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Parrot vs Parakeet: What’s the Difference? (With Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove

Parrots are colorful birds (usually) that live in tropical climates and are thought to be one of the most intelligent species of birds. Parakeets are actually a species of parrot that is small to medium in size and are indigenous to Australia.

You probably won’t be terribly surprised to know that there are more differences than there are similarities between the parrot and the parakeet – differences in size, appearance, and even personality. If you’ve been considering adding a bird to your family but aren’t sure what kind of bird will be the best fit, then you’ve come to the right place, or article.

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Visual Differences

Parrot and Parakeet side by side template
Image Credit: Pixabay

At a Glance

Parrot
  • Average height (adult): 3½ – 40 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 2¼ ounces – 3½ pounds
  • Lifespan: up to 80 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Not often
  • Trainability: Intelligent, highly trainable
Parakeet
  • Average height (adult): 7 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 9 – 1.4 ounces
  • Lifespan: 5 – 10 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Not often
  • Trainability: Intelligent, very trainable

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Parrot Overview

There are approximately 370 different species of parrots found in tropical locations around the world but are primarily found in Mexico, Australasia, and South and Central America.

Lorikeets, cockatoos, Amazons, Macaws, and even parakeets are all considered parrots. The features that contribute to the parrot classification include curved beaks as well as 4 toes on each foot, 2 of which face forward and the other 2 face backward (this is called zygodactyl). What parrots are most famous for is their ability to mimic sounds, but particularly human speech.

If you’re looking to purchase a parrot, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 for a small parrot (Cockatiels and Lovebirds), $300 to $800 for medium-sized parrots (Conures and Quakers) to $5,000 or more for the larger (such as the Macaw and African Grey).

You could also consider finding a parrot through a parrot rescue where you might pay $50 up to $1,000 for a parrot, depending on size and rarity. Adoption is always a great option as not only is the cost much lower, but you’re also giving a parrot a second chance at a better life.

Macaw
Image Credit By: christels, pixabay

Personality / Character

Parrots have cheeky, mischievous personalities and are playful, intelligent, and can be very energetic. However, this is just a generalization because there are hundreds of parrot species, and each type will have its own unique character. Some parrots are loud and boisterous, and some will be quiet and laidback.

The more intelligent the parrot, the more social he is, and this also means spending more time and energy interacting with your bird. Almost all parrots are highly social, so be prepared to spend lots of time with them and making them feel that they are a part of the family.

Exercise

There isn’t any set time necessary for exercising your parrot but do expect to spend time allowing your parrot to stretch and beat its wings and encourage climbing, walking, and playing. Because they are intelligent and sensitive birds, keeping them happy and entertained is absolutely a necessary part of being a parrot owner.

Training

Training the parrot is not only doable but necessary. It increases the social interaction between owner and bird, which will help his general happiness and well-being as well as create a stronger bond between you.

Many tricks that parrots can learn are similar to most dog tricks, such as fetching and playing dead. It does take more patience and will take longer to train a parrot in comparison to a dog, but considering how long they live, you’ll have the time, and it’s worth it.

Health & Care

The parrot’s diet consists mainly of pellets, fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, and daily snacks such as seeds, berries, bananas, and perhaps some greens.

You need to be sure to find an appropriate cage that’s the right size for your parrot (here’s a table that outlines the right size cage for different sized parrots) and expect to regularly clean it (once a week for general clean and a deep clean once a month).

Grooming is usually done by the parrot himself but misting him with a spray bottle as well as beak and nail trims are part of a regular grooming routine. Some parrot owners trim the wings, but that will be a choice you’ll have to make that will be dependent on your parrot’s safety (if you have young children or other pets).

hyacinth macaw
Image Credit: martinkukla865, Pixabay

There’s a number of health issues that are species-dependent, but some of the more common problems are:

You’ll need to be sure to find a vet that specializes in parrots and make yourself familiar with some of the symptoms and signs of the more common health problems for your particular species of parrot.

Suitable for:

Because parrots are so diverse, you’ll need to study up on what kind of parrot will suit your household the best. For example, the Cockatiel is great for families with children and beginner bird owners, but Cockatoos are suited to more experienced bird owners. Do your homework on the parrot you’re the most drawn to before committing to purchasing one.

