Parrots and songbirds
Parrots’ closest relatives are, it turns out, the songbirds. Studies in the last decade showed that the common ancestor of landbirds, which include songbirds, parrots, woodpeckers, owls, eagles and falcons, was an apex predator. Whole-genome analysis dates the evolutionary expansion of birds to the time of the mass extinction event 66 million years ago – it had formerly been thought that they blossomed 10 to 80 million years earlier. Only a few bird lineages survived the mass extinction, and gave rise to the more than 10,000 ‘Neoaves’ species that comprise 95% of all bird species living today. It’s thought that the freed-up ecological niches caused by the extinction allowed rapid species radiation of birds in less than 15 million years, which explains much of modern bird biodiversity.
FULL OF COLOUR Both male (right) and female Eclectus Parrots have strikingly colourful plumages
DISTINCTIVE LOOKS Glossy Black Cockatoos are found in Australia