Since most birds create nests on tree branches, you may assume parrots are the same. However, parrots are far more selective about their preferred nesting spots. Since their main predators are airborne, such as hawks, eagles, and owls, they need to remain well-hidden. As secondary nesters, they also need to choose spots that are well-prepared for them.
All parrots have nests, but few build them out of twigs or mud. Instead, parrots find cavities in trees, caves, cliff sides, and banks to lay their eggs in. They may line the area with nesting materials to better insulate their eggs, but otherwise leave them untouched. Some parrot species break from the norm by nesting in termite and ant nests. Others nest on the ground, building complex nests that will safeguard their eggs.
No matter their species, nesting is an important step in the reproduction process. All parrots carefully choose a spot with their mate and prepare the area. Clearing away debris and bringing in materials is par for the course. Some parrots will live in their nests for 2 months before laying eggs. Others may use this fixed nest several times throughout their breeding lives.
Do Parrots Have Nests?
All species of parrots have nests in the wild. Since they reproduce by laying eggs, parrots need an area that can:
- Hold the eggs and contain them in one area
- Shield them from outside weather conditions
- Help contain heat as the parents incubate the eggs
- Hide them from outside predators
The incubation process involves staying in one place for several weeks. As such, parrots choose their nesting sites carefully. Not all parrots actually build a nest out of twigs and sticks, though. Instead, they use an area that’s already perfect for holding and safeguarding their eggs.
If they’re a nest-building species, in a monogamous pair, parrots will skillfully construct the nests together and then protect the area. Some types of parrots, such as the Argentinean burrowing parrot, will stay with their nest for 2 full months before laying eggs.
Parrot nests are not only crucial to the survival of the young. They also play an important role in the lives of adults. As they raise their offspring, parrots may stay in a nest for the better part of a year. When the next mating season comes around, parrots will then begin that process anew. For continuous egg layers, they may use the same nest multiple times, making it a veritable home.
Where Parrots Make Their Nests
Parrots nest in trees, but not how you’d expect. According to the Manual of Parrot Behavior, the majority of wild parrot species nest in cavities. Instead of making their nest out on a branch, they prefer tucked-away spaces. This provides all the advantages of a high vantage point, but doesn’t expose them to airborne predators.
In that vein, parrots aren’t restricted to just trees. They will choose whatever location fits their criterion, with factors including places that are:
- High up
- Difficult to reach by predators
- Tucked away from sight
- Shielded from the elements
This includes holes, nooks, or cleared pockets in:
As such, parrots are just as happy to make their nest in the sides of cliffs, banks, and within caves. If it offers the parrot and its eggs a better chance of survival, there’s no point in letting personal tastes get in the way.
Do All Parrots Nest Up High?
With that said, choosing a nesting site will occasionally depend on the species. Some kinds of parrots build nests on the ground instead, such as the aptly ground parrots. This goes against the natural instincts of other parrot species, but suits ground types just fine.
Ground parrots have adapted their coloring, movements, and behavior to thrive on the ground. Nesting in these habitats actually helps them take advantage of natural cover that better protects them from harm. Parrots that don’t have these traits would be putting themselves in great danger by mimicking a ground parrot.
Other parrots will choose whatever is available. If a cliff side is actually lower to the ground than a tree, but offers a secure cavity, parrots may choose this. After all, protection from the elements and a place to hide is more important than a vantage point alone.
Why Don’t Parrots Nest On Tree Branches?
Many bird species make their nests out on the branches of a tree. It may seem odd that parrots do not. However, this is crucial to their place in the food chain, their environment, and their lifestyle. Nesting in trees may conceal a parrot and safeguard them against ground predators. However, the biggest hunters of a parrot will always be flying predators.
Hawks, eagles, and owls ensure that a high vantage point isn’t all a parrot needs. Using cavities is a clever adaptation for parrots to keep their nests safe. In fact, parrots are even creative enough to spot new hiding places for their nests. That’s why they’ve adapted to the urban environments by creating nests in the tree cavities around buildings.
According to Avian Research, multiple species of parrots have started nesting within tree cavities in Miami-Dade County in Florida. These include red-masked parakeets and orange-winged parrots. That’s because densely-populated areas tend to have fewer predators, such as:
- Big cats
That makes nesting in an urban environment very appealing. However, the large majority of parrots still live in the wild, so that is where they make their nests.
