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Eclectus ParrotFamily: Psittacidae "Holly" and "Polly"
Female and Male - breeding pair of Eclectus ParrotsEclectus roratusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Gary Totty
Eclectus are real show stoppers with their beautiful, vibrant coloring!
The lovely Eclectus parrots Eclectus roratus are attractive and intelligent birds. They are some of the most brilliantly colored of all the parrot species, and they are also some of the most sexually dimorphic. Eclectus that are well socialized when young make very affectionate pet birds and enjoy human attention. They are one of the better talkers and delight in making various sounds heard around the home, such as the microwave or the telephone.
Eclectus Parrots have a laid back personality that their humans adore. They are quite content to sit on a perch for hours at a time playing with their toys. They do not like commotion and they do not react well to it. They are calm birds in captivity, but will display a pensive nature when faced with new things or situations. They do not adapt easily to new situations or environments so its' human must be patient and adjust to having a somewhat shy, three year old child-type companion. They can be very territorial of their cage area. So should be removed and placed on a perch for extensive time periods, at regular intervals and preferably daily.
The Eclectus personality has been misunderstood. Many have said this species is boring, dull, lethargic and even stupid. This is not the case. The Eclectus exhibiting these behaviors is showing its reaction to stress. The Eclectus is an intelligent bird and when taught properly, they are capable of cognitive behavior from a very young age.
The Eclectus is not a demanding bird and is relatively easy to care for; however, they prefer a daily routine. They are slow to adjust or adapt to new things. If you are providing your Eclectus with a new toy, for example, introduce it to him outside the cage. Then let him see it outside the cage for several days before you hang it in the cage. They love new toys but they will stress at a rapid change in their environment.
Homes with children, plenty of company, and lots of play and activity is not the best home for an Eclectus. But they do make a good pet for someone who lives alone, rarely has company, and where the environment and daily routine does not change. These parrots can also be rather noisy and are best suited to environments where their loud calls are not a bother.
Female Eclectus are the dominant gender. Consequently females tend to be louder and more moody than the males. When a female reaches breeding age, she may become more aggressive. She may also become occupied with checking out nooks and crannies around the house or aviary, looking for potential nesting spots.
To learn more about parrot care, see:
Bird Care: How to Take Care of a Pet Bird
The Eclectus parrots are found in the northern parts of Australia, New Guinea, Soloman Island, Maluki Islands, and other outlying Pacific islands of eastern Indonesia. There is only one living species in the Eclectus genus, Eclectus roratus However there have been fossil records discovered found on the islands of Tonga and Vanuatu of a similar species, though with smaller wings, Oceanic Eclectus Parrot Eclectus infectus, which is now extinct.
The Eclectus parrot has evolved into at least 10 subspecies, four of which are available in the pet market. Currently six subspecies are described. Experts have not yet determined it some of the others are true subspecies or possible hybrids. Differences in the subspecies are specific to the location they came from in the Pacific Islands and include size, head coloration, and brightness of plumage.
The females in each subspecies appear quite similar, but the males vary widely in their markings. When they were first brought to the United States, many did not see differences in the coloring between the subspecies and so the Eclectus parrot was hybridized while bred in captivity, which has led to variations in coloring.
The four Eclectus subspecies most commonly seen in captivity and available in the pet market are the Grand, the Vosmaeri, the Solomon Island and the Red-sided:
- Subspecies: Eclectus roratus roratus, known as the Grand Eclectus
- Subspecies: Eclectus roratus vosmaeri, known as the Vosmaeri's Eclectus or Vos Eclectus
- Subspecies: Eclectus roratus solomonensis, known as the Solomon Island Eclectus Parrot
- Subspecies: Eclectus roratus polychloros, known as the Red-sided Eclectus
The Eclectus are quite plentiful in many of their native areas, and in some places are even considered pests. Yet because of the remote locations some of these birds inhabit, the number of subspecies is undetermined. As with the feathers of many fancy birds, the bright feathers of the Eclectus are used by natives for decoration.
The Eclectus roratus is on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species as Least Concern (LC).
The Eclectus parrot Eclectus roratus was first described by Muller in 1776. They are vividly colored birds with tight interlocking hair like feathers which produce a sleek glossy plumage that actually looks like silk. They are a large stocky parrot, being 14 to 15 inches in length (35 cm), and have a short square tail and long round tipped wings. Differences in the subspecies are specific to the location they came from in the Pacific Islands and include size, head coloration, and brightness of plumage.
What is most striking about the Eclectus is the vivid difference in coloring between the male and female. The Eclectus Parrot is the most sexually dimorphic of all the parrot species. The male is a bright green and the female is a bright red.
