Pirates and Parrots: Why Parrots Are The Best Pets For Pirates?

When you think of pirates, what do you picture? Treasure maps, an aye-patch, and parrots on their shoulder – the typical pirate look.

Why are parrots always associated with pirates?

It’s not just because parrots have bright colors that match the pirate’s garb; parrots are also intelligent creatures with many skills that would be an asset to any pirate crew!

This blog post will discuss why pirates love parrots and what parrot breeds they prefer the most!

The story behind Pirates and Parrots

The classic image of pirates are shown with parrots might come from cartoons and comic strips, but the inspiration was actually from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, published in 1883.

The beloved pet of cook Long John Silver, the parrot squawks “Pieces of eight!” with annoying regularity and becomes the “watch bird” for the pirates after the miscreant’s takeover of the treasure hunters’ fort on the island.

What’s cooler than that? A parrot completes the pirate costume along with the ubiquitous eyepatch, which is no wonder parrots and pirates are so closely connected.

Do Pirates Carry Parrots On Their Ships In Real Life? 

While cats and dogs were common ship pets to keep the rats away, parrots were luxury items and often kept as a status symbol. 

The evidence suggests many pirates kept parrots and other animals, as many sailors did.

In fact, parrots were most common among the Central American pirates who spent some time ashore, logging in places, not under the direct control of Spain, such as Belize, which possessed large parrot populations.

What did pirates see in parrots as pets?

It was common for seamen who traveled in the tropics to bring back birds and animals as souvenirs of their travels.

Parrots were particularly popular because they were:

  • Colorful
  • The ability to be taught to speak
  • Easier to look after onboard ships
  • Low maintenance
  • Never gone missing at sea
  • a symbol of status and prestige aboard pirate ships
  • Their amusement during periods of boredom on long journeys.

What type of parrots did Pirates have?

Not only that parrots made good pets, but many pirates were willing to put down hard cash buying an abundance of parrots, presumably to sell or trade when they reached land.

They had a ready venue to sell their booty, for there were established bird markets in London and Paris in the eighteenth century.

Exotic birds from the New World presumably were attractive purchases for the wealthy and status-seeking.

Pirates would have parrots of colorful feathers and their mimicking ability.

Types of parrots that pirates admired:

  • Macaws
  • African Greys
  • Eclectus parrots
  • Indian parakeets
  • Lilac-Crowned Amazon

The most popular type of parrot among pirates was a macaw, which is a parrot that originates from South America. These parrots are known for their colorful feathers and their ability to learn to speak.

Larger parrots like the Amazons were typically used as watch-birds on pirate ships, while smaller parrots might be kept in cages for their song and small size to better adapt them to life aboard ship.

Why Do Parrots Always Sit On Pirates’ shoulders?

The parrot’s perch on the shoulder of a pirate was symbolic.

The parrots had become a status symbol for pirates, similar to how wearing an expensive watch or owning a car is today.

Pirates are shown with parrots sitting on their shoulders because of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island, where the villainous Long John Silver has a talking green parrot named Captain Flint.

Treasure Island is the inspiration for almost all the pirates of modern film and fiction; only Peter Pan comes close to it for its influence on how we think of pirates today.

Besides that, a parrot sitting on a pirate’s shoulder made them good watch-birds that could spot ships on the horizon.

It sometimes acted as an alarm that warned a sleeping pirate by screeching loudly when someone approached his quarters.


Now you know why parrots are so popular with pirates. They’re fun pets that require minimal care and make excellent companions on the boat or at home! Have you considered having your own parrots? Stay tuned. We will have more great pieces of content coming.

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