The fun and educational site for parrot loving kids of all ages!

Parrots in Cartoons

mickeysparrotMickey's Parrot

This very humorous cartoon, released by Disney in 1938, has Mickey and Pluto thinking they are tracking the escaped criminal "Machine Gun Butch" through the house while all the time it is a wandering parrot.  Have fun watching!

 

tweetyTweety Bird

Tweety, an adorable yellow canary, is one of the best loved and best known cartoon birds of all times.   The central theme of Tweety's cartoon episodes is to avoid being eaten by his arch nemesis, Sylvester the Cat, as soon as his owner Granny is out of sight.  Tweety's trademark phrase was "I taut I taw a puddy tat".  Tweety appeared in almost 50 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodie cartoons between 1942 and 1965.  Check out a video of Tweety in action:

 

josecariocaJose Carioca  

Jose carioca is Disney cartoon character that was created in 1943 as a friend of Donald Duck.  Jose was described as "a dapper Brazilian parrot".   In 1944, Disney released the film The Three Caballeros which starred Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and a Mexican rooster named Panchito Pistoles.  Check out the trio singing the song "The Three Cabelleros":

 

 

iagoIago

Iago is a Disney character that first appeared in the movie Alladin in 1992.  Iago resembles a Scarlett macaw and plays the villianous Jafar's henchman.  Take a look at this video that shows some of Iago's funniest moments:

 

Cartoon rioRio

Blu is a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, living a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. Blu and Linda think he's the last of his kind, but when they learn about another Macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the faraway and exotic land to find Jewel, Blu's female counterpart. Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by a group of bungling animal smugglers. With the help of street smart Jewel, and a group of wise-cracking and smooth-talking city birds, Blu escapes. Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return to Linda, the best friend a bird ever had.  Take a peek at the movie trailer below!

Did you know that the movie Rio was inspired by a true story?  Read about it Rio, the True Story!

 

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Parrots in Culture

Parrots have captivated humans throughout the centuries with their beauty, intellect, personality, and highly social nature. The awe we feel towards these marvelous creatures has been reflected in many aspects of human culture. Specifically, human and bird relationships have expressed through legends, myths, religious teachings, literary writings, art, music, ceremonies, and other cultural activities.

Here are a few examples of these expressions:

lineas nasca loro peru

The Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines, discovered in 1927, are the most extraordinary legacy left by a culture that flourished over 2,000 years ago. One of the most famous drawings is of a parrot.

These geoglyphs, are a series of complex designs, some miles long, which can only be seen in their true dimension from the sky. The pre-Columbian Nazca culture is not believed to have been capable of flight, but the question still remains as to how they crafted the drawings, what technology they used and what purpose the lines served. This style group is characterized by animal and human figures of very low precision, constructed using both the clearing method of removing desert pavement, and digging more pronounced trenches. These figures are placed on hillside inclines, probably to be viewed from the plateau floor as guide/directional-signs for trade routes.

Many of the geoglyphs are constructed using a continuous line style: where a single line forms the complete figure without ever crossing itself. This has lead many scientists to believe that these symbols served a ceremonial purpose - that the people of these ancient cultures "walked" the lines to perform some ritual - starting at a point, then following the entire shape of the symbol until its end.

petroglyph

Petroglyphs

The depiction of parrots in the petroglyphs are indications of the long distance trade routes between the native cultures of of the American Southwest.

Among the birds pictured in rock art of the American southwest are the figures of some birds that are not native to North America but which had been imported from Meso-America, specifically Amazon parrots and macaws. These birds along with other items were imported from the jungles of southern Mexico, more than 600 miles to the south.

Macaws in particular were of special, perhaps ceremonial, importance. Remains of macaws and parrots have been found in abundance at Chaco Canyon and other sites proving that not just the feathers, but the birds themselves had been traded for.

There were basically two species of Macaw that were prehistorically imported into the American southwest from Mesoamerica. These are the Military Macaw (Ara militaris), and the Scarlett Macaw (Ara macao).

Native American societies prized feathers for decorative purposes as well as for their perceived symbolic and spiritual meanings. For any people who highly prized feathers the feathers of Mexican macaws would have been valued highly indeed for the beauty of their bright colors.

Pueblo peoples associated macaws with the rainbow because of their bright colors and, as birds, they belonged in the sky. The multicolored plumage of macaws also suggested the many colors of kernels found on Indian maize. Thus it is not surprising that macaw and parrot feathers were important for the creation of "Corn Mother" fetishes. Pueblo peoples create "Corn Mother" fetishes, based on a perfect head of corn bundled within a cluster of feathers. Macaw feathers were also highly prized for the creation of "prayer sticks."

1886 1 907In South America the brightly colored feathers of parrots, toucans, and macaws have been used to make headdresses since before the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century. The use of feathers by indigenous peoples is ubiquitous throughout South America. The primary use of feathers is in the creation of ornamental ritual attire. Many of these cultures believe that feathers provide spiritual strength and protection. The Bororo tribe believes that birds are messengers between the terrestrial world and their ancestors in the spiritual world. This bright blue headdress is decorated with macaw feathers. It belonged to a chief and was collected between 1826 and 1829.