- Male Eclectus
The male Eclectus is brilliant green on top, has yellowish-green wing coverts, and has red patches on the breast and under the wings. The tail feathers are almost black with yellow tips. The upper beak is a a coral yellow with a yellowish tip and the lower mandible is black. The iris is a dark orange.
- Female Eclectus
The female Eclectus has a rich red on the head and breast while the back and wing feathers tend to a darker red. The belly and the nape of the neck are a dull purple to a blue and the tail is tipped with orange. Their beak is black. The iris of the female is a yellow color and they have a blue ring around the eye. (All young Eclectus have brown irises.).
In the wild the Eclectus parrots eats seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, leaf buds, blossoms, and nectar. In your home, fresh food and water must be provided daily. Foods for your pet bird will include a ready made large hookbill seed mix enriched with vitamins. Eclectus must also have their diet supplemented with all sorts of fruits and vegetables.
Fresh fruits and vegetables you can offer include green peas, cucumber, young dandelion greens, sweet corn, beet greens, carrots, broccoli, unsprayed lettuce, chickweed, dandelions, eggplant, green peppers, sorrel, spinach leaves, tomatoes and zucchini. Fruits that you can offer include, apples, peaches, apricots, bananas, pears, plums, raisons, and most other fruits. Avocado and chocolate are considered toxic for birds and sugar and salt should be avoided.
To keep the Eclectus healthy, the fruits and green foods are essential. Dry seed is notably deficient in Vitamin A, which is why they need additions to a seed based diet. Their digestive tract is adapted to a fibrous diet, which is provided by the fruits and vegetables. If deprived of a fibrous diet, they may develop Candidiasis. (see ailments below). Eclectus are also prone to becoming fat, another reason why they should be encouraged to eat more vegetables and less oily seed. A cuttle bone or a calcium block is a good source of calcium.
Most parrots enjoy and occasional shower or bath. A shower can be accomplished with either a hand held shower sprayer or a hose with a fine spray head and lukewarm water. A bath pan or ceramic dish 12"-14" (30-35 cm) can be placed on the bottom of the cage or mounted at about 39" (1m) above the floor in an aviary. The wings should be kept trim if you want to discourage flight and to prevent the loss of your pet through an open window or door. The beak and claws need to be trimmed if they are not worn down from climbing and chewing.
A cage best suited to adequately house an Eclectus parrot would be between 4 feet to 6 feet (100-150 cm) high and have a floor space of 2 feet by 3 feet (60 x 100 cm). This size will provide room for lots of movement as well as space for perches, food dishes and a variety of playthings. A room to adequately house 2 Eclectus needs a ceiling height of at least 6 feet (180 cm) and a minimum floor space of 3 feet by 5 feet (100 x 150 cm). Perches should be natural wood ranging in size from 2 – 4 inches in diameter. Various sized fruit tree branches work very well. Playthings can be such things as climbing ropes, chains, bells, parrot swings and wooden or other bird toys.
An outdoor or breeding aviary needs to have a protected shelter that can be heated and cooled if necessary. It should be no smaller than 4 feet by 6 feet with a floor space of at least 3 feet by 3 feet (1 m x 1 m), be off the ground by 4 feet, and have an attached flight cage. The flight should be 79" - 118" (2 - 3 m) long with a perch at each end. A climbing branch and a bird bath are nice additions too.
The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Weekly you should wash all the perches and dirty toys, and the floor should be washed about every other week. A total hosing down and disinfecting of an aviary should be done yearly, replacing anything that needs to be freshened, such as old dishes, toys and perches.
Eclectus parrots are tamed easily and are very sociable. Some humans feel the male is the more talented, with more talking ability and easier to tame. Females, in the wild are the more aggressive of the two. However, both sexes can become affectionate pets and enjoy human handling.
You should give a new arrival a few days to get use to you, your voice and its cage before trying to handle it. The Eclectus is a shy creature and they need a period of adjustment. A hand fed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, but be patient and go slow. Allow them to hear your voice, get the scent of you.
Remember that taming and training a bird takes patience, never 'punish' your pet! This only serves to destroy the trust you've spent so much time building. For more information on training your eclectus, see Parrots: Handling/Training.
Exercise and play are important activities for the physical well being and psychological health of your parrot. These activities help deter distress and prevent the problems of screeching and feather picking. Provide your parrot with lots of activities in the form of large link chains, bird ladders, parrot swings, ropes, fresh branches for gnawing and chewing, and rotate new bird toys on a regular basis.
Sexing Eclectus parrots is simple. The adults and even the chicks are dimorphic, meaning the males are mainly green and the females are red and blue. The biggest challenge is mating members of the same subspecies. There are four subspecies of Eclectus available and they can be difficult to distinguish between. If you are a beginner looking to breed, you should seek the aid of an experienced breeder to help you choose birds of the same subspecies.
