Suburban areas of Australia have a striking abundance of large, brightly-coloured birds. Most of these birds belong to the Order Psittaciformes (commonly known as ‘parrots’), which contains the cockatoos, parrots, rosellas and lorikeets. These species have short, powerful bills that they use for cracking seeds, but some of them also feed on fruit, nectar, underground plant stems, and wood-boring insect larvae.
Feet and toes
Parrots have very different feet to songbirds (Order Passeriformes). Parrots have two toes pointing forwards, and two toes pointing backwards; songbirds have three toes forward and one toe at the back. Many parrot species are highly dexterous with their feet, and will hold hard seed capsules in one foot while they extract the seeds with their bills.
Nest hollows and nest boxes
Almost all parrots need old trees that have developed hollows that they can nest in. Good hollow-bearing trees are usually more than 100 years old, and are normally only found in ‘old-growth’ forests. Some parrot species (e.g. Glossy-black Cockatoo) are in decline, because these old-growth forests are being lost to agricultural and forestry activities. However, other parrot species can nest in isolated old trees that remain in suburban areas and these species are surviving well in cities. A few of these species (e.g. Crimson Rosella) have even taken to artificial nest boxes. Unfortunately, some introduced species such as Honeybees, Common (Indian) Mynas and Common Starlings frequently out-compete parrots at both natural and artificial hollows.
The problem with feeding parrots…
Parrots are easily attracted to bird feeding stations because they eat seed and/or nectar. This ready availability of artificial foods has increased the numbers of some species in urban areas (e.g. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet). However, bird-feeding has resulted in some birds becoming pests. For example, over-abundant Sulphur-crested Cockatoos demanding a feed can damage the timberwork of houses with their beaks. Birds can also become too dependent on artificial foods and even develop diseases or conditions caused by poor nutrition. Many parrots are susceptible to a viral disease, often spread at feeding stations, known as Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), which causes the birds to lose their feathers and grow grotesquely shaped beaks. Check Out This Video!!