The Mayan Creation Myth held an important role for the parrot:

"In the beginning was only Tepeu and Gucumatz (Feathered Serpent). These two sat together and thought, and whatever they thought came into being. They thought earth, and there it was. They thought mountains, and so there were. They thought trees, and sky, and animals etc, and each came into being. But none of these things could praise them, so they formed more advanced beings of clay. But these beings fell apart when they got wet, so they made beings out of wood, but they proved unsatisfactory and caused trouble on the earth. The gods sent a great flood to wipe out these beings, so that they could start over. With the help of Mountain Lion, Coyote, Parrot, and Crow they fashioned four new beings. These four beings performed well and are the ancestors of the Quiché."

250px-Kamadeva1

Meenakshi-deityThe Indian parakeet is a recurring theme in Indian mythology and folktales. The parrot in Hindu mythology is associated with Kama, the god of love. The reason for this could be its green feathers and red beak which associates it with fertility. Red beak represents the red earth before the rain and the green feathers represent the green earth after the rains. Red represents unfulfilled desire, full of yearning, while green represents fulfilled desire, full of joy. Kama is most often depicted as riding a parrot.

In many south Indian temples, the Goddess holds a parrot in her hand. The goddess Meenakshi, the "Fish-eyed" One. She is accompanied by a bird, usually a parrot.

 

 

Folktales

Folktales featuring parrots have originated from England, Switzerland, France, Pakistan, Iran, Italy, Thailand, Mongolia and Ancient Egypt....just to name a few! Unfortunately, as folktales go, many have often don't have happy endings. Here are a few that turn out well for the parrot:

Many Buddhist stories have also featured parrots, here are a few examples:

Art & Music

Pet birds have been depicted in many well known works of art and have even been honored with musical compositions:

  • In the 1700's, when Mozart's pet starling died, he held a parody funeral attended by mourners who sand hymns and listened to a poem composed by Mozart fondly in his birds' honor. Some postulate that the bird influenced Mozart's creative output and that Mozart's composition "Musical Joke" (K.522) was a transcription of a pet bird's musical flights. Listen to "Musical Joke" here.
  • In the 1800's, a French composer, Alkan created his most notorious piece "Funeral March on the Death of a Parrot." Alkan's own parrot memorial is an incredibly witty, clever, and marvellously silly piece of music, and is actually a parody of Rossini, who had a penchant for parrots. Listen to his composition here.

Festivals

Parrots are also celebrated through various festivals in their countries of origin:

  • Venezuela holds an annual parrot festival to raise awareness about the Yellow-Shouldered Parrot (Amazona barbadensis) that is under threat from illegal poaching and loss of habitat through sand mining.
  • Colombia sponsors an annual "Reconcile with Nature" campaign to highlight the plight of the Yellow-eared parrot due to the destruction of the national tree, the Quindo Wax Palm, which the sole habitat of this parrot.

May 31st marks the international holiday dedicated to celebrating parrots. World Parrot Day was founded by the World Parrot Trust in 2004 as an event to raise awareness of the threats to captive and wild parrots.

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Parrots in History

 AlexanderGreat    Queen isabella     King Henry 

The beauty, social nature, intelligence and talking ability of parrots has long fascinated humans. Historical records indicate that parrots and other birds with the capacity to talk (mynahs, starlings, ravens) have been kept as pets dating back to the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures.

  • Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics from 4000 years ago depict what appear to be pet birds.
  • In ancient Greece, the mynah was kept among the aristocracy as a pet, and in India, the mynah has been considered sacred for more than 2,000 years, and during a feast day, individual birds were carted through the city by oxen.
  • The earliest known reference to a parrot in European literature is dated 397 BC, and is found in Ctesia's work Indica in which the author provides a description of what is now known as a plum-headed parakeet. He described a bird that could speak an "Indian" language.
  • Aristotle (385-322 BC) described a bird which he called Psittacae whose name was the basis for the scientific name for the parrot family – Psittacine.
  • The Alexandrine Parakeet is named for Alexander the Great brought parrots to Europe from India with specimens of parrots around 327 B.C.
  • In ancient Rome, pet parrots were considered luxuries by wealthy Romans and they were often housed in cages made from precious metals, tortoise-shell and ivory. Unfortunately, parrots were also considered a delicacy during this time. The Romans introduced parrots to much of the rest of Europe and trade in parrots became a regular business.
  • Archaeologists have determined that Native American tribes in the Southwest were involved in the trade of parrots. Parrot's remains discovered in the Chaco Canyon area suggests trade with Mexico and the ancient Toltecs (850 – 1120 AD).
  • In the Middle Ages, parrots were owned by the wealthy. They were valued by rulers such as Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250), whose favorite was an Umbrella cockatoo that was given to him by the Sultan of Babylon.
  • Parrots were often kept by royalty and even Pope Martin V (1417-1431) appointed a Keeper of Parrots at the Vatican. Reportedly, there is a room at the Vatican named "Camera di Papagallo" – the Parrot's room (from the habit of popes keeping a parrot there).
  • In 1493, Columbus returned to Spain from the New World with a pair of Cuban Amazons as a gift for Queen Isabella. With the discovery of the New Worlds, the trade in live parrots expanded.
  • It is told in some journals of Spanish generals, that tame parrots kept by Caribbean Islanders warned at least one native village of the approach of Spanish conquistadors allowing the villagers' time to escape into the jungle.
  • In the sixteenth Century, Henry VIII of England kept an African grey parrot at Hampton Court. (1509-1547) that reportedly amused itself by calling the boatman from across the water to the Palace who then had to be paid for their efforts.
  • The Duchess of Richmond and Lennox was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1702 with her beloved parrot.
  • Pirates and Parrots?

