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Ankle bone reveals one species of parrot used to call Arizona its home

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, December 8, 2022 - 1:06pm

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thick-billed parrot
Getty Images
A thick-billed parrot

It turns out, parrots aren't only found in rainforests or on a pirate's shoulder — at one time, they were native to Arizona, too.

John Moretti started with a bag of bones leftover at a museum and ended up finding out that one type of parrot, at least, was native to northern Arizona’s pine forests.

Moretti is a paleontologist and doctoral candidate at the University of Texas.

The Show spoke with him to learn about his discovery, and what was already known about these kinds of colorful birds in the ancient Southwest.

Parrot ankle bone found in New Mexico
John Moretti/UT Jackson School of Geosciences
The tarsometatarsus, or ankle bone, of a thick-billed parrot. The bone was collected at an archeological dig in New Mexico during the 1950s. UT doctoral student John Moretti identified the bone as belonging to a parrot.

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