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Where Do Parrots Make Their Nests?

Where Do Parrots Make Their Nests? (Nesting Habits)

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Since parrots’ predators, like hawks, eagles, and owls, are often airborne, they must remain hidden.

Most parrots are secondary nesters, establishing nests in tree cavities, caves, cliff sides, and banks. They may line them with materials to insulate their eggs or hatchlings.

However, some psittacines nest in termite and ant nests. Others nest on the ground, building complex nests to safeguard their chicks.

Nesting is a critical stage of the reproduction process, so parrots carefully choose a place with their mate and prepare the area for the arrival of their young.

Where Parrots Make Their Nests

According to the Manual of Parrot Behavior, most wild parrots nest in cavities. This provides the advantages of a high vantage point but doesn’t expose them to airborne predators.

Preferred nesting areas include:

  • Trees.
  • Cliffs.
  • Caves.
  • Banks.

Parrots are just as happy to make their nests in the sides of cliffs, banks, and caves as in tree cavities. This gives parrots and their eggs a higher chance of survival.

secondary cavity nesters

Not All Parrots Nest Up High

Choosing a nesting site is species-specific. Some psittacines, like the aptly named ground parrot, build nests on the ground. This goes against the instincts of other parrot species.

Ground parrots have adapted their colors, movements, and behaviors.

Why Parrots Don’t 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 position in the food chain.

Nesting in trees conceals parrots and safeguards them from ground predators.

The foremost hunters of parrots are airborne birds. The presence of hawks, eagles, and owls means a high vantage point isn’t all parrots need.

Using cavities is an adaptation for parrots that keeps their nests safe. Parrots can spot new places to nest, adapting to urban environments by creating nests in tree cavities around buildings.

According to Avian Research, some species nest in tree cavities in Miami-Dade County, including red-masked parakeets and orange-winged parrots. Densely populated areas have fewer predators.

Secondary Cavity Nesting Places for Parrots

Most parrots are secondary cavity nesters, using existing places to make their nests. The opposite is primary cavity nesters, who hollow out a space for their nest in the tree.

Many species have strong beaks that can get through wood. However, they seldom excavate their nests.

Instead, parrots seek out cavities made naturally or by primary cavity nesters. If the cavity is too small, they enlarge it with their beaks.

This is far less time-consuming than making a cavity from scratch. One downside is competition from members of the same species and other secondary cavity nesters.

Tree Cavities

Tree cavities are the most common location for parrots to make their nests. As secondary cavity nesters, parrots must find holes rather than making the pockets themselves.

Cavities may occur naturally due to tree damage. For example, the wood is exposed when a tree branch falls off in a storm. Then, fungus and termites decompose the area, leaving a hole.

In other cases, the holes are made by primary cavity nesters. They work through the wood to make space for their nest. The parrot can move in after the bird has finished using the nest and abandons it.

Cliff And Bank Cavities

Some parrots excavate burrows in cliffs and banks. Examples include:

  • The Patagonian conure (burrowing parrot) from Argentina.
  • The maroon-fronted parrot in Mexico.

They burrow deeply into the cliffs, providing further protection from predators. However, some tree cavities may not be as high up as the cliff’s burrows.

Some conures and macaws use cliff cavities for nests. They 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 odd, but about 10% of parrot species choose termite nests.

One species of African lovebird chooses arboreal ant nests for its home, with termite nests being a secondary option. Smaller parrots, like parakeets and parrotlets, also prefer these locales.

Some parrots, like the hooded parrot, use termite nests on the ground, but most use trees. In some cases, parrots move in while termites are still present. The parrot is unbothered by insects.

Eventually, the termites get used to parrots and seal off the pathways to the parrot’s section. This allows them to live together, but parrots eat termites.

Ground Nests

Some parrots nest on the ground. They don’t usually fly much, such as the:

  • Ground parrot: An Australian bird.
  • Kākāpō: A large flightless bird from New Zealand.

A ground parrot makes a shallow nest from sticks and grass shaped like a bowl. It hides its nest underneath low shrubs.

Kākāpōs don’t build nests. Instead, they use pre-existing cavities or find ready-made holes, like tree roots or dead trees. Sometimes, they tunnel into the ground to make nests.

Parrots That Build Nests

Many parrots don’t build nests. According to The Auk, Ornithological Advances, nest-building parrot species include the monk parakeet and 5 species of African lovebirds.

They establish their nests in existing cavities but develop cup-shaped or domed nests inside.

The Quaker parrot is among the few species that don’t nest in pre-existing cavities. Instead, they gather sticks and make large nests on trees in South America.

Additionally, the nests aren’t just for one breeding pair. Parrots make individual nesting chambers that house 20 or more breeding pairs inside the nest.

Two other types of South American parrots (slender-billed and austral conures) build their nests in trees with sticks. They prefer to find a cavity, so it seldom happens.

what does a parrot nest look like?

What A Parrot Nest Looks Like

A parrot’s nest is made of twigs, sticks, and other materials that parrots collect. It’s then positioned in a safe location, like 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 choose a cavity in a tree, cave, or bank and build their nests in these tight areas. Since this provides cover, they build a nesting base to insulate their eggs.

For parrots that use ant or termite nests, you may find them unembellished by parrots.

What Parrots Make Their Nests Out Of

Parrots that make nests choose materials similar to other birds. They search the area, take other nests, and use their feathers. 

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 5 species of African lovebirds that build nests use the following:

  • Strips or small pieces of bark.
  • Seed husks.
  • Grass.
  • Leaves.
  • Small sticks.

While some parrots line the cavity with nest material, four species of African lovebird weave together long stalks and bark strips to make large domed nests inside the cavities.

One species of African lovebird (A. pullaria) builds its nests in ant or termite nests in trees. The nests are excavated and lined with nesting material.

Parrots are selective about where they nest. Some repurpose old locations, while others make new ones.