The parrot family is one big family, say biologists.1 Well, technically an order, the Order Psittaciformes, comprising over 80 recognized genera and hundreds of different species, from the kea to the cockatoo, parakeet and lory, macaw and budgerigar, lorikeet and kakapo, bluebonnet, conure, cockatiel, corella, rosella, hanging parrot, king parrot, singing parrot, pygmy parrot, guaiabero, racquet-tailed parrot, lovebird and parrotlet. Their shared distinctive characteristics, such as stocky bodies (with relatively large heads on short necks), strongly curved bills, ceres (waxy2 structures surrounding the nares (nostrils) at the base of the bill), and zygodactyl feet (two toes forward and two backwards), the parrots are readily distinguishable from all other orders of birds.
Evolutionists have a problem, however. They can’t find the parrot’s closest relative. Sure, there have been plenty of suggestions over the years, citing as evidence one or a few shared physical characteristics. E.g. the owl, falcon, or hawk (because of their having curved bills); the woodpecker, cuckoo, or mousebird (zygodactyl feet); the canary (vocal learning); and the pigeon (fleshy ceres and frugivory (fruit-eating)). But as the arguments for or against these and other candidates for the parrot’s closest relative have raged, and biologists turned to new tools such as molecular and genetic studies, more “contradictory results” were reported, generating further confusion.1 In the words of one research team that had included representatives of all the nominated ‘closest relative’ bird orders in their molecular analysis of parrot genetic data:
“Our various phylogenies produced no consistent placement of outgroups as sister to the parrots, reinforcing the idea that they have no close sister relationship with modern birds.”3
A flexible hinge between the skull and the upper mandible gives the parrot bill extra mobility, compared to other birds. And extra force, too—the parrot bill can crush the hardest seeds and husks, with the lower mandible acting as a shearing edge.
“The identity of their closest relative remains a mystery awaiting further investigation.”1
Why should this be such a mystery? It’s all to do with their assumptions that there should even be a ‘close relative’.
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