Secondary Cavity Nesters
Most parrots are secondary cavity nesters. This defines birds that take advantage of pre-existing spots 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. These include:
Many species of parrots have strong beaks capable of chewing through wood. However, they don’t usually excavate their own nests. Instead, they will find cavities made naturally or by a primary cavity nester. They will 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 a lot of competition. This comes from members of the same species, as well as other birds that are secondary cavity nesters.
Tree cavities are the most common location where parrots make their nests. As secondary cavity nesters, parrots must find these holes, rather than make the pockets themselves.
Cavities that are made naturally happen due to some kind of destruction to the tree. For example, when a tree branch falls off due to a storm, the wood is exposed. Then, fungus and termites decompose the area, which leaves a hole.
In other cases, the holes are made by primary cavity nesters. These birds have strong beaks that allow them to chew through the wood to make a 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 of this 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. Some tree cavities may not be as high up as the cliff’s burrows, however. This can allow some ground predators access to the nest.
Some kinds of conures and macaws also use cliff cavities for their nests. Unlike the two parrots mentioned above, these species don’t excavate their own burrows. Instead, they rely on natural holes and crevices in the cliffs, such as:
- The brown-throated conure
- The red-fronted conure
- The red-masked conures
- The lear’s macaw
- The green-winged macaw
- The military macaw
Ant or Termite Nests
Nesting in an ant or termite nest may appear like the strangest place to choose. However, it’s surprisingly common among parrots, with about 10% of all species doing so in termite nests. One species of African lovebird chooses arboreal ant nests for its home, with termite nests being a secondary option.
Parrots that choose these locales tend to be small, like parakeets and parrotlets. This helps them fit inside the new area.
Some parrots, like the hooded parrot, use termite nests on the ground, but most use those in trees. In some fascinating cases, parrots will move in even while the termites are still present. The parrot isn’t bothered by the insects that try to defend their nest.
Eventually, the termites get used to the parrot being there and seal off the pathways leading to the parrot’s section of the nest. This allows the parrot and termites to live side by side peacefully.
As mentioned, some parrots choose to nest on the ground. These birds don’t usually fly much, such as:
- The ground parrot, which is an Australian bird
- The Kakapo, a large flightless bird from New Zealand
A ground parrot will make a shallow nest that is shaped like a bowl out of sticks and grass. They hide their nest underneath low shrubs to protect it.
Kakapos don’t build nests. Instead, they make use of pre-existing cavities. They find ready-made holes, such as those among tree roots or dead trees. Sometimes, they may also tunnel into the ground to make their nest.
What Parrots Build Nests?
Many parrots don’t build nests, but a few do. According to The Auk, Ornithological Advances, these species include the monk parakeet and 5 species of African lovebird. These parrots make their nests in existing cavities like most other parrots, but they develop cup-shaped nests or domed nests inside of them.
The monk parakeet, or quaker parrot, is one of the few species that doesn’t nest in pre-existing cavities. Instead, it gathers sticks and makes very large nests on trees in South America. Additionally, these nests aren’t only for one breeding pair. They make individual nesting chambers inside of the whole nest that can house 20 or more breeding pairs.
Two other types of South American parrots also build their own nests in trees with sticks. Namely, these are the slender-billed and austral conures. However, their preference is to find a cavity, so this won’t happen often.
What Does A Parrot Nest Look Like?
Depending on the species, a parrot nest will appear like a tightly-woven bowl. It will be made of twigs and sticks, as well as other materials that parrots collect. It will be deposited or even grafted into a safe location, such as the cavity of a tree.
Some types of parrots even build nests in tight groupings, where a large bundle of nesting materials has several openings. This works almost like an apartment building for parrots.
Larger parrot species tend to have more open-faced nests. They will choose a cavity in a tree, cave, or bank and then build their nests in these tight areas. Since the place itself works as cover, they will simply build a nesting base that helps 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 a spot that’s already been built. It will look like a normal termite or ant nest.
What Do Parrots Make Their Nests Out Of?
For parrots that make nests, they choose materials similar to other birds. They search the area, pilfer other nests, and occasionally take feathers from themselves.
Parrot Nest Material
Monk parakeets make domed nests in trees out of sticks. Meanwhile, ground parakeets make bowl-shaped nests beneath low shrubs using sticks and grass. The 5 species of African lovebirds that build nests use materials such as:
- Strips or small pieces of bark
- Seed husks
- Small sticks
While some of these parrots line the cavity with nest material, 4 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 nest in ant or termite nests in trees, which they excavate and then line with the nesting material mentioned above.
Parrots are very choosy about where they decide to build their homes. Some repurpose old locations, while others make them fresh. No matter the case, this will be a parrot’s most important locale for several weeks as it hatches and raises its young.