Since parrots’ predators are often airborne, such as hawks, eagles, and owls, they must remain hidden.
Most parrots are secondary nesters, making nests in tree cavities, caves, cliff sides, and banks. They may line them with materials to insulate their eggs/hatchlings. Some species will nest in termite and ant nests, while others nest on the ground, building complex nests to safeguard their chicks.
Nesting is an important stage of the reproduction process, so parrots carefully choose a place with their mate and prepare the area in readiness for the arrival of their young.
Where Parrots Make Their Nests
According to the Manual of Parrot Behavior, most wild parrot species nest in cavities. This provides all the advantages of a high vantage point but doesn’t expose them to airborne predators.
Preferred nesting areas include the following:
Parrots are just as happy to make their nests in the sides of cliffs, banks, and caves as in tree cavities because it gives parrots and their eggs a higher chance of survival.
Do All Parrots Nest Up High?
Choosing a nesting site depends on the species. Some parrots build nests on the ground, such as the aptly-named ground parrots, which goes against the instincts of other parrot species.
Ground parrots have adapted their coloring, movements, and behavior to thrive on the ground.
Why Don’t Parrots Nest On Tree Branches?
Most bird species make their nests on the branches of trees. It may seem odd that parrots don’t do the same, but it’s crucial to their place in the food chain.
Nesting in trees conceals parrots and safeguards them from ground predators. However, the main hunters of parrots are airborne birds. The presence of hawks, eagles, and owls means that a high vantage point isn’t all that parrots need.
Using cavities is an adaptation for parrots that keeps their nests safe. Parrots can spot new places to nest, which is why they’ve adapted to urban environments by creating nests in tree cavities around buildings.
According to Avian Research, certain parrot species nest in tree cavities in Miami-Dade County, including red-masked parakeets and orange-winged parrots. That’s because densely-populated areas have fewer predators.
Secondary Cavity Nesting Places for Parrots
Most parrots are secondary cavity nesters, which defines birds that take advantage of existing places to make their nests. The opposite of this is primary cavity nesters, which are birds that hollow out a space for their nest in the tree themselves.
Many species of parrots have strong beaks capable of chewing through wood. However, they don’t usually excavate their nests. Instead, they’ll find cavities made naturally or by primary cavity nesters. They’ll then enlarge it with their beaks if the cavity is too small.
This is far less time-consuming than making a cavity from scratch. However, one downside is that there can be competition from members of the same species and other secondary cavity nesters.
Tree cavities are the most common location for parrots to make their nests. As secondary cavity nesters, parrots must find these holes rather than make the pockets themselves.
Cavities that occur naturally due to tree damage. For example, the wood is exposed when a tree branch falls off due to a storm. Then, fungus and termites decompose the area, which leaves a hole.
In other cases, the holes are made by primary cavity nesters. These birds chew through the wood to make space for their nest. After the bird is done using the nest and abandons it, a parrot can move in.
Cliff And Bank Cavities
Some parrots excavate burrows in cliffs and banks instead of using tree cavities. Examples include:
- The Patagonian conure (burrowing parrot) from Argentina
- The maroon-fronted parrot in Mexico
They burrow deeply in the cliffs, providing even more protection from predators than a tree cavity. However, some tree cavities may not be as high up as the cliff’s burrows.
Some conures and macaws use cliff cavities for nests. Unlike those mentioned above, these species don’t excavate their burrows. Instead, they rely on natural holes and crevices in the cliffs, including the following:
- Brown-throated conure
- Red-fronted conure
- Red-masked conures
- Lear’s macaw
- Green-winged macaw
- Military macaw
Ant or Termite Nests
Nesting in an ant or termite nest may seem strange, but it’s a common nesting place for parrots. About 10% of all parrot species choose termite nests.
One species of African lovebird chooses arboreal ant nests for their home, with termite nests being a secondary option. Parrots that choose these locales tend to be small, like parakeets and parrotlets.
Some parrots, such as the hooded parrot, use termite nests on the ground, but most use those in trees. In some cases, parrots will move in while termites are still present. The parrot isn’t bothered by insects.
Eventually, the termites get used to parrots and seal off the pathways leading to the parrot’s section of the nest. This allows them to live together, but parrots eat termites.
Some parrots choose to nest on the ground. These parrots don’t usually fly much, such as the:
- Ground parrot, which is an Australian bird.
- Kakapo, a large flightless bird from New Zealand.
A ground parrot will make a shallow nest shaped like a bowl out of sticks and grass. They hide their nest underneath low shrubs.
Kakapos don’t build nests. Instead, they use pre-existing cavities or find ready-made holes, such as tree roots or dead trees. Sometimes, they tunnel into the ground to make their nests.
What Parrots Build Nests?
Many parrots don’t build nests, but some do. According to The Auk, Ornithological Advances, these species include the monk parakeet and five species of African lovebirds.
These parrots make their nests in existing cavities but develop cup-shaped or domed nests inside them.
The quaker parrot is one of the few species that doesn’t nest in pre-existing cavities. Instead, it gathers sticks and makes large nests on trees in South America.
Additionally, these nests aren’t only for one breeding pair. Parrots make individual nesting chambers inside the whole nest that can house 20 or more breeding pairs.
Two other types of South American parrots (slender-billed and austral conures) build their nests in trees with sticks. However, they prefer to find a cavity, so this won’t happen often.
What Does A Parrot Nest Look Like?
A parrot’s nest will be made of twigs, sticks, and other materials that parrots collect and be positioned in a safe location, such as a tree cavity.
Some parrots build nests in tight groupings, where a large bundle of nesting materials has several openings, almost like an apartment building for parrots.
Larger parrot species have open-faced nests. They’ll choose a cavity in a tree, cave, or bank and build their nests in these tight areas. Since it provides cover, they’ll build a nesting base to insulate their eggs.
For parrots that use ant or termite nests, you may find the spots unembellished by parrots. After all, they’re just adapting something already made, so it’ll look like a normal termite or ant nest.
What Do Parrots Make Their Nests Out Of?
Parrots that make nests choose materials similar to other birds. They search the area, steal other nests, and occasionally use feathers from their bodies.
Parrot Nest Material
Monk parakeets make domed nests in trees out of sticks, while ground parakeets make bowl-shaped nests beneath low shrubs using sticks and grass.
The five species of African lovebirds that build nests use the following:
- Strips or small pieces of bark
- Seed husks
- Small sticks
While some parrots line the cavity with nest material, four species of African lovebird weave together long stalks and bark strips. This makes large domed nests inside of the cavities.
One species of African lovebird (A. pullaria) makes its nests in ant or termite nests in trees, which they excavate and then line with nesting material.
Parrots are picky about where they build their nests; some repurpose old locations, while others make new ones. Regardless, this will be its most important locale once it hatches and raises its young.