Since most birds build nests on tree branches, you may assume parrots do the same thing. However, parrots are far more selective about their nesting places. Since their main predators are airborne, such as hawks, eagles, and owls, they must remain well-hidden from danger.
Parrots are secondary nesters, making nests in tree cavities, caves, cliff sides, and banks. They may line them with nesting materials to insulate their eggs but will usually leave them untouched. Some species will nest in termite and ant nests. Others nest on the ground, building complex nesting areas to safeguard their young.
Nesting is an important stage of the reproduction process, so parrots carefully choose a place with their mate and prepare the area accordingly. 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, while others use the same nest throughout their breeding lives.
Where Parrots Make Their Nests
According to the Manual of Parrot Behavior, the majority of wild parrot species nest in cavities. This provides all the advantages of a high vantage point but doesn’t expose them to airborne predators. Options include:
Parrots are just as happy to make their nest in the sides of cliffs, banks, and caves as they are to nest in tree cavities. It offers parrots and their eggs a better chance of survival.
Do All Parrots Nest Up High?
Choosing a nesting site will depend on the species. Some kinds of parrots build nests on the ground instead, such as the aptly-named ground parrots. This goes against the natural instincts of other parrot species.
Ground parrots have adapted their coloring, movements, and behavior to thrive on the ground. Nesting in these habitats enables them to take advantage of their natural camouflage.
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.
Hawks, eagles, and owls mean that a high vantage point isn’t all that parrots need. Using cavities is an adaptation for parrots that keeps their nests safe. In fact, parrots can spot new places to nest. That’s why they’ve adapted to the urban environments by creating nests in the tree cavities around buildings.
According to Avian Research, various species of parrots are nesting in tree cavities in Miami-Dade County in Florida. These include red-masked parakeets and orange-winged parrots. Densely-populated areas have fewer predators.
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’ll find cavities made naturally or by a primary cavity nester. 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. This comes from members of the same species and other birds that are 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 damage 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 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
- 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 like a strange place to choose. However, 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 its 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 the insects.
Eventually, the termites get used to parrots being there and seal off the pathways leading to the parrot’s section of the nest. This allows the parrot and termites to live together. However, parrots eat termites.
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
- Kakapo, a large flightless bird from New Zealand
A ground parrot will make a shallow nest that’s shaped like a bowl out of sticks and grass. They hide their nest underneath low shrubs.
Kakapos don’t build nests. Instead, they make use of pre-existing cavities. They find ready-made holes, such as tree roots or dead trees. Sometimes, they may also 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 5 species of African lovebirds. 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 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 parrots’ nest will look like a tightly woven bowl. It’ll be made of twigs and sticks, as well as other materials that parrots collect. It will be positioned in a safe location, such as the cavity of a tree.
Some types of parrots 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 build their nests in these tight areas. Since the place itself 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 that’s already been made. It’ll 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, steal other nests, and occasionally take feathers from their bodies.
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 nesting material.
Parrots are picky about where they build their homes. Some repurpose old locations, while others make them from new. Regardless, this will be a parrot’s most important locale for several weeks as it hatches and raises its young.