Eclectus Parrot - Male Photo © Animal-World
Alexander the Great. "Alex",
was one of our favorite Eclectus.
Very affectionate, playful youngster
while he was being reared, and
today is a very pleasant
companion and a fun pet!
The Eclectus has an unusual and complex breeding culture in his habitat, resulting in communal breeding where uncles and aunts help rear young in a group family situation. This sharing and caring feature of the Eclectus personality carries over into its human home and it is what makes them a good pet.
Eclectus parrots are polygamous by nature. The females may mate with multiple male suitors and males may travel from nesting site to nesting site to mate with multiple females. This unique breeding strategy may explain the pronounced sexual dimorphism of the Eclectus. Perhaps the female is a vivid red as she stays in her nest for up to 11 months out of the year and her coloring enables the males to locate her. She rarely leaves her nest and is totally dependent on the males to feed her throughout the year. The males being primarily green blend in with the green of the forest as they travel from nest to nest in hopes that one of the females may select him as a mate.
Suitable hollows are at a premium in their native habitat and the female will vigorously defend her nesting site perhaps even fighting to the death. This protection of her territory is what carries over to her protection of her cage within her human's home.
Bonded pairs will readily nest, which makes the Eclectus a fairly easy bird to breed. While most large parrots will usually only lay (and rear) one clutch of eggs in an outdoor aviary, the Eclectus are "free-breeders" and may nest several times during a breeding season.
In the wild, they are seen nesting in groups with each pair making their nest very high up, in the hole of a tree. Eclectus will need a nest box mounted as high up as possible. It should be at least is 31"-39" (80-100 cm) high with an inside diameter of 12"-14" (30-35 cm) and an opening of 4"-5" (10-12 cm). Provide some bedding material inside on the bottom of the box. In the wild their nests have been observed to have the eggs laid on wood chips.
An Eclectus female will usually lay 2 eggs. The female will brood for 26 to 28 days while the male brings her food. The hatchlings will leave the nest at about twelve weeks.
Beware of over breeding. Free-breeders are prone to having a calcium deficiency. This can result in complications of soft-shelled eggs and egg binding. Provide plenty of calcium. Cuttlebone is an excellent choice not only for the female but also for the chicks, as they are prone to rickets. Be sure to remove the nest box after the brooding until you are ready for them to nest again.
An eclectus parrot that is well cared for will seldom become ill. Though it is often difficult to determine illness, some visible signs of illness to be aware of are:
- ruffled plumage
- drooping wings
- sagging body
- extreme mood changes
- having no appetite
- bulges in feathering
- partially closed or watery eyes
- swelling of the eyelids
- difficulty breathing
- excessive saliva
- dirty vent
- any change in the feces not apparently diet related.
Some of the more common illnesses are:
- Psittacosis (chlamydiosis or parrot fever)
- bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
- feather picking (results of boredom, poor diet, sexual frustration, lack of bathing)
- chewing flight and tail feathers by juveniles
- beak malformations in chicks
- kidney disease (gout)
- heavy metal poisoning
- lipomas in older birds.
If you notice any of this bird illnesses in your Eclectus, immediately provide a warm, draft free, secure environment kept at about 86°F (30°C). Place food and water close to the perch where it is easily accessible. An ailing parrot should be taken to a avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
The fungal disease, Candidiasisis is associated Indonesian parrots including the Eclectus parrot, because these birds need a relatively high amount of Vitamin A. Candidiasis is apparent in the mouth. The bird will play with its food rather than eating it, and you may notice a sticky whitish discharge from the beak. Inside the mouth will be whitish patches of Candida fungus. Your vet can give you medication for this, but you will also need to improve the birds diet.
Behavior problems usually stem from something missing in the bird's environment. Boredom, lack of trust, lack of interaction with other birds or people can lead to problems like biting, feather plucking, and screaming. Try to develop a bond of trust and spend time with your bird to help avoid these problems.
We have also had good success with Chet Womach's Parrot Training Course. He offers a free 3-day introductory course so you can try it out before you buy anything.
Eclectus parrots have been successfully bred and are readily available, though they are moderately expensive.
- Animal-World References: Pet Birds - Exotic Birds
- Batul Nafisa Baxamusa, Eclectus Parrots as Pets, Buzzle.com
- Eclectus Parrot, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
- Eclectus Parrots, Avian Web
- Dr. David Alderton, The Atlas of Parrots of the World, T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1991.
- Rosemary Lowe, The Complete Book of Parrots, Barron's Educational Series, Inc. 1989.
- Arthur Freud, All About The Parrots, Howell Book House, 1986.