Generally about Eclectus Parrots

Here you can see a stamp with a male Eclectus Parrot from Micronesia, which is an island nation comprising just over 600 islands. Micronesia is located in the western part of the Pacific Ocean, immediately north and northeast of New Guinea. It seems to me to be one of the most closely resembling motifs of an Eclectus Parrot, which has been immortalized on a stamp to date, although without being able to determine the subspecies of the bird.

As a result of great similarities in the biotopes of the habitats, the birds' behaviour and breeding biology, etc., I have found it appropriate to describe a number of general features about Eclectus Parrots - regardless of type (subspecies) - in this joint article. You can also read more specific information about the individual types of Eclectus Parrots in the subsequent special articles.


With its impressive colours and by virtue of its - generally - pleasant temperament, the Eclectus Parrot appears as a magnificent bird, but over the years its nature has unfortunately been misunderstood by many aviculturists. Eclectus Parrots have been considered boring, sad, lethargic, shy and even unintelligent. What is witnessed, however, is how the Eclectus Parrot reacts to stress. When an Eclectus Parrot is confronted with unfamiliar situations and strange people or things, the bird "freezes", i.e. it sits almost completely still as a kind of pillar of stone and awaits the further development of the situation. Without comparison otherwise, this reaction pattern has common features with e.g. the Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta), which also "freezes" when it does not feel safe. If, on the other hand, Eclectus Parrots find themselves in familiar surroundings and with people they know, these birds are chatty, highly lively, curious, affectionate and playful, in short - very entertaining.

In addition to the fact that the two sexes appear with very different colours in their plumage, there are also large behavioural differences between the sexes. In general, the male acts calm and peaceful, whereas the female is more dominant, rather eager, and in between it can have a decidedly aggressive behaviour. It can therefore be said that the colour difference between the two sexes also reflects the great difference in the behaviour of the sexes.

Ignoring hand-reared birds, which often have a strongly deviating and unnatural behaviour, the sexes have different "comfort zones", as females need a greater distance from people and surroundings to feel at ease. If the female bird's comfort zone is not large enough, or if it is exceeded, then it exhibits angry and aggressive behaviour more quickly. Many females, who are not comfortable with people, therefore prefer to stay in the background of the aviary.

Both sexes can make excellent domestic birds, although the females, probably as a result of hormonal conditions, sometimes show a certain degree of aggressiveness. Therefore, there is perhaps a tendency for male birds to be slightly more popular as pet birds. If the female is hand-reared and is on the nest herself, she can often act more aggressively than parent-reared females, as hand-reared birds do not have the innate fear of humans. It can therefore often involve great challenges to use hand-reared birds for breeding, although I am also aware of a few hand-reared Eclectus Parrot females that have become perfect breeding birds.

In addition to being more aggressive, females can also seem somewhat more reserved than males, who often have a more lively behaviour and are more receptive to new impulses. It is always the male who takes the lead when new things have to be investigated, so that curiosity can be satisfied, which is, by the way, a behaviour pattern known from nature.

With the help of regular training, Eclectus Parrots can be made to display cognitive behaviour (cognitive = the mental process that includes thinking, knowledge and cognition, as opposed to the emotional and volitional), which means that the birds can not only imitate sounds, but also become able to communicate more intelligently by e.g. to imitate a human voice in the right pitch or by saying "Good day" every time you enter the door of your birdhouse.

To this day, many aviculturists still perceive Eclectus Parrots as very sedentary, almost lazy birds, but nothing could be more wrong. I know an aviculturist who keeps Eclectus Parrots in a huge communal aviary together with other large parrot species. This aviculturist believes that the reason for the misconception that Eclectus Parrots should be apathetic and sedentary is related to the fact that aviculturists generally do not give Eclectus Parrots enough space when kept in human care. Over the years, this aviculturist has had the opportunity to observe Eclectus Parrots' behaviour in his giant aviary. Here he has established that Eclectus Parrots lose height in the first approximately 7 - 10 m after they have taken off from a branch or perch (for comparison, the same aviculturist has observed that Amazon Parrots (genus Amazona) only lose height for the first 4 - 6 m). The birds then gain buoyancy and achieve both flight height and speed. Eclectus Parrots thus make great demands on the spaciousness of the aviary, as they are actually skilled flyers by nature, even though they primarily live in dense rainforest areas in the jungle.

