The Eclecuts Parrot - Part 1
by Chris Hunt
Part 1 of this article covers the following areas:
Many people who visit my aviaries and see the Eclectus Parrot (pronounced e-klek-tus) for the first time often think
that the male and female are different species and, because of the totally different colours of the two birds, they can be easily forgiven for this mistake. The difference in the two colours of each sex is what is called sexual dimorphism.
In the Wild
Eclectus Parrots are fairly common in their natural habitat which is the tropical rainforests, in the monsoon forests of northern Cape York Peninsula, New Guinea, Solomon Islands and the Indonesian Archipelago. They nest high up in the large rainforest trees and normally deep into the tree trunk. Observers have recorded groups of birds consisting of dominant pairs, each dominant pair of breeding birds have helpers which are offspring from previous years or unpaired adult birds that come and assist in the rearing of young. The breeding pair more, or less, breed continually all-year-round.
The Grand Eclectus (Eclectus roratus roratus) is the nominate species of the nine subspecies.
The most commonly kept in Australian aviaries are the Red-sided Eclectus E. r. polychloros from New Guinea, the Australian subspecies E. r. macgillivrayi and E. r. solomonensis from the Solomon Islands. The latter is slightly smaller than the New Guinea race whereas macgillivrayi is the largest of the subspecies.
Female Subspecies Identification
The orbital ring around the eye of the female Eclectus Parrot is only present on three of the nine subspecies: solomonensis, macgillivrayi and polychloros. This orbital ring is the distinctive feature which separates these races from the other six subspecies. Once you've ident-fied that the bird has a blue orbital ring, then wingspan and body size of the bird is the only way to tell which subspecies you have. Of the other six sub-pecies, without the orbital ring, only riedeli and cornelia do not have any blue or purple coloration, being mainly red all over. They are then identified from one another by difference in size.
The vosmaeri race is identifiable from the other subspecies by the different purple coloration, size, and the large amount of yellow throughout the tail, whereas westermani has a dark smoky abdomen and is smaller than the other females which feature blue or purple abdomens. The biaki subspecies is similar to the polychloros race except the red colouring on the neck and bib is brighter. Aruensis is also similar to polychloros except the blue abdomen colour goes lower down in this area and the tail feathers are a brighter red.
Male Subspecies Identification
Identification of the males in the various subspecies is much more difficult to determine. The usual method being differences in the size of the bird and the shade of green in their plumage.
I keep and breed the polychloros subspecies commonly known as the Red-sided species in single pairs and house them in steel aviaries 4.5m long x 1.2m wide x 2m high. Because I live in eastern Victoria where the weather is not always predictable the aviaries are fully roofed except for 600mm of open wire mesh at the front. This allows my birds access to some sunshine and rain which I think is essential for both the feather condition and health of my birds. Eclectus Parrots should not be housed in aviaries any smaller than 3.5m long x 1m wide. In the north of Victoria and the warmer climates of Australia many breeders have success housing their Eclectus Parrots in suspended cages. Apart from the aviary size, the weather conditions in your area will be the only deciding factor as to the design of your aviary to house Eclectus Parrots.
About 80% of the food that I feed my "Eckies" is made up of soft foods such as soaked seed containing equal parts of grey sunflower, mung beans, wheat and barley. I also mix with their soaked seed thawed-out frozen mixed vegetables, peas and also fresh corn on the cob, celery, peppers, silverbeet and fruit, such as grapes, paw paw, orange, apple, banana, mango, pear, passion fruit, watermelon and cantaloupe. The other 20% of their diet is made up of a dried seed mix consisting of a budgie mix and grey sunflower, and nuts such as almonds, peanuts and walnuts. In addition other treats including dog biscuits, chicken bones and boiled egg and biscuit mix are supplied. It must be stressed, however, that the soaked seed mixes, fruit and vegetables must be removed daily to prevent sickness or disease from these foods becoming contaminated. All softfood is fed in stainless steel bowls so that they can be washed and soaked in bleach to eliminate any bacteria that may be present.