, like African grays and rosy cockatoos, reflects the sun’s light on sunny days, which can obscure the parrot from view while flying.
Homogeneity is when all the animals in a group look virtually the same. Parrots flock in groups of the same species, so they all have similar colors, plumage, size, and shape.
Homogeneity is a primary defense. While feeding on the ground or clay licks, parrots ensure that predators can’t see one individual in a mass of uniform color.
This is effective against birds of prey. Raptors will fly overhead, looking down on the forest for prey. As they do, they may fail to notice the large flock of parrots because it looks like foliage.
Perching in Treetops
Perching high up prevents them from falling prey to non-flying predators on the ground. Their high vantage point will keep them out of sight and less noticeable than other small prey.
By remaining in groups, parrots are better defended against predators. Most predators choose only one creature to prey on before attacking, so they won’t lose any time.
However, if the prey they choose gets lost in the flock, they’ll need to select another target. By that time, all of the parrots may have escaped.
Parrots have sentries with distinctive calls, so they can alert the entire flock when a predator is spotted. The flock can fly away, which confuses and startles predators, giving parrots more time to flee.
For parrots, taking flight is the best defense. They can quickly take off into the air, getting out of reach and escaping to safety. Parrots will fly away at the earliest sign of danger.
Their tendency to stay in flocks is beneficial. The parrot sentinels will watch and alert the others whenever they spot a predator, which results in the entire flock flying away.
Parrots are hardwired to react to sudden movement or noise because this could save their lives. After all, predators use ambush tactics since it’s the best way to capture parrots.
Parrots have powerful beaks, with macaws able to bite through bone. However, parrots only bite if they’re cornered and know their life is in grave danger.
Parrots aren’t designed to defend themselves by fighting. If the situation has gone so badly that parrots need to fight rather than fly away, their chances of survival are low.
When faced with so many predators, the lifespan of a parrot is reduced. Parrots are known to live up to 80 years in captivity. However, wild parrots will have shorter lives.