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How Do Parrots Mate and Reproduce?

Amazon Parrots

Like straight out of a cheesy love movie, the parrots’ behavior when it comes to mating and reproduction have a hint of romance in it. While you may have your own way of attempting to woo or impress your crush, parrots have their own way of finding and behaving around their partners. They are monogamous in nature (they stick to one partner), they have their own methods of attracting a mate, and they also mate when the setting or season is right.

But how do parrots mate and reproduce exactly? Here, we answer that question!

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Attracting a Mate

Amazon Parrots
Image Credit By: Steve Wilson, flickr

Before jumping to the mating and reproduction process, a parrot must first attract a mate. Parrots are monogamous in nature, which means after they find a mate, they usually stay with each other for life. Factors that make one attracted to another parrot would include plumage, personality, territory, abundance of food, and others.

Males would usually have to compete with other males when attracting a female. Like males in the human world attempting to impress a female, a male parrot would attempt to “woo” a female with different tactics, upon which a female would choose among a flock of males. Among these tactics include the stately stroll, the parade, and the eye blaze!

Factors that Commonly Attract Mates

Mexican parrotlets sitting on a metal beam
Image Credit By: Raphael Rivest, Shutterstock

Based on different studies, there are certain factors that are found to attract a mate more easily compared to others. Parrots with brightly colored feathers are said to attract mates easily as they indicate good health and immunity to diseases, along with the size of the parrot and the number of feathers in their plumage.

Aside from their physical appearance, intelligence and personality play a big role in attracting mates as well. A louder singing voice in parrots were also found to be able to find mates more easily compared to a softer voice. Their ability to regurgitate food is also a good indicator as a suitable mate showcasing their ability to feed their offspring.

In addition, the abundance of food and safety of the location of a parrot’s territory is also a good indicator of a suitable mate. Dating in the parrot world is incredibly competitive!

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When Do Parrots Mate?

two bronze-winged parrots on a tree branch
Image Credit: La-li, Shutterstock

Parrots have a so-called “mating season”, which is usually during the spring or the warmer months of their habitat. During this time, the parrots’ sex hormones are triggered by the warm weather. The higher temperature stimulates the urges of parrots to reproduce. It is also during this time that females are attracted to males, no wonder why the males work so hard to impress the female!

In addition to the parrots’ behavior, this warmer weather serves as a suitable environment for nursing offspring and providing an abundance of food. Parrots reach mating age at around 2-4 years for medium sized parrots,  and 3-6 years for large sized parrots.

Parrot Reproduction

African Grey Parrots
Image Credit: maienkindfotografie, Pixabay

After the courtship behavior by the male and female, we now move on to the how they actually mate. Parrots, like most birds, reproduce sexually, where reproduction is a result of copulation between a male and female. Being a monomorphic species, male and female parrots look exactly identical in structure. The only physical indicators they have for their sex are their internal orders, making them close to impossible to distinguish without thorough examination!

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The Cloaca

Unlike mammals, male parrots do not have a penis. They have a small, chamber like opening called a cloaca in which the testes releases sperm to. Interestingly, females also have a cloaca in which they release the ovum from their ovaries. The cloaca is the primary organ for breeding among parrots and is present in both males and females!

Reproductive Anatomy

For males, their reproductive system consists of a variety of ducts and the testes. The testes would produce the sperm and then release them into the cloaca via the ducts when it is time for breeding.

The females have their ovaries, yolk, and oviduct. Like the males, the ovary transports the ovum via the oviduct into the cloaca when it is time for breeding. Like most birds, only the left ovary is functional despite being born with two.

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Cloacal Kissing: How Parrots Mate

 

As discussed earlier, the mating season depends on the parrots’ habitat. The transition to warmer weather triggers hormonal release such as which activate various organs, including the cloaca.

When the hormones are released and the cloaca activated, the cloaca begins to swell and attraction between the partner parrots starts a flirtation or courtship behavior such as dancing and fluttering of wings. After the flirtation, the parrots begin what is known as “cloacal kissing”, which involves the two parrots rub each other’s cloaca together. The male would then get on top of the female and the female would then expose her cloaca by moving her feathers.

The mating between parrots happens quickly as the depositing of the testes into the female, along with the other physical contact behavior between the two birds would take a total of mere seconds. The male would then dismount, signifying the completion of their mating.

Laying of Eggs

Parrots, like most avian species, lay eggs instead of giving birth. From here, the parrots will prepare a suitable nest for the eggs and for the chicks that would later hatch. After the mating process, the sperm would then fertilize the ovum which would begin formation of the egg. Ovulation would take about 24-26 hours before ultimately, the egg is laid! Although it must be noted that temperature and light exposure also influence ovulation. Parrots will generally lay 2-8 eggs per clutch depending on the species and would take 18-30 days for the eggs to hatch!

Female parrots do not lay unfertilized eggs, so females who have not mated will not be laying eggs. They will also not lay eggs unless they have a suitable next for which to lay them on, hence the importance of building or access to a nest when one parrot attracts a mate.

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How Often Do Parrots Breed?

Parrots usually reproduce once a year, but some species are known to reproduce up to three times a year. Parrots usually focus on tending to their young after they hatch and focus on raising them rather than mass producing. A reason for this is also the seasonal hormonal release that push them to breed, so when the weather is colder, they do not drive themselves to mate.

Reproducing more than three times a year can negatively affect the female as it can lead to health issues. Mass breeding of parrots can lead to hypocalcemia due to the calcium requirements needed to make the shells of the eggs. It can also lead to different health complications due to the physical strain that the females have to go through when laying eggs.

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Final Takeaway

Parrots have many similarities with their fellow avian species, but also have unique mating behaviors. They stick with one partner for their whole lives, they focus on tending to their young, and they have interesting mating behavior with their seasonal hormones and methods for attracting a mate!

Related read: How Do Parakeets Mate & Reproduce?


Featured Image Credit: Image: Wikimedia Commons

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