The family Psittacidae or holotropical parrots is one of three families of true parrots. It comprises the roughly 10 species of subfamily Psittacinae (the Old World or Afrotropical parrots) and 157 of subfamily Arinae (the New World or Neotropical parrots), as well as several species that have gone extinct in recent centuries.[1][2] Some of the most iconic birds in the world are represented here, such as the blue-and-yellow macaw among the New World parrots and the grey parrot among the Old World parrots.

Neotropical and Afrotropical parrots
Temporal range: Eocene-Holocene
Ara macao -Fort Worth Zoo-8.jpg
Male scarlet macaw
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Superfamily: Psittacoidea
Family: Psittacidae
Rafinesque, 1815

See text for genera.


All of the parrot species in this family are found in tropical and subtropical zones and inhabit Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean islands, sub-Saharan Africa, the island of Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania. Two parrots, one extinct and the other extirpated, formerly inhabited the United States.[3]

Evolutionary historyEdit

This family probably had its origin early in the Paleogene period, 66–23 million years ago (Mya), after the western half of Gondwana had separated into the continents of Africa and South America, before the divergence of African and New World lineages around 30–35 Mya.[4] The New World parrots, and by implication Old World parrots, last shared a common ancestor with the Australian parrots of the Cacatuidae an estimated 59 Mya.[5]

The data place most of the diversification of psittaciformes around 40 Mya, after the separation of Australia from West Antarctica and South America.[4][6] Divergence of the Psittacidae from the ancestral parrots resulted from a common radiation event from what was then West Antarctica into South America, then Africa, via late Cretaceous land bridges that survived through the Paleogene.[7]


The family Psittacidae was introduced (as Psittacea) by French polymath Constantine Samuel Rafinesque in 1815.[8][9] The recently revised taxonomy of the family Psittacidae, based on molecular studies, recognizes the sister clade relationship of the Old World Psittacini and New World Arini tribes of subfamily Psittacinae,[10] which have been raised to subfamily ranking and renamed Psittacinae and Arinae. Subfamily Loriinae and the other tribes of subfamily Psittacinae are now placed in superfamily Psittacoidea of all true parrots, which includes family Psittacidae.[11]


  1. ^ Leo Joseph, Alicia Toon, Erin E. Schirtzinger, Timothy F. Wright & Richard Schodde. (2012) A revised nomenclature and classification for family-group taxa of parrots (Psittaciformes). Zootaxa 3205: 26–40
  2. ^ "Zoonomen: Zoological Nomenclature Resource".
  3. ^ Forshaw, J. (2000). Parrots of the World, 3rd Ed. Australia: Lansdowne. pp. 303, 385.
  4. ^ a b Schweizer, M.; Seehausen O; Hertwig ST (2011). "Macroevolutionary patterns in the diversification of parrots: effects of climate change, geological events and key innovations". Journal of Biogeography. 38 (11): 2176–2194. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02555.x. PMC 2727385. PMID 18653733.
  5. ^ Tavares, Erika; Yamashita, Miyaki (Jan 2004). "Phylogenetic Relationships Among Some Neotropical Parrot Genera Based on Mitochondrial Sequences". The Auk. 121 (1): 230–242. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2004)121[0230:prasnp];2.
  6. ^ Wright, T.; et al. (Oct 2008). "A Multilocus Molecular Phylogeny of the Parrots (Psittaciformes): Support for a Gondwanan Origin during the Cretaceous". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 25 (10): 2141–2156. doi:10.1093/molbev/msn160. PMC 2727385. PMID 18653733.
  7. ^ Remsen, Van. "Proposal (599) to South American Classification Committee: Revise classification of the Psittaciformes". Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  8. ^ Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel (1815). Analyse de la nature ou, Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés (in French). Palermo: Self-published. p. 64.
  9. ^ Bock, Walter J. (1994). History and Nomenclature of Avian Family-Group Names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. Vol. Number 222. New York: American Museum of Natural History. pp. 140, 252. hdl:2246/830.
  10. ^ Collar, N. (1997). Birds of the World, Vol.4. del Hoyo. p. 241.
  11. ^ Joseph; et al. (2012). "A revised nomenclature and classification for family-group taxa of parrots (Psittaciformes)". Zootaxa. 3205 (3205): 26–40. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3205.1.2.