You shouldn’t get a parrot if you can’t handle mess (they are known to be messy eaters), can’t deal with a lot of noise (some parrots are tremendously loud), aren’t able to commit to a pet for as long as 60 years, if you can’t spend time interacting with him, and aren’t able to spend a lot of money (they are expensive to take care of).

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Parakeet Overview

Parakeets also go by the commonly known name Budgie, which is short for Budgerigar. In a nutshell, Parakeets are also Budgies and parrots! As already mentioned, Parakeets come from Australia and live in colonies of birds when in the wild. Their lifespan is 5 to 10 years, but if taken care of well, some Parakeets might live as long as 20 years.

These small/medium birds are one of the least expensive of all parrots, so you can expect to spend approximately $20 to $40, but some of the more exotic birds (such as the Plum-Headed Parakeet) will cost more ($800 to $1,000). Finding a Parakeet through a rescue group is another option where the adoption fee might range around $25 to $100 depending on the group and the Parakeet.

Toys for Parakeet_shutterstock_kurhan
Image Credit: kurhan, Shutterstock

Personality / Character 

The Parakeet is a very social bird that will need a companion if you are unable to spend enough time with him. They can prove to be a loving and devoted pet if you give them the attention and patience they need. Overall, the Parakeet is quite gentle but can get riled up if provoked, just like any pet. They are happy, playful little birds that love to chirp and sing, and they do have the ability to mimic human speech.

Exercise

The Parakeet is a very energetic bird that should be given the opportunity to exercise inside and outside of his cage. Inside, ensure he has accessories for perching and climbing, which can also include swings. If you let your Parakeet out, be sure that the space is safe – no open windows or doors (which also includes drawers and cabinets).

Training

You can definitely train the Parakeet to do a few tricks such as playing dead, sitting on your shoulder, and talking. If you want to train your Parakeet to sleep at night, you should consistently place a cage cover over the cage every night, and he will learn to stay quiet and sleep all night.

Health & Care

The Parakeet diet is composed of grains, seeds, fruit, vegetables, and legumes (and sometimes insects). As a general rule, you should provide your Parakeet with about 70% grains, seed, and pellets; up to 20% legumes (for protein); and up to 20% of fruit and vegetables.

The cage should be 20” x 20” x 30” at the smallest and for a single bird, and the bar spacing no larger than 0.5 inches. Regular cleaning of the cage is the same as the parrot – light cleaning twice a week and a thorough cleaning typically once a month.

Grooming your Parakeet is not much different from grooming a parrot. Provide them with a small bowl of lukewarm water so they can bathe themselves or mist them with a spray bottle about twice a week. You’ll also need to keep their nails and beaks trimmed, which can be accomplished by a vet that is experienced with birds.

The health problems that Parakeets are prone to include cancerous tumors in their reproductive organs and kidneys, goiter (hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid), psittacosis (parrot fever), obesity (if you feed your Parakeet seed as their primary food), which can lead to fatty liver disease, and scaly face/leg mites. If your Parakeet seems unwell, you need to take him to the vet as soon as possible.

Two Parakeets
Image Credit: Elsemargriet, Pixabay

Suitable for:

Parakeets are great for families with children, as long as you teach your children how to handle your Parakeet gently. If your Parakeet is young, you should be able to train him and allow him to adjust to your family, particularly if you have other pets. You need to be prepared to spend as much time as possible with Parakeets as they are very social birds. If you are unable to give your Parakeet enough of your time, you should buy another one so both Parakeets can keep each other company.

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Which Breed is Right for You?

Because Parakeets are actually parrots, there are a number of similarities. Parakeets tend to be smaller than parrots, but they have the ability to talk, and have the same grooming and diet needs. Some parrots won’t be an appropriate bird for the first-time bird owner, but the Parakeet does make an excellent beginner bird.

Parrots are generally loud and while Parakeets do make a lot of noise, they aren’t quite as loud as the average parrot. The Parakeet isn’t as long-lived as the average parrot either. You need about a 10-to-20-year commitment for the Parakeet in comparison to a parrot where they might be around for your entire lifetime. Lastly, the larger parrots will need larger cages and consequently, you’ll need a larger space for them while Parakeets won’t need the same amount of space.

Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of what kind of bird you would like to bring home. They both have their advantages and disadvantages and they’ll both bring fun and companionship into your home.

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.