Eclectus Parrots should therefore be kept in as spacious aviaries as possible. The National Organization of Danish Bird Association’s (Landsorganisationen Danske Fugleforeninger) recommendation from 2021 for an aviary length of 3 m for Eclectus Parrots must - seen in the light of the above-mentioned aviculturist's observations - be considered completely inadequate. In this connection, it must also be emphasized that Eclectus Parrots are not at all suitable to be kept in a cage, unless they are out flying on a daily basis for an extended period. Eclectus Parrots are therefore best kept in very spacious aviaries and preferably in pairs alone, see later.

In general, all Eclectus Parrots - regardless of subspecies - have the same behaviour and personality, but of course there are minor differences. For example, the Papuan Red-sided Eclectus (Eclectus roratus polychloros) and Solomon Red-sided Eclectus (Eclectus roratus solomonensis) are said to be more docile and teachable than the large, dominant Australian Red-sided Eclectus (Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi) and are therefore considered as better pet birds. In this connection, attention must again be drawn to the fact that recent years' observations of the Eclectus Parrot's behaviour and movements in the wild are mostly based on field studies of Australian Red-sided Eclectus. Therefore, these observations also cover the other subspecies in this article, unless otherwise stated.

After I learned that Eclectus Parrots have polyandrynous behaviour in nature, cf. the section below on "Breeding conditions in the wild", I have been able to better understand the lack of cohesion ("bonding") between the sexes when comparing these birds to, for example, Macaws (genus Ara, etc.) and Amazon Parrots (genus Amazona). I have not among my many Eclectus Parrots experienced the same kind of affection and considerateness between the sexes that you find in many other large parrot species. The mutual feather care in the form of preening feathers between the sexes is therefore very limited, to which the pair often sit at each end of the aviary or at each end of a branch or perch. In addition, the sexes also sit and sleep separately a lot.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea – or just North Korea – which is one of the world's poorest countries and which since 2011 has been led by one of the world's last dictators, Kim Jong-un, has in the year 2000 issued two stamps with Eclectus Parrots as a motif (here a male bird), although the bird is not naturally native to the Korean peninsula. Whether it is an indication that the bird is being kept in humane care by certain North Koreans remains to be seen, but it is hardly likely since the country cannot even feed its own population. The explanation for the publication is probably rather to be found in the circumstance that appears from the text under the next stamp with the female bird as a motif.


I have spoken to a field observer who has seen - and above all heard - Eclectus Parrots on a few different islands in its range (Amboina and Buru) and the immediate impression is that Eclectus Parrots in the wild are easy to spot since they are very noisy and have a characteristic cry and furthermore often are seen circling above the tallest trees in the rainforest.

Eclectus Parrots have a wide and highly unusual repertoire of sounds that include metallic sounds as well as soft chimes or "clang-clang" tones, coos, whistles, and squeals. The sound "aaarrr" is probably one of the expressions that Eclectus Parrots use the most, e.g. when it has to ingratiate itself with its owner, investigate something new, or it sits resting after having eaten. Many of these sounds are pleasant to listen to, but unfortunately the Eclectus Parrots also have the ability to indulge in loud and very piercing screeches when frightened, disturbed or excited.

Some aviculturists consider the female to be the noisiest, and believe that it is she alone who makes the metallic sounds. However, it is not a pattern that I can immediately recognize, as I have had a couple of males over the years who really could make noise, so that "the roof of the birdhouse lifted".

Among the most kept types of Eclectus Parrots, it is my experience that the Vosmaer's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus vosmaeri) is generally the noisiest, and here I have experienced that the female in particular can make use of the so-called "metallic" sound that can almost sound like someone dropping a large iron plate on a concrete floor in an empty factory hall.

