The Eclectus Parrot, Eclectus roratus, is a parrot native to the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, northeastern Australia and the Maluku Islands (Moluccas). It is unusual in the parrot family for its extreme sexual dimorphism of the colours of the plumage; the male having mostly bright green plumage and the female mostly bright red plumage with purple fronts. Joseph Forshaw, in his book Parrots of the World, noted that the first European ornithologists to see Eclectus Parrots thought they were of two distinct species. Large populations of this parrot exist in Papua New Guinea, where they are sometimes considered pests for eating fruit off trees. Their bright feathers are also used by native tribes people as decorations.
Male at Melbourne Zoo
Female at Bali Bird Park
A pet juvenile male. The upper mandible has a brown base and yellow tip, and the irises are dark brown/black
The Eclectus Parrot is unusual in the parrot family for its marked sexual dimorphism of the colours of the plumage. The male is mostly bright green with a blue or red tail and wing feathers; while the female is mostly red with a blue/purple abdomen. The upper mandible of the adult male is orange at the base fading to a yellow towards the tip, and the lower mandible is black. The beak of the adult female is all black. Adults have yellow to orange irises and juveniles have dark brown to black irises. The upper mandible of both and male and female juveniles are brown at the base fading to yellow towards the biting edges and the tip.
Ornithologists usually classify the Eclectus Parrot as a member of tribe Psittaculini in the Psittacidae family of order Psittaciformes. However, some recent thought indicates that there is a great deal of commonality between the Eclectus Parrot and the Loriinae tribe. The Eclectus Parrot is the most sexually dimorphic of all the parrot species. The contrast between the brilliant emerald green plumage of the male and the deep red/purple plumage of the female is so marked that the two birds were, until the early 20th century, considered to be different species.
It is thought that there are ten subspecies of Eclectus Parrots in the wild, with differences in size, colouring or habitat. Some of the most common subspecies are the Solomon Island, the Vosmaeri, and the Red-sided.
The following ten Eclectus parrot subspecies have been determined.
- Grand Eclectus (Eclectus roratus roratus)
- Solomon Island Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus solomonensis)
- New Guinea Red-sided Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus polychloros)
- Australian Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi)
- Vosmaer's Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus vosmaeri)
- Aru Island Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus aruensis)
- Westerman's Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus westermani)
- Sumba Island Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus cornelia)
- Tanimba Islands Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus riedeli)
- Biak Island Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus biaki)
Identification of the subspecies is challenging in the female and almost impossible in the male without knowledge of the area of origin or domestic breeding history.
Although the Eclectus Parrot is the only extant species in the genus Eclectus, fossil remains of another species, Eclectus infectus, have been found in archaeological sites in the islands of Tonga and Vanuatu (Steadman 2006). The species presumably existed in Fiji as well. E. infectus had proportionally smaller wings than the Eclectus Parrot. The species went extinct after the arrival of man 3000 years ago, presumably due to human-caused factors (habitat loss, introduced species).
The diet of the eclectus in the wild consists of mainly fruits, unripe nuts, flower and leaf buds, and some seeds. Two favorite fruits are the pomegranate and the papaya (pawpaw) with seeds. In captivity, they will eat most fruits including mangos, figs, guavas, bananas, any melons, stone fruits (peaches etc), grapes, citrus fruits, pears and apples.
Female at Rosamond Gifford Zoo, USA
Eclectus parrots are one of the more popular birds kept in captivity, as either parent or hand reared. Unlike many other species of parrot they are relatively easy to breed yet difficult to hand feed. Eclectus in captivity require vegetables high in beta-carotene, such as lightly cooked sweet potato, fresh broccoli clumps, and fresh corn on the cob. Fresh greens such as endive or commercial dandelion are a very important in providing calcium and other nutrients. As with all pet birds, they should not be fed avocado, chocolate, or high fat junk foods such as French fries or commercially processed human foods such as pizza. Parrots are unable to digest the lactose in milk. Spray millet is one of the seed items they enjoy, though the Eclectus diet should typically contain much less seed than other birds. A variety of soaked and cooked beans and legumes, along with brown rice, provided in limited amounts help provide protein. Nuts and seeds provide vitamin E, but should be limited in order to avoid too much fat in the diet, as Eclectus parrots can become obese.
The captive Eclectus can be susceptible to muscle spasms known as toe-tapping and wing flipping, the causes of which are not clear. These symptoms have not been observed in the wild. Potential causes include calcium deficiency, consumption of pellets or other foods that are overly fortified or artificially colored, or even simple dehydration. Fortified or artificial foods may also cause allergic reactions in some individuals, including severe itchiness leading to feather and skin damage.
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Female at Augsburg Zoo