Description of Parrots

Macaws are just one type of several hundred types of parrots.
Macaws are just one type of several hundred types of parrots. (Image: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Parrots are characterized by having curved beaks, an erect stance and four toes on each foot. They belong to the Psittacidae family, which includes more than 350 different species. Parakeets, lovebirds, parrotlets, loris and loikeets are all types of parrots. Cockatoos and New Zealand parrots are not considered "true parrots" but are closely related and often referred to as parrots.

Arinae (Neotropical)

The Arinae subfamily contains more than 160 species of parrots in South America including macaws and Amazons. Macaws have large, dark beaks with bare, light-colored facial patches. Of the 18 species of macaws, most are endangered and at least six species are extinct. Amazons have 30 species and are medium-sized (between 10 to 18 inches tall) and usually green. The Arinae subfamily used to be listed as the tribe Arini under the Psittacinae subfamily.

A blue and gold macaw grows about 30 inches long.
A blue and gold macaw grows about 30 inches long. (Image: Gary Faber/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Platycercinae (Broad Tailed)

The subfamily Platycercinae consists of about 30 species of parrots in four different groups. They are found mostly in Australia, as well as New Zealand and parts of Asia. The most popular member of this group is the budgerigar, also known as the budgie. Budgies come in more than 100 colors and are about 7 to 9 inches long from top to tail. Rosellas are also part of this group. Rosellas are about 10 to 14 inches long with long tails.

Budgerigars are popular pet parrots.
Budgerigars are popular pet parrots. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)


The Psittacinae subfamily contains several groups of parrots in Africa and Southeast Asia. Alex, an African gray parrot scientists studied for more than 30 years, could identify 50 objects, seven colors and five shapes and had a vocabulary of more than 150 words. Lovebirds are small parrots that are usually green in the wild, although other colors are found in captive bred species.

Loriinae (Lorikeets and Lories)

Loriinae parrots are better known as lorikeets and lories (loris). About 60 species live in Australasia, primarily in New Guinea, the Pacific Island, Indonesia and Australia. Lories are larger-bodied than lorikeets had have shorter tails that are round or square. Lorikeets have smaller bodies but longer, pointed tails. Lories and lorikeets are unique among parrots because they have long brush-tipped tongues that they use to feed on nectar and pollen.

Two rainbow lorikeets
Two rainbow lorikeets (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Micropsittinae (Pygmy)

The Micropsittinae tribe includes six species of pygmy parrots all in the genus Micropsitta. Pygmy parrots are native to New Guinea and neighboring islands. They are only about 4 inches tall and green with bright highlights. They fly fast and have never been kept successfully in captivity. The smallest parrot, the red-breasted pygmy parrot (M. bruijnii), which is only 3 inches high, is part of this group.

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