Before you set out to buy one or more Eclectus Parrots, you must be aware that certain specimens can even be extremely noisy, and therefore these birds are generally not suitable for being kept in outdoor aviaries in densely populated detached house areas. Over the years, I have experienced many, many noisy parrots, both among Macaws, Cockatoos, etc., but I have NEVER EXPERIENCED ANYTHING WORSE THAN A MALE SOLOMON RED-SIDED ECLECTUS (Eclectus roratus solomonensis), which I once imported from Norway. It was not "a screamer" (i.e. a bird that constantly screams), but it screamed as soon as you entered the birdhouse. Its screeching was so violent that one got definite physical pain in the ears from its screeching. The bird was to blame for the fact that, after a summer holiday, I could not get my holiday replacement to look after all my birds again until I had promised to get rid of it. I therefore had to hand the bird over to another aviculturist who could offer the bird conditions under which no one was negatively affected by its screams to the same extent.

Fortunately, Eclectus Parrots can also imitate words and phrases very clearly, even in different pitches. Shortly after I bought my latest pair of Papuan Red-sided Eclectus (Eclectus roratus polychloros) I came out to the aviary where I went and got ready to feed all the different birds. After I had made it through half of the feeding stations, I was washing some feeding bowls when I suddenly heard a very distinct deep male voice. I thought I was all alone with the birds in the birdhouse, but suddenly I thought – has a stranger entered the birdhouse? – or maybe a thief? - without me noticing? No, it was actually just the male Eclectus Parrot who had begun to feel at home in the new surroundings and who began to open up his repertoire of “human speech gifts". I have to admit that for a few seconds I was scared because it sounded completely like an angry, deep male voice.

Here is the second stamp from North Korea with a female Eclectus Parrot as a motif. The country issues, as so many other communist regimes have done in the past, a large number of beautiful "picture stamps" (motif stamps), which has proven to be quite an excellent source of foreign currency. To my knowledge, stamps are not affected by international blockades, trade restrictions and various sanctions.

In the wild

Eclectus Parrots live in the canopy of the rainforest primarily in lowland areas, which in some cases are colossal, and to a lesser extent in savannah areas with larger or smaller groups of tall trees. On the island of Seram, you can see the Eclectus Parrots moving in pairs for approximately 600 m altitude in primary forest (also called natural forest, i.e. the old forests that are completely untouched and where trees and plants of many different species can be hundreds of years old). It is rare for Eclectus Parrots to forage on the ground, even when drinking water is involved. There is a lot of rainfall in most of the birds' range, and therefore the birds can find water on the leaves of the trees or in “branchial gorges” where rain water is collected. In addition, the birds get liquid through the consumption of the large amount of fruit that they consume. You can, however, experience Eclectus Parrots down on the ground, where they search for mineral trace elements in rocky areas, just as you can experience them digging for tubers in the ground.

On the island of Buru, for example, Eclectus Parrots are quite common, and they can be observed from the coast all the way up to high mountain districts. On the island of Mototai (not to be confused with Morotai) in the northern Maluku Islands, Eclectus Parrots have been reported since the mid-1940’s as fairly common, where they are most often seen singly flying high above coconut plantations and are also common in primary forest and secondary vegetation. At the same time, since the late 1960’s, Eclectus Parrots have been reported as quite common - and visible - birds in New Guinea's rainforests of up to approximately 1,000 m altitude. Especially in the rainforests around the Port Moresby district in the south-eastern part of New Guinea, you can often see and hear Eclectus Parrots as they fly over your head. They have been observed both individually and in small groups of 4 - 6 birds in the treetops again here in primary and secondary forest. In some parts of the giant range, Eclectus Parrots are reported as some of the most common parrots to be found in almost any locality where there are tall trees. Other observations from New Guinea also suggest that Eclectus Parrots are not numerous in the immediate vicinity of inhabited areas, possibly because the birds have learned over time to be wary of humans.

As mentioned, Eclectus Parrots prefer to stay in the treetops of the rainforest, where they spend most of their time searching for food and breeding. They are noisy, conspicuous parrots, which, with their loud and noisy cries, make an easily recognizable sound in the rainforest. Eclectus Parrots are good at flying and are able to travel even long distances each day to find food opportunities both inside and outside the rainforest. On long flights such as to and from nest sites, Eclectus Parrots fly high above the treetops. The flight may seem slow, but with rapid wing beats and with short periods when the bird soars. In flight, the wings are not raised above body level, and this provides an easily recognizable pattern of wing movements in the field so that Eclectus Parrots can be easily identified in flight.

