Hundreds of birds are chirping at Umgeni River Bird Park. Listen. A blue‑fronted Amazon parrot is singing scales. It learned how from its prior owner.

The zoo and breeding center is in Durban, South Africa. Here, many of the parrots are rescues. Their owners were unprepared to take care of them. Parrots are needy birds. They also live a long time. Some live to be 80.

Parrots are smart. They can bond with their owners. No wonder they’re such popular pet birds.

Major Mitchell's cockatoo

Parrots at Risk

Parrots may be popular. Yet they face a lot of dangers. Deforestation and habitat loss are major threats. People take up space and need resources. People cut down rain forest trees, where many parrots live, for building materials.

Warming trends can also change habitats. A changing climate can affect food sources. It can also disrupt breeding cycles. Also, pollution can kill parrots. But the greatest risk of all is from people wanting parrots as pets.

Some parrots are bred in captivity. In the United States, most pet parrots are captive bred. In Latin America, most are taken from the wild.

This blue‑throated macaw is critically endangered.

Parrot Diversity

Parrot species live in ranges on five continents. The Amazon, New Guinea, and Australia have the greatest variety.

North America

South America





Amazon Basin

New Guinea

African gray parrot range

number of parrot species



Palm cockatoos, like this one, only lay one egg every two years.

Parrot Popularity

How do wild parrots end up as pets? Crime groups make billions of dollars trafficking animal parts, for example. These include elephant tusks and rhino horns. Now they have added parrots to their list. One kind of parrot has been known to fetch $30,000.

Today, all but three of the 350 parrot species are protected. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, fights illegal wildlife trade. All 179 member nations have the same goal in mind.

The illegal sale of parrots is worst in Latin America and the Caribbean. Here the laws against it are not strict.

Still, the most desirable parrot comes from Africa. It is called the African gray. This parrot is the best talker of them all. More than a million have been exported legally from countries where they live. Yet, hundreds of thousands more have been taken illegally from rain forests.

African gray parrots

Laws limiting bird trade have closed many markets. Still, thousands of grays are caught in the wild.

In 2016, CITES made a big decision. It added the Africangrayto a list of animals threatened with extinction. To sell the bird, breeders must prove the bird was raised in captivity and not caught in the wild.

This Alexandrine parakeet looks like it is wearing a mask.