As summer starts to give way to fall, many people start thinking about the leaves changing colors, pumpkins, hayrides, and Halloween. Mummies, witches, ghouls, and skeletons start popping up in our minds and inside stores, making this time of year the perfect time to talk about Dracula parrots.
If you’ve never heard of a Dracula parrot, you’re not alone. This member of the avian family is not a common pet like the macaw, African grey, or conure. In this article, we’ll look at 13 interesting facts about the unique Dracula parrot, including how it got its spooky name.
13 Facts About Dracula Parrots
1. Dracula parrot is a nickname
The Dracula parrot earned its nickname because of its unusual look. The real name of this parrot, Psittrichas fulgidus, is Pesquet’s parrot. However its sharply hooked bill, vulture-like head, and black and blood red coloring that resembles a vampires cloak all combine to remind people of the iconic Count Dracula.
2. Dracula parrots have their own genus
Speaking of its scientific name, the Dracula parrot is the only member of the genus Psittrichas. The word is a combination of the Greek words for parrot and hair.
Dracula parrots are true parrots belonging to the superfamily Psittacoidea. That category is divided into three families: Psittacinae (containing the African grey parrot and others), Psittaculidae (encompassing lovebirds, lorikeets, and budgies), and Psittrichasiidae. And that family is divided into two subfamilies, one of which contains the Dracula parrot.
3. Dracula parrots have striking plumage
One of the ways to tell Dracula parrots apart from any other bird is through their coloring. These parrots have a black or dark grey head, chest, back, and tail, with bright crimson on their inner wings and belly. Dracula parrots look like they’re wearing a luxurious red cloak around their shoulders. Males and females look primarily the same, except males can have a small red mark behind their eyes. Unfortunately their striking red feathers are attractive to poachers, which has greatly threatened their population.
4. Dracula parrots are bald
The reason these parrots look like a cross between a true parrot and a vulture is because of their heads. In fact a second nickname they have, aside from Dracula parrot, is vulturine parrot. While they have black/grey feathers starting behind their eyes and descending down their backs, the Dracula parrot has a bald face and forehead. However, the skin in that area is dark grey to black, blending in closely with the coloring of their feathers. The reason for this bald face can be found in the next fact about their diet.
5. Dracula parrots primarily eat one thing
Just because Dracula parrots resemble vultures with their bald heads and elongated hook beaks doesn’t mean they drink blood, or even eat meat. Dracula parrots aren’t interested in blood at all. They are fruit-eating birds that almost exclusively feeds on only a few species of figs. The bird also eats blossoms and likely drinks nectar.
Scientists believe this particular parrot developed a bald head over time for the same reason vultures evolved that way — cleanliness. Figs are sticky fruits, so having feathers around the head and face would constantly get matted and stuck together with the sticky fruit pulp.
6. They live in a single region
The reason you’ve probably never heard of Dracula parrots is because they live in only one area of the world, the island of New Guinea. The species sticks to the cloud forests of the island in the lower mountains and foothills. Dracula parrots are not migratory birds but likely follow the areas where figs grow and ripen.
7. Dracula parrots are vulnerable
Sadly, the Dracula parrot’s population numbers are decreasing due to loss of habitat and hunting. IUCN Red List categorizes them as vulnerable, just between near threatened and endangered. The organization’s last assessment was in October 2017, so it’s unclear what their numbers look like today. However, the group stated that Dracula parrots have disappeared from certain areas and reported they are the most vulnerable species in the area.
People hunt the Dracula parrot for their beautiful feathers and sometimes their meat. Since their broods are small, it’s difficult for the birds to increase their numbers. That said, their location is remote, which might help their population. At last count, the number of mature adults was somewhere between 20,000 and 49,999.
8. Their clutches are small
Parrots typically lay several eggs depending on the species, averaging between two and eight at a time. But not this species. Dracula parrots fall below the norm, only laying one or two eggs per clutch. Those low numbers coupled with the declining population make it essential that all the hatchlings survive.
9. Dracula parrots hide
Well, not exactly. Dracula parrots hide their nests, though, building large structures inside hollow trees. The location keeps the eggs and hatchlings safer from predators. Since the species lives in such a remote location, little is known about its specific breeding habits. However, if they follow other parrots, the female Dracula parrot sits on her eggs in the nest for 18 to 30 days before the little ones hatch.
10. They are large parrots
The Dracula parrot isn’t small by any means. They measure about 18 inches from tip to tail. To give you an idea of how big that is, African greys measure around 13 inches and eclectus parrots come in at 14 inches. The Dracula parrot is heavy too, weighing nearly a kilogram — about two pounds.
11. Dracula parrots aren’t loners
Although the species sits alone in its scientific genus, that doesn’t mean the bird necessarily likes to be alone. They can be found alone or in pairs, but they also roost in groups of 10 or sometimes up to 14. Dracula parrots sit on high bare branches for long periods. When they move, this species doesn’t use its beak like other parrots. Instead, they jump from twig to twig, flicking their broad tail as they move about.
12. The parrot’s call is unique
Dracula parrots have a call that’s described as harsh and raspy, which fits well with their nickname. Some also say their sound is more of a growl. No matter how people perceive the noise, one thing is for sure: They’re especially noisy during flight, letting out a long scream as they go.
13. Dracula parrots live a long time
Like many other members of the parrot family, the Dracula parrot has a long lifespan — though not immortal like its namesake. Estimates say this beautiful bird lives between 20 and 40 years. While parrots in captivity can live quite a bit longer than that, decades in the wild is on the longer side of average for similar birds.
“The Dracula parrot is intimidating,” Bec Crew, Australian Geographic, December 9, 2019, australiangeographic.com.au
“Parrot Facts: Habits, Habitat & Species,” Alina Bradford, Live Science, July 24, 2014, livescience.com
Kim is an avid bird watcher and owner in South Carolina. She loves identifying, studying, and feeding her feathered friends in their natural habitats. She also has first-hand experience as the owner of several species of exotic birds.