The canopy of the rainforest forms a "roof" of vegetation that prevents much sunlight from reaching the forest floor, making it difficult for plants to grow under the large trees. The "roof" receives much more sun, and many plants that grow at this height therefore produce fruits and flowers that the Eclectus Parrots feed on. Above the "roof" of the rainforest are scattered towering trees, and it is often in these towering trees, which can sometimes be 50 - 60 m high, that the Eclectus Parrots breed deep in holes and hollows. Above the "roof" of the rainforest, the Eclectus Parrots are at the same time protected from carnivorous reptiles, but conversely their nests in these tall trees are exposed to high temperatures, strong winds, heavy rain and attacking birds of prey.

Field observers have often noted a predominance of males in the wild, and it is the belief of the Australian ornithologist and parrot expert etc., Joseph M. Forshaw, that, except in breeding areas, females are seen in much lower numbers than males. However, there is speculation as to whether the females are more fearful due to their flashy red plumage.

In Australia, breeding sites with more than 80 Eclectus Parrots have been found. Early in the morning, pairs and small groups could be observed here leaving the trees with nests to fly into the surrounding forest to forage. Occasionally, larger flocks could be seen gathering to forage in nearby fruit-bearing trees. After the birds had foraged, they towards dusk flew back to the nest sites, where you could typically see groups of 3 - 4 birds flying together, always with males flying ahead of 1 - 2 females. As each group arrived at the trees with nests, they joined in the squawking and screeching of the other birds, which continued until after dark, when the birds had finally found their roosts and gradually calmed down. The Eclectus Parrots were described by the field observers as very alert, and if the birds were disturbed, they first flew around to the opposite side of the tree, and before flying away completely, they turned back and circled above the nest site, screaming loudly. From time to time, you could see individual birds or pairs resting in tall Eucalyptus trees in open savanna land, but here it was probably birds that had moved.

Eclectus Parrots are considered a pest by many local villagers who grow crops. With great zeal, Eclectus Parrots especially occupy ripening cornfields. Conversely, Eclectus Parrots may end up as a meal for some of the native tribesmen in New Guinea and Indonesia, who at the same time use the birds' brightly coloured feathers for, for example, ritual head adornment. Throughout the ages, the natives have also kept Eclectus Parrots - not as pet birds - but as birds that you keep sitting and occasionally pluck to make the feathers adorn yourself. Among some of the native tribes, the Eclectus Parrot is called, directly translated into English, "Holy Temple Parrots", because they are made the object of worship in religious rituals. The natives shamelessly shoot a single bird, shaking it so that it screams, whereupon up to hundreds of Eclectus Parrots may flock in an attempt to assist the distressed bird, only to be shot by the natives themselves. It is very similar to the organized form of mass killing that Australian farmers practice year after year against many Cockatoo species without any form of authorities taking effective action against this.

Eclectus Parrots sometimes risk ending up as food for some of the native tribes in New Guinea and Indonesia, who at the same time use the birds' brightly coloured feathers for, for example, ritual head adornment. Up through the ages, the natives have also kept Eclectus Parrots - not as pet birds - but as birds that you keep and occasionally pluck to get the feathers to adorn yourself with. Many tribal people still believe that the male and the female – as a result of the large colour difference – are two completely different kinds of birds.

Breeding conditions in the wild

It was great surprise for me when I several years ago learned that the Eclectus Parrots from nature - similar to the almost extinct Kakapo (Strigops habroptila) - have a polyandryn breeding biology. A female can thus mate with up to several male suitors. Conversely, a male may fly from nest site to nest site to mate with several females. In some places you can read that Eclectus Parrots are solitary in the wild until the breeding season begins. However, it seems to be established that Eclectus Parrots generally do not live in flocks, but they gather before the breeding season for the purpose of pairing. Nests accompanied by groups of up to 7 or 8 birds of both sexes have been reported from all parts of the range during the breeding season. There are also reports that Eclectus Parrots sometimes can exhibit a very little-known breeding behaviour that is both unusual and complex, and that involves a common breeding area where adult, closely related birds can assist a pair in raising their young. This characteristic seems to help ensure the birds' status as an extremely well-regarded bird in aviculture.

