Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
Parrots continually assess their environment for dangers. A parrot may be skittish and easily scared of sudden movements or noises, perceiving these as potential threats.
Parrots are prey animals that encounter animals that want to kill and eat them. The natural predators of parrots are hawks, owls, eagles, bats, snakes, big cats, monkeys, 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 evolved to defend themselves. Their colorful plumage acts as camouflage, and they’re willing to weaponize their sharp and strong beaks in an emergency.
Parrots find safety in numbers in their flocks, warning each other of danger with their loud squawks. At the first sign of a threat, all parrots will take to the air to defend themselves or fly to safety.
Types of Animals That Eat Parrots
When it comes to the animal kingdom, parrots are fearful of:
- Other birds: These include raptors, hawks, and eagles.
- 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 take eggs and kill chicks and small adult parrots.
A parrot’s most dangerous predators are in the sky.
Parrots are exceptional fliers that can soar over long distances and take to the air with impressive speed. They don’t have the same maneuverability or speed as hawks and eagles.
The type of raptor that hunts parrots depends on the bird’s size. Smaller parrots, like parakeets, will most likely fall prey to raptors. Meanwhile, larger parrots like macaws are less vulnerable.
Their ability to fly at speed gives parrots an advantage over non-flying mammals. Some birds of prey still catch them. Big cats, snakes, and monkeys can:
- Climb trees and ambush them.
- Capture parrots when they land to get food and 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, like Hyacinth macaws, can be 3 feet 3 inches long. At top speed, some parrots can soar at 40-50 mph.
A predator needs to catch the parrot and fight it into submission. Adult parrots are less likely to fall victim to rats, bats, or snakes. Instead, they’re threatened by big cats, eagles, hawks, and monkeys.
What Eats Parrots’ Eggs?
Adult parrots must protect themselves and their eggs from predators. Many predators target undefended nests or scare off the parents to take their offspring.
Eggs are a source of protein and other essential nutrients. Even newly hatched chicks or juveniles are nutritious for smaller birds or mammals.
Parrots’ eggs and chicks are at more risk from snakes and rats, who can sneak in undetected. However, parrots protect their young and monitor the nest almost 24/7.
Predators will attempt to scare off the parents through hissing, biting, or aggressive postures.
Predators Parrots Have
The above classes of predators pursue parrots. However, predators hunt parrots more often, making them a primary food source. Here are the hunters of parrots in the wild:
Although many species of eagles eat parrots, the primary hunters are:
- Black and white hawk eagles.
- Harpy eagles.
They are fast, have talons, and can strike with impressive force in the air.
The harpy eagle is among the largest raptors, using its size to counter resistance. According to Tropical Conservation Science, harpy eagles prey on 102 species, including hyacinth macaws.
Hawks are more interested in hunting smaller parrots, like parakeets. They also favor the thick-billed parrot 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, their talons can take down the thick-billed parrot.
Falcons are skilled at hunting small animals. They possess intelligence, excellent 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 at high speed in mid-air.
Owls are nocturnal and hunt small rodents, avoiding large parrots. However, if the opportunity arises, owls will eat parrot eggs and chicks.
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 significant threat to adult parrots or their nests during the day. Instead, they seek out nests at night, utilizing their exceptional night vision.
Some large bats hunt parrots, especially the false vampire bat, the largest bat in the New World. They can easily capture small parrots.
The false vampire bat is nocturnal, whereas tropical parrots are diurnal. Bats hunt parrots while they sleep, carrying their catch to their roosts.
Big cats are good at hunting parrots due to their claws, ability to climb, and lightning-fast 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 short work of parrots, so they may scale trees to seek out or catch parrots on the ground.
Since macaws are difficult to catch, jaguars and ocelots can’t depend on them as a primary food source. Parrots swiftly 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.
Monkeys are dexterous, have strong grips, and live in trees. Their flexible bodies make it easy to sneak up on and kill unattentive parrots.
Unlike birds of prey, snakes can’t attack parrots while flying. Instead, they seek out parrots in trees.
Giant 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 large parrots, like the macaw, are just as vulnerable as small parakeets.
The three biggest threats humans pose to parrots are the pet trade, pest control, and poaching. Some people hunt parrots for food, like the Machiguenga tribespeople at Rio Manu in Peru.
According to Acta Ethologica, the parrots of Rio Manu are well aware that residents are predators. Parrots were more likely to ignore the researchers than the Machiguenga tribespeople.
Humans sometimes kill parrots when perceived as pests, raiding crops in parts of the world that rely on agriculture. For example, burrowing parrots are agricultural pests in Argentina.
New Predators That Prey On Parrots
Over time, parrots have adapted and evolved to avoid predators, allowing them to thrive. Many parrots remain on the endangered species list, and almost 50% of species are endangered.
That’s because humans have introduced new predatory mammals to their environment, and parrots lack adaptations to deal with them.
Feral Cats and Rats
Feral cats and rats are responsible for driving some 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 to new environments.
Stealthy and dexterous, feral cats can better hunt down adult parrots. In contrast, intelligent and agile rats can take parrots’ 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 comprises only 30-40 parrots.
They already have natural predators, like red-tailed hawks and pearly-eyed thrashers. 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.
Ships from the Old World arrive in New Zealand with 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.
Cats hunt by smell, and kakapos have a musty-sweet odor, making them easy to find when they freeze.
In 2010, only 54 Kakapos were left in the wild. According to Bird Conservation International, all the survivors were moved because feral cats hunted them.
They live on four islands off New Zealand’s coast without cats. The adults are surviving, but the new chicks aren’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 sugar glider is a small possum native to mainland Australia. They were introduced to Tasmania, an island south of mainland Australia.
Sugar gliders have been hunting the swift parrot, 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, and the swift parrot population is declining.
How Parrots Protect Themselves from Predators
Since parrots are prey animals, they have developed traits that 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.
Bright Colorful Plumage
Colorful plumage serves as camouflage, even when the colors are bright. Green is among the best colors for hiding in a forest, which is why many parrots are green or have green highlights.
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 with 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 they look like foliage.
Perching in Treetops
Perching high up prevents them from falling prey to ground-based predators. Their high vantage point keeps them out of sight and makes them less noticeable than other small prey.
By remaining in groups, parrots are better defended against threats. Most predators choose only one creature to prey on before attacking so they won’t lose any time.
If the prey gets lost in the flock, they must select another target. By then, all of the parrots are gone.
Parrots have sentries with distinctive calls that alert the flock when a predator is spotted. The flock can fly away, which confuses and startles predators, giving parrots time to flee.
Parrots’ best defense is flight. They can quickly take off into the air, get out of reach, and escape to safety. Parrots will fly away at the first 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. Predators use ambush tactics.
Parrots have strong beaks, with macaws able to bite through bone. Parrots only bite if they’re cornered and believe their life is in danger.
Parrots rarely 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, a wild parrot’s lifespan is reduced. In captivity, parrots live up to 80 years, while wild parrots have much shorter lives.