How to Identify Parrots


There are more than 300 species of parrots in the world. Because there are so many different types of parrots, it is often difficult to identify a bird correctly without the help of a bird dictionary. Adding to the confusion—many parrots are dimorphic. This means that females and males of the same species can look very different. Female parrots usually have much less dramatic markings than their male counterparts. Parrots vary widely by color, size, ability to mimic and personality. If you don’t have a bird guide or dictionary handy, you can still identify parrots by process of elimination.

Identify Parrots

Determine the size of the parrot. Parrot-lets are among the smallest parrots; some weigh less than one ounce and are as small as five inches long. Other small species of parrots are budgies, cockatiels, Hanging Parrots, conures and lovebirds. The rare hyacinth macaw is the largest parrot. It is approximately 39 inches long and can weigh more than 47 ounces. Other large parrots are macaws, Amazons, and cockatoos. Conures are difficult to identify by size alone; the smallest conures are nine inches long, while the largest can reach 14 inches in length.

Examine feather color. Lories are among the most brilliantly colored birds in the world. Parrot-lets are primarily green; subspecies are differentiated by gray, blue and yellow patches. Amazons, excluding one species, are mostly green with contrasting head and tail markings. Head color is another way of distinguishing Amazon parrots. Cockatoos are mainly white, though several species are black. African Grey parrots, as you might imagine, are, for the most part, gray in color.

Listen to the parrot. Three species are known for their ability to mimic human speech. The Eclectus, African Grey and the Amazon parrots are able to not only mimic human speech, they can often repeat other sounds such as a doorbell ringing or tires squealing. The Eclectus parrot is known for its ability to learn entire songs, while some of the larger lories can acquire an impressive vocabulary over time. Other parrots may only learn one word—or never talk at all.

Observe the parrot’s behavior. Eclectus parrots are rarely found in rescue facilities because of their laid back nature. They usually freeze when facing danger instead of wildly trying to escape. Parrot-lets and Amazons are known for being personable as well as moody. Amazons are prone to regular periods of morning and evening “screaming.” Macaws and other large parrots are often loud and messy, but are also very intelligent. Conures are another species of parrot known for being noisy and destructive. On the other hand, cockatiels are popular because they are intelligent, great mimics and very affectionate. Does the parrot hang upside down while it roosts? You can safely guess it’s a Hanging Parrot.

Tips & Warnings

  • Not sure if a bird is a parrot? Parrots all have a distinctive beak. The upper and lower mandible are hinged to a parrot’s skull, giving it the ability to move each in separate vertical movements.

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