The unique breeding behaviour may also contribute to the explanation of the very clear gender difference in Eclectus Parrots. The female is very conspicuous when she stands guard at the entrance to the nest hole and can repel any rival females as well as extraneous males. Conversely, the female's brightly coloured plumage provides excellent camouflage when it lies at the bottom of the nest, as the red plumage looks black in the dark and hides her well, cf. the introduction. The male's plumage is primarily green, probably to provide it with optimal camouflage among the trees while sitting guard outside the nest and when foraging in the treetops. The plumage of both sexes is spectacular when seen in the ultraviolet spectrum, which the various predators are unable to do.

When a pair enters breeding mode, the male approaches the female and feeds her. He taps his beak hard on the branch and moves from side to side as it quickly touches each side of the female's head with his own head and neck. The female then chases him and insistently begs for food before he is allowed to mate with her.

In its natural habitats, the Eclectus Parrot breeds in holes in very large, prominent rainforest trees that rise above the "roof" of the rainforest. These are often trees that stand on the edge of the forest or in a forest clearing. Here the female finds suitable indentations or rather, natural holes and hollows, highest up in the trees. She will vigorously defend her chosen nest site against other females, which can have a fatal outcome. Year after year she returns to this nest, which in all cases is to be found in a high and inaccessible position. Female Eclectus Parrots can, in some parts of the range, remain resident in "its" nest tree for up to 11 months a year, rarely moving away from the entrance to the nest hole. During that period, she may be dependent on several males, who provide her with food, that they regurgitate. The males can fly up to 20 km when foraging, and up to 5 males can regularly provide a female with food. There is a mutual competition between these males for the affection of the female and for the right to assume the role of father to the chicks.

Nests have been found in southern New Guinea in August and until late November, and in the Solomon Islands in June, but also early April and August. Mating has been observed in the Solomon Islands in late October. On the Cape York Peninsula in Australia, you see the birds breeding in the period November to January.

The Eclectus Parrots usually lay 2 eggs, which are laid on wood chips and rotting wood chips on the bottom of the nest cavity. The eggs hatch in 26 - 28 days. It has been seen in nature that females with bad nest holes (typically directly open holes in the top of the tree, which thereby may be exposed to large amounts of rain) can think of killing their male chick if there is both a male and a female in the clutch. Bad nest holes are often flooded in heavy rain, whereby the eggs in the nest can perish or the chicks can drown.

Here you can see a "picture" from Palau that "oozes" idyll with local children dressed in floral decorations, while they (probably) play a Christmas tune; it is not a real stamp, but a Christmas stamp. In the foreground are some exotic plants in the form of (to me) Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima), originally from Mexico and Guatemala, where they grow in deciduous, tropical forests and savannahs. Poinsettias are also seen as strays on the Hawaiian Islands, e.g. on Maui. One of the children has a tame female Eclectus Parrot perched on his shoulder, which shows that the locals also keep these birds as pet birds - could it get any more idyllic?


Since Eclectus Parrots live high in the treetops, it is clear that their natural diet consists mainly of fruit, leaf buds, leaf shoots, flowers, nectar, nuts and seeds, which are naturally found high in the treetops. Among their favorite fruits are pomegranates and papaya with seeds.

Eclectus Parrots can also ravage plantations and fields with crops such as grain, corn, bananas, coconuts and papaya, where the birds, as mentioned before, are considered pests by the local residents.

Remains of soft, fig-like fruit have been found in the stomachs of dead Eclectus Parrots from the Solomon Islands, and in dead birds from West Irian in Indonesia fruit pulp and - surprisingly - lots of fruit stones have been found.

In New Guinea, certain food items are available all year round due to a less pronounced seasonal variation. This means that the same plant can produce fruit at different times of the year in various places in the rainforest, whereby chicks in this part of the distribution area in principle can be raised all year round.