By the time of the Golden Age of Piracy (1680 – 1730) there was a well established trade in parrots. Usually animals aboard a ship were used as provisions rather than as pets but fortunately parrots weren't a favorite meal. It is thought that the pirate & parrot cliché originated from Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island". However, the historical journal of Pirate Captain William Dampier describes that in certain cases pirates actually did take parrots on board, most likely because they wanted to sell them at a profit to the high society of Europe. In Dampier's journal it is mentioned that parrots were stored along with other animals and provisions on the ship, while anchoring at a Caribbean island:

"The tame Parrots we found here were the largest and fairest Birds of their kind that I ever saw in the West Indies. Their colour was yellow and red, very coursly mixt; and they would prate very prettily; and there was scarce a Man but what sent aboard one or two of them. So that with Provision, Chests, Hencoops and Parrot-Cages, our Ships were full of Lumber, with which we intended to sail."

  • Other famous bird owners of the time included: Marie Antoinette 1755-1793 (African Grey) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791 (Starling). When Mozart's pet starling died, he held a parody funeral attended by mourners who sand hymns and listened to a poem composed by Mozart fondly in his birds' honor:

A little fool lies here
Whom I held dear—
A starling in the prime
Of his brief time
Whose doom it was to drain
Death's bitter pain.
Thinking of this, my heart
Is riven apart.
Oh reader! Shed a tear,
You also, here.
He was not naughty, quite,
But gay and bright,
And under all his brag
A foolish wag.
This no one can gainsay
And I will lay
That he is now on high,
And from the sky,
Praises me without pay
In his friendly way.
Yet unaware that death
Has choked his breath,
And thoughtless of the one
Whose rime is thus well done.

  • Queen Victoria (1837-1901) had an African Grey that sang "God Save the Queen".
  • What about birds in the White House? In the early days of the republic, birds were popular First Pets.
    • Martha Washington, wife of our 1st President, George Washington (1789-1791), had a parrot "Polly" who George supposedly didn't like. It is said that both George and the parrot kept a close eye on each other when they were in the same room.
    • Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809) had a mockingbird that was trained to ride on his shoulder and take food from his lips.
    • Dolly Madison, wife of James Madison (1809-1817), had a green parrot that was rescued from the White House when it was burned during the War of 1812.
    • Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) owned a parrot "Pol" that was taught to curse in both Spanish and English. A story has been told that the parrot attended Jackson's funeral, where it disrupted the service with a loud string of profanity.
    • Zachary Taylor (1849 - 1850) had a canary named "Johnny Ty".
    • Ulysses S. Grant's (1869-1877) son had a pet parrot.
    • Rutherford Hayes (1877-1881) kept canaries.
    • Grover Cleveland's (1885-1889 and 1893-1897) wife Frances had both canaries and mockingbirds.
    • William McKinley (1897-1901) had a Double Yellow Amazon named "Washington Post"
    • Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) had a Blue & Gold Macaw " as well as a Hyacinth Macaw named "Eli Yale".
    • Warren Harding (1921-1923) kept canaries.
    • Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) had canaries named "Nip," "Tuck," and "Snowflake" as well as a mockingbird.
    • John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) had parakeets named "Bluebell" and Marybelle" as well as a canary named "Robin".
    • Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) had lovebirds.
  • Did you know that parrots played an important role in WW I? In Paris, they had parrots man a post on top of the Eiffel Tower where, due to their incredible sense of hearing, they could detect and warn of the approach of enemy aircraft long before any human ear could hear them.
  • In WW II, Churchill kept company with a Blue & Gold Macaw named Charlie. As of an article written in 2004, Charlie was still alive at the ripe old age of 104. The article stated that Charlie can still be coaxed to repeat favorite sayings, such as "[expletive] Hitler" and "[expletive] the Nazis." Update: although this has been a popular fun "fact" it has recently been disputed by Churchill's daughter, The Lady Soames. In a letter she stated " My father never owned a Macaw in the 1930s or at any other time as far as I am aware. He did own an African Grey Parrot in the mid to late Thirties. I do not know how he acquired it. I cannot remember the parrot's name; it was quite disagreeable and frequently bit those who tried to curry favour with it."

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