To date, the
majority of palaeontological evidence is based on very few genetic studies. Fossil parrot remains are rare and those that have been identified are
often the subject of much debate. Early Psittaciformes have mainly been found
in the northern hemisphere (Walton-on-the-Naze, England;Messel, Germany, etc.),
with only a few, relatively recent, essentially modern parrot remains being
found within their present range (mainly in tropical and sub-tropical
Australasia and South America). These northern European specimens are thought
to be by some, as a sister clade to modern Psittaciformes as they lack reduced furculas
and the curved bill, but do possess the zygodactyl feet.
The earliest fossil originates from the Early Eocene period approximately 55 million years ago, however some fragmentary fossils, such as a mandible bone, which design is only known to be attributed to the Psittaciforme order, dates from as early as the Late Cretaceous (65 Million years), however whether this truly represents an early parrot, remains highly controversial.
One could argue that the reason behind the lack of knowledge concerning Psittaciformes is the very low fossil number available to work with. There are several reasons for this low number including the fragility of bird bones (birds have hollow bones) and the fossilisation process itself. It is unlikely that terrestrial environments like subtropical forests and the lifestyle of arboreal birds would allow for the fossilisation process to occur after death. Sites with high success rate of fossilisation will be normally be of an aquatic environment with unusual sedimentary deposition rate, such as the Messal oil shale's of Germany. In the fact that majority of Avifauna fossils are represented by aquatic/semi aquatic species.
|Million years||Epoch||Name of fossil found||Location|
|0.15 - 0.0 Ma||Holocene||Lophopsittacus mauritianus||Mauritius|
|1.8 - 0.15 Ma||Pleistocene||Rhynchopsitta phillipsi (Late Pleistocene)||Mexico|
|1.4 - 1.8 Ma||Pliocene||Nandayus vorohuenseis (Late Pliocene)||Buenos Aires Province, Argentina|
|23.7 - 1.4 Ma||Miocene||Cacatua ??? (Early Miocene)
|36.6 - 23.7 Ma||Oligocene|
|57.8 - 36.6 Ma||Eocene||Qeurcypsitta ivani and sundrei (Upper Eocene)
Psittacopes lepidus (Mid Eocene)
Pulchrapollia gracillis (Lower Eocene)
|Phoshorites dy Quercy, France
London Clay, Essex Britain
|65 - 57.8 Ma||Palaeocene||None recorded|
|144-65 Ma||Cretaceous||Parrot mandible???, Loriidae?||Lance Formation- Wyoming USA|