In human care, Eclectus Parrots consume most types of fruit with great appetite, including mangoes, figs, guava, bananas, any kind of melons, stone fruits (peaches etc.), grapes (and raisins), citrus fruits, and not least fresh pears and sweet apples that contribute protein. Eclectus Parrots have a very long digestive tract, which is why they require a high fiber diet. Vegetables such as carrots, cucumber, green and red pepper, lettuce, Christmas salad and dandelion are very important foods that ensure calcium and other nutrients. In addition, you can feed with a good parrot mixture, which should preferably contain peanuts (which the birds usually are "wild" with, but remember that the peanuts must be cleaned and aflatoxin-free) as well as shelled almonds and shelled walnuts. Both seeds and nuts offer vitamins E, but fatty seeds such as sunflower and hemp should be limited to avoid too much fat in the diet, as Eclectus Parrots easily can gain excess weight. Instead, it is advantageous to give a sprouted seed mixture containing sunflower, whereby the fat content of this seed variety is reduced. Eclectus Parrots also enjoy millet cobs, although it is much smaller seed than the other varieties that the birds consume. In addition, the birds are happy for e.g. biscuits, shortbread and dry wheat bread.

Some aviculturists prefer Eclectus Parrots in human care are fed with vegetables that are also rich in beta-carotene, such as lightly cooked sweet potatoes and fresh broccoli florets, but here you can also choose fresh corn cobs instead. Still other aviculturists believe that their Eclectus Parrots do best if their food consists mainly of pellets. If you feed with pellets, you can often find that the birds choose certain taste favorites. It is also not without problems if you primarily feed your Eclectus Parrots with pellets, cf. the section "In human care" below.

Like all other cage birds, Eclectus Parrots must not be fed with parsley and avocado, which are toxic to the birds, just as you must refrain from giving the birds prepared human food and treats such as chocolate. I have also been told that parrots are not able to digest lactose in milk, so this should not be included in the feeding plan either.

Eclectus Parrots must be offered the - as far as possible - most varied feed composition to ensure optimal condition. Since these birds in nature spend most of their time in tall trees, where they mainly look for food, it is most appropriate that in human care you place the feed bowls high above the floor in the aviary. These feed bowls must have some solid anchoring points so that the Eclectus Parrot cannot turn them over. At the same time, you must be aware that many Eclectus Parrots make a big mess when they consume their feed, partly when they devour different kinds of fruit, partly when they have just been served a large bowl of a seed mixture, where the first thing they often comes up with rummaging around in the bowl with its beak to find its favorite seeds, whereby large parts of the seed mixture can be scattered far and wide.

The country of Zambia, located in the north of the central part of southern Africa, has also issued a stamp with a male Eclectus Parrot. Zambia is otherwise known for completely different parrot species, i.a. the Black-cheeked Lovebird (Agapornis nigrigenis). Unfortunately, the postal authority of the country has made a huge mistake and provided this Eclectus Parrot with a completely wrong scientific Latin name belonging to the Guinea turaco (Tauraco persa).

In human care

A number of years ago, the Eclectus Parrot was known as a delicate bird in human care. Right up to the 1960’s, quite a few Eclectus Parrots were imported to Europe, which often were in a poor state of health despite increasingly good transport links. At first, many of these imported birds refused to take food, and it was the experience that females were more sensitive than males. Mortality among females was then also higher, something that also seems to occur among birds in the wild, where females are believed to be present in a not insignificantly smaller number. Over time, the Eclectus Parrots have fortunately become much more robust in human care, as through many generations of breeding they have become acclimatised to be able to live better under the conditions that we can offer them at our latitudes (Northern Europe).

Over time, these magnificent birds have become one of the more popular medium-sized parrots in Europe, including in Denmark. In the USA, Eclectus Parrots have for many years been among the aviculturists' absolute favorites either as parent-reared or hand-reared birds. Unlike several other medium-sized parrot species, Eclectus Parrots are no longer considered difficult to breed in human care.

In human care, the Eclectus Parrot is said to be susceptible to various diseases that are not known in the wild. It includes i.a. various forms of muscle spasms, and the reasons for this have not been clarified, but it is believed that a major cause may be due to a chemical imbalance in vitamins and minerals, which inhibits the absorption of calcium, and therefore causes deficiency symptoms. According to leading international veterinarians, this imbalance can occur after feeding with commercially produced food, or when pellets make up a significant proportion of the diet, which in large quantities is artificially enriched with vitamins or artificial colours, but can also be due to simple dehydration. Artificially enriched and artificially coloured food items can also cause allergic reactions in some birds that can result in severe itching that can lead to feather and skin damage.

