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How Many Species of Parrots Are There?

There are approximately 350 species of parrots still alive today. Sadly, many species have become extinct primarily due to habitat destruction and over-trapping for the pet trade.

Biologists have devised ways of naming and classifying all living organisms according to shared anatomical and physiological characteristcs. The system they use puts each living thing into seven groups organized from the most general to the most specific. The chart below illustrates how parrots are classified into the top five groups (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order and Family) and the approximate number of living species in each group.

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The majority of parrots belong to either the Psittacidae (true parrots) or the Cacatuidae (cockatoos) family. The parrots in the Nestoridae family are a very small group of parrots (Kea, Kaka and Kakapo) that are unique to New Zealand. The true parrots are known for their very vibrant colors whereas cockatoos are primarily white or black. There are also other anatomical differences between these two families. For example, cockatoos have a moveable crest of feathers on their heads and gall bladders while true parrots do not.

Families are further subdivided into genus and species classifications. Eighty (80) genera are used to classify the approximately 350 parrot species contained within the three families. A few examples of genus and species classifications are Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus(Hyacinth Macaw) and Aratinga solstitialis (Sun Conure).

What's up with these funny names?

Scientific names are internationally recognized names given to all living organisms. Sometimes there are several common names for one species of parrot, but each species only has one scientific name. The common name is what is typically used in general conversation. For example, the Budgerigar (also commonly called a Budgie or a Shell Parakeet) has the scientific name "Melopsittacus undulatus." The scientific name of a species always has two parts. The first part of a scientific name represents the genus an animal is in, and the second part represents the species. The genus is always spelled with a capital letter and in italics. The species is always spelled with a lower case letter and in italics.

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