Cornelia's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus cornelia) – Group: Red

An impressive forthcoming breeding pair of Cornelia's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus cornelia), the female on the left and the male on the right. This subspecies is one of the largest subspecies of Eclectus Parrots. For aviculturists, who are used to seeing female birds of the more widespread subspecies in human care with a blue or violet/lavender coloured breast band, it is as if the female of Cornelia's Eclectus is missing something in the body plumage, since the completely – almost luminous - bright red plumage can be very overwhelming.

Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte (1803 - 1857), a French naturalist and ornithologist was the first to identify this subspecies, Cornelia's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus cornelia) and in 1850 he gave it the name, "cornelia", after the name of one of his friends' wife, Mrs. Cornelia, who had assisted him with the determination and cataloging of birds, and since Bonaparte only had a female bird at his disposal, it came to be called "cornelia".

In general, this subspecies is characterized by being a large bird. The female is considerably larger than Riedel's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus riedeli), which is the other subspecies where the female bird has a completely red plumage.


Colour description

Adult male: The male bird is very similar to the male Vosmaer's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus vosmaeri) with its bright reddish orange upper bill and the large red flanks on the sides of the breast, which are showed under the closed wings. It is also similar in size to Vosmaer's Eclectus, which is larger than the nominate subspecies, Seram Eclectus (Eclectus roratus roratus). The green colour of the head and throat is paler than the colour found in the corresponding place in the Seram Eclectus, and when viewed from above, its green tail feathers are mixed with blue. The underside of the tail is blackish. The outer edges of the body feathers are edged with pale green, and the edge along the tip of the tail has a very faint yellow tinge. The hint of a greyish yellow border along the tip of the tail is almost non-existent when viewed from above, but the border is more obvious when viewed from below, probably as a result of the contrast with the dark colour of the undertail. The outer iris ring is golden to amber.

Adult female: Breast and body feathers are completely red without blue or violet/lavender coloured feathers. This is a really beautiful bird due to its bright red plumage, where the red breast colour in particular is very clear. Back and upper wing coverts are reddish brown. It lacks the normal colours on the tail that you find on the other types of Eclectus females, as the tail is completely red. It appears from some scientific records that the tip of the female's tail has a very narrow yellow border, but this does not seem to be a prevailing opinion. If it were to be something along those lines, the tip of the tail has a faint orange-red border. The undertail coverts are dark red, changing to a dark steel grey colour on the underside of the tail, which ends with a paler coloured border. The outer iris ring is pale yellow.

Length specification for this subspecies:

When you read various specialist literature on Eclectus Parrots, you may well be surprised by such different length specifications given for one and the same (sub)species. In addition, such a competent authority as Joseph M. Forshaw in his work, "Parrots of the World", 1st edition from 1973, (ISBN 0 7018 0024 0), does not indicate a length (neither an average length nor a span) for the different types of Eclectus Parrots. On that basis, I have chosen to use the length specifications from two other different sources, below:


  • Average length: 38 cm, according to "A Guide to ... Eclectus Parrots", revised edition from 2004, by Rob Marshall and Ian Ward (ISBN 0 9750817 0 5).
  • Length: 38 cm, according to “Lexicon of Parrots” (CD version 3.0) from 2008, by Thomas Arndt (ISBN 3-9808245-3-5).

Here you can see a female Cornelia's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus cornelia) where the first thing you notice is its completely red breast and belly without any blue or violet/lavender coloured feathers. At the same time, the entire tail is also red, in contrast to the female of Riedel's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus riedeli), which is also markedly larger than Riedel's Eclectus. Photo from the internet.

In the wild

This subspecies inhabits solely the rainforests on the island of Sumba, which is part of the Lesser Sunda archipelago west of Timor. Sumba, which has an area of 11,006 km², is located in eastern Indonesia. Therefore, this bird is also sometimes called Sumba Eclectus.

Although the island of Sumba is located approximately 1,300 km away to the west of the Tanimbar Islands, home to Riedel's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus riedeli), the habitats of both subspecies are connected to each other via a chain of islands separated only by narrow channels.

Cornelia's Eclectus is a distinct forest bird that is rarely seen in flocks, but is most often seen singly or in pairs. Similar to what applies to the other types of Eclectus Parrots, the sexes of this subspecies also do not form close bonds with each other, apart from the period when the female incubates and is diligently fed by the male.