Eclectus Parrots may, to a greater extent than other companion parrots (except perhaps the African Grey Parrot from the genus Psittacus) of a similar size, be inclined to exhibit self-destructive behaviour, which can result in various forms of feather picking. The reasons for this can be difficult to determine, but some vets believe that the diet is generally the primary cause of these health problems, which can also lead to hormonal changes, just as incorrect clipping of the primaries/secondaries (I advise against any kind of clipping) is believed to trigger feather problems. Once this behaviour begins, it is almost impossible to stop unless the cause has been identified and the bird treated. Often, however, a simple neck collar can prevent the bird from plucking the feathers from its entire body.

As already mentioned, Eclectus Parrots are generally calm birds in human care, where they almost show a thoughtful nature when they are introduced to new people, objects or situations. This has given rise to the mistaken impression that these birds are shy and boring, which is by no means the case. They prefer a familiar routine, as they are certainly not happy with disturbances, new things and new people, to which they can react quite negatively. Therefore, you have to gradually get used to the birds when new things and people are introduced to them.

Eclectus Parrots are generally not difficult to tame, even adult aviary birds. Some are of the opinion that males are easier to tame than females, just as they believe that they are better at learning to imitate. My own experience is that Eclectus Parrots rarely bite, but I also have experience of the opposite. I have e.g. had a female Papuan Red-sided Eclectus (Eclectus roratus polychloros) who was the sweetest and gentlest bird to me and all other male beings of any age, but when it came to women, including my wife, it completely changed character. Its pupils became as small as pin heads at the same time as it continued to utter the "aaaarrr" sound, after which it (if it was flying freely) tried to attack any female and bit off quite emphatically. The story goes that this bird was originally a hand-reared that I had bought from a vet. The vet had once bought it from an aviculturist, who had hand-reared it. As a matter of principle, I try to never ever buy hand-reared parrots from the aviculturists who hand-rear parrot chicks on a commercial basis in order not to support this nonsense of "factory production of parrots with highly deviant and unnatural behaviour". Instead, I therefore purchased this bird from a first-time buyer who could no longer have it, to put it together with a parent-reared male, so that she hopefully could be marked by a natural behaviour. I succeeded in this for the first time, and I got a splendid breeding pair out of it, but somehow the female bird still continued to be very marked by a completely unnatural human behaviour towards every woman whom she regarded as a competitor who had to be attacked and chased away.

Over time, I have learned that some Eclectus Parrots have an excellent talent for imitation, which, as previously mentioned, also applies to imitating the tone of certain people, but at the same time the birds also have an ear for imitating various sounds that they hear around them, e.g. a phone that rings.

When keeping Eclectus Parrots in human care, you must be especially aware that they tend to develop a long upper beak and long claws, as is also known from certain other parrot species. This can be counteracted to a certain extent by - as far as the beak is concerned - giving the birds lots of fresh natural branches to gnaw on, just as it is important to give them iodine and mineral blocks, which they also like to gnaw on. Over recent years, artificial perches with a "cement-like" coating have become popular to give large parrots in human care, as these perches are said to help keep the bird's claws down when it lands or sits on these perches. However, it also goes beyond the skin on the underside of the bird's feet, which you have to pay close attention to. It is therefore important that you regularly clip the birds' claws, and unless you are a very experienced aviculturist who knows how to avoid cutting into the veins of the very dark claws, then you must absolutely refrain from doing this, and instead leave this to a vet who has practical experience in clipping the claws of large parrots. If there is a need to adjust the tip of the beak, it is advisable in any case to leave the trimming of this to a vet specialized in bird diseases.

