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 (but rarely mate for life), 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? They are usually monogamous, they focus on tending to their young, and they have interesting mating behavior with their seasonal hormones and methods for attracting a mate! Keep reading to learn more!
Attracting a Mate
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.
That being said, parrots rarely mate for life. Monogamy is convenient for parrots because once they pair with another parrot of the opposite sex, males don’t have to expend energy wooing and finding a mate for future mating seasons. Likewise, females don’t have to waste time assessing potential suitors once they’ve decided on a mate. However, parrots will remain monogamous for mating purposes only. If one of the individuals is unable to reproduce or passes away, the surviving parrot will usually find another partner to mate with.
Factors that make one attracted to another parrot would include plumage, personality, territory, abundance of food, and reproductive ability.
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! Males also try to woo females by finding prospective nesting sites, which females inspect before deciding to accept the male.
Factors that Commonly Attract Mates
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. Parrots have vision that’s different from ours, so the females likely observe males in different ways than we do. This is why females can identify a male, and vice versa, in species that display no sexual dimorphism to us.
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 provide food is also a good indicator as a suitable mate showcasing their ability to feed their offspring. Allofeeding by the male (passing food from their crop to a female) is a major courtship behavior in many parrot species.
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!
When Do Parrots Mate?
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 usually by a certain geographic event (length of day, exposure to sunlight for certain durations, rainfall, etc.). It is also during this time that females are attracted to males, no wonder why the males work so hard to impress the females!
In addition to the parrots’ behavior, their mating season is usually timed so that it 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.
After the courtship behavior by the male and female, we now move on to how they actually mate. Parrots, like most birds, reproduce sexually, where reproduction is a result of copulation between a male and female. Though some parrot species (such as the cockatiel) display sexual dimorphism, others (such as most macaws) do not.
Unlike mammals, male parrots do not have a penis. They have a small, chamber-like opening called a cloaca into which the testes release sperm. Interestingly, females also have a cloaca in which they receive the male’s sperm. The cloaca is the primary chamber for breeding among parrots and is present in both males and females!
However, fertilization doesn’t occur in the cloaca of the female. The female stores the male’s sperm in specialized locations known as sperm storage tubules, and after mating, the sperm quickly moves up to the vagina and further up the reproductive tract. The cloaca is merely the temporary storage and common passageway for feces, urine, urates, eggs (in females), and sperm (in males).
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 a functional ovary, oviduct, uterus, and vagina with specialized sections that are involved in the formation of the various parts of egg and sperm storage.
Cloacal Kissing: How Parrots Mate
During copulation, parrots perform what is known as “cloacal kissing”. 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 sperm 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
Like all avian species, parrots lay eggs. This is usually done a few days after mating, and clutch size varies by species. Most parrot species only begin incubation after a certain amount of eggs have been laid, but some incubate their eggs while continuing to lay more eggs. As a result, some species have long hatching intervals, while in other species, chicks are usually born in close succession.
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 pushes them to breed, so when the weather is colder, they do not drive themselves to mate.
Reproducing more than a normal number of times (for their respective species) 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. These issues are more common in captivity and are often associated with overnutrition or excess lighting (or both).
Parrots have many similarities with their fellow avian species, but also have unique mating behaviors. They usually stick with one partner for mating purposes, 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
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.