In nature, the birds' food primarily consists of the fruits, seeds, nuts, leaf-buds and creepers of the rainforest trees in the lowlands, and in the spring the birds are also really happy with the trees' flowers and fruit buds.

BirdLife International mentions that surveys across the whole of the Sumba Island in the early 1990's found the species to be widespread, but that densities varied considerably and were highest in secondary forest, likely due to abundance of food resources.

However, the species is likely limited by nest site availability and furthermore selective logging may have reduced the numbers of very large trees even in protected areas. It requires very large deciduous trees with natural cavities in which to nest. The majority of nests are found in large Tetrameles nudiflora trees that often contain multiple cavities and are challenging for mammalian predators to climb.


BirdLife International, the official "Red List" authority for birds on behalf of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), continuously assesses the status of how threatened all kinds of birds are in the wild. However, as a starting point, BirdLife International only operates at the species level and not at the subspecies level, which means that all possible subspecies, including the nominate subspecies, which together make up the species, are grouped together under this. In its descriptions and assessments, BirdLife International make no detailed distinctions between the nominate subspecies and the other subspecies. However, BirdLife International uses another taxonomy than Howard & Moore, according to which the Cornelia’s Eclectus (Eclectus roratus cornelia) not is considered a subspecies but as a completely separate species under the Latin scientific name Eclectus cornelia, which means that BirdLife International actually provide can a range of important information about this bird's movement and status in the wild.

This subspecies is the most threatened Eclectus subspecies in nature, as Birdlife International has categorized it as "Endangered" and at the same time has estimated the remaining natural population on the island of Sumba to be only 1,000 - 2,499 mature individuals, an extremely small population. Furthermore, the population trend continues to decrease due to trapping for the pet trade and habitat degradation caused by selective logging.

Cornelia’s Eclectus is thus threatened in areas where humans destroy its natural habitats, and it has been intensively trapped for local, national trade, and the international cagebird trade which was believed to be driving a very rapid decline in the species.

While the estimated deforestation rate on Sumba has been low, selective logging of large trees is suspected to be having a significant impact, with suitable nesting holes apparently limiting and seemingly restricted to protected areas.


Nature protection measures

Among other things BirdLife International mentions the following:

Conservation actions in place:

Cornelia's Eclectus’ have a safe haven in two National Parks, Manupeu Tanaduru National Park and Laiwanggi Wanggameti National Park.

The species is listed on CITES Appendix II.

Research and conservation actions needed:

An updated population estimate is strongly needed to establish the extent of the decline since the 1990’s. Besides, selective logging incidences need to be monitored and it may be possible to grant special status to nesting trees based on community agreements. Any trade is assumed totally unsustainable with present knowledge of the population in nature. Captive sources should be registered and controlled to be authorized suppliers, if there is to be very small regulated trade in the species.

Here is a very young female of Cornelia's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus cornelia) where you can see that its tail is completely red in contrast to the female Riedel's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus riedeli) which has strong yellow colours on the undertail coverts and along the tip of the tail. Additionally, the Cornelia's Eclectus female is significantly larger when compared to the darker red Riedel's Eclectus female. Photo from the internet.

In human care

Rarely introduced, but there are reports that the Danish animal importer E. Boklund from Copenhagen imported a number of Eclectus Parrots back in 1966, among which this species was also to be found. The late Danish parrot guru, J. L. Albrecht Møller, acquired a weak female bird from this import, which he managed to make survive, and which he had for a number of years. He has described it as very aggressive when incubating; on the other hand, he experienced the male bird as very familiar, which is a consistent pattern of behavior among all types of Eclectus Parrots.

It is very rare in captivity and is probably not - officially - represented among aviculturists in the USA or Australia.

Back in 2004, there should have been approximately 30 individuals of this subspecies in human care in Europe, including Germany and Denmark.


Colour mutations

I am not aware of any colour mutations of this subspecies.



See the section on nutrition under the article "Generally about Eclectus Parrots" as well as the article on the nominate subspecies, Seram Eclectus (Eclectus roratus roratus).

Jorgen Petersen

Conceived/Updated: 16.12.2011 / 01.04.2024