It is believed that Eclectus Parrots in human care easily can reach a lifespan of around 30 years, but given the fact that larger flocks of Eclectus Parrots in human care only began in the 1980’s, we do not know this for sure. For the sake of the birds' physical and psychological well-being, it is important to constantly stimulate them. Personally, I am not a fan of the toys that you can buy from pet stores, but you should always provide the birds with non-contaminated and non-poison-sprayed branches and twigs, from which you perhaps can make a natural swing that the birds like to sit in. A closed solid chain suspended from the aviary roof with a short strong natural branch at the end is also an excellent activity. In addition, you can challenge the birds by hiding treats in different places in the aviary.

I could not resist showing this magnificent female Vosmaer's Eclectus (Eclectus roratus vosmaeri), although it unfortunately has a defective upper bill, which is why I have included the photo, which clearly shows this subspecies' completely cadmium-yellow rump (undertail coverts) and wide border along the tip of the tail. Incidentally, it is rare that you see Eclectus Parrots with actual beak damage, whereas unfortunately you quite often see - especially male birds - with an overgrown upper beak, which then needs to be trimmed by a vet specialized in bird diseases. Photo from the internet.

Breeding in human care

When you work with Eclectus Parrots with breeding in mind, you are in a good position, as there is visually a very large colour difference between the two sexes, so there is no need to make DNA gender tests on the birds. The biggest challenge when breeding with Eclectus Parrots is therefore to get a pair that has sympathy for each other, as both sexes must complement each other in connection with the breeding, including with breeding preparations, protection of the nest, foraging, feeding the young, etc., since the female cannot manage all this herself. During the breeding period there is also a natural division of labour between the sexes, and if this is to lead to success, it is presupposed that the two birds develop sympathy for each other. In nature, there are many mates to choose from, and it can be a long process to find the right partner. You cannot just put 2 birds together and expect them to breed right away. This challenge can be solved by buying several unrelated young birds and over time letting them mate themselves. In this way, there is significantly greater certainty of getting fertilized eggs with a subsequent successful breeding process. Especially hand-reared birds can have difficulty breeding, as they lack the important biological "coding" from their parents during their upbringing, which in the long term can threaten the survival of the species in human care.

When breeding Eclectus Parrots, the most important point is to find "pure" birds that have not been cross-bred with other subspecies. Therefore, you must know the origin of the bird – its provenance - and as a result you should only buy birds from a serious breeder who really focuses on this problem. You must be aware that when some people started importing live birds for use in the aviculture over a hundred years ago, they were not always aware of the importance of separating the different types of Eclectus Parrots from each other. Mixing the different types of Eclectus Parrots have probably happened many times over the years, which can explain why there are perhaps especially in Australia and - partly - in the USA today are many cross-bred birds.

When you have acquired a (sub)species pure pair of Eclectus Parrots, the next challenge is whether the birds do everything right during the breeding process. It can take months - maybe years - before a male Eclectus Parrot has learned to feed his mate and mate properly. I myself have an over 5-year-old male Papuan Red-sided Eclectus Parrot, who has not even yet fully learned to feed his mate correctly, but that will probably come. As already stated, hand-reared females in particular may have difficulty looking after their nest (incubating and feeding the chicks), which can become a major problem in the long term.

It is assumed that Eclectus Parrots usually become sexually mature between the 2nd and 3rd year of life as far as the small subspecies are concerned, such as e.g. Solomon Red-sided Eclectus, whereas the large subspecies, including the nominate subspecies, only become sexually mature at 3 - 4 years of age.

Female Eclectus Parrots have a strong maternal instinct, and in human care they will constantly seek out opportunities to start a nest by climbing into cupboards, down into drawers and under furniture, then becoming very possessive and defending the site. I had a female Eclectus Parrot who was occasionally allowed to fly freely in the birdhouse when I was feeding, and it could be a very entertaining experience. All dark places, such as the floor under a number of box cages, was examined and assessed as a nesting possibility. I found the female walking around on the floor of the birdhouse while I was feeding, and it was a wonderful experience to watch her waddle around. The female Eclectus Parrot's breeding instinct can be so pronounced that even a female without a mate will often lay unfertilized eggs when spring begins. It is also possible to place abandoned eggs from other parrot species under a female Eclectus Parrot in breeding mood, as she will typically accept the egg and hatch it in the best "Society finch-style".

Jorgen Petersen

Conceived/Updated: 16.12.